KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 2 Concert Recap

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Curtesy of CJ E&M

The annual pilgrimage to the Prudential Center in New York’s metropolitan area continued for East Coast K-pop fans last weekend when KCON 2017 NY presented by Toyota came back for another two nights of unforgettable M! Countdown concerts. For those who missed out on the polished choreographies, dazzling visuals, and the A1 fan service from the night prior, Day 2 (June 24th) definitely was slated to make up for it. The turnout to catch a few glimpses of UP10TION, NCT 127, Twice, and CNBLUE visibly exceeded the numbers from the first evening, despite being short an act. Before the show even hit the road, it seemed like concertgoers were due for something exceptional.

The pre-show officially launched with the entrance of the man who needed no introduction, violinist and YouTuber Jun Curry Ahn. Ahn, who has been a mainstay to the east coast leg of KCON USA since its inauguration back in 2015, delivered a heartrending stringed performance of Crush’s “Beautiful” of Korean tvN drama Goblin fame, before moving onto the equally poignant “Spring Day” by BTS. The balladry did not last for long, however, as Seoul-based dance crew 1Million Dance took to center stage immediately after, popping, locking, and getting intimate to Jay Park, BoA, and many more of Korea’s chart-toppers. The chemistry and coordination between the team members – who were also tastefully dressed in matching reds, whites, and blacks – had already commenced the night on such a high note.

Also on Kultscene: KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 1 Concert Recap

Ahead of their appearance as CNBLUE, lead vocalist Jung Yonghwa and bassist Lee Jungshin came out to introduce the main event, the first set of which was a sudden special homage from Twice to their company figurehead/producer Park Jinyoung (better known as JYP). Twice is just the latest out of a chain of popular girl groups created by Park, and the lone ladies of the night paid tribute to senior group miss A’s “Bad Girl, Good Girl” and clapped along to the point choreography of the legendary “Nobody” from Wonder Girls to a standing audience. It is inevitable that someday they too will be indicted in JYP’s femme fatale hall of fame. Rounding out the medley, they even threw it all the way back to JY Park’s 1988 funk hit “Honey” for the millennial crowd. I would like to think that somewhere out there Papa Park was breaking out into the signature eye-vanishing grin of his at the sight of his girls doing his song justice.

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Up next were the nine boys of UP10TION (member Wooshin is currently on hiatus due to mental health concerns), who seized the moment and delighted the public with the yet-to-be-released trop house “Runner” for the first time. As much as it was an honor to be privy to such an exclusive opportunity, it must have been an even greater one for the group to perform for the first time in America. After the usual rounds of introductions, they defaulted on their debut single “So Dangerous” and took advantage of the extended stage during “Attention” in order to finally meet their American fans. And although it would not be the last that concertgoers would be seeing them, the members seemed disappointed that their selective set list was coming to a close with their most recent single “White Night.” All the while, they were unable to hide their enthusiasm at being able to perform at the A-list event in front of thousands, waving to the audience whenever available.

Turning the typical, seniority-based KCON structure on its head were the guys of NCT 127, who followed UP10TION’s set in spite of the additional year of experience that the latter had on the former. A crazed Taeyong set the stage in a dramatic dance routine to a chant-like soundtrack while the other members filed in from the sides of the stage shortly before joining their leader. Their lofty entrance transitioned smoothly into the sounds of sirens accompanied by the three words that every individual love to hear, a “Get It Lifted” in baritone. “Firetruck” was about as atonal live as it is in its studio version, and the fans absolutely loved it. Amidst all the whoops and distortions, it is the kind of sonorous mishmash that can grow on a listener after much desensitization, which is certainly the case in today’s experimental soundscape.

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Members Johnny and Doyoung, who had scurried off backstage at the start of the trap influenced hip-hop number, reunited once more to greet fans for the first time since taking the spotlight and to help out with the rest of the setlist, which included the B-sides “Good Thing” and “0 Mile,” which are typically are rare at KCON. They also managed to work in “Limitless,” a single that is august on its own but is shadowed by their more music-forward tracks, before a love song mission and before Johnny took the mic to initiate a warm call-and-response, “When I say cherry, you say bomb,” as segue into said music-forward track.

