Last month, we discussed the complexities of K-pop, or Korean popular music. We posed questions such as, what does it mean for a song or artist to be K-pop? The more we questioned, the more we realized that there is no one true definition of this music category. Not even those in the industry can agree. What we've concluded is that the label simply doesn't matter. We'll continue to seek out new music and listen with undivided interest no matter the language or genre.
Having curiosity in new and unknown things, even in music, is a form of artistic expression. We've gone back in time to remember our K-pop concert experiences to see how far we've come in our individual music journeys.
Jhana's K-Pop Journey: Head In The Clouds in California!
In November 2021, I traveled to California to attend 88rising's ‘Head in the Clouds’ Asian music festival. 88rising is a hybrid between a management company and a record label that represents many Asian artists. Once I found out about the festival, I was surprised to find that I recognized a lot of names on the roster. At that point, I knew I just had to go - I mean, DPR Ian and DPR Live would be there. It was a no-brainer!
Although I was very excited, I have to admit that I was a little nervous going to the festival. I was worried if the other concert-goers would accept me. I’m not Asian. Would they judge me? Would they think I don’t belong? I started thinking about the Caribbean / African festivals I’ve been to growing up and recalled seeing festival-goers who didn’t seem ethnically linked to the event. I sometimes wondered how they found their way there. What or who introduced them to the world that I belonged to? Despite these thoughts, I’ve always known that music, food, and cultures of all kinds are for everyone to appreciate. And thankfully, that belief was reinforced at the Head in the Clouds music festival. I’m happy to say that the other festival-goers were very friendly. I could tell everyone just wanted to have a good time. I didn’t feel judged or out of place. I was fully allowed to enjoy myself and the artists I never thought I’d see perform live.
I wouldn't say all of the artists I saw are K-pop, simply because I still don't know what K-pop completely is! Even though I did the research, I still can't figure out what makes something K-pop. What is the criteria? At the end of the day, I suppose it doesn't matter if I ever find out the answer. Regardless, sign me up for the next festival.
Maricar's K-Pop Journey: Everglow in 2020 and BTS in 2021
I was first introduced to K-pop in 2012 from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and from then on I learned to understand the catchiness of the music. Later, I learned about BTS from one of my friends who was a fan. What really pushed me into the BTS rabbit hole was their SNL performance in 2019. What can I say, their dancing and catchy tunes were hard to not pay attention to. BTS’ impact continued as they were my gateway to other K-pop idol groups like Blackpink, TXT, Everglow, and KARD.
My current circle of K-pop artists in rotation is small, consisting of BTS, Blackpink, Everglow, TXT, MAMAMOO, Stray Kids, and SuperM. I’m also an infrequent listener. But in March 2020, I saw Everglow. Yes, this was right before we went into lockdown. I was so nervous because I didn’t know what to expect from the other fans there. At that point, my only impressions of other fans came from social media. I found out early on though, that my fellow concert-goers were friendly.
While waiting in line before the concert started, my friend and I made friends with someone else who came alone. I noticed that overall, the attendees were very diverse. I was particularly surprised to see a good number of men there too. The actual concert was a fun experience. Since Everglow was a fairly new group, there were periods throughout the show where they’d do Q+As and interactive things with the audience with the help of a translator. I thought that was a nice element to include since a lot of the members didn’t speak English fluently.
My second K-pop concert was a month ago. I was fortunate enough to be able to see BTS at So-Fi Stadium in LA for their limited 4-day ‘Permission To Dance’ concert. I was originally supposed to see them in 2020 but due to the pandemic lockdowns, it was canceled. I was surprised when they announced the four LA shows. Tickets went on sale two months before the concert was set to happen and it seemed like an out-of-the-blue last-minute thing. However, knowing BTS, I’m sure it was a thoroughly planned decision.
Those two months of waiting flew by. Before I knew it, I was at the airport heading to LA. It was nice to easily spot other ARMY sporting BTS merchandise and be able to strike up conversations with them as we journeyed to LA.
The whole thing didn’t feel real until I was physically at the concert venue. Fast-forward to the day of the concert, the energy of the crowd was unlike anything I’ve experienced before at a show. I was totally at peace. I had no need to “compete” with other concert-goers by pushing them out of the way (the GA/mosh pit girl in me). I didn’t rush to buy merch or food. I wasn’t comparing people’s outfits with mine (lol because I’m petty). ARMY dresses SO GOOD. The vibe was encouraging and welcoming with the unspoken understanding that we’ve all gone through hardships in life, an example being the pandemic. Whether the fans have been listening to BTS since their debut or for just a few months, the “fan” hierarchy that I’ve experienced with other groups didn’t matter here. BTS helped us all in one way or another to cope with our struggles. I felt that energy.
Perhaps one of the artists we mentioned sparked your interest? Chase your musical curiosities. Your ears will thank you for it.
Edited by: Ariana Jenkins