Seoul is notorious for its mega-clubs with terrific sound systems and famous DJs, where the beautiful and rich party till 0700. A better-kept secret is its underground DJ circles, from which ambitious DJs make it through the ranks to land a gig in one of the hot spots, only to be forced to play the club's generic music, set by the numerous rules and regulations.
It's a familiar story-indie artists "selling-out" and losing creative control. But now there's a good alternative for these rebel DJs and the After Hours Athletes who want to experience them in all their glory: Cakeshop, a new, intimate club dedicated to all things underground.
Previously an illegal strip club (or several illegal strip clubs, as one popped up right after one shut down), Cakeshop was set up last September by DJs who had been banned from all the major nightlife spots for exercising too much creative control. It's a perfect alternative to all the hyper-commercialized, soulless clubs of Seoul. Its aim? To provide a sort of home base for the extended DJ family of the Seoul underground, a haven where they can play anything they like.
And it's actually, physically underground, only identified by a neon sign "Cakeshop" on the heavily graffitied walls of old, dank buildings. You walk down the narrow steps to a dance floor and bar painted red and black filled with a diverse crowd of fashion kids, skaters, graffiti artists, and hipsters, all letting loose to the free beats of the DJ.
Once a month, Cakeshop brings in a DJ from abroad. On New Year's, they brought in Manaré from Paris. He played to a packed crowd forgoing the traditional champagne for gin and whiskey. Quite unlike what you'd find in typical Korean clubs, the crowd faced each other, playfully dancing, chatting, socializing rather than uniformly facing the DJ while discretely checking everyone out, careful not to seem too desperate.
That's what the After Hours Athlete should come to Cakeshop for-the sense of sweet freedom from rules and the mainstream. Because here, anything goes as long as it's underground.
Top photo courtesy of Hyun Soo Suh. Other images courtesy of Kai Paparazzi.