Fan Perspectives: First Kpop Concert

Alexandra Arcidy lives in New Hampshire. She’s been watching Korean Dramas for nine years, and recently attended her first Kpop concert in LA. This is her story.

1. How did you first get into Kpop? What were the first songs you heard and videos you watched?

My love of Kpop started with the Korean drama, My Lovely Samsoon. My sister and I were bickering over what to watch on TV when we finally came to the conclusion that the only reasonable thing to do was put on a show that would make both of us miserable. We settled on some random channel in the 400's and pouted about having to watch what looked like an Asian soap opera. I don't remember what so instantly entranced us, but by the next commercial break, we both sheepishly admitted that we liked the show. We became completely hooked and spent the rest of the summer scheduling activities around the drama to be sure we didn't miss anything.

Over the next 7 years, my sister and I watched numerous K-dramas together. I tried to get friends to watch a show with me, but they were never interested. Finally, about a year and half ago, I struck up a deal with one of my best friends; I'd watch one of her British shows if she would watch one of my favorite Korean dramas, Secret Garden. My friend was bewildered and fascinated by Oska, the Kpop singer cousin. Being somewhat accustomed to Korean culture through my years of drama watching, I had forgotten how silly and shocking some things could initially seem to Westerners. Her fresh eyes made me rediscover the preposterousness of Oska's outfits, crazy hair, and outlandish personality. This made me start to wonder what real Kpop was like. Could it really be as outrageous as it seemed on Secret Garden? I decided that it would be interesting to get into and asked my Korean friend to teach me about Kpop. Warning me first, “I think it's a big jump from K-dramas. I really hope you are ready for it,” she then taught me all she knew about Kpop (which really wasn't very much) through a series of Facebook posts.

The first Kpop video I ever saw was Super Junior's “Sorry, Sorry.” Honestly, it was overwhelming; there was random English thrown around, and the size of the group was shocking and confusing. I thought for sure some of them were backup dancers.

The next video I saw was Shinee's “Ring Ding Dong.” I still didn't really understand what I was seeing, but I thought it was cool, and was enthralled by the dancing and the fact that they sprouted angel wings at the end.

The last video my friend showed me was “Mirotic” by TVXQ. I understood this music video right away. It reminded me of American boy bands of the early 2000's (I love boy bands) but with more impressive dancing. From there, I looked up more music videos by Super Junior, TVXQ, and Shinee. I did not care for anything else I saw of TVXQ, and Super Junior was just too much--it took a long time before I even felt comfortable with a group of 7 members. I saw a few Shinee videos and thought they were cute, but it was when I saw “Lucifer” and “Sherlock,” that I decided I loved Kpop.

Love does not mean understand, however. I had the hardest time learning members' names. Their hair changed multiple times throughout one music video, and was a drastically different length, color or texture by their next video, so no one ever looked familiar to me. I was convinced that Shinee occasionally had a girl in the group (sorry longhaired Taemin). I had no idea what it meant when a member would say their position was “maknae” and thought they were joking when someone would proclaim to be the “visual.” (I thought it was a joke because I didn't know Kpop would be so blunt as to state that someone might literally be in a group just due to looks, not because I thought said person was utterly hideous). I seriously misunderstood “skinship” and fandoms “shipping,” so I was surprised, yet happy about what I perceived as many openly gay relationships in Kpop. Even though I had a rather ignorant start, I eventually figured it out and discovered more artists and other genres of Korean music.

2. Who are your biases? What Kpop artists are you listening to now?

I like so many groups, it's hard to choose, but without a doubt my all time favorite artist is G Dragon for the following reasons:
  1. He has a distinct style and, in honey badger fashion, doesn't really care what anyone thinks. He is the spokesmodel for handbags and lipstick and still manages to look badass. 
  2. He was a rapper at age 8 (and cooler then than I currently am or ever will be). 
  3. Swag? CHECK 
  4. He went through a phase of wearing short shorts and knee high socks. 

...Not to mention that he is crazy talented and is a successful singer, rapper, songwriter AND producer. And Bigbang is pretty cool too. Also, I lied, I hated his short shorts and knee high phase.

I adore 2ne1. Instead of adopting a cutesy or contrived sexy concept and sound, like other girl groups, 2ne1 has an electro-pop/hip-hop vibe with visuals to match. One of the things I have always found so cool about 2ne1 is that their music videos utilize fast cars, bold, almost brash clothing, aggressive choreography, and they have an aura of self confidence bordering on cocky, that is usually only associated with their male contemporaries. CL in particular, besides being a talented singer, writer and rapper, is strong and outspoken. The entertainment industry in general puts extreme pressure to look and act a certain way, but in South Korea, where plastic surgery is common, the preoccupation to look perfect is even stronger. Not unlike other record labels, YG strongly pushed for certain members of 2ne1 to “better” themselves. While bandmate Park Bom is pretty notorious for her many adjustments, CL has refused to succumb to the pressure from the label even as a young teen. CL has stated on several program that her label's CEO OFTEN calls her “very ugly,” but she has remained steadfast.

