|'Cuz I am 'all things Asian cool' after all o.O|
Okay, so I have to tell you a little back story as to how this all came to be, because I at least think it's funny how it all worked out. I had zero to do with the planning of this trip. Zero. It was the brainchild of my husband and his buddy Dustin. We had over the past months talked ambiguously about going to California with them at some point, but the menfolk actually went and made it happen. One day, as the plans were beginning to hatch and my husband was telling me the plans/dates they had discussed, the realization hit me - the dates lined up. The stars aligned. It was just meant to be. KCon had recently been announced and I really wanted to go of course, but already knew that I had the Big Bang concert road trip with Unnie already planned and didn't want to be greedy and try for a second K-related trip. We are a single income family after all and not fabulously wealthy and able to jet set around the world or even to the next state over on a whim. But, as fate would have it, our plans just so happened to put us in the same city on the same day as KCon. How could I not go? Except that being the stereotypical martyr mom, I still hemmed and hawed at the idea. I didn't want to spend the money. I didn't want to be rude to our friends and disappear for the day. Yadda yadda. You moms out there probably are familiar with the tune and have hummed it a bit yourselves from time to time. I'm convinced it's a mom thing. For you non-moms out there, you'll just have to take my word for it. We are, as a breed, generally speaking, pathological martyrs. Anywhoodlenoodlepoodle (totally channeling Martina right now), my poor husband had heard enough of my "should I/shouldn't I" and went and bought me the tickets. Aww.... See? That's why he's my number one bias (sorry Jaejoong, Lee Min Ho, Donghae, Hyun Bin, Lee Seung Gi, etc...we'll just have to be friends as my heart belongs to my very own personal star lovingly referred to as The Husband). *cue the sappy love awws*
We had a fab few days of family and friend fun time. But I'll save those details for my personal blog. You're not here to read about how my 9 year old ran wild around both parks with his pack or how my 11 year old literally had to be dragged onto rides. You don't care to hear how my poor husband's tendency to motion sickness left him popping Dramamine and skipping meals or how our friend narrowly avoided stepping on a sting ray. Or how I "came out" to The Husband's extended family about my K addicKtion and how now they all think I'm cuckoo in the clock. Oh well, go big or go home, right? Might as well own up to my zany ways. By the next time I see them I'll either be rich and famous (haha) and they'll be saying "I knew her when" or I won't be and they'll have forgotten anyway. See, I can't lose - why hide in the shadows anymore? ;)
So that's how I came to find myself there that day. Now to tell you a little bit about what it was like. It's difficult to describe. It's even difficult to tell you how I felt about and through the whole experience. There were ups and downs. I started out a little grumpy because we got there earlier than I wanted to. My family was chomping at the bit to get to the beach for a day of play and we had to be dropped off first. Sounds kind of crazy, right? Why wouldn't I want to get there and spend as much time as possible? Well, for starters it was an outdoor event and I am a redhead and it was a sunny day. And our SPF was on its way to the beach. Plus I was in full "mom mode" still because I was there with my daughter and not a bunch of fellow raving K-fans. Yes, my daughter likes Kpop and Eat Your Kimchi quite a bit, but she's still 11. A lot of what was going on didn't interest her and quite frankly, didn't interest me. I'm a 30-something mom, not a teenaged crazed fan girl. I was in the minority on every level. Off and on through the day I found myself resenting the fact that I was stuck there and not off having a fun day at the beach with my family and friends. But then there were those moments that made it all worthwhile. Those are the moments I will choose to focus on.
