So this is the thing. Before Zandari Festa last year I hadn’t even heard of ABTB. I was ready to experience a lot of punk from South Korea and had no expectations about what I was going to see. My first encounter with Club FF was also my first time ever hearing anything from the band.
It rocked my ever-loving world!
I’m not ashamed to admit that a huge part of that was lead guitarist Lyn. The man is a magician with the ax. He knows exactly what the hell he’s doing every single time he sets finger to string. His voice, his wail, is all in that damn instrument. Let me tell you something. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to rhapsody before. I grew up listening to guitar. My father is a musician and would often break out the acoustic just because.
Lyn encapsulates everything that hypnotized me whenever my father would start playing.
This year I saw them outside of Zandari Festa. A band night at Club FF (something I would later find out was a regular occurrence at the dive bar). Let me tell you something, when they hit the stage my entire demeanor shifted. Suddenly I was compelled to move, to thrash, to bang my head as if in reverence to their presence on the stage. That’s when it hit me right in the gut.
ABTB is my favorite band to watch live.
It just rushed me, bubbled out of my soul like a truth I always knew but needed something to yank out of me. Watching Park Geun-hong take to the stage is almost a holy experience. The man is one of the purest, most naturally gifted performers I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t force it. Nothing he does seems rehearsed or practiced or contrived. He just sets himself in front of the microphone and ascends to something divine.
He grabs the audience by the throat, shaking the very core of each and very person on the floor or at one of the few tables until they’re forced to give their lives to his cause. He awakens something in me every time he opens is mouth. It’s not just the brilliance of his fan engagement. He physically holds on to you (as evidenced by the young man at the front of the stage who knows every word). You are a part of his army, his arsenal. Yes, that’s exactly what it is. He uses the crowd like a weapon. We are all parts of his battle cry. We follow gladly and without question.
The entire band has a spark as soon as they begin. Not a moment of hesitation. When the fist bit of feedback crawls through the shoddy speakers and Geun-hong’s voice shakes the foundations, ABTB has arrived. The walls rattle. The floorboards tremble under the weight of their majesty. Honestly and truthfully, every time I’ve seen them (all of two times), I’ve left their sets feeling like I’ve just been baptized.
I know, a lot of spiritual talk. But what can I say? There are some bands who elevate the art of performance to something ethereal. And isn’t that all church is anyway? Performance? Theater? ABTB has the sort of magic that could convert staunch critics of punk and its ilk to proper fans. They might not leave the show head over heels in love with the genre. But they sure as hell will be changed in some way.
You don’t leave an ABTB show without feeling something. The something I felt both times was an inescapable urge to smile, laugh, cry. Hold someone. Be tasted, touched, needed. The Attraction Between Two Bodies, indeed. Truly, ABTB is a band to behold. Not because anything they do is overly polished. Not because they’ve sort of perfected and practiced how to perform for an audience. No… I think what it is, the thing that makes them so powerful, is their love of music. It’s so pure. So uncorrupted by anything. It’s just them, their instruments, and the overwhelming need to scream.
That’s exactly what I do, unconsciously, whenever I have the honor of seeing them put their souls on a stage. ABTB turns a rickety bar setup into a place of worship, and I’m compelled to praise them every time.