Two of Korea’s hottest indie-folk and acoustic-folk bands, OKDAL and 10CM recently performed in New York City to a very eclectic crowd that hung onto their every lyric and swayed to their musical vibes.
The concert started promptly at 7:30 PM at the Concert Hall, a block away from Central Park on the Upper West Side. The hall, with its architectured-vaulted ceilings, large half-circular stage and raised sitting platform, likely had never seen a K-pop concert, and less-so an indie K-pop event.
The audience, seated on cushioned pews numbered up to 700, in the 900 capacity venue, and had come to be serenaded, to laugh, and maybe cry a little, in the deluge of the sweet softness and stirring profoundness that marks OKDAL’s many songs, as well as the heartwarming and good-natured music of 10CM.
OKDAL, which is a shortened version of the band’s name Oksang Dalbit, and means “Rooftop Moonlight”, is two quirky and serene young ladies, Kim Yoon Joo and Park Sejin, who create music fans describe as indie-pop, indie-folk, and just plain folk.
In an interview, during their early days, asked about their name, they said it doesn’t mean anything in particular. And, Sejin added “Yoon Joo loves rooftops.”
Like a double dosage, as OKDAL and 10CM are two veteran bands that have been around for over 5 years, the concert really had two headliners. However, OKDAL started off the concert as the opening act. For over an hour and 15 minutes the girls performed hits from their three albums ’28’, ‘Where’ and ‘옥탑라됴’, and sang fan favorites like “Having Nothing is a Merit” and “You Worked Hard Today.”
OKDAL’s lyrics have been said to reflect the everyday lives of their generation, and exhibit a unique storytelling ability. Along with that is the emotiveness of their voices, which in Yoon Joo’s case is produced by a sweet, sonorous, smooth as silk soprano-type vocals, while Sejin’s comes from a delightful mezzo-soprano-type voice.
When their voices come together as one, and combine in harmony, the stirring melody they create, had the concert hall in complete stillness, wrapped up and engrossed in the palpable sweet serene-ness that permeated the space and lingered. It was as if no one dared move even a muscle, for fear of interrupting the blissful episode.
The former roommates, Sejin and Yoon Joo, understand melody and music and its link to the emotional being. The emotions rendered through their music aren’t dramatic and hysterical. These are emotions that at times stifle all sound and movement, and calm into submission and numbness our cares, fears, and tears.
For the most part their visage and facial expressions are muted and serious, but underneath all that is a wellspring of a witty and sharp sense of humor, as the audience would find out.
Sitting at right angles to one another, with Sejin facing the crowd and seated in front of a keyboard, while Yoon Joo sat facing stage-right in front of a grand piano, the two would go into a light banter that would leave the audience cracking up and laughing. Occasional, some of their chit-chat would turn serious, and Yoon Joo a little pensive.
On this night, they were accompanied by a skillful violinist who with the draw of his bow across the strings further encapsulated the tranquility of OKDAL’s music.
There were no drums or any percussion instruments, but instead OKDAL used an assortment of accompaniments that accentuated their music, including a xylophone, a triangle and a mouth organ or melodion.
As their set came to a close, Sejin made an adorable attempt at speaking English, saying the usual “I love you,” but finished with “I want to see you again.”
A fifteen minute intermission then followed, at which many attendees were pleased to hear the concert organizer, Urbansider had provided complementary bags of chips.
Without much fanfare, but to loud cheering the concert resumed at about 9:00PM when 10CM appeared on stage. Casually dressed in jeans and white-tees, Kwon Jung Yeol and Yoon Cheol Jong began their set with “Tonight I’m afraid of the Dark.” It’s a song about being vulnerable with love and a love-interest.
Next up was the fun and very danceable “죽겠네(Deadly),” which must have made it difficult for some audience members to stay seated. Then came the funny and comedic “킹스타 – (Kingstar)” that had the audience cracking up during the performance.
10CM would go on to perform for the next hour and about 20 minutes. They performed a total of about sixteen songs from their five albums ‘1.0’, ‘2.0’, ‘3.0’, ‘10cm the first EP’, and ‘The Second EP’, as well as various singles.
Kwon Jung Yeol is the main vocalist, and sang most of the songs, only pausing occasionally to use what sounded and looked like an overly large Kazoo to punctuate and enhance the music. Yoon Choel Jong, for his part stayed mostly with his acoustic guitar, which he expertly handled. And, lastly was a most agreeable fellow on the jembe/conga providing the percussive accompaniment.
The whole set was a session stripped down to the essentials, removing all the fat and delivering a sumptuous banquet of Jung Yeol’s unique vocals as the main course.
The band didn’t perform their most famous single ‘Americano’ until a little after halfway through their set, almost temptingly dangling it before the audience the whole time. When Jung Yeol suddenly launched into it, the audience responded excitedly. At the end he declared “Americano!”
10CM usually cover an English track during their concerts. In the past they’ve covered Maroon 5 and Radiohead. At this concert, 10CM chose Coldplay’s “When I ruled the world”
To close out the concert, which many times the audience broke out in spontaneous clapping along to the music, 10CM performed a riotous “Sweet Rice Cake.”
Walking away from the concert hall, I overhead the answer to a question that had persisted thought the entire 10CM set. How does one describe Jung Yeol’s unique voice? There’s certainly a nasal component to it, because there is no resemblance to his normal talking voice. At times it takes on an ethnic component, sometimes it leans on Reggae, and other times its influence is indecipherable, other than it being very musical.
Coming from one of the many mother-daughter pairings that attended the concert, outside the hall a lady described Jung Yeol’s voice to her attentive daughter as “kal-kal.” To which the daughter graciously translated as a “mixture between husky and scratchy.”