Yes, fresh off the press was “Cherry Bomb,” a rather drawn out title that tries to be multiple songs at once in the most harmless way possible. Albeit “Cherry Bomb” has less of an obvious format than its close cousin, “Firetruck,” it edges the latter out by successfully doing the unconventional with its addictive, staccato hook, backed with bold claims (“I’m the biggest hit on this stage”). The leg-splitting choreography would be the highlight, but the members’ smoldering gazes which never once broke character simply cannot be overlooked, either, especially Yuta’s intense glower. Where are the boys next door who were just serenading a fan with B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” five minutes ago now?

In accords with the musical themed special stages from Day 1, the second day had its share of witty K-pop meets Broadway encounters as well. UP10TION returned to perform their rendition of the Mamma Mia version of ABBA’s “Honey Honey ” which has to be a pun on their fandom name, Honey10. Their routine was something out of a theater show, completed with feet clicking, straw hats, and line dances, while their vocals were pristine as always. Unlike their usual no-nonsense choreographies, this was certainly a more refreshing departure, and the bounce in their step seemed to agree.

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But back to the regularly scheduled program. With only the headliners and Twice left, fans already started to abandon their seats for standing in anticipation of the nation’s little daughters. A screen displaying images of star clusters and other heavenly bodies gave way to the nine women adorned in white, and foreshadowed the forthcoming song, their latest single featuring an alien-inspired concept, “Signal.” They then did ”Cheer Up” and “TT” back to back. Twice’s legacy lies in their iconic, simple-to-follow point choreographies, and whether it is their adorable “Sha Sha Sha” of the former song or the pouty “I’m like TT” from the latter, pretty much everyone that evening were following along. The only gripe with their set was that it would have been more memorable had they saved their most lauded songs for the finale. Instead, the girl group opted for “Knock Knock,” a blithe masterpiece that deserves better than falling flat next to the record-breaking “TT” and “Cheer Up.” Overall, the performances from the adored girl group adhered closely to the books, notwithstanding the tremendous outpour of love they were receiving from supporters in the stands and pit.

If I’m honest, when KCON first unveiled CNBLUE as headliner, it felt like they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. The band is not as popular as they once were, so the worry that they would not have a strong presence was always there. With something to prove, however, these seasoned artists absolutely blew these misconceptions out the window; the guys did not come to play.

Also on Kultscene: Inside KCON 2017 NY [photos]

Usually when groups perform their schtick to the T without sounding breathy, there’s a likely chance that they are not singing live, and admittedly this applies to some of the acts from both KCON nights. Not for CNBLUE, though. Frontman Yonghwa practiced proper vocal techniques as his voice reverberated and resonated throughout the whole of the arena during “Between Us.” Years of experience not only taught him how to have fun with a performance, but also imparted onto him a charismatic, sexy confidence (and body) that had audiences wrapped around his finger. Most of this could also do with the fact that the band does not observe traditional choreographies, allowing for the main vocalist much freedom to do the most on stage. Indeed, though they were only into their second song – “Cinderella” – on their setlist, Yonghwa decided to ditch the band on the main stage in order to host his solo concert on the extended stage, replete with mic tricks, piping notes in line with their rock band image, and fan service out for blood. Even when introducing subsequent songs, he failed to do it without assuming full playboy mode, for example, pointing out individuals and calling them “fine” as a pivot into “You’re So Fine.”

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As the conclusion drew near, the ever multi-talented Yonghwa then retreated to the main stage to boast his sharp piano skills during “Can’t Stop,” where he continued to deliver impressive notes, neck veins and all. I must really commend him for being able to carry most of the vocals for the team, an undertaking customarily divvied up among the members of a K-pop group, and still be able to beam as wide as he did. Before bringing it down some notches with the mellow “Love Light” and signing out, he promised to come back soon. And if the merry atmosphere that still lingered in the air post-CNBLUE or the ovations given to the occasional shots of the drummer-by-day-pretty-boy-by-always Minhyuk were any indications of their high demand, hopefully he is right.

