VANNER: Denver’s First Kpop Concert

Posted by Stephanie on February 2, 2020

Music

One of the things I had to weigh when I moved to Denver, and I mean it was a serious check in the con column of the move, was giving up the easy access to Kpop. Sure with the internet and a built-in kpop loving friend group, it wasn’t like I was totally bereft, but there’s a difference between being able to hop on the PATH train to the Playstation theater (Prudential Center if the group was big enough) and seeing my choice of Kpop groups. Could I give that up? Sure I could still go to concerts, but now it requires logistics, time off from work, flights, and accommodations. It’s a bigger deal time and money-wise. The truth of the matter, as much as Denver was considered a little big city with lots of culture and music and breweries around every corner, Kpop just wasn’t going to come here.

But just last week, that changed. Studio PAV, who specializes in bringing smaller groups to the US, allowed the fans to decide from a series of voting rounds, where the next group was going to. And Denver won one fo the slots! Yay, Denver! So last week, VANNER became Denver’s first-ever Kpop concert.

Even though we didn’t know VANNER very well, or, let’s be honest, at all, we were all game. A bunch of the Denver crew plus Cherry Cordial who flew out for such an auspicious occasion chose to get the VIP tickets, landing us ticket spots in the low 40s. SaraG forwent the chance to get VIP tickets, instead choosing to sacrifice, taking her daughter and niece along for the ride. Our tickets, because this is the trend for Studio PAV, included a fan sign (turns out a fan sign and a fan meet are 2 different things), a high touch, a group photo, and our choice of spots at the concert. Then after the concert? We had our chances to purchase what’s called Pick-A-Pose, essentially a polaroid picture with the member of your choice, doing one of five pre-selected poses (poses being of the band member’s choice.) Again, being fully in, with a chunk of my credit card paid off, and a will to not miss out, I signed up for a picture of one of each of the members. After a few nights of boning up on our VANNER trivia, learning all of the members and their songs, we were ready.

Or were we?

Not only was the show in Denver, if it were a warm non-winter date, I could actually walk to the theater! Take that, PATH train! Since it was winter though, we chose option number 2 and drove in, early worried about parking. HAHAHAHHA there was no need to worry, we literally got a spot right around the corner from The Oriental a small club in the heart of The Highlands neighborhood of Denver. Though we were there a couple of hours early (we were planning to snag some quick pre-food.) I was thrown off by the fact there were already some lines queuing up in the alleyway beside the theater. The cool thing about Studio PAV tours? The number in which you bought your ticket is actually your number in line. No waiting all day for a good spot, nope, they line you up all fair and square like. Turns out though, I didn’t need to worry, this was just the preline, people just lining up because they were really excited about this event.

I was still wary about timing as, though we did have our place in line, the site did say if you weren’t in line at 5 during check-in, you’d lose your place and would have to go to the back. Our tickets were purchased under Alix who was coming from work and wasn’t sure what time she’d actually be able to make it to the line. I had our tickets, but if they were looking for ID would they not let us check in if Alix wasn’t there yet? Would we be kicked to the back of the line? No lie, I was stressing out. The wording on the instructions just wasn’t clear. Alix was rushing as quickly as she could to get to the theater, but Denver traffic is a crapshoot, you never know what sort of snarl you’re going to get into. Luckily though, the fates were with her, and she actually made it to the official line before us and was able to check everyone in, handing over our VIP badges as we arrived.

Furthermore, as we waited in line, I should say we shouldn’t have worried at all. (And by we I mean me because I was the only one in a tizzy about it. YAY ME.) They were giving out badges when we arrived earlier, they were giving out badges when we arrived at five, and they were giving out badges to people arrivedafter us, volunteers delivering people to their spots in line right up until the fan sign began. While the instructions should have been a little clearer, let me say, this concert? I really have to give it up for Studio PAV. This was the most organized, best-run k-event I’ve ever been to. Everything was either on time or a few minutes early. There were people all around giving out instructions, the lady in charge was clear and loud, with a sense of humor giving us even more instructions every step of the way. She treated us fans well and was really able to humanize the band, hopefully keeping people in line during the Pick-A-Pose. I would not hesitate to go to a Studio PAV event again and urge you to do the same, not just to support these smaller groups they’ve chosen to highlight, but for a great, person to person experience.

