It’s that time of year again! 2016 marked my second KCON, with a super solid line-up of performers that caused the concert side of things to sell out, and skyrocketed attendance for the convention. The past three days were a series of definite highs and lows, so read on to hear my thoughts.
Let’s get the grumbling out of the way first. Having been to KCON last year, I couldn’t believe the difference in organization. And what I mean by that is, this year’s KCON seemed to lack organization entirely. I chuckled when someone called the convention “LineCon” on twitter, because really that’s what most of it was. Registration on Friday took us nearly four hours, most of which was standing in direct 88 degree sunshine. I can’t fathom how KCON set up all of eight check-in booths for the tens of thousands of people trying to get into the convention that first day. Last year, registration took about ten minutes. Once we finally got in, one of our tickets “didn’t scan,” so we had to wait in another line for the one lady who apparently ran the entire show to come back and tell us basically nothing (the ticket worked when it came down to it).
Fan engagements were the same — at least an hour of waiting in the blistering sun. Each morning, prior to the convention opening, we were greeting with yet more lines. And once inside the convention, almost every booth had a (you guessed it) gargantuan line. By the time fans actually made it into the air conditioned convention center, I imagine many were dealing with borderline heat stroke, too tired to enjoy anything on offer. As far as the convention goes, I’d say it was maybe 25% activity, 25% recuperation/finding-air-conditioning, 50% waiting in lines.
The big problem is that KCON has grown exponentially. Obviously, that’s a good thing, but in the future the convention needs to do one of two things:
1. Limit the amount of folks who can register, or….
2. Pour more resources into organization, staffing, booths and tents to prevent the hot L.A. sun from beating down on waiting fans.
That said, my highlight of the convention was attending Astro’s fan engagement. I love seeing rookie groups in this sort of venue, as everything’s still new and exciting for them and the energy is high and positive. They were incredibly thankful, and a blast of positive energy.
Definitely the highlight of the weekend, as they should be. Having learned from last year, we gathered outside the Staples Center very early. Yes, we had to wait a long while, but I’d rather be doing that in the shade of the entrance and actually still have energy when the concert starts. Plus, we were some of the first into the arena, and didn’t have to rush. We had P4 seating — farther away than last year, but with a full, straight-on view of the stage.
Here’s my rundown of each night, from my top performers on down:
One of my top three k-pop groups, and their set went by in what felt like the blink of an eye. Still, what we got felt like a glimpse of brilliance. I was hoping for some solo stages (Taemin, especially), but this was my first time seeing Shinee live and I was not disappointed. At only four songs and an intro, the set seemed far too short for a headline act, but each song was flawlessly performed. I would have loved Sherlock or Lucifer, but they performed View, so I can’t complain too much! Just a totally different level than anyone else.
They had the benefit of three enormous singles, one after another. Navillera, Me Gustas Tu and Rough fit seamlessly together, and I was struck by just how amazing these girls are live. Yuju is undoubtedly one of the best vocals in any current girl group, but every member more than held their own.
Having seen them last year, I knew that they would be excellent. In fact, they were probably my highlight of KCON 2015. This time around, Park Kyung was missing, which created a noticeable hole. They performed their new stuff, but the highlight was definitely older classics like HER and Very Good. I also loved the special stage of Boys & Girls, where U-Kwon got to take over Babylon’s part (and totally rocked it).
It was all about Pick Me. What an enormous song, and something I was happy to hear live before the girls go their separate ways. They were definitely excited to be in L.A.
I’ve never really cared for Amber’s solo material, though I love her as a person. She looked and sounded great, bringing true emotion to Borders, which is a song I never took to, but clearly meant a lot to her.
Dean was very, very popular in the arena. He was fine, but his music still doesn’t do anything for me. It just feels too American. I wish he would have performed Half Moon, which is the only song of his that I really like.
I didn’t even know Turbo would be performing. I was thrilled when they entered with Again, but then they stuck around for way too many 90’s classics. Again, it’s just not really my thing. Loved the special cover stages with Gfriend and Astro, though!
Bonus: We got to see Quincy Jones (?) present a music scholarship before the show started, and stumble through some Korean. Very bizarre!
Clearly the act most people were waiting for. BTS have grown into such a force over the past few years, eliciting unbridled screams at the mere mention of their name. There will be a lot of hoarse throats this morning! Like Shinee, I wish the guys would have performed more songs, though with their travel schedule, it’s amazing that we got to see them at all. Opening with Young Forever, they quickly moved to Fire and Save Me, and finished with the incredible Dope. Their energy and choreography put a giant exclamation mark on the end of the two-day celebration.
Astro cemented their place as one of this year’s best rookie groups. Though they didn’t get to perform that many songs, their sheer energetic joy was so infectious. I was thrilled that the crowd gave them such a warm welcome.
Like Amber, I’ve always loved Eric Nam as a person even if his music hasn’t been as interesting. He’s a dynamic performer, though, and owned the stage all by himself. His new English song, Into You, was a particular highlight.
They performed last year, but this time around was such an upgrade. Opening the show as if they were opening their own full-length concert, they ripped through All In, Hero and Trespass with incredible energy.
They’ve always reminded me of a cheerleading squad, but they’re a cheerleading squad with at least two gigantic singles. Cheer Up and Like Ooh Ah were both amazing.
Girls’ Generation TTS
Honestly, I would have preferred them performing as soloists, or just covering Girls’ Generation songs. They did Party, but I was really hoping for Gee. The girls looked and sounded great, but TTS just doesn’t have as many great songs as SNSD does.
I can’t say Korean balladry and OST music is something I come to KCON for, and although they were my least favorite act of the night, at least they performed an uptempo track in between the ballads!
The concerts were amazing, the convention less so. This year felt like a turning point for KCON, with the opportunity to either grow into something amazing next year or devolve further into chaos. I’m hoping for the former, because we k-pop fans deserve a well organized convention in addition to the always-impressive concerts.
Normal reviews resume tomorrow!