KCON 2013 - THE EXPERIENCE
|In which Leaf went to KCON in a silly hat and ridonkulous sunglasses, but still managed to nerd-out with 20,000 other kpop lovers despite looking like a frumpy old lady...|
Remember that time I went to KCON and tried to live-tweet, but then I turned out to be a technological embarrassment for want of a decent mobile device?? Good times!
Anyway -- we're loooooong overdue for a debriefing!
DAMN YOU GD
and you're complete domination of my kpop life
these past few weeks!!!
Also, Master's Sun...
And what a debriefing it will be...complete with 40 bajillion typos...
WARNING: EPIC POST OF UNGODLY LENGTH
Where to even begin? Maybe with the photos...
It was warm, a little too warm, and sunny -- and the event itself was held outside. I've seen "20,000 attendees" thrown around a lot in press-coverage (up from 10,000 last year at Irvine), with 15,000 allegedly attending the Sunday night concert. That ain't no small thing!
I enjoyed all the panels I attended (see photos above for documentation) -- I appreciated the range of topics and panelists -- from celebrities, to industry professionals, to academics. It was nice to be able to have some adult conversations about kpop, as well as get your squeee on. Though I'm sure I was a pest -- I think I asked a question to almost every panel I attended. Yeah, I was that person.
Sunday's entrance line was easily twice as long as Saturday's, but moved more quickly (Saturday felt like the event managers were flying by the seats of their pants, but Sunday seemed to go more smoothly) -- and there were way more folks dressed up. Here are some of the cosplayers I was bold enough to photo-op:
|not exactly cosplay, but there were TONS of Exotics running around|
But mostly, I really enjoyed watching and meeting other fans. And I LOVED the diversity of the fans -- yes, the crowd seemed to be mostly women in their 20s -- but, honestly, you had representatives of every age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion -- all united by a common love: kpop!
Examples of fans spotted:
- Asians, Caucasians, African Americans, Indian/South Asian, you name it!
- even some Muslim girls in hijabs - Malaysian and African
- kids/pre-teens/teens dragging their parents around,
- one family - a Mom, Dad, and a grade-school kid - each decked-out in their own black EXO t-shirts (I SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN THEIR PICTURE!!!)
- Late teens/early 20s
- late 20s/early 30s (the Leafs of this world)
- Girls dragging boyfriends
- at least one boy in drag as a Girls Generation member (again, I shouldda gotta pic)
- and even some Uncle fans! One conspicuous, but sweet retired gentleman said he discovered kpop through catching a Girls' Generation broadcast when testing his new digital tv antenna when he was prepping for the conversion a few years ago. Crazy!
Anyway -- it was super fun to see this crazy melting pot of a fandom get together and collectively nerd-out. Kpop fanage still feels like something you can only admit to close friends, so to be able to have it out in the open, letting the collective kpop freak flag fly without fear of judgement felt...
Let's hear it for alliteration!
Also talking with other fans about who they were excited to see perform (all the kids were all EXO EXO EXO!!!! and all the panelists when asked the same, or who will break out in the US, or who do you want to work with - were all G-Dragon G-Dragon G-Dragon!!!) and talking with fans about how they got into kpop - stumbling onto it by accident on youtube; somehow getting to Kpop from Jpop or from anime/manga (Boys Over Flowers, Playful Kiss); coming to it through accidental discovery of the dramas (Leaf's route) -- but most of the fans I talked to seemed to have a preexisting familiarity/interest in Japanese pop culture which paved their way to kpop reception (including myself). That's really interesting!!!
Examples of conversations with other fans...
Leaf and a 20yo black girl in a B1A4 snapback - from Florida
Girl: of Bilasa? YES!
G: But also CNU!
L: I KNOW! I'm torn, too! ...it's the smile
G: But did you see they fixed his teeth?
L: NO!!! WHY???
G: It's so sad! No more chipmunk...
and then we proceeded to tsk over all the idol plastic surgery...
Leaf and a 28yo black married mother of 2 who flew in from Huston
We discussed our favorite dramas, favorite animes, what we're watching right now, how our husbands and children feel about our peculiar obsessions, whether she'll go see VIXX when they come to Huston in November.
Three 15yo girls of mixed ethinic backgrounds - possibly hispanic - from the greater LA area
Leaf: So...who are you excited to see?
L: What do you like about them? Why are they special? And you can't say EVERYTHING!