Anyway, back to the VIP badges — which are kind of key to how the fan sign goes. When you check into the show, you get a badge and you give them your name which they write a hangul version of it on the front of the badge. This is so the band knows who they’re are signing to. We had a good time afterward sounding out what they thought our names sounded like. Alix really was the winner for “Ummmm….what does that say?”

As it’s Denver and very cold, we were eager to get started. Since we were there a long time earlier than we actually needed to be if they were going to just let us use our spots at any time, we were colder and colder as the hour drew on. (We were way too cute to wear coats.) Since the theater is so small, we were instructed once everything started, it was going to go like this: We would enter in for the fan sign, they would sign either a CD (if you brought one, which I did, purchased just for this event) or a poster that they provided. Once they signed your whatever, you would leave the area, following the line BACK OUTSIDE, where we would line back up where we started. Once everyone was done, we’d be filed back in, do the high touch, in sets of 5 (maybe 6?), then they would sit in chairs, we’d file in behind them, they’d take two pictures in a group, then we can go into the venue and choose our spots. We were excited not just to meet the band but that this might just be our chance to have a spot right by the stage. FINGERS CROSSED.

The line started moving and we were blessedly able to be inside the lobby while we waited for the line to swing around. For a while we were situated right in front of a mirror, which, you know, we made use of. While in line, we chatted with one of the staff, a friendly girl who was talking about how she hadn’t thought to bring a coat on tour with her. Finally, it was our time to go in and there they were, behind a table, right by the wall in the theater!

GASP! It’s HAPPENING!

They are all cute as buttons. I want to say it’s all a blur, but I was hella awkward and that’s something you don’t forget. You could tell that they don’t speak a lot of English, but were really trying hard, which gets them special bonus points. The first one read my tag and asked me if my name was Stephanie. I told him thanks for coming to Denver and good luck with the show. (Turns out this is my standard line to all of them.) I got a variety of answers, thanking me, telling me to have a good night and the odd “I love Denver!”

Well, Denver loves you too, Buddy.

Sure, I’ve high touched groups before, Planetarium and The Rose last year, B1A4 a few years back, but this is the first time I’ve really had that one on one with a Kpop group. (Ummm except that moment I had during the high touch with one of the members of The Rose. Remind me to tell you that story someday…) It’s amazing to see these people you’ve seen on tv, singing, dancing, variety-ing in person. It was a pretty cool experience. But again, it was over too fast but my adrenaline? Kept soaring for a while, and I was, indeed, one of those girls who left the venue squeeeing, secure in my fandom of this group I’d just come to know.

So we went back to wait in line, this time excited, but very, very cold. Now we waited for the high touch. For me this was weird. All the other high touches I’ve had have all been after the concert. We literally just saw them, I could barely make out words before, how was I expected to do so again without the cushion of “Good Job, Good Job, Great show, Good Job.”? Whatever I decided to do, it needed to be fast because this line was moving a lot faster than the original. This time around, when we reached the door to the venue, the staff of the venue itself were wristbanding people: drinkers, non-drinkers. When our grou decided to go in as drinkers the aging rocker at the door said, “You’re going to need it.”

Ummmm….. dude. You know we paid to see this show, right? We’re here on purpose.

Pushing my irritation aside, I went in. Usually at these venues where there is alcohol being served, you kind of laugh at them, knowing this isn’t that kind of show. Someone must have clued these guys in as, sitting on the bar, was a big bowl of non-alcoholic VANNER Punch. We died. It was hilarious. LizC purchased some of the fruit punch, adding in the suggested vodka shot. Gauging my time and the swift-moving line, I took a chance and bolted for the bathroom. Why do I tell you this? Well, embarrassing moment in front of band #2. Yeah, I heard them letting in my friends and bolted out, AFTER WASHING MY HANDS, which is important to say as they weren’t quite as dry as I would have liked them to be when we were ushered into the room, frantically drying my hands. So that’s what I focused on. Good Luck, please don’t notice my hands, Good Luck, I promise I’m not a creepy damp handed person. Have a great show, gah, I am a creepy damp handed person.

