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Koreans are renowned throughout the world for their K-pop, but the musical world in Seoul goes far beyond that. For a list of the best live music venues, from jazz to solo singer-songwriters to heavy metal, read on. We’ve rounded up a guide to some of the best clubs and bars with live music.
Translated as “The Key” in French, this cozy bar offers a low-key, informal venue for high-quality jazz. Old wooden panels, antique clocks, and telephones offer a warm, vintage glow. Mismatched but comfortable chairs, vintage posters, and a large album collection, displayed on shelves that spanned the width of the stage, round out the intimate ambiance. Past stars who have performed at La Clé include first-generation percussionist Kim Daehwan, sax legend Kang Taehwan, and acclaimed guitarist Jung Jaeyeol, who has actually played at La Clé every Saturday for the past 10 years.
Showtimes: Sunday to Thursday 8:30 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 8:00 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.
95-2 Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 734 7752
The double F in the name stands for Funky Funky, and the club certainly delivers funk to your heart’s content. Club FF is a live music venue which mostly entertains independent bands, solo singer-songwriter acts, and punk, ska, or rock bands, with the occasional dash of heavy metal. Considering how infrequently heard rock’n’roll is in Korea, this venue is a surprising but lovely find. Up to eight bands perform every weekend; after the set list is finished, the place transforms into a dance club. Listeners can enjoy both native Korean and foreign bands while enjoying the famous all-you-can-drink happy hour from 11:00 p.m. to midnight, when the staff serve an unlimited amount of gin and tonic, vodka orange, and rum and coke.
Showtimes: 7:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
21-7 Donggyo-ro 27-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 11 9025 3407
Club Ta is a live concert venue located in Hongdae, home to many of Seoul’s indie bands and music artists. Owned by a member of the Korean band, Why Not?, for a little bit of extra music and street credibility, this small club only hosts about 50 to 100 people at a time. But by doing so, this club manages to avoid the loud, and more aggressive rock’n’roll vibe of many larger venues. You won’t find any mosh pits or crowd surfing here; the atmosphere is very laid-back, with a moody ambiance — perfect for enjoying the quiet, thoughtful bands often entertained at Club Ta. Lest you think that this club isn’t any fun, the bar does offer your basic alcoholic beverages such as beer, shots, wines, and whiskey.
Price: Low, sometimes free
Showtimes: 7:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.
10 Wausan-ro 17-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 6085 5150
Often called the “granddaddy of jazz bars in Korea,” All That Jazz is a local legend that opened in 1976. The venue has hosted many big names, such as saxophone player Jung Sungjo and drummer Ryu Boksung, before they became famous. Boksung, in fact, still plays onstage every other Saturday. These days, however, the venue mixes up their set list with hot contemporary jazz bands such as Kuma Park and JHG. Located in the trendy Itaewon district in a stylish lounge behind the Hamilton Hotel, All That Jazz offers spacious, earthy interiors and seating for its customers.
Showtimes: Monday to Thursday 6:30 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.; Friday to Sunday 6:30 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
112-4 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, +82 2 795 5701
Originally founded in 1996 near Ewha Womans University, Café BBang recently relocated to Hongdae, where it hosts everything from live music to film screenings and art exhibitions. This small basement club boasts a bohemian and non-judgmental atmosphere where up-and-coming performers can express themselves freely to an audience seated on small benches. The lighting adds to the free, whimsical atmosphere; cardboard cut-outs and colored plastics offer mood lighting in unique shapes. In short, Café BBang considers itself a “safe space” of sorts for performers and audiences alike. It’s a place where musicians are “liberated from the constraints of society…to express anything — any emotion, any idea they want.” Café BBang claims that both performers and listeners can enjoy a mental and spiritual catharsis.
Showtimes: 7:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.
12 Wausan-ro 29-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea, 010 8910 1089