As everyone is aware, a solid showing from the Nerd Herd – from all around the country – gathered for KconNY (adjacent) 2018 just over a week ago. Not only was it the usual crew, but we also brought two junior members, Thing One and Junior McFeely, as well as scooping up the podcast’s #1 fan to bring her into the fold. The ranks are growing and the newest additions are marvelous and really, that’s what weekends like this are all about.
I’ll save chatter about the actual con part of Kcon for the podcast as it will be far more interesting to hear about the various events from those that experienced them first hand. Instead, I’m going to share my impressions of the concerts, and those of Thing One, interspersed with pics Stephanie was able to capture on the first night from her excellent seat right next to the stage. Obviously, as it’s risky to buy any more than two tickets at a shot for a Kpop concert, we were all seated in pairs across the venue…each with different vantage points and experiences (slightly further away than they should have been…ahem…please see Stephanie’s venting about Kcon’s unethical move regarding stage repositioning AFTER we purchased our seats).
Both concerts organized the acts in order of presumed popularity or seniority. I say presumed because I have a wonky sense of reality when it comes to recognizing the actual fan base for groups that I love. I’m always pretty sure that everyone in the world will love anyone I’m focused on with the same fervor. Also, it’s hard to really gauge stuff like that when a group is as immediately popular as Stray Kids has been. Everyone did four or more songs, so it was a fairly strong representation of each group.
The first night really kicked off with Jun Curry Ahn, as per usual, and eSNa both performing a short state. It was a good warm-up for Thing One as she is a huge eSNa fan and has gotten to hear the Colorado contingent prattle on about Jun Curry Ahn a million times over. It felt very real to her to see them so early on – this was her first big show so it was all very fresh and surprising. When eSNA pulled out her rewrite of Ahh Shit, I think my tween girl found her place in the world.
(not from the concert, but just so you can all hear it’s message)
Ahh Shit!, eSNa
Siwon, of Super Junior, served as the MC for the evening and Super Junior really kicked it off with an abbreviated performance of Super Duper. At first, I was a bit surprised by the idea that they would be hitting the stage so early in the lineup, but it was truly just a bit of a feature. The Stray Kids were first up and they were fabulous. Both Thing One and the McFeely clan were surprised to realize that they were indeed budding fans of this group of young upstarts. Jisung and Chanbin entered the stage through the audience with their powerful rap and the other’s joined them in the middle. Their choreo was precise and driving and though we had a pretty direct view from our seats, we heard from those higher up that it was actually all especially impressive with a view from above. I love when a choreographer and the performers are so aware of how things will look from every point in a venue.
I am, without a doubt, sure that Stray Kids lost no fans with their performance and that they picked up a whole passel of new ones.
Next up in the lineup was Heize. Many of us had seen her last year at KconLA, and though I know she does have a big following, it’s always a bit weird to me to throw someone like her in with all of these boy and girl pop groups. She’s an accomplished singer/songwriter, does a solo stage, and doesn’t dance. She’s just magical. That’s what she has to offer…magic. I’m an enormous Heize supporter and because I play her music so frequently at home and in the car, Thing One is also a big fan. She was beside herself when Heize came out onto the stage. Her one disappointment in the whole night was that she didn’t perform Jenga. However, everything she did sing was flawless.
Next up was, without a doubt, for me, the highlight of the entire weekend. I am a huge Pentagon fan…as are many in the Herd. Because it was my daughter’s first time at an event like this and because of how it was all set up and how expensive everything was, I wasn’t able to do things like Klub Kcon and the fan engagements. Though I got to see their little interview on the Kcon Stage, I hadn’t gotten to see them up close and personal in the same way many of our friends had, so this was super exciting for me…and they killed it. Pentagon is everything you want them to be while performing. Many of them speak beautiful English and they were extremely charming as they engaged with the audience. They played Shine, of course, but also threw it way back to Gorilla. Yanan, either because of previous schedules or complications with getting the work visa – I’ve heard it both ways – wasn’t able to attend. I missed him sorely, but man, seeing them in person really reaffirmed my love for each and every member.
The highlight of the first night for Thing One was Red Velvet. She, being an eleven-year-old girl that really loves identifying with her entertainment versus lusting them (though who knows at this point, she may be lusting them too) loves a good girl group. They were fabulous. Wendy, a New Yorker to the bone, did a lot of the talking for the ladies, but they all put on a great show. I have extolled the virtues of Red Velvet on the site before, but I’ll do it again for good measure. They are just as cute, hot, and adorable as any other girl group, but they have an edge that you can feel running right under everything they do. They are strong, talented women and they put on a laudable stage. I would absolutely jump at the chance to see a full concert…and now I fear I’d have to buy a ticket for the kiddo as well.