You know. Memories.

After we lined up behind them and they made heart hands with us as we took the picture. SQUEE. So cute.

From there we were allowed to enter the venue. Ticket queue in the low 40’s in The Oriental won’t get you first row, but it will get you second. So we stationed ourselves for a pretty amazing spot. We watched the rest of the line go through the queue, watching the guys interact with all of the fans. They all seemed really excited but I was worried they would go right from that to the show. These guys deserved a break, after all, that fan-handling! Turns out again, I didn’t need to stress about it, they wrapped up the high touches, escaped to the backroom and there as about a solid half hour before the concert started while us fans waited excitedly.

I’m thinking the fangirl level excitement was a little unexpected for the security guards, as the random screaming, anytime they flashed a light in our direction, anytime anyone came out on stage, had them fascinated. They even pulled out their own cameras to video the spectacle in front of them. It was funny and creepy all at the same time.

Like I said, right on the nose of whenever the concert was supposed to start, the concert actually started and the guys came out, all dressed in various shades of black and neon green. Taehwan was looking very just stepped off the set of Glee musical theatery.

Hyesung looked super hot in an outfit he just kept slowly stripping off as the concert went on. First a green shirt, jacket and some sort of harness thing.

Then he lost the harness.

 

Then, by the end of the concert, he lost the jacket.

Definitely my favorite look of the night, however, maybe you don’t want to leave it to me to judge as it turns out, I’m a wee bit of a Hyesung bias! He is a great dancer, personable and took everything really seriously.

My least favorite look? Surprisingly not Gon’s weird shirt.

But the’s pants on Ahxian. Um. Where did you get those things, my friend and maybe you should put them back where you found them.

They started out with a few songs, singing and dancing better than we anticipated, not because we don’t think they could sing, but the idea of someone coming and performing in this elevation within one day of arrival? Take it from someone who moved here, that takes SKILLS. The air here is no joke. They pushed through admirably, and it was fun to hear them panting whenever they stopped to talk.

I’m not sure if it was the elevation/breathlessness or just the fact that their mikes needed to be turned up, but during their songs, it was a little hard to hear them actually singing. And I was right by the stage. I’m a wearer of earplugs at concerts now (gotta protect those ears!) and I ended up taking them out midway through the show so I could hear them. This is not a comment on their actual performance, I think their mikes needed to be turned up or the backup music needed to be turned down.

They performed a few of their songs including one of their latest or biggest Better Do Better and a few really well-done cover songs.

Actually, if I’m counting, 4 cover songs as a group and then Gon and Taehwan did 2 solo cover songs. I was surprised that they chose this over actually performing some of their own songs. I actually really think Trampoline is a great song and wished I could have seen them perform it. That aside? The cover songs, 2 BTS (Boy In Love and Mike Drop) BlockB’s Very Good, and BigBang’s Bang Bang Bang were excellent! You could tell the group actually enjoyed performing those songs too as their performances were even sharper with immense energy during them. I think if VANNER wanted to move into a direction with a stronger, harder sound? With the members that they have, they could totally pull it off. It was a blast.

The king of the evening (besides my growing love for Hyesung) was, hands down, GON. He is a force of nature! His energy, inability to not stand still, his stage presence, the faces he made? It was hard to take your eyes away from him. And his solo cover song? Was so much fun and well done matching his personality (or the one he puts forth on stage) perfectly.

There was one video during the show, a self-made cam where the boys go out and buy fish bread on the street (man these guys don’t pull any punches chasing after my heart), eating it in their practice room while talking about what it will be like when they go on tour to the US, talking about how excited they are, working on choreo and choosing songs for the performances. You can tell that this is a smaller band without the cash behind them pushing them along and it makes you want to root all the more for them because of it.