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Before convention attendees and concertgoers knew it, it was time to bid farewell to yet another installment of KCON NY. This year’s M!Countdown stages provided numerous underrated acts with a chance to shine, while always exceeding expectations and managing to outdo the ones from previous years. The mothership of all things Hallyu will continue in August when KCON returns to LA on the West Coast for their homecoming, and we already cannot wait.

Did you attend KCON 17 NY? What’s your favorite KCON artist? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Inside KCON 2017 NY [photos]

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by Katherine Villalon

With every passing year KCON 2017 NY presented by Toyota outdoes itself, and this time around was no different. This year was the first where the convention was paid, and while lots of fans expressed their annoyance before the event, once June 23 and 24 rolled out, it all made sense. Held once again outside of Newark, NJ’s Prudential Center, the con of this year’s KCON NY was larger in size, expositors, and talent than previous years.

In previous installments, a common complaint was that there wasn’t much to do at the convention if you didn’t have fan engagements with the artists to go to. That changed this year. Panels were more varied topically, a gaming competition was held, sponsors and exhibitors conducted lots of fun giveaway contests, more artists performed on the outdoor stage, and lots of popular YouTubers roamed the grounds taking pictures with subscribers and fans.

And in anticipation of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games, KCON brought lifesize versions of Soohorang, the white tiger mascot of the main Games, and Bandabi, the Asiatic Black Bear representative of the PyeongChang Paraolympics, for conventions goers to interact with throughout the two-day event.

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by Katherine Villalon

2017 was, indeed, the year of “more” at KCON NY. Always trailing behind the Los Angeles installment, KCON 2017 NY this year proved that it means business and that it’s only growing.

Also on KultScene: KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 1 Concert Recap


Bigger and better than ever, the convention portion of KCON 2017 NY was spread out. Which was nice on the second, breezier day, but Friday’s humidity was kind of a killer. That’s why the E-Sports Amazon tent made a lot of people happy with its air conditioning, giving people walking from one section of the con to another a break for a few minutes. There were a lot of vendors and fan-run booths, including our friends from ECKO with a mini K-pop art exhibit, but there were, sadly, less beauty booths than the previous year. There were still plenty of goodies, especially from Innisfree, which gave out free masks to people walking around with a unique voucher system.

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by Katherine Villalon

If convention goers began to feel famished, there was plenty of food to go around. The Let’s Enjoy K-Foo Event Zone gave out free samples of snacks and drinks as well as held games and dances to win even more yummy treats. And if you were looking for something a bit more instantaneous and fulfilling, there were also many food vendors selling both the usual festival food alongside Korean food and refreshing drinks.

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by Katherine Villalon

The convention stage set outside of the Prudential Center allowed convention goers and even attendees without convention passes to watch various acts throughout the day. Popular musical performers like JunCurryAhn and David Kim took the stage and made the audience swoon over their incredible cover songs, while dance troops 1MILLION and Canada based East2West pumped up the audience with their high-intensity dance routines. Recently disbanded Cocoa Avenue also held their last performance, and while it was rocky, the fans responded by singing along to their cover of Beenzino’s “Boogie On and On” and other original tracks.

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by Katherine Villalon

Panels & Workshops

Like last year, there was a variety of different panels that spanned from topics including fashion, dramas, and, of course, music. Fans were able to hear from figures that are prominent in their respective industries as well as other fans who are just as passionate about the topic they were speaking about. Talented writing and producing duo LDN Noise (who are responsible for hits like Shinwha’s “Sniper,” Red Velvet’s “Dumb Dumb,” and NCT 127’s “Fire Truck”) gave fan the inside look on how to produce a hit K-pop song and even broke down EXO’s song “Monster” into all of its underlying sounds and beats to see what the song was composed of.

