안녕하세요여러분! Hello everyone and welcome to the first episode of the occasional series Where I’ve Been, which will focus on high-profile (though not necessarily expensive) events that I’ve attended.
오빠강남스타일! Oppa Gangnam Style! I’m sure all of you recognize the tagline of Psy’s (싸이) worldwide hit and have watched the music video (perhaps even “Liked” it). But if you haven’t : 보세요! (Watch it!) Psy held a free concert at Seoul Plaza on October 4th in front of 80,000 fans and people who are appreciative of how the singer is increasing Korea’s profile throughout the world. The highlight: Even though he has not topped the Billboard chart (at least not yet), he took his shirt off while performing “Gangnam Style” anyway. (This author did not go but other exchange students did.)
Anyway, you wouldn’t have found Psy at the 2012 Gangnam Festival K-Pop Concert – instead you would have found girl group Girls’ Generation (SNSD/소녀시대) and boybands Super Junior and TVXQ (동방신기), three of Korea’s most famous idol groups.
What I Spent: Only about 3 hours of standing in line and/or sitting on the ground (like in the above picture) waiting to enter the main concert area and then another 90 minutes of waiting for the concert to start. It was a free concert- only 6,000 people were allowed into the main concert area; everyone else got a streetside view. The actual concert was from 7-9pm, but my friend from church and I arrived around 2:30.
The Venue: A stage on Yeongdaero Street in front of COEX Mall
Crowd Dynamics: If you have the Princesses, Kings, and Gods of K-pop performing all on one stage, there’s bound to be crowd wrestling to get those coveted spots near the stage. Once the first section of people were allowed into the main concert area, my friend and I were pushed from the back to go forward (my friend and I hardly moved-the crowd in the back literally pushed us forward and over to where we were supposed to enter). When the back force stopped, we were packed like sardines in a can and I held onto my friend’s backpack for dear life. A security guard even yelled at the mob to stop pushing before someone gets hurt (there were two girls who were crouched on the ground and remained still as the crowd wrestling went on- I prayed that they weren’t hurt or wouldn’t get trampled). Once that was over and I got into the main concert area, I found a spot near the stage, but because of my height I couldn’t see over all the heads to get a a good view of the stage. We were packed like sardines.
*Side Note: Fangirling is serious business in Korea. Girls will wait outside for hours at concert arenas, media buildings, or the idols’ residences to catch a glimpse of their favorite idols. They’ll wait for hours just to get in to the concert venue. They’ll buy as many copies of their favorite group’s new album as they can to boost the group’s place on Korea’s music charts; they’ll vote as often as they can to ensure that their idol group wins an award at one of Korea’s end-of -the- year music awards programs. They’ll donate sacks of rice to charity in their idol’s name and send food gifts to their idols. The mission of fangirls here is to do everything and anything they can to ensure their idol or idol group’s success. Naturally they want to see their idols in person as a reward for all their dedicated efforts. So the choice that foreign K-Pop fans have to make comes down to this: to participate or not to participate. Participating means giving up your time, money, or other other plans (and oftentimes all three) to attend concerts, fansign events, fanmeets, music show recordings, etc, with a possible side of crowd wrestling. Non-participation means you look at fancams and/or official recordings of such events on your Mac of PC (at least you get to rewind and read YouTube comments). You Make The Decision.*
The Tracklist: All of the groups performed a selection of their hit songs- Girls’ Generation glitzed and glammed their way into fans’ hearts with “Genie,” “The Boys,” “Kissing You,” “Hoot,” “Mr. Taxi,” “Oh!,” and “Gee;” Super Junior energized the audience with “Opera,” “Bonamana,” “Miracle,” “Mr. Simple.” “Sexy, Free, & Single,” and perennial favorite “Sorry, Sorry;” TVXQ proved that they’ve still got the power after a group split in 2009 and nearly 10 years in the game with “Maximum,” “I Don’t Know (Korean version),” “Rising Sun,” “왜 Why? Keep Your Head Down,” and new hit “Catch Me.”
Music videos (fancams for the actual performances exist for those of you who are interested): The Big Hits
The Final Analysis: Although I don’t have a camera that even makes a grain of sand look good and I was people locked for the first 20 minutes, I’m still a happy fangirl. I had to get to the fence (hence away from the crowd) to really enjoy the concert though. I saw most of the Super Junior members up close, including my bias (K-Pop speak for “favorite member”) and that of my friend, who is still trapped in the States,where K-pop bands/singers generally are only allowed to perform in Los Angeles, New York, or New Jersey. Said friend is probably angry that I saw her husband at close range and failed to take a picture of him (I waved but didn’t catch his attention 😦 ). I ditched my stone-aged digital camera near the beginning of the camera in favor of dancing and singing along with Super Junior and TVXQ. (Don’t get me wrong, I danced and sang to Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” and would have done the same for some of their other songs had I been smart and gotten to the fence earlier, but I was primarily there for Super Junior and TVXQ.) The fence provided me with a good view of the stage and performances as opposed to my eyes trying to scale the backs of taller strangers. I’m going to have to remember that number next time I go to a free outdoor concert.
Bottom Line: I messed up or skipped some dance moves, but I had fun 🙂 . The whole experience served as my official initiation into fangirldom (specifically the crowd wrestling).
See you next time … whenever that is.