I had my Comcast cable connection for a decade before I discovered that I could tune in TVK. I found the channel by accident, too: looking for something pleasantly Satanic, I punched 666 into the remote control. The screen defaulted to 667, and before I knew it I was awash in Korean rappers and dancing boys and girls from Seoul. These days, when I watch the television at all, it’s TVK that’s on. It’s a more reliable carrier of music videos than MTV, and the variety shows have the attraction of novelty, even if I can’t understand a word anybody is saying.
I’ve seen Byun Jin Sub‘s smiling, scrubbed, bespectacled face on TVK several times. From context clues I gather that in Seoul, and likely elsewhere, he’s a pretty big deal — a singer who has transcended the grubby race up the pop charts to attain the emeritus status that celebrities on both sides of the globe always seem to be chasing. Byun’s popularity precedes the great state-supported wave of South Korean music now washing up on shores worldwide. Thus, it’s probably not accurate to call him a K-Pop artist: he’s too laid-back and charming to bellow along with the boy bands. He’s more a crooner than a shouter, and on his most popular songs — including the funny “I Wish,” a checklist of characteristics he’d like in a girlfriend — he’s rarely accompanied by anything other than a piano. Byun’s current solo world tour brings him to the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood on Thursday night. This is only one of four shows the Korean ballad specialist is playing in the States.
It’s also Light of Day week in the Garden State, and that means concerts all over Jersey (and a few in New York, too) starring the familiar artists who have become associated with the annual festival and the charitable efforts to which it is dedicated. Saturday’s main event concert at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park is sold out, and if you’re reading this, you probably know why: it’s assumed that the Boss will make an unannounced appearance and close the marathon show with a loose but energetic set. He usually does. Even if he doesn’t —and he did send his regrets two years ago — Garland Jeffreys, John Eddie, Willie Nile, Southside Johnny and other longtime friends of Light of Day are all scheduled to perform. Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens, a songwriter with a not-dissimilar rock sound but a decidedly darker vision to many of the festival regulars, is also on the bill. If you’re a DiNizio fan, there’s another opportunity to catch him in action this week: he’s playing at the Asbury Park Yacht Club at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, and it’s free. Arlan Feiles, a Shore favorite and rock ‘n’roll true believer, opens the show. For a complete schedule of Light of Day events, click here.
There’s at least one show going on in Asbury Park this week that has nothing to do with Light of Day but still demands attention. Never Hungover Again, the second album by California scruff-punk band Joyce Manor, landed on several year-end best-of lists, and the group behind the noisy, catchy set is in Jersey Wednesdaynight for a concert at Asbury Lanes. (Considering that the outfit blew through nine songs in 13minutes on the predecessor to Never Hungover, it’s not inaccurate to call the new album a full-length debut.) Like many new bands working this territory, Joyce Manor makes its Jawbreaker and Weezer influences manifest. No new ground is getting broken in these four-chord blurts. But these musicians play with energy, good humor and rambunctiousness, and their music never sounds less than fresh. Plus, they do a mean reinterpretation of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
A few miles up Ocean Avenue, an original punk —a songwriter who became famous for gutter-punk tactics years before the Ramones hit CBGB —brings his evergreen act to the Brighton Bar on Fridaynight. In the early ’70s, David Peel was a favorite of John Lennon’s, and it’s not hard to see why: no folk strummer on the Lower East Side epitomized the hippie philosophy of life any more fully than he did. Have a Marijuana, his first album, was recorded live on the streets of New York and contained odes to free living and his favorite herb (“I smoke pot/and I like it a lot,” goes a representative Peel couplet). Given current events, the horrified “Here Comes a Cop” feels disturbingly prescient. Peel never disappeared — he’s put out more than 20albums since that debut —but his association with the Occupy movement rekindled interest in his smoke-saturated brand of protest music. Up Against the Wall Street, much of it recorded to canned techno backing tracks, extended his rudimentary aesthetic into the 21st century. Or a strange, twisted version of it, anyway.