HOT SUMMER NIGHT: K-Indie Rock Bands Jannabi and byebyesea Slay New York City 

On a very hot and humid day in New York this summer, thousands gathered to watch two Korean Indie Rock bands at Damrosch Park at the Lincoln Center. There is always a buzz about anything that happens in the city. But that day at the park, as Korean bands, byebyesea and Jannabi prepared to perform, it was electric.

The show was part of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City Series and was presented in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Center of New York.

Summer for the City. byebyesea warming up the crowd. Photo by Marcie Taylor

While K-pop has taken over the world, that’s not the only music Korea has to offer. There is a thriving indie rock scene that is more soulful, less flashy. There’s no slick choreography or production, just good ol’ rock n’ roll. It was interesting to see who turned up at the Park because while Jannabi has a massive following in Korea and not a few international fans, this was the first time they were performing in the US. byebyesea is even lesser known internationally. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the multitude that turned up – from curious music fans and people who just wanted to see something for free to Jannabi fans who traveled from around the US even Canada to see their favorite band perform live. Majority of course were probably hearing this genre of music for the first time. There was a good mix of Korean and non-Korean speakers that day too so it was amazing to hear the audience respond so well to the music and even participate in many of the call and repeat moments.

Byebyesea’s Namu said some things in English in between songs, having practiced over the weeks prior during their concert tour across the US.  But other than that, most of the repartee and the songs were in Korean. Each band sang only ONE song in English, REM’s “Everybody Hurts” for byebyesea and Four Non-Blonde’s “What’s Up” for Jannabi.

The show was LIT. Jannabi in New York City. Photo by Marcie Taylor


The trio of byebyesea/Annyeongbada: Namu aka Kim Tree on guitar and vocals, Sunjae on guitar, and Myung Je on bass joined by touring band members Sangjin Kwon on keyboard and Sungje Kim on drums opened the show. “Before, music was the only thing that comforted me,” Namu said in English. “I hope this show means something to you, too.”  Their set consisted of a combination of slow jams and upbeat numbers that had everyone clapping, waving hands wildly and singing along.  They even sang their hit song “Star Shower,” (from the Abyss OST) which had everyone Sha-la-laing at the top of their lungs.

There were many memorable moments in byebyesea’s set not the least of which were Namu’s impressive vocal range and Sunjae’s insane dance moves. 

New York was the final stop on the band’s US Tour. They were also making a documentary film “I Cross the Sea With You” along the way. 

Namu said what would be on everyone’s mind at the end of the night: “This was the best time ever, ever, EVER! I hope to see you all again, and I’m gonna miss you guys.”

Byebyesea’s Namu croons Photo by Marcie Taylor

Photo by Kellan Lane


The promos listed Jannabi as creating vintage pop, and while it’s true that Choi Jung Hoon favors vintage threads, their music is anything but retro or vintage. Instead, though certainly inspired by the past, their music is fresh. Jannabi’s songs and stage presence make one thing clear: they are a rock band! Vocalist and main songwriter Choi Jung Hoon is a ball of energy on stage, he is wild, he gyrates his hips like Elvis, preens like Mick Jagger and yet can instantly switch to singing sweetly like the good Beatle Boy that he is.  No doubt, the man is a ROCK STAR! Guitarist Kim Do-hyung, fresh from his mandatory military service also shone with his mad guitar skills. Session musicians Moon Seok-min  on guitar, Park Cheon-wook on bass, Isaac Shin on drums, and Jeung Ha Eun on keyboard were the perfect support to team Jannabi.  

Jannabi sang fan-favorite songs like “For Lovers Who Hesitate” and “Summer” and upbeat numbers including “Surprise,” “Jungle,” and “Alok-Dalok” (from a K-drama OST) The band got everyone on their feet as night fell on the Big Apple. By the time they sang the encore “Come Back Home,” – everyone was filled with an electric energy that one can only experience at a damn good rock show and in New York City, at that. 

Choi Jung Hoon sings For Lovers Who Hesitate Photo by Marcie Taylor

Rock will never die. Jannabi Photo by Marcie Taylor

Connecting with the audience. Jannabi Photo by Julia Barlow 

About the Author:

Marcelline “Marcie” Taylor is based in California. She loves indie rock and coffee and hosts the podcast “Moksori: My Favorite K-Drama OSTs” on Spotify. Follow her @marcietaylor on Instagram. 

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