Girls: They can really sing! (implying that most idol groups can't - ergo EXO is superior)
Don't we all say this about our fave groups??? SHINee really can sing! -- I see that all the time!
I didn't attend any of the fan greetings or high-touch events (pleeeezzzeee -- I'm too cheap to shell out the cash for those tickets!) -- so I didn't get to witness much true squeee firsthand -- until we lined up to enter the concert venue and then girls were pressed up against the glass trying to get a peek at the red carpet event going on down below.
|SQUEEEEE going on behind the glass...|
I have some video from inside the arena, too -- remind me to put that on the youtubes later!
Leaf's Final Favorite Things from KCON 2013
More fun people I met:
|Billboard K-Town Columnist, Jeff Benjamin!|
I sometimes pester Jeff on twitter, and he even recognized my handle -- so that was way more exciting for me than I'd like to publicly admit!
|Coco Avenue (Youtubers) soon to be featured on a new Mnet America show: #MyKPop|
Where to even begin? This really needs it's own blog post. You remember when Mnet America put out a call for kpop fans to send in audition videos about how much of a superfan they are? Well, these girls have been picked for the show -- well, one of the girls, the one on the right - she'll be rep'in the whole group on the forthcoming documentary/reality show #MyKpop.
These girls were super sweet -- and have a unique story. So be sure to watch the show and check out their youtube channel.
I also saw this Uncle Fan cast member's introduction video a few weeks later and I'm so sad I didn't see him at KCON -- I would have loved to talk with him too!
|with Marc and Reuel of Premium Oppa (youtubers)|
These boys also deserve their own blog post! I had just stumbled upon Premium Oppa and had literally watched their concerned kcon parents video the night before KCON (yes, it was a little long...) -- so I did that creepy thing I do where I recognize someone and can't keep my mouth shut and have to tell them that I recognize them...
you don't even know how many kids from
jazz camp I freaked out years later at college...
N.E.R.D. to the core, bitches
Anyway -- they were super excited to be recognized (even if it was by a frumpy old married, mother of two!) and they gave me some swag -- so it all worked out!
I bumped into them a couple more times -- a horribly awkward conversation with all four of them on Saturday that got filmed (mercifully none of that convo made it onto their KCON reel) and then again in the parking lot after the concert -- that conversation was actually super fun, a sort of post-show debriefing. We argued about the quality/impact of GD's performance, but all agreed Dynamic Duo was amazeballz. I asked awkward questions about fanfiction (WHY DOES IT EXIST???) and we talked a little about how they got into the youtube thing.
For all the goofiness and horndogging they project and profess on youtube, they're actually really smart, earnest boys -- and if they play their cards right, I think they could become an EatYourKimchi for the US (for whatever that is worth) -- their quick-draw mv reviews definitely shine and make these boys stand out significantly from the kpop youtube reactor (reacter?) crowd.
Or maybe I'm just smitten cos I was given 4 Oppa hugs -- and ladies, a Marc-hug is just as magical as you imagine it might be. ;)
Anyway, check out the Oppas -- their youtube antics consistently make me laugh, and meeting them was definitely one of the highlights of this crazy KCON experience.
And if just reading about KCON just isn't enough for you, Internet,
here's some video footage you should check out...
Mnet America's JJANG! KCON Special does a pretty good job of capturing the atmosphere and fangirl/fanboy FEELS, plus has cool back-stage interviews.
There's also the Danny From LA KCON Special -- but it's like 45 min long and I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, so I have no comments.
And I found this by accident: Something called KoreabooTV had really cool backstage interviews with Crayon Pop & Dynamic Duo.
You can also watch the full M! Countdown: What's Up LA concert broadcast here -- I know, that page looks super sketch, so we'll see how long that link holds!
And here's some of the US popular press coverage that KCON 2013 has gotten...
cos that's my thing...
Best KCON Reporting Awards
Hollywood Reporter: Missy Elliott's Buzzed-About K-Pop Duet Released (Video)
LA Times Pop & Hiss Music Blog: Review: G-Dragon, Missy Elliott, EXO, and More at KCON 2013
Billboard K-Town: KCON 2013: 15 Things Seen & Heard
Noisey (VICE): How to Make it in America: K-Pop's Bid for the West (kcon coverage is buried in here)
Blurbs focusing on G-Dragon/Missy Elliot collaboration
BuzzFeed, Complex (see also a pre-KCON mention), MissInfo, MTV Buzzyworthy, Music Times, Pitchfork, SPIN, Rap-Up, Rolling Stone, VIBE, XXL Mag
Ah, I *may* have gone overboard again...my enthusiasm for kpop still knows no bounds, apparently...and has resulted in yet another dose of information overload...which no one in their right mind will read...ah, well.