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by Katherine Villalon

Kultscene’s very own Tamar Herman also participated in the “What Type of K-Pop Fan are You” to talk about the different types of fans there are along with popular YouTubers. And speaking of YouTubers, this year, KCON brought out more vloggers than ever before, including those residing in Korea like Edward Avila, Joan Kim, and Whitney Bae. There were also KCON regulars like JRE and Courtney and Jasmine from 2minjinkjongkey.

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by Katherine Villalon

The workshops this year hosted the usual beauty gurus and how-to cooking lessons but to change things up a bit they added a Paint Nite: KCON Style where people can bring out their inner Da Vinci was added. One of the more popular workshops was the Dance Workshop Stage. There, different choreographers gave step by step lessons to a variety of dance styles and choreographies. Also, popular dance studio 1MILLION held an intense dance battle against main choreographer Lia Kim, where the winner got a chance to dance with her.

Also on KultScene: Inside KCON 2017 Mexico [photos]

Red Carpet

To close out the convention portion of the event, the red carpet is the transition into the show for a few lucky fans who won the scratch off vouchers. This year, every act walked the carpet to greet fans, hold a quick Q&A, and talk about their outfit choices. Or at least that of their stylists.

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by Katherine Villalon

On the first day, the first to walk the red carpet was rookie group KNK, decked in white suits that accentuated their chic features and height. To poke fun at the situation, the guys struck some exaggerated poses for photographers and fans. They said they really wanted to come to KCON 2017 NY and that this was their first time in the city. (Despite being in Newark).

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by Katherine Villalon

Next up was R&B crooner Zion.T, whose red carpet stint was swift but memorable, and the fans went nuts cheering for him, making him break his composed demeanor and crack some smiles.

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by Katherine Villalon

The only girl group of the night, GFriend, walked next, wearing all black ensembles. Despite missing member Yerin, the rest of the girls were all smiles while at the red carpet.

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by Katherine Villalon

While it was SF9’s first time at KCON, the members expressed their nervousness yet excitement to be there. Donning school uniforms à la Produce 101 Season 2 with lime green lining, one of the members said: “It’s been five years since I graduated from high school, but it still feels good,” inciting giggles from the audience.

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by Katherine Villalon

The clear highlight of the red carpet was, of course, Highlight, who bickered on the red carpet over who was the most fashionable. At the end, however, they unanimously picked Junhyung, who was wearing a striped blazer and choker. All five members, however, sported shiny, dapper outfits that showcased their personalities.

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by Katherine Villalon

The next day, the MC for the red carpet was none other than U-KISS’ former member Kevin Woo. He did a fantastic job filling in the downtime before the event and in between artists, something that’s always awkward for the MCs, but Kevin knew how to work the crowd well. He also shared that he’s working on a comeback and hopes to come back to the States as a soloist. Being an idol himself, the audience shouted for him to twerk and even pressured him into singing and dancing “Signal,” after he declared himself a Twice fan boy and a Momo stan. “They’re all cute and adorable,” he clarified.

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by Katherine Villalon

This, and starting a fan chant, was the perfect transition to the first group, Twice. Known for their typical athleisure outfits, the girls wore ladylike outfits accessorized with shiny earrings. Asked the same fashion questions as the day before, Jihyo said all the members were fashionistas because everyone had different styles.

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by Katherine Villalon

After Twice, the mood changed a bit in the audience since most fanboys dipped once the group left. Now, it was up to the fan girls, who screamed their lungs out once UP10TION emerged. The nine members came out wearing colorful yet casual outfits, all different from one another but cohesive. The guys were excited to see their fans and even asked the crowd to watch their music videos a lot before going backstage.

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by Katherine Villalon

But no screams were louder than when rookie group NCT 127 came out. It was so loud that you couldn’t hear what the members or Kevin said. Other than their bright red outfits, the guys sported poker faces throughout the entire event and weren’t as lively as other groups.

