There aren’t that many chances in KAIST to watch live bands perform. Though more performances are being organized within the school than before, we’ve cooked up a list of places outside campus where you can get a better feel for the independent music scene. The following list are the standout (if not only) examples of performance venues in and around Northwest Daejeon.
The Stray Cat (29, Eoeun-ro 48beon-gil, Yuseong-gu)
Walking into Eoeun-dong from the western gate, turn the corner around Matgoeul and you’ll see the conspicuous humanoid cat sign that hangs above the entrance to The Stray Cat bar (Look for the words “Soul Bar” written above the Korean). Tucked into the basement floor, The Stray Cat exudes a strange mismatch of outdoor decor surrounded by whitewashed walls. An inexplicable parasol covers one table, but that may be part of the bar’s charms. Take a quick look around and note the slightly tacky posters and magazine cut-outs of Korean celebrities from the 90’s, but don’t take too long, since the main attraction is of course, the stage.
Next to the main bar, the only things that indicate the stage’s location is the drum set, and if you’re lucky, there will be someone playing it. The Stray Cat was opened mainly because small bands in and around KAIST had trouble finding a place to practice. So don’t be surprised to see small bands like E.T. or the Mechanical Stagbeetles playing there. Performances are typically arranged once a month, but the dates are never fixed, so call ahead to make sure before you go.
As for the food and drinks, make sure to try the “Weekly Special.”
Howl Atthe Moon (63, Gungdong-ro 18beon-gil, Yuseong-gu)
Located next to a Chinese food store in Gung-dong, Howl Atthe Moon (or Howl for short), with its eccentric van Gogh-inspired sign, is probably the only music bar you need to know about. Its wide range of music, frequency of live performances, and passable list of drinks makes it standout among the bars in our repertoire.
Once you walk down the stairs into the bar, sit down at one of the tables and grab a post-it. In Howl, you can write down a list of songs you’d like to hear and the bar will make sure to add them to the playlist.
Howl has been the main venue in Gung-dong for slightly obscure independent artists. The KAIST Arts & Music Festival, set to open in KAIST on October 6, is partially organized and directed by the people who run Howl. As for events that run all year, Howl has an event every Wednesday, where anyone can take the floor and show off their music. Applications are accepted at http://www.enjoyhowl.com, but you may have to keep your dreams of success on hold - the site is still under construction.
Santa Claus (25, Nongdae-ro, Yuseong-gu)
If you’re an international student in KAIST, then chances are, you’ve been to Santa Claus at least once. Managed by Mr. Ho, Santa Claus has long since become the main watering hole for the international community. Hop on by to meet students from every part of the world (from France to South Africa). It certainly has the best food, and though the drinks may taste watered down, the bar definitely rates far above the average ratings of local bars.
The music here is quite possibly the most extensive music collection of rock from the latter half of the 20th century. Almost entirely dedicated to Western music, you won’t find a place as internationally friendly anywhere else in Gung-dong. Mr. Ho, despite his massive stockpile of mp3 files, is always eager to add more to the list, so next time you stop by, make sure you hand over a couple of your favorites.
Though Santa Claus may not hold live performances, with the slight rearrangement of the pool and foosball table for a night, KAIST’s international band hopefuls may just have found their new favorite venue.
Cantina (63, Daedeok-daero 185beon-gil, Seo-gu)
Before you enter Cantina, throw away all your preconceptions about how live music bars - or any bar in general - should look. This comparatively well-lit bar looks more like a living room than anything else, with the occasional sombrero thrown on the wall for good measure. Situated in a corner of the ever-bustling Dunsan area, Cantina offers a selection of Mexican cuisine and a healthy variety of alcohol, but unless you starved yourself, stick with the nachos.
Factoring out the food, Cantina is the undisputed leader in terms of performance frequency. The bar has performances nearly every week, and has a dedicated stage complete with lighting facilities. A word of advice: take a friend with you. The seats are mostly communal and this makes it difficult to sit alone. Or if you’re the adventurous type, join up with a group of music aficionados and discuss your favorite genres.