Sorry, Internet! But now you can see why I've been putting this post off!
Oh wait, one last anecdote:
The parking lot after the concert was a traffic jam disaster -- so more patient/smarter folks turned it into a dance party - random cars blasting kpop throughout the lot -- everyone was basking in kpop afterglow.
A white male teen jumped out of the car that was poised to ease into line in front of me - he began to dance, then he turned to his mom in the drivers seat and asked if he could go join one of the dance parties nearby - she said sure and he took off like a shot.
Our windows were rolled down, so I started talking to the mom - I asked her how she liked the concert - she said she loved it, said GD was especially great and she was now going to be a GD fan. I asked what groups her son liked -- she named a bunch, I think SHINee was listed. Then I asked her what she though of her son's interest -- she said she thought it was fun -- and "Hey, there are a lot worse things your 14 son could be interested in!"
It was a very appropriate end to whole event -- happy, silly, fun, with a sense of community.
But next year, please remind me to pack my real camera...
Dear Mnet America, Tips for KCON 2014 and Beyond...
Don't put panels next to noisy vendors/activities -- Panel #3 was tortured continuously by Dance All Day and the Hyundai barkers -- AND OMG Hyundai needs to get a broader kpop playlist -- they nearly RUINED the BigBang for me. Can you please explain that to them?
More Hallyu, not just kpop! Though you are billing KCON as "All Things Hallyu" - 2013's was mostly focused on k-pop. All the fans I talked to are also watching the dramas AND the variety shows (yes, even the teenagers!) -- there is huge room for expansion. I want to see KCON blossom into a celebration of the full Korean Wave spectrum. There was a Running Man fanclub booth - but how fun would it be to do a Running Man style event??? Or bring in some of the cast??? Seriously, KCON attendees would totally flip! And the dramas -- MY GOD THE DRAMAS -- you could do so much, Mnet...THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING!!!!
Also, Mnet -- can you please sub and broadcast Infinity Challenge, preferably online
-- I really want to watch that, but it's hard to find good subs....
Rethink the Fashion panel -- it was cool that you brought in high-end fashion designers and that home-shopping line -- but it is still beyond the fiscal reach of most of your attendees. The stuff you can find on G-Market is probably way more these kids' speed. Just sayin'.
Not just make-up, but skincare products! The "Get the Kpop Look" booth (or whatever it was called) seemed pretty popular -- too popular for this old married lady to in a frumpy hat to brave. Also, I hardly wear any makeup. BUT -- if you'd been selling sheet masks, toners, serums, emulsions, BB creams, etc, and done a workshop on skincare routines...you would have had my dollars (did I just admit that out loud???). And I definitely wasn't the only lady my age running around KCON. THERE IS GOLD TO BE MADE from Korean skincare products.
Prep more for huge crowds and crowd control for celebrities - there was a mob surrounded every spot Henry was to appear. People were lining up for his film panel at least an hour before hand. If you are serious about bringing idols out to meet the fans (beyond high-touch and formal fan greetings), it's only going to get nuttier as KCON grows. (You saw the crowd that lead to EXO cancelling a recent fansign - right? We're nowhere near that scale, State-side -- but you saw the KCON fangirls weeping, and the hordes that followed Henry and Lydia Paek, you get the idea.)
Explain the tickets-for-food-vendors-thing more clearly on your website -- it was really confusing at first. Maybe it's a totally normal CA thing, but a lot of folks traveled from out-of-state and were frustrated when they'd been standing in line at a food truck only to find out they couldn't pay with with cash or card. Frustrated, and hungry. Such a sad combination.
Stagger the schedules a little more -- there were a couple of glaring dead-spots where folks were sitting around wondering what to do. Maybe more activities between panels would have been nice, instead of at the same time as panels.
But in talking with some fans who attended last year's event, it sounds like KCON 2013 was a huge improvement and everyone seemed really happy with it.
So, good work, Mnet!
And a 'Fighting!' for 2014!
Also, I would totally volunteer to be a panel moderator...
seriously, I have IRL experience -- my day job is totally legit...you don't even know
email leafnoona at gmail, Mnet -- let's talk! ;-)