I am a snob. I never really planned on investigating much K-Pop simply because the name and reputation directs me to a Backstreet Boys/NSYNC/Dream/S Club 7-esque music phenomenon that reminds me of my “tween” years. But you can’t knock it till you try it so when I saw an ad for a free K-Pop festival, I had to go!
It turns out that the line-up was full of big name artists. (Do I call them artists? Performers? Acts?)
I met two girls from Couchsurfing – one from the Netherlands who is here on a working holiday and her Korean friend. Fortunately the Korean friend Minje was similarly only there because it was free, so we were in the same boat at least! But Poei was a big fan of two of the acts, so we stopped to pick up a light stick at one of the stalls selling crap in the street. Light sticks, banners, mouse pads, stickers, everything you could possibly slap a label on. I was tempted to buy something to get the full experience but I don’t need anything else that eventually I’ll have to get rid of anyway.
So… How much do people love K-Pop? The festival was intended for foreigners (not very fair) so the best sections down in front were reserved for us. The website advertised that tijckets would also be available to Koreans at the last minute I guess, so people slept outside the stadium to be first in line for those! Which happened to be way in back in the balcony of the stadium. Granted it’s a big show with visuals projected on the backdrop and screens with close-ups of the performers anyway.
We arrived around midday to be there early to get tickets. Not seeing many other people lining up, we wandered around and stood in the shade. Unfortunately we were really stupid here because after an hour and a half of standing around doing nothing, we realized a massive line had formed down the block! So when we finally got in line and the tickets started being given out, we had about another hour and a half wait on the hot sun. (This better be worth it, I was thinking) In the foreigner line, there were people from all over – lots of Chinese, heard some other Americans and Aussies… For some reason they divided the line into people with proof of flights into Korea and people without that, only for the tickets to not even be checked by the time we got to the ticket counter!
Tickets, check. Stadium opens in another 2 hours. Pleaseeeee can we get some food, I’ve eaten all my beef jerky! We wandered down to a nearby restaurant strip, had some Korean beef stew whose name escapes me at the moment, and back again to the stadium to get inside to our seats.
Was the wait worth it? We were in the front left section A, in quite a good section to see them given the options. It turns out the whole thing was sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Tourism so some reps were in the VIP section a little ways behind us, along with a group of die-hard fans from Brazil. This group got up on stage in the middle of the night for a dance routine, along with some 30 others. Not sure how they got involved to be honest, but must have been a huge thrill for them to be on the same stage as these groups dancing.
Anyway, biases be gone because despite waiting a total of 6.5 hours for this event, I enjoyed it. Probably not as much as the screaming girls around me, but it was entertaining. Similar to what I expected in terms of clothes, choreography, cheesy smiles and winks on the close-ups, overly perfect bodies and make-up faces. Lip-syncing was obvious by some, and I’m pretty sure the group “who are actually musicians” didn’t have the guitars plugged in and the piano keys never moved, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that my eyesight and camera zoom aren’t very good. Catchy songs for sure, and not only pop but a little mix of hip hop in some songs. Take-aways to listen to again? Maybe Girls’ Generation for some bubble pop to put you in a good mood, or Block B had some alright ones.
Interested in more K-Pop? This blog has a good write-up about it. They are brands sold so so well, not only in Korea but all over the place fans are going mad for K-Pop! And they look like they are having so much fun that it’s no wonder people want to be like and look like them. And for that, there is lots of cheap plastic surgery! More on that another time.