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by Katherine Villalon

To end the red carpet portion of KCON 2017 NY, day two’s headliners CNBLUE shut the whole thing down with their charisma and style. In their case, bassist Jungshin was selected as the group’s fashionista, though said they were all fashionable. Jonghwa, being the resident English speaker, told fans they were all gorgeous with a huge smile, which melted more than a couple of hearts in the audience.

Check out the rest of the pictures from the red carpet and the convention:

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Did you attend KCON 2017 NY? What was your favorite thing about it? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Alexis Hodoyan-Gastelum, Tamar Herman, and Katherine Villalon contributed to the writing of this article.

KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 1 Concert Recap

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Almost exactly one year since it last hit the Prudential Center in New Yorks’s metropolitan area, KCON 2017 NY presented by Toyota returned once again this past weekend (June 23 and 24) for another two nights of star-studded M! Countdown performances. The Day 1 concert had rookie groups KNK and SF9 dancing on the same stage as the veteran “super rookie” group Highlight. Meanwhile hip-hop and R&B soloist Zion T. and girl group GFriend added diversity to the forever testosterone and pop-heavy lineup.

For some of the artists, it was their first time performing stateside altogether. But for all, their participation marked their debut onto the annual cross-cultural East Coast music festival scene that continues to bring the most devoted Hallyu fans out in droves. Not soon after concert goers filed in to occupy the arena seating and pit to catch the preshow – a fan dance battle moderated by special guest and former U-Kiss member Kevin Woo – had it been already time for the main event of the night. At promptly 7:30 PM, the show kicked off with its trademark “Let’s KCON” motto.

Also on Kultscene: KCON 2017 Mexico’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap

Ascending in front of a very fitting backdrop of nebulae and celestial bodies, the vertically superior KNK opened with their most recent single “Sun, Moon, Star,” a song which they later explained was about broken up lovers. The quintet delivered the anguish that such a song demands, and decked out in resplendent white suits, they looked and sounded like they were not only a year into their careers. This only became apparent once they moved on from their debut song “Knock” straight into their already final track “Day N Night,” reminding audiences that their discography still has room to grow. The latter is a personal favorite, and since it was never promoted as a single, was a pleasant surprise to their terse setlist. I think lead rapper Heejun was doing all of us a public good when he put up his own mic to lead vocalist Youjin when he hit that high note during the bridge.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

It really would not be a KCON without its collaborative stages, and this year seemed to have been Broadway musical-themed (a tip of the hat to good ol’ New York City) as Yuju of GFriend and Dongwoon of Highlight united in a rendition of Beauty and the Beast’s “Tale As Old As Time.” It was definitely an oicwydt moment seeing the gorgeous GFriend member work in perfect harmony with the former “Beast” member. The no-frills duet relied solely on their immaculate vocals, all the while keeping the number subdued without sounding boring.

Up next was SF9, a boy group who I admittedly made the mistake of overlooking going into the concert. From the moment they set the venue aflame with their latest song “Easy Love,” the amount of proud fans clothed in unofficial merchandise and holding up support banners for the group who have not even seen their one year anniversary yet just made sense. The first real “dance” group coming out of FNC Entertainment, an agency typically known for their favoritism towards bands in the truest sense of the word, they did not disappoint. How they are able to execute their razor-sharp choreography without sound breathy is still beyond me, and after seeing the nine-piece group perform in the flesh, I can affirm that the aphorism about how one does not learn to appreciate a song until it is done live was about SF9.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

Not only that, the SF9 boys also proved that they are kings of fanservice when three members serenaded and competed for a girl indiscriminately chosen from the general audience. Poor girl seemed torn between her suitors, so the proposal ended in a draw. Despite this, the group managed to reel back into full performance mode, completing their set with their debut single “Fanfare,” followed by “Roar.”

