Following what is now a four year tradition, KCON 2015 in Los Angeles, CA, was bigger and better than its previous installments. Not only did the convention grow into a three day event, spanning from July 31 through August 2, but the acts for the M! Countdown concerts included some of hottest and most loved names in K-pop. Moreover, this year, the concert portion took place in LA’s famous Staples Center, one of the largest and most prestigious concert venues in the area, proving that the Hallyu wave is only getting stronger on this side of the globe.
Last year, after bringing K-pop giants Girls’ Generation and G-Dragon as headliners, KCON promised to make 2015 even grander. With these two Hallyu faves, it seemed there was no way to go from there but sideways to other equally popular artists. And yet, KCON found a way to outdo themselves by bringing Super Junior and the, mind the redundancy, legendary Shinhwa as the top acts for each concert night. Similarly, the organizers continued 2014’s trend of bringing Korean artists in other genres to offer more diversity with the inclusion of Roy Kim and Zion. T and Crush to their lineup.
Moreover, a nice addition this year was that KCON finally figured out how to bring the fanboys to the yard. Sure, Girls’ Generation brought their loyal male Sones (their fanclub name) last year, but the presence of men has never truly stood out until this year. And how could they not be lured in with sexy girl group darlings Sistar and AOA performing?
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KCON 2015 saw a lot of changes from its previous installments, and the M! Countdown shows were among the most impacted. In past years, groups and soloists focused on performing their greatest hits and their most recent release. Also, set times were distributed according to seniority and all artists performed the same number of songs. This year, however, it all went out the window to give way to a system that made more sense.
On the first night of the concert, a sapphire blue ocean illuminated the Staples Center, proving that a big chunk of attendees were there for Super Junior. So of course it made sense that the audience was treated to a 40-minute long mini Super Show (the group’s concerts). Because not only did they perform their hits like “Mr. Simple,” “Sorry, Sorry,” and their latest “Devil,” but every ELF (their fanclub name) rejoiced when they performed a medley of songs which rarely make it onto concerts that aren’t the Super Shows, such as “Oppa, Oppa,” “Rockstar,” and “Shake It Up.” Needless to say, and as leader Leeteuk later confirmed, this is as close as L.A. will get to a solo concert anytime soon.
Similarly, since they headlined the second night of the concert, Shinhwa also had a longer set than the rest of the artists, but not as much as Super Junior. But despite this, the veteran male group showed they still have the chops and popularity to come on events as big as KCON and slay. And with a career going back more than a decade, the group opted to perform old (“T.O.P”), oldish (“Hey, Come On!”), and newer songs (“Sniper”) for their American fans.
One of KCON’s most awesome features overall is that they not only bring K-pop’s most popular acts to the U.S., but they also include rookie groups who, if not for M! Countdown, would have to wait years before performing in front of their fans in a showcase or solo concert or even never get the chance. Debuting only a couple of months ago, Monsta X were all smiles and excitement throughout their set, which included their debut single “Trespass” and other songs from their mini album. Red Velvet, for their part, marked their first year anniversary since debut on the KCON stage and showcased their sweet side with “Happiness” and “Ice Cream Cake,” along with their R&B flair with a “Stickwitu” cover.
Every year, KCON has that one emerging boy group whose fandom takes over the convention. This year, ladies and gentlemen, the new EXO and BTS was none other than GOT7. Fan girls shrieked and starred in awe as the boys performed “Just Right,” “A,” and even the JJ Project reclaimed song “Bounce,” which got everyone in the audience, well, bouncing on Saturday night. Sadly, Jackson wasn’t present and his absence was very noticeable, but the rest of the members delivered a great stage.
As for Sunday, the group that got everyone dancing and throwing their hands in the air was Block B. Right from Zico’s opening solo performance of “Tough Cookie,” to their subunit BASTARZ’s “Zero in Conduct,” to gems like “Very Good” and “Nalina,” Block B proved themselves to be well-rounded entertainers and not just idols.
Furthermore, as mentioned before, the two groups who got a sizeable amount of male attendees hot and bothered were Sistar on Saturday and AOA on Sunday. AOA performed decked out in their sporty outfits to their hits like “Heart Attack,” “Mini Skirt” and “Like a Cat.” The girls, as opposed to Sistar, did not have a problem being as sultry and seductive with their choreography, resulting in loud and deep cheers. The foursome, for their part, didn’t take their booty shaking moves as far as in the music videos. But maybe this was because the focus was put on the vocals of songs like “Loving U,” “Shake It,” and Sistar19’s “Ma Boy,” which the four members performed.
But not everything was thumping beats and intricate choreography. Roy Kim and Zion T. and Crush were in charge of giving KCON a mellow, softer side. The former serenaded the audience with his guitar playing “Bom, Bom, Bom” and “Love, Love, Love.” Being one of the few English speaking acts, he thanked his fans for supporting him, especially when his lyrics are mostly in Korean. So to treat American attendees, he collaborated with Sistar’s Soyou for “Lucky” by Jason Mraz. On Sunday, Zion T., indeed, ignited our feelz with his touching rendition of “Yanghwa BRDG” (aided by Red Velvet’s Wendy in the chorus) for what he called the story of his life that talks about his dad and being happy with his family. Crush, for his part, brought the house down with Zico’s help for “Oasis.”
Collaboration stages are always a big part of the KCON concerts, but the dance battles are also a fun treat for fans. On Saturday, GOT7 and Monsta X danced to Chris Brown’s “X” and DJ Snake’s “Turn Down for What,” respectively, showcasing the full extent of their skills and dance talent. But even if the performance was set up as a battle, at the end, members of both groups, like Jr. and Shownu (an ex JYP trainee), hugged and high fived each other as they exited the stage. Furthermore, a random addition in between Zion T. and Crush’s performance saw AOA’s Jimin rise to the stage with a DJ behind her and performed her “Unpretty Rapstar” finale song “Puss.” The performance was less than a minute long, but even so, Jimin dropped her bars — the censored version, of course — and body rolled the hell out of it, which the audience received with excitement and cheers.
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After each night’s most emotional performances (Super Junior and Shinhwa), the concerts ended in the classic roundup of all the artists to wave and thanks fans. On Saturday, Super Junior’s Heechul hugged Sistar’s Bora as they sang along to the songs played while Leeteuk gave 90 degree bows and GOT7’s Bam Bam and Yugyeom hesitated to leave the stage once everyone else left. Being the senior group, Shinhwa members chased after Zion T. and Zico to get them to take a formal bow on Sunday night, as they with the rest of the Block B members and Crush were busy clowning around together.
With a hopeful “See you at KCON 2016” message on the screens, the best KCON installment to date came to a close. With so many new additions this year — new genres, more collaboration stages, longer sets for the headliners — we can only imagine what’s in store for next year. But if 2015 was indicative of anything is that KCON will continue to broaden its spectrum and feature more artists outside of mainstream pop.
Check out more pictures from both nights:
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