Brown Eyed Girls are another favorite of mine. I love that their group was formed organically as opposed to assembled (as seems to be the norm in Kpop), that Miryo was previously a respected underground rapper, and how while other girl groups sing about puppy love, their songs are more mature and complex. I also think it's great that basically all of their music videos are 19+. They address female sexuality without caring about the censorship, and in an industry that throws away idols, especially women, once they hit a certain age, Brown Eyed Girls have prevailed even though three of their members are in their 30s.

I also really like Exo. Their choreography is always impressive, they have interesting concepts, Kai's dancing is everything, they have super powers, their songs are super catchy, you can ship them 66 different ways, and Kai's face.

Lately I've really been loving the quirkiness of Orange Caramel, and frankly, I find their subgroup much more interesting than After School. I think Block B's comeback is great and that it's very very good (get it?) that their new label lets Zico have so much creative control. I'm interested to see what rookie group “Mamamoo” does in the future; they have a really different jazzy vibe. I'm not sure if Zion T is technically considered Kpop, but I think he has a unique voice, and I love all the collaborations he has done with a wide range of artists including Primary, Dynamic Duo, Beenzino, Infinite H and G Dragon.

3. You've recently went to your first Kpop concert in LA! Can you tell us about your experience there?


4. What was the most exciting thing you found about the concert? What was the most disappointing?

Although I did see Kpop acts perform, I don't feel like I've been to a “real” Kpop concert. The LA Kpop Festival, was a free concert celebrating 111 years of Korean immigration in America. There were 14 acts (CNBlue, Kim Taewoo, Seol Undo, Sistar, Infinite, Dynamic Duo, Girl's Day, Song Hae, Baek Ji Young, Song So Hee, Lena Park, 2pm and Shinee) and the concert was about 3 hours long, which meant that each artist/group could only do 1-4 songs.

I was excited about everything at the concert: from first entering the stadium and being around Koreans that like Kpop (in my experience Koreans adamantly dislike Kpop but all seem to think Bigbang is pretty good) to seeing the audience's outfits, which included anything from just being really chic and well dressed, to traditional fan apparel, to outlandish animal Kigurumi. I was excited by the age demographic and not being even close to the oldest person there. Being a fan of a certain young British boy group, I am constantly shamed by being “too old.” I assumed since a lot of these acts are actually younger than The Wanted (gross, I wasn't talking about One Direction) that I would be the REALLY old weird white girl. But, I do assume the actual demographic of the audience was skewed due to this being a free festival promoted as “family friendly” with a range of acts including Korean folk music and trot. Old people and my younger sister are all about trot.

Obviously the most exciting thing was seeing Kpop acts in real life and seeing them dance and sing live (mostly). It was amazing to see some groups dance intense choreography and still be able to sing, and sing well, at that! It was dorkily thrilling to see some of the famous dances like Sistar's “crane leg dance” and Girl's Day's “suspender dance” (they did NOT wear suspenders however). I don't think there is a name for the dance in “Lucifer,” (Shinee song) but I was ecstatic to see that! Discovering/ rediscovering artists that I liked was fun. I was pleasantly surprised by Infinite. Not knowing much about them before, I didn't know what to expect, but they were really engaging performers. (I assume the girl sitting behind me that shrieked every time they came on thought so too). I already knew and liked Dynamic Duo, but I was surprised that they almost sounded better live and by how charismatic their stage personas were.

I'm not sure how the artists or management chose songs, but I was pretty disappointed that groups did not perform some of their biggest hits or newest song. How can Girl's Day not do “Female President"? Shinee performed “Colorful” and “Why So Serious” but not “Sherlock” or “Everybody.” I don't even want to talk about 2pm, not doing “A.D.T.O.Y” … Okay, I want to talk about it a little. That is their best song, and the dance is priceless! I was sad that not all of Shinee was there; Minho was missing. Also, even though I had decent seats, the stage was still pretty far away. In order to really see things, I had to look on the screen, which took some of the “realness” away.

5. What advice would you give someone going to their first Kpop concert?
  1. Learn or at least look out for fanchants. I don't understand how they work or who creates them or even what they mean, but they are utterly magical. Starting at specific points of a song and said in perfect unison, these chants go along with the melody and are usually accompanied by rhythmically waving a lightstick with the group's name or logo on it. It is kind of awe-inspiring to experience. 
  2. Get a freaking lightstick. Seriously, I wish I had. 
  3. Be prepared to hear screaming. A lot of screaming. 
I don't think I'm really qualified to give advice; I feel like I have only experienced a Kpop amuse-bouche, but you better believe that I am ready for the main course.

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