Before the last act, as Kcon is want to do, they had a couple of special stages. We saw Yesung and Seulgi perform a love song…charming, but not my thing despite my love for both of them. Then, leaving me desperately wanting more, Pentagon and the Stray kids performed a phenomenal stage together. That is a whole hell of a lot of male idols on the stage at one time. My weak heart could barely take it. We need more of that. On the regular.
Super Junior performed the unbelieve finale for the night. You can see, feel, and hear the 13 years of experience these guys bring to the stage. Watching them work the crowd as they performed hit after hit was unbelievable, and I’m not even that big of a fan. When they were announced as having joined the concert all those weeks ago, my first thought was ‘Huh, I guess it’ll be great to see them, they are so formative after all.’ It was stunning.
But it was also a reminder that my kiddos are listening to everything we say around them. Thing One’s first comment on them as we walked back to the hotel was ‘They were really great, I wanted to love them, but I kept thinking about the things Shindong and Siwon have said and it ruined them for me.’ And I identified with that. Hard. It took some conscious separation from reality for me to get into them, but I managed, and it was so incredibly worth it.
I have heard a few times now, and from a few different people that Sunday night’s concert was the inferior line up and they weren’t looking forward to it nearly as much. For me, and for my kiddo, that wasn’t the case. And, after the show, I also heard from a couple of those folks that they were shocked to realize that night two was maybe even a titch more enjoyable than the first. You just never know what you’re going to soak up during these kinds of experiences and I love how open the herd is to reframing and enjoying what happens rather than clinging so staunchly to their expectations. Stephanie is very open about her stubbornness, but don’t be fooled, she’s willing to give stuff a chance and be surprised by what happens…even if it isn’t her thing.
Thing One and I were there for the whole show, but we were really, really dying to see Golden Child and EXID. Both of whom are family favorites. Without hesitation, Thing One said that the moment DumDaDi started was her favorite part of the night. She literally shot to her feet with both arms in the air and screamed. She wakes up with that song in her head on the regular. GolCha kicking off the night was a great boost for our exhausted fan and the perfect way to really get her excited all over again. They are an incredibly earnest and hardworking group and they deserve every ounce of love and attention we can give them.
Fromis_9, largely an unknown quantity for me, was there to build a fandom. They are a relatively fresh out of the gate girl group that has really focused on a very cute concept. They were in lederhosen. Seriously. But after doing a girl group dance workshop, I have all sorts of respect for their choreo and how much work it must take them to be that darling all of the time. I am not their demographic and won’t be investing a ton of time into developing a relationship with the group, but I respect them, what they were doing, and want them to succeed without question. Thing One, on the other hand, might be interested in listening to more of them so my money might be going into their pockets anyway.
One of the special stages of the night was a performance by LE of EXID and Jaehyun, Mark, and Taeyong of NCT. It was, in short, amazing. LE is one of the most talented female rappers working today and those NCT fellas…no words.
The NCT 127 stage was a delight. I’ve seen this iteration of the group several times now. These guys never cease to amaze, but with their limited list of hits, I feel like we get the same numbers over and over. I love, love, love them, but I am craving a show with all of NCT 2018. I want all of the subunits. I’m greedy for it. It was a highlight of the night, for sure, but I wasn’t surprised by how great it was. They are always perfection.
By this point in the night, right before the finale, Thing One had reached her introverted tween limit. She was more than wiped. So, with the crowd dancing around us, we sat through Wanna One. When you put together an idol group after weeding through countless potentials, picking the best of the best, you, of course, get the best. Wanna One is no joke. Their stage, and all of their little subunits and project songs, were fabulous. I am so glad they did Energetic and I hope that Hui saw just how well it was received in the States. Selfishly, I’m glad they were the last ones on as Thing One doesn’t really know them well, despite my having tried to pique her interest, and I, honestly, am not as familiar with the individual members. I didn’t have to feel guilty that my attention was partially focused on my kiddo dozing on my shoulder instead of their beautiful choreo and Kang Daniel’s absolute perfection as an idol. But they did make me want to listen to them more. They did pull me in and make me that much more invested in their success this year and the ongoing individual success of each of the members.
Despite my frustration with Kcon as an organization, in the face of my ire at our P1 tickets really being P3, and regardless of my constant need to make sure Thing One was safe, happy, and having a good time, both nights were amazing. I do love the opportunity to see so many groups – those I’m already in love with and those I’m just getting to know – all squished into one weekend with a herd of friends I rarely get to see. I’m not going to KconLA for many reasons, the least of which isn’t the fact that I’m seeing Monsta X in LA around the same time, but I do have a twinge of longing to be a part of all of that fun. I’m weighing the pros and cons of attending in the future – we just have so much more access to full concerts now – but having so much fun this time around makes it a much more complicated question.
We shall see what next year brings.