The Next Generation of the K-indie Scene Arrives in Seoul

Wave to Earth Performs at Nodeulseom Live House

Last summer, my friend invited me to catch an underground indie band called Wave to Earth. Though at first I felt skeptical, their music completely enchanted me after just one listen. Unlike the usual K-pop music that many Koreans are familiar with, the songs they performed were unedited and expressive. Each performer mastered their instruments so well, it sounded like they ate CDs for breakfast. We even got a serendipitous chance to meet them backstage, and after hanging out with the members in person, I officially declared myself a huge fan.

Wave to Earth debuted in 2019, and they mainly produce songs based on lo-fi, jazz, bedroom pop, and alternative rock. Naming themselves with the hope of ‘someday becoming a new wave to the world’, the band solely performs self-produced songs and consists of three used-to-be high school buddies – Daniel Kim (vocals and guitar), John Cha (bass), and Donggyu Shin (drums). 

Despite being a relatively small group, the trio’s harmonious chemistry initially grabbed my attention. Following the events of the concert, I started listening to their songs day and night. The quality of their music shines through digital devices, but listening to them in person hits you on a whole new note. I found out about their event at the Nodeulseom Live House last November, and I felt ecstatic at the opportunity to see their performance in-person again. In hopes of sharing the breathtaking experience, I persuaded my friend Nadia to accompany me.

The venue took place on a small island, Nodeulseom, that sits within the Han river, which is notorious as a popular hang out spot. While killing time until the concert, we perused through the endless cafes, bookstores, restaurants, and galleries located all around the island. 

Nodeulseom Live House is an infamous venue for concerts. Photo courtesy of NAVER.

We came upon a unique cafe with bicycles and plants hanging from its ceiling and wooden boats working as tables, and inside, I noticed that you could deliver fan letters and gifts to the band. I asked the barista for a pen and paper, but they did not have one – and that’s when it hit me that I should use a napkin to write my message.

Though I worried that the group would mistake it for trash when they went through their fan letters, I scribbled down everything I wanted to tell them on the off chance of them actually reading my letter. Nadia suggested that I draw their faces with stick figure bodies on the leftover spaces, to which I did in hopes of the members finding it funny and memorable.

But back to the main topic. The concert hall consisted of two stories, the first floor for standing and the second floor specifically for seating. One by one, it filled up with an audience of great individuality, each effervescent with the idea of watching their favorite band perform live.

The crowd consisted of mostly young adults – we were some of the only teens there. Nadia complained, “Because I’m short, I couldn’t see anything even though there were only about three to four rows of people in front of us. I felt like they [the audience] dressed as if Keanu Reeves in The Matrix wore casual clothing.” 

The show started with a medley consisting of individual instruments, introducing each band member to the crowd. Along with the three main artists, two additional performers attended: a saxophonist and a keyboard player that occasionally helped out. 

Jeonmin, the session member of Wave to Earth plays saxophone to the song ‘Ride.’ Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

This felt refreshing because in some other bands, the vocalists always take the spotlight, but with Wave to Earth, every member possesses their own charm and attention grabbers. The harmony between vocal, guitar, bass, drum, piano, and saxophone was excellent, and each distinctive character came through clearly. 

Jonggeun Cho, the session member of Wave to Earth, plays piano to the song called ‘Season.’ Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

The size of the concert hall allowed us to stand quite close to them, which enhanced the quality of the overall experience. Thanks to the giant speakers, the sound boomed into our ears like in a movie theater. Even though the bass was a little hard to hear, it felt as if the beat of the drums were transmitted through our very bones. 

Donggyu Shin, the drummer, performs his solo, rocking the audience away with his enthralling strums. Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

The concert program also played a huge part in making the night unforgettable. The band first started with calm songs, then transitioned to exciting and up-beat pieces, engaging the audience’s attention to the music’s overall progression. During the intermissions, they directly communicated with their fans, which we greatly appreciated. Many people shouted out words of encouragement, and, occasionally, even jokes that made the members laugh.

John and Daniel are like bread and butter on stage through years of practice. Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.
Daniel Kim, the main vocalist, shares eye contact with his band members. Image from @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

An unexpected performance further complemented the concert when the band played a song penned by the bass guitarist, titled, ‘Evening Glow’. Cha, the bassist, switched positions with the lead guitarist, Kim, to sing the single. He first refused the request from Kim in embarrassment, but the crowd and other members cheered him on. And his singing, though slightly unpolished compared to the lead vocalist, rang true coming from the writer himself. Cha’s performance felt real, raw, and refreshing.

John Cha, the bassist, casually converses with the crowd like old friends. Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

Towards the end, the band announced the giveaway winners of their exclusive black vinyl of the latest LP – with only ten existing copies in the world! Earlier, before entering the building, everyone received a white postcard with a flower illustration, but only five random people got a postcard with a black flower. These chosen fans earned a LP, and I could feel the wave of jealousy from the others (including us!).

The winners were determined by pure luck. Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

After the end of the 90-minute melodious adventure, a long crowd clustered around a tiny desk outside the live hall, everyone reaching out for something special. Luckily, we made a straight bee-line for a table set with merchandise such as Wave to Earth guitar picks, diaries, and phone cases before the event started, and we each got something to remember this outstanding night. Besides the merch booth, there was also a photo zone with the band’s logo as the background, so that you could capture the buzz of the moment. 

Among the variety of merchandise products, I bought two necklaces in different colors for 30,000 Won each. Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

A few days after the concert, I lay 3 my bed, surfing through Instagram, recalling the amazing night back in Nodeulseom. I was both extremely touched and thrilled when I saw the bassist’s recent story: he had posted the stickman drawing that I sent him through the cafe! I enthusiastically replied to his story saying that I wrote the note, and he replied back with a heartwarming answer that made my love for the band grow even more.

This is the fan letter I wrote that got onto John Cha’s Instagram story. Photo courtesy of @wave_to_earth on Instagram.

Overall, I’ve only had good interactions with the members, and I plan to stay as a fan for a long time. I still listen to them whenever I’m tired of reality, and it almost feels like they’re pushing me back to life, encouraging me to hang on and live through this moment. If you ever have the time, give Wave to Earth a chance. I guarantee that you will be swept up in their talent and charm.

If you are interested in listening, I recommend these two tracks: