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The Scene Behind the Scene in Busan

BUSAN, South Korea – Settling down halfway around the globe, the last thing you might expect is to stumble upon proper entertainment that can hold a candle to the accustomed festivities of your former turf. In Busan, those preconceived notions vanish in a flash. The plethora of homegrown ear and eye candy coupled with internationally touring artists that thunder through have planted this city on the map.

The boom of creativity bestowed upon Busan is due to daring breakthroughs actualized by underground promotional teams. Here are four unique organizers that coordinate the events of the expat entertainment scene: RAD CITY!, allive, Better Magic Music Company, and Super Color Super.

The art-music coalition of a RAD CITY! experience, with sensory stimulation previously uncommon to Busan, lures herds of heady fans into Kyungsung. The brains behind the operation, Rhylon Durham, devised his master plan at the beginning of this year. “Some of us were having a keyboard jam session at a friend’s house, and realized that we wanted to do stuff like that all the time. We threw a show for some musician friends going away and had art displayed. It grew from there.”   

RAD CITY! highlights musicians, paintings, photography, zines, video, graffiti, and collaborative on-site art creation from the crafty community of Busan. Anything that pushes the boundaries of these creative forms is embraced. Local acts perform alongside guests that fly in from other parts of the world on their tours of the East.

Along a similar thread, allive (aka Busan Live), delivers “Everything from stand-up comedy to theater productions, and live music acts – local, national, and international,” according to one of three founding members, Russell McConnell. 

He works side by side with Paul Ostrowksi and David Khimasia, united by their sincere love of quality music. McConnell thinks back on the evolution of allive: “We started around a year ago with Busan Live: Battle of the Bands, and that was the catalyst for what you see allive doing today. Ideas and opportunities have been springing up ever since.”

Allive’s incessant dedication to the scene has resulted in jam-packed venues scattered throughout the nightlife centers of Busan. The Battle of the Bands series, which has the atmosphere of a music festival rather than a competition, is returning for a second year. Keep your eyes peeled for five rounds of foreign and Korean talent hitting local stages on Saturday nights through November and into December.

Allive went international in September, promoting the Handsome Furs concert at Vinyl Underground. McConnell believes, “It was a huge success, and it was growth across the board for us in all areas.” Allive’s projects continue to escalate in prowess; they’ve recently booked the New Zealand Latin-reggae fusion band Batucada Sound Machine for October 15th.

McConnell is enthralled with the current state of entertainment in Busan. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have a group of guys who love live music and work hard to promote it. One example is the DJ’s the Better Magic Music Company brings in.” 

Better Magic Music teams up to perform killer sets at the clubs of Busan, and they recruit turntablists and electronic artists from the eastern and western hemispheres to join in on their shenanigans. They’ve spun records with the prestige of YACHT, Danger, and most recently DJ Craze.  

The foursome of Geoff DeGrasse (Brucie Russell), Vince McKelvie (Smiley), Pete Neonakis (Splitkick Sound Machine) and Gabriel Ulfan (Big Boy Gibbs) throw parties, make music, sample other people’s work, and create visual art and graphic design. They were all active musicians, designers, or artists before they started The Company.  

“We were friends first, and things just came together from there. We all had similar interests in music and art, and it just made sense for us to put our heads together and make something happen that satisfied those interests,” Big Boy Gibbs pointed out.  

Gibbs goes on to mention, “'We are doing this because we are music lovers, first and foremost. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, and just have a good time doing this because we genuinely love it. The whole notion of being ‘promoters’ was something that came about in 2008. We never intended it to be that way, either. It can be stressful – and it has been – to promote events, but it’s been fun and we’ve learned a lot in the past two years.”

The Better Magic Music Company, RAD CITY!, and allive routinely correspond with contacts in Seoul to direct touring artists and musicians down south for a splash of dates. The names that top that list are Sean Maylone and Christina Cho of Super Color Super.  

Rhylon Durham explains, “Super Color Super has been very helpful with hooking up shows for Busan. They organize their events purely for the love of the music and purpose of horizon-broadening. They’re doing admirable and great work in Korea.”  

Here’s how it goes down – Maylone gives a buzz to one of the local promotion groups, or vice-versa, and if the shoe fits, Busan wears it. According to Paul Ostrowski of allive, “Super Color Super brings in most of the international acts, and we’re the Busan leg of the operation.”

So how does Super Color Super snare these bands?  Maylone jokes, “It’s always different. It’s like asking ‘How’d you get that shiner?’ minus the exciting fight. Every case is different.” 

Maylone has quite a few tricks up his sleeve for Busan in October and November, with The Advantage (Nintendo cover band), Juiceboxxx, and Das Racist hitting town.

The majority of occasions a band tours Korea, Maylone tags along to make a stop in Busan. “I love it – chilled out, beach. I love when tours end in Busan and we can dwell, or use concerts as an excuse to go run around down there. I’m around it a lot for a kid living in Seoul, a lot of people know me.”  The presence of Super Color Super is heavy here, aiding in the surge of audio and visual arts.

Not a week goes by with dead air in Busan.  Foreigners remain here longer, and with that  permanence comes ingenuity. Russell McConnell points out that, “It has for all of us become our second home. It’s a place where we have met some great people and had some great times.  We’d love to see this city mature into a place that you can come to and not be starved of quality entertainment.”

Sean Maylone declares that the ultimate goal is “to have the roots of a scene like Japan here –  strong community, lots of freak-out bands, lots of good bands.”

Busan rivaling Japan.  Who would’a thunk it?

For the latest updates on RAD CITY!, visit, for allive, search 'Busan Live' or 'Allive' on Facebook.  Better Magic Music can be found at and Super Color Super is at

For more info on the upcoming Battle of the Bands check here.




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