There were multiple tents set up and each tent had different things going on all day. We found ourselves at one tent about an hour before Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi were set to appear in a panel. By this point we had already wandered aimlessly around getting familiarized with the scene and getting caught up in swarms (more on swarms later). I was hot. I was tired. My feet were achy. My daughter, Little Popper 1, was getting restless. We got to the tent a few minutes before the first current panel (Making a Hit - Songwriters) was set to end. I saw my opportunity. We waited for the current panel to end and for some seats to open up and then we swooped in and sat down. Ahh! A chair! Shade! Swarm-free! And as an added bonus, awesome seats all ready for Simon and Martina's appearance! Woohoo! It did mean that I missed the one panel I was most interested in seeing from a professional standpoint that day, "Inside Look at K-Dramas", but oh well. Chair, shade and EYK won out in the end. Good thing too, as my original plan to go to the K-Drama panel and then the "YouTube Idols Up Close and Personal" again with EYK wouldn't have worked out. We tried to get to the second EYK panel after the first and it was so packed we would have totally missed them if we didn't go to the first one and that would have ruined the whole day. EYK was what put me on to the "I really wanna go" side of the KCon fence after all.
So there we were - great seats and ready for the panel entitled "Rise of Foreign Influence in K-Pop". Simon and Martina made their grand entrance and were greeted by screaming fans. It was funny - about 10 minutes before they took the stage, we saw them coming, surrounded by security and being followed by their own swarm.
***Interruption time*** Probably time to define what I mean by "swarm", huh? I can't keep using it without describing the phenomenon. It really was interesting to see from a people-watching perspective (which is something I tend to do a lot of). You can probably already imagine sort of what it must have been like. But you really can't appreciate it without actually experiencing it. Now, I've not found myself in a real life fangirl position before - where actual fangirl/fanboying is going on. Especially not Asian fangirl/boying. I've heard people talk about how in Asian culture, the concept of "personal space" differs from our American idea of it. I understand that a little better now. Anytime a group or artist would show up for pictures or fan signings, or even when a staff member would show up with vouchers for fan signings (you had to have a voucher in order to be able to line up for the fan signings) or anytime something of fangirl/boy import happened, there would be a swarm. A completely solid mass of screaming bodies rushing one way or another. No one outside of the swarm ever really knew what the swarm was for. And if you weren't careful, you'd find yourself falling victim to this wall of swarming humanity rushing at you. For example, LP1 and I had paused near a post for a moment to check the map and get our bearings and figure out what we wanted to do, when all of the sudden we found ourselves literally getting shoved and pushed around by a swarm. One second we were free and clear, the next we were getting bowled over by screaming, shrieking bodies. It was...wow. A new experience. After falling prey to the swarms a couple of times, you can maybe see why a chair in a tent for an hour was sounding especially nice. I am so old, yes, I know. At least I wasn't yelling at them to turn the music down (though there was one point I thought about it as I thought my eardrums were going to explode and my whole body was vibrating from the music -but that story is later).
Okay, sorry about that interruption. Where was I? Ah, yes. The first spotting of Simon and Martina. They walked by the side of the tent, surrounded by security and being followed by their very own personal swarm. Someday I want a swarm of my own. Or not. They kind of scared me. But I guess if I had security ushering me around it would be kind of cool. Simon was easy to spot - he really is tall and with the red mohawk - hard to miss. Martina was harder to see as she was shorter and under an umbrella and blocked from view by security/staff members. But boy, did we scream our little fangirl/boy hearts out when we first spied them! It was an awesome moment! I tried to capture it on video. I'll just give a blanket statement now - I apologize for my sub-par videoing. I was using just my phone and was trying to conserve battery and storage space because I knew I would be there for many hours and would have lots to try and capture. So my clips are short and shaky and not very good. :( But they're something and something is better than nothing, right? *Turning on the aegyo shoulder shrug and cheesy grin with batting eyelids right about now*
It was a very interesting panel with some very interesting and exciting things said. I left there just even more in love with KPop and the direction that it is headed. I felt a part of something special. Without waxing too philosophical here because there's still a lot of day to cover and this post is already freakishly long, KPop is just so much about community and feeling a part of that something special. It's not so underground that no one has heard it, yet, as Martina pointed out, it is underground enough that you're not going to hear it played on the radio (well, except for Gangnam Style) and I agree that that's how it should stay. Do I want to share the KPop love with the uninitiated? Sure. Obviously. I try. I fail miserably, but I still try. I want to add people to the community (uhm, I am a blogger about this stuff after all), but I definitely don't want to see it become mainstream. It's something so unique and this force that you have to experience in order to "get". Maybe it doesn't speak to everyone like it speaks to us. I don't know. I can only speak for myself and for me, KPop has spoken to me like no music has ever done before. Why? I don't know. Can anyone explain that? The panel tried. And they had very good and valid points that made a whole lot of sense - KPop is the product of a lot of hard, hard work and drive for perfection. The artists don't enter the field dreaming of an easy, cush life filled with swag and adoring fans. They know ahead of time that they are going to work like they have never worked before - long, grueling hours, intense schedules and seemingly impossible demands placed on them. It's not an easy life, but they are dedicated to it 110%. And the end result? Magic. At least in this humble blogger's opinion. Again, obviously I'm a fan and just a tad biased, but there has to be some reason why even I, an average, non-Asian, suburban housewife, was smitten by this KPop insanity after 30-some odd years on this planet and countless other opportunities to be snagged by a genre.
Phew. For trying to not wax philosophical, this place is getting mighty slippery. Better get back to the task at hand. Kids will be home from school soon and I am quickly running out of time. I sure do like to hear the sound of my own clacking keyboard, don't I?
That was our first panel of the day. After it ended, we hurried over to the next one that Simon and Martina were to speak at, but like I mentioned, by the time we got to it, it was already packed solid and we could barely see.
Well, I could barely see, LP1 couldn't see anything. We gave it the ol' college try, but after about 15 minutes of standing and baking in the hot, hot sun and pressed up against so many other bodies, we gave up and went to grab some lunch.
I was a happy, happy girl when I spotted the row of food trucks on our way in. One in particular. For some time now I have been dying to try the infamous Kogi Korean taco. Guess what though...I don't live in CA and we don't have Kogi Korean taco truck here in AZ. (Hey Kogi - how about it? A little Phoenician action sound good?) I had myself some yummy short rib and spicy pork tacos. Yumm!
The next 2-3 hours we wandered aimlessly. The tent events were over. We spent some time at one of the stages where they had various people performing all day. We saw the end of Shin B's performance. And a dance troupe from UC Irvine that rocked it. We also saw Chad Future. We were up close to the stage and right under the speakers. LP1 was loving it! I couldn't get her to move back (I had re-entered 'mom mode' and was concerned for the health of my poor child's ears). We hung out there for an hour-ish or whatever it ended up being. I'll have to talk about this more later I think because it's an interesting concept, but I learned of Chad Future for the first time that day, and I must say, I really enjoyed his performance. For those, like me, unfamiliar with who he is, he's a white guy trying to break in to KPop and has started (or at least is heavily involved in a new movement - forgive my ignorance if I got that wrong) called American KPop, or 'A KPop'. Again, I'll have to explore this more in greater detail in a future post, but it was intriguing and I think worth chatting about to see where everyone falls on the A-KPop spectrum.
The rest of the remaining time we parked ourselves on a patch of grass. I people watched as LP1 played her Nintendo. About this point in the day I was thinking that this whole event was like Korean Woodstock, only minus the drugs and free love. There were just people everywhere, all camped out in their groups. Maybe I missed my calling in life as a sociologist because I found is fascinating to watch.
Then, finally, after a very long day, it was time to enter the amphitheater for the concert. Yay!!! We got our official KCon lightsticks, stood in the crazy line of people filing in, found our seats (didn't take too long as we were pretty much all the way in the back) and settled in. This wasn't only my first KPop concert but really was my first concert concert. I did see the band Live ages ago at the state fair, but that was not a ticketed event and so I'm not going to count it fully. It gets like half a point at most. It was starting to get dark, the light sticks were coming on and it was magical. And then the concert started. SQUEEEE!!! After a couple of smaller opening acts, B.A.P. took the stage! They were who I was most excited to see and I found myself getting a lot more emotional than I thought I would. I mean, I like BAP, but didn't realize how much until I was standing there, waving my lightstick and singing along to No Mercy with 9000 or so other screaming and singing fans. It was...awesome. Daebak. Chincha daebak. BAP did No Mercy and Crash. Sad they didn't do Warrior or Power, but they were great.
Here's a small sample. Most of my videos didn't turn out because I was either holding the camera the wrong way (sorry, new-to-me phone), bouncing it up and down in time to the music, or horribly singing/screaming along, or all of the above. This will give you a tiny taste of what it looked like from where we were though.
G.Na was next. Or was it Vixx? I don't remember the exact order. Sorry. Then Nu'est. And then EXO-M. They earned the loudest and most enthusiastic cheers of the night. After each group/artist performed, they would do a small little greeting and chat. We were asked multiple times throughout the event how we were doing. And we were told often to make some noise. EXO's after chat was the best. They had a little video with various random people from throughout the day asking different questions of EXO. The first was a girl who asked the leader, Kris, to do a little aegyo. Kris instead volunteered up Tao, who did a cute little "buing buing". Another member (I don't remember - I'll find a video clip hopefully so you can see for yourself) did it, and then finally, with a lot of encouragement from the audience, Kris did a half-hearted "buing". It was hilarious! Since we were up in the nosebleeds and had thousands upon thousands of screaming fans between us and the stage, I missed a lot of what was being said. The music we heard fine, but all the speaking was hard to hear and understand. I know that it was being broadcast on Mnet, so I'm hoping I can find video and see what I was supposed to have seen there that night. ;)
Ah! Here's a clip.
Again, not mine:
But wow! What an experience! LP1 was totally in to it - standing and waving her lightstick with the rest of us crazed fans. Once EXO finished, people started to leave. I then started to leave before realizing that there was one more group still to go - 4Minute. I tried to turn around LP1, but she had to go to the bathroom. By this time it was after 10pm and our ride had been sitting there already for half and hour waiting for us, so we took off, enjoying 4Minute as we walked the long walk out. It was crazy how loud that amphitheater was. We really could hear everything even from far away in the parking lot. And we avoided the crowds on the way out which was awesome. I am still a 30-something mom that had to drive with her family to a hotel in another city and wake up early the next morning for a family event with The Husband's extended family. I hope 4Minute can forgive me - it was nothing personal. Just like theme parks and thrill rides - concerts are different when you tack on a decade or so to your age, LOL. But there it is... my day at KCon and my very first KPop concert experience! Would I do it again? Yes, but only with a group of fellow fans. Did it get me even more excited and jazzed for Big Bang on Nov 3rd? Heck yeah! I CAN NOT wait!!!! If I was almost in tears over BAP, I can only imagine what I will be like with my favorite 5! Not to mention that I won't be in "mom mode" and can fully let go and fangirl like no one is watching. ;) Unnie won't mind, will you Unnie? She'll be right there with me. We'll just be crying and holding each other and acting like complete idiots and it will be magical and amazing and the experience of a lifetime.
Alrighty, so it is now after 2:30pm for me. Kids are home from school (I kind of lost track of time and almost forgot to pick them up - yikes! Better turn back on my 'pick up the kids now' alarm on my phone, huh?). I have been working on this literally all day. There's just so much to share! It was a full day filled with lots of memorable experiences. While they really stink, I may decide later to load some more videos on to my youtube page. Maybe. I don't know. They're really not worth it, but I feel bad leaving you with only one personally taken video of the concert. Okay, maybe I don't feel that bad as they really didn't turn out well. I tried. I really tried to focus on capturing every moment of the day in order to share with you. Next time I'll work on my videorecording-at-a-concert skills first, k? Like which direction to hold it and keeping it still and all. You know, important little details like that haha. This is why I blog and am not a camerawoman. People ask us why we don't post videos of our own creation. Maybe this will stand as a great example why not. ;)
If you're still reading this long post...wow! Thanks! I hope that the remainder of your Monday is fantastic. I am excited to catch up on dramas I missed while wifi-less and see the new episodes still to come this week. I'll also get cracking on that Faith review. My plan was to crank it out today, but seeing as how this one took a lot longer than planned, I don't see that happening after all. So sorry. It will come...eventually. It really was a great episode and deserves a semi-decent review not whatever would spew out of what's left of my already travel-weary and emptied brain. Thank you for your support and love! Saranghae!