Lulu Battles Hipsters in Hongdae and Suffers a Crushing Defeat


“I’m not watching Game of Thrones,” I told my friend Trish.  “And you know why?  I’m not watching specifically because too many hipsters watch it.”

“That’s bullshit,” Trish said, “and that attitude is, like, super hipster.”

I tried to explain to her that it’s not.  At 33 years of age, I’ve come to terms with my taste in movies, music, books, and other things.  To Trish – and to other friends in the past – I really have no actual taste.  To them, I more or less force myself into liking things out of spite and out of a need to be different.  The simple facts are these: 1) when too many people (especially if they’re hipsters) like something, it deflates it for me and 2) there’s nothing as exciting as finding something old and obscure that’s really good.  It’s thrilling.  To research and read and then stumble upon a great and unknown movie from the late sixties brings me a joy I can barely contain.  Or to listen to countless ‘70s Billboard Chart hits until I find one I can’t stop singing along to…I get that Christmas morning feeling.  Like the way George W. Bush would’ve felt if he found WMDs.

Trish shakes her head at all this.  She’s appalled by the idea that I, somehow, won’t be able to enjoy Game of Thrones, regardless of how good it is, because too many people who wear beanies in coffee shops while listening to Belle and Sebastian on their Ipods are blogging about it.  Trish also doesn’t understand my complete and utter hatred for hipsters, in large part because she thinks that I am one myself.  Similarly, I sometimes accuse her of being one.  It’s sort of like a horror movie where a bunch of people are trapped together, knowing one of them is the killer, and they all start pointing fingers at each other.  One of us is the hipster.  I argue that it can’t be the person who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones.  She argues that it must be the person who has put so much thought into not watching it.

What Trish doesn’t appreciate is how much absolute crap I have to wade through in order to find something that excites me.  I mean, it’s not like I get thrilled about every movie made in the sixties or seventies.  For each gem like Daisies or The Incident, there are thirty or forty mediocre films, often staring David Niven or Lee Remick, that I have to sit through.  I work for the things I like.  I labor for my tastes.  It’s much more strenuous, I feel, than waiting fifteen minutes for Breaking Bad to download.

All of this is to say, Trish would not have understood the amazing experience I had at Club FF in Hongdae last Saturday night.  Hongdae is a trendy area of Seoul, filled with college students, where the nightlife is a bit better than most places.  There are a lot of clubs and bars, including Club FF, which sometimes has live bands and often plays rock and roll music (as opposed to most clubs, which play a grating mix of Kpop and dance music).  Out for a friend’s going away party, I met a girl named Amanda.  Somehow we got to talking about music.  I asked her who her favorites groups were.

“I really like the Del Vikings,” she said, and I almost floated away I was so happy.  I LOVE the Del Vikings, and have never met anyone else who felt the same way.  Soon we were talking about Dr. John, and how great the band Wings was, and how Paul McCartney was so much better than John Lennon.  This was, obviously, a girl after my…well…maybe not after my heart…but certainly after the music in it.

“Do you like Lobo?” she asked.

Mid ‘90s grunge music blasted across the dance floor in FF.  The place was fairly crowded and people shouted the words to Nirvana songs.  “Lobo?” I said, thinking.  “Didn’t Lobo do ‘To Sir, With Love’?”

“No,” she said, correcting me.  “That’s Lulu.  Lobo did ‘Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.’”

“Oh,” I said, elated to be corrected.  “I don’t know that song too well.  I really like ‘To Sir, With Love’ though.”

“I love that song,” she said, and for the next hour we tried our best to sing it.  With Love Shack blasting from the speakers, it was difficult to remember the words to our song.  Then the B-52s were gone and Morrissey was yodeling his way through William, It Was Really Nothing.  Remembering Lulu’s one hit was proving to be a rather difficult task.

“Those school girl days,” I tried, “of painting nails…er…How do you thank someone who has taken you from nails to perfume…”

I kept sticking nails in every stanza.  Amanda was no better.  “Those school girl days, of painting nails and…la la la, la la…”

We decided we could sing it if we heard it, and so Amanda rushed up to the DJ booth to request it.  About an hour later, our eyes widened as the opening strings to To Sir, With Love filled Club FF.

“Oh my God!” we shouted.  “He’s actually playing it!”

Our excitement was short lived.  The crowd, energetically dancing to Green Day, MGMT, and Joy Division, suddenly went still.  Lulu had stopped them mid-dance step.

And then, in mass exodus, they started leaving.

“Oh no,” I said.  “Lulu’s clearing the place out!”  The two and a half minutes of To Sir, With Love, seemed to last a lifetime.  The way people were leaving, it was as though somebody had opened fire on the dance floor.  Lulu had, in essence, Columbined Club FF.

The song still dragging on, the DJ, in a panic, switched to ABC by The Jackson Five.  “Thank God it’s over!” an embarrassed Amanda exclaimed.

Like religion, political affiliation, and race, our preferences in movies and music unite and divide us.  I think Trish would’ve left during Lulu.  That doesn’t make her a bad person.  Hipsters are sort of like Baptists – they’ve broken from the traditional, and yet there are still enough of them to be a significant group.  Amanda and I, in Club FF, were like Mormons, weird and apart and so confident in our own beliefs we tried to infect everyone else with them.  And they all ran away, just like I used to when a Mormon would approach me on the streets of Rochester and try to give me a pamphlet about the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

The few people remaining in Club FF danced to The Jackson Five.  I turned to Amanda.  “Crayons,” I said, referring to the song lyrics.  “How did I forget crayons?”



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