I became seriously addicted to creating Boomerangs during the concert. Here are some particularly hilarious ones:

 

 

Before too long the concert was over, the boys did their “We’re done, oh now we’re back for the encore” bit.

While they performed the last songs they circled the front of the stages, grabbing the outstretched phones and filming themselves. I may or may not have tried for it but while close, I didn’t quite make it. One of the best moments of the night? This girl who apparently shoved Alix and Cherry out of the way to make her way to the front gave her phone to Gon, he grabbed it, the case flapped open and he saw it was covered in ATEEZ stickers, he made a “huh, interesting” face and gave the phone right back to her, not filming himself. HAHAHAHAHHAHHAHA I LOVE GON SO HARD.

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#VANNER in Denver! #Gon had SO MUCH ENERGY. #DENVANNER

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After the end of the concert, the lady came out and explained what was going to happen with the Pick-A-Pose. The theater was separated into boxes, if we were going to be having our pictures taken we’d get into one of the boxes and they’d call us up to the boys per box, everyone would do their pictures leave, and they’d call the next group up. We landed in the third box so we had plenty of time to look through Instagram to choose our poses, but mostly? We watched what was going on down below us. Gon and Taehwan were the most popular, Gon just couldn’t stop moving, and the faces he made were just hilarious. LizC who was only going to have her picture taken with Taehwan went back in line to get another ticket just so she could have her picture taken with Gon.

We also had a super fun time making hearts and receiving hearts from various members of the band while they waited for the next person to be queued up. While they’d spent the whole concert in the green and black outfits, for this they came out in various shades of red and black. Super dashing.

Now, because Taehwan and Gon had lines, staff would periodically ask if there was anyone waiting to have their pictures taken with one of the other members. It wasn’t as though they didn’t have people in line, it was just those lines weren’t always….as full. Kind of broke my heart a little bit….or a lot. If I’d had more cash I might have gone with another Hyesung pic. Anyway, this was our chance to escape our box! Cherry was getting an Ahxian pic, Alix’s bias was Yeonggwang. I was hesitant to crash the line as I’d planned on getting a pic with everyone. I asked the staff and he said no problem if I could just go to one of the other lines first. So I followed Cherry to Ahxian.

Though we’d all picked our poses in advance when I got to the front of the line, with all that pressure and cuteness in front of me, I tended to blank out. Turns out, I should have studied harder, Ahxian I couldn’t remember what one I chose so I just did the pose Cherry chose, then once I got there, he put his arm around me, my mind went blank, couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do and just pointed at him.

I know. So smoooooth.

Next was Yeonggwang which wasn’t much better, chill before I got up there then….blank.

Hyesung was realllly hard for me because I found him delightful which just added more pressure than this little stress bunny needed. I thanked him for coming, he thanked me for coming, we gripped hands and I left. Goodbye, my pretty one.

Then it was off to the big lines, which actually moved pretty quickly. Since he was right there I went with Gon and the girl in front of me was letting all of us go in front of her as she had a handfull of tickets…and they were all for Gon. After watching him pose, I couldn’t blame her.

Queue awkward moment #52. I approach him, this time knowing exactly what pose I wanted. I was ready. I was ready to make a Gon level funny face. I was ready to meet this spectacle. Then I told him the pose I wanted (the pose itself was delightfully awkward.) he grabbed my hands HE GRABBED MY HANDS. A Kpop idol was grabbing my hand and started to do another pose, not remembering which one was the one I asked for. I don’t blame him, as I watched I didn’t see anyone else request this weirdo pose. I said to this Kpop idol, “NO! It’s this one!” grabbed his hands and moved them to where I wanted them to be, realized what I had just done and died of embarrassment. Dead. Luckily, he made a surprised face, laughed and went with the pose. Win! He gave my hands another squeeze as I left, we had a moment and it was done. Sigh.