The girl group representatives of the night, GFriend (sans Yerin who had individual schedules overseas), made their entrance with a powerful dance break in their signature uniformed-inspired look, compensating for KCON’s serious dearth of female acts. They continued the trend of opening with the most recent single and plunged right into disco and synth blend hit “Fingertip.” An exciting song to match the equally high-spirited mood.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

Unfortunately, as the proceeding “Navillera” transitioned into “Me Gustas Tu” into “Rough,” the rest of their set felt a little like one mega ditty playing up the naiveté of youth rather than three separate and unique songs. Not hating the high school concept trilogy, it’s just that a better setlist that showcased greater variety or another song inter-spliced between the ones could have avoided this misfortune. That aside, audiences still received kindly to the more than stable vocals, synchronized dances, and charms of these girl crushes.

It’s always interesting to see how a solo artist can manage to keep the momentum of crowds going, and with no group dynamic to fall back on, the pressure is certainly on. But Zion.T, draped in what looks like could be his dad’s baggy suit and traipsing his way towards a grand piano, exuded pure professionalism and cool, calm collectedness not witnessed in other acts seen thus far. There, he introduced “Complex,” before moving onto “The Song” off of the same OO album. He already impresses with his distinct voice and frictionless croons, but when he brings out his inner rapper as well, he’s just being unfair.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

The man also displayed a subtle sense of humor when he inquired if audiences knew his penultimate song for the night, “Eat” (“you know, like yum, yum, yum eat?”). Unsurprisingly, he closed with the iconic “Yanghwa Bridge,” a sluggish track that is perfect for not only evening commutes home, but also for bringing together a group of disparate peoples in chorus. Not a single person in attendance was not singing either “haengbokhaja” (“Let’s be happy”) or “apeuji malgo” (“Don’t be sick”) of the lyrics’ sweet words to his family. Zion.T’s strength lies in the fact that his slow-tempo songs always have those couple of phrases that are easy to follow along, guaranteeing audience participation. He knows this too as he played conductor, and took advantage of the whole extended stage. Only Zion.T could ever do what Zion.T does best.

The show could have concluded right then, and everyone would have been okay with it, however it did not. SF9 reappeared onto the stage for an unexpected special performance of EXO’s “Call Me Baby” and BTS’s “Boy in Luv,” which was probably KCON’s way of saying “Hey, I know we could not give you guys the two hottest K-pop groups at the moment, but here’s a cover.” In any event, audiences welcomed the familiar tunes and dances in vociferous cheers.

Also on Kultscene: KCON 2016 NY’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap

Rounding off the first night was finally Highlight, who hit the ground running with “Plz Don’t Be Sad.” Outfitted in white long coats with personalized names on the back (Dongwoo’s appropriately had “Guapo” monogrammed), they had as much fun with the performance as audiences did dancing along to the ridiculously fun hook. It was not even their last song, but streamers already rained down as if it was. Though “Calling You,” the group’s most recent release, was another obvious pick, it felt lowkey and paled in comparison to the former song. I would rather they have traded it out for “Can You Feel It?,” the eponymous track off of their first album post-rebranding, which would have offered tighter cohesion considering the other dance songs of the headliner’s setlist. That, and I just would have really like to see “Can You Feel It?” live once, you know?

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

After exhausting their narrow discography as Highlight, the second generational group moved older fans with “Yey,” one of their more underrated bops that had the crowd on their feet even if they did not agree in the fine workmanship that went into producing the EDM track. They dug back further in their bag of tricks to also unveil the 2014 hit “Good Luck” and 2012 summer anthem “Beautiful Night,” which best describes what the evening was after their stellar performances. They had nothing but their fans in mind as they switched between their parts and tossing out plushies and taking selfies with the phones of some lucky individuals. A personal aside, but it brings me immense joy to know that a group that was once upon a time my first bias group still got it. Beast or Highlight, this is a band that simply knows what it takes to put on a show.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

And like that, the night had finished without a hitch. Though Day One of the two-part event was now officially over, there was still a Day Two to go to. While fans were entertained by the mirthful pop songs, intricate choreography, and earnest attempts at communication of the artists, they were already looking forward to what was in store for the upcoming day. After all, what better way to fill the void left behind by post-concert depression than with another concert?

Did you attend KCON 17 NY? What’s your favorite KCON artist? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.