Finally, it was Taehwan and I figured I couldn’t make any more of a fool out of myself and went for a pose where he puts his arm around me. Turns out I was right? I couldn’t be more embarrassed than I already was. He was super nice, I thanked him for a great show and we were off!

Such a good night. An experience worthy of my first ever Denver Kpop concert! Turns out, they sold more tickets here in Denver than any other venue. Ours was actually a larger venue than the other concerts as well! I’m hoping they take this as a sign that Denver can fill a well priced not oversized show! Come back Studio Pav, come back! I want to ride the ride again!

 

 

And if you thought the story was over there???? SO WRONG. This is where the night gets to epic levels of fangirl!

It ended up just being Cherry and I getting some food at the end of the concert. As this is a mostly residential neighborhood in Denver, there wasn’t much open and figured it was going to be Taco Bell for us. I wished aloud that there was a diner still open. There is nothing quite so fun as hanging with your friend at a diner after a concert, right? Well, Cherry googled and found the Denver Diner on Colfax. Colfax can be a sketchy place depending on where you land, but I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a try. Turns out, it was delightful! Wide and bright with a wall of windows facing the sidewalk and street. We ordered and I sucked down my weight in Diet Pepsi. I wondered aloud where we thought the band would go after the concert, as Korean bands usually go and get Korean food after a concert. While Denver has Korean food, great Korean food, it’s all the way down in Aurora and is not open after 11 at night. Literally just as I was saying this aloud (not an exaggeration at all) I looked up to the window, and there was VANNER walking the sidewalk to come to the diner.

WAT THE EVERLOVING FUDGE???

I’d heard of this happening before. It was the great joke in NY after the concert you’d run down to Ktown and hang there in an attempt to see the band go into whatever Korean food place they chose. Someone on the Vanner FB group had mentioned they VANNER had walked into the Korean restaurant they went to after the concert in Chicago and I got all Jelly, saying “That never happened to me.” (Saying? Pouting? Same difference.)

Anyway, I nearly died as I squeeed to Cherry “Oh my god, oh my god.” Then, not only did they come into the restaurant we were sitting at, as the waitress hurried over to organize tables near us, I realized THEY WERE GOING TO BE SITTING NEXT TO US. It doesn’t get more fangirly than that!!!! We put out a call to our group, the only one who was still up was LizC who happened to live nearby. She asked if she should get out of bed and come and we were like, “DUR GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE.” She told us to order her a milkshake as she was on her way.

The now long table next to us was filled with the band and staff. Unfortunately, my back was to the group and I was too much of a weeny to stare outright so I’d just casually glance over my shoulder. I was terrified that all of the sodas I’d just chugged would hit and I’d have to go to the bathroom, passing their table, as I’m sure they’d think the photo bossy girl with the creepy wet hands was following them. I’m sure the staff knew we were there, I am pretty sure the group, or at least Gon knew I was there as, during one of my casual lookups, I accidentally caught his eye.

And it was an accident! We didn’t want to be those people who got all pushy on them during their private time. Though I fluctuated on this. They are a smaller group, maybe they’d be excited that people would recognize them here? I desperately wanted to buy their dinner as, within our group, it’s the joke we buy albums or merch in order to buy them a sandwich. This was my chance to actually buy them a sandwich! How cool would that be?

Turns out I was the only one who thought that was cool, everyone else thought it was creepy so I sat on my credit card and pouted.

At one point, Liz laughed and showed me her phone, Taehwan had uploaded a picture of himself in the diner on the Vanner Instagram. And if you look closely? THAT’S MY BIG ASS HAIR! (It was very windy waiting in line. Curls + Wind = Ugh)

After a while, they called their ubers and left. LEFT US SQUEEING WITH THE WAITRESS! The waitress didn’t know who they were but had wondered if they were some Kpop band because her friend is super into Kpop.

That’s it. They went back to their hotel, we paid and left the booth. Such an amazing, unbelievable cap for such a great night! While we’re all ready and braced for all of the kpop that’s about to come our way now that promotors realize we’re a viable location, we will never forget our first, VANNER!

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