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KCON NY 2019 ‘M! Countdown’ day 1 recap

Tackling the great expectations of moving to maybe the most famous concert venue in the world, Madison Square Garden, was a big ask ahead of the five groups preparing for day 1 of KCON NY 2019. Each of them were more than qualified to perform there on their own merits but the beauty of a concert like KCON is how they play off of each other. Either by the order of their sets or through collaborations, these pairings can offer up interesting new perspectives on their work. On this day, they strived for a delicate sense of balance.

Opening this night was down to the now veteran of KCON, Kevin Woo, was on hand to introduce the night of concerts at Madison Square Garden. The former U-Kiss member was his usual bubbly and soft self; he tends to be a perfect MC thanks to this quality. He feels more like a friend than some random professional, so it was a true pleasure to be able to see him make the move back to performing after MCing for so long. He performed his two solo tracks, “Over You” and “Ride Along.” They are fittingly bright and breezy for his voice and look, but he’s straying into lyrical territory that doesn’t fit. The player image of “Ride Along” didn’t feel genuine, and that’s something that can come across strongly on such a big platform.

One thing Kevin has that definitely does come across, whether he likes it or not, is that he is a potent reminder of how far K-pop has come. Around since 2009, Kevin has seen almost all of K-pop’s major flirtations with breaking into the west. This gave the night interesting bookends, with Kevin himself, a member of a group all but forgotten to the world, and headliners Nu’est, a group who through an unprecedented resurgence live on amidst K-pop’s most world renowned time. They feel like they’re from the same era and yet remain very much in the zeitgeist.


Also on KultScene: INSIDE KCON NY 2019

The starkness of what comes in between those two was immediately apparent when Ateez took to the stage. They along with other fresh faced boy group The Boyz opened the night with dance performances to contemporary American pop tracks. True to form, Ateez went hard on Skrillex’s remix of Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” As would be seen later on in the night, Ateez have a very particular style of controlled chaos while on stage. They use typically strong boy group moves in very angular and aggressive ways. It’s a style of dance that goes so well with the surprising ways in which they are growing so rapidly. It is in the very literal sense, breathtaking but also almost obstructive of the group at the heart of these dances.

In a smart move to counter this, The Boyz took a much more unusual approach by performing to teen phenom Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” Watching the 13 members walk like runway models to the cartoony synth run or move possessed along with Eilish’s distant vocals were moments totally singular over the whole weekend. Choosing to dance to these two melodies rather than the beat gives the performers themselves great personality. It’s an effective and simple way of making a dance feel like a story. Something they clearly learned from fellow large-membered group Seventeen.

 

As new as these two groups are they can’t compare to the absolute babies of the weekend, TXT. They were not to be held back, however, as coming along with a five track mini-album filled with gems meant they were more than qualified to be here. No one over the whole weekend would bring as exuberant a charm as they did. Decked in schoolboy uniforms, they jumped right into debut single “Crown.” The unabashed giant synths of it are probably the most infectious sounds of the year so far. It’s the kind of sound many might use to describe K-pop as a whole, so as an opener it was perfect. They took some time from there to talk and perform a short version of ballad “Your Summer.” It was energy well saved as they took a breathless last 10 minutes to blast through “Blue Orangeade” and “Cat and Dog.”

It’s hard to choose one thing that makes TXT so good but it’s just as hard to not say their choreography. It may be early days but it’s difficult to think of a group who handles such a small amount of members so well on stage since SHINee. The way they feed off each other is so important to the way they move, as if they need each other’s permission to go to the next part. They displayed a level of choreographic ingenuity that would not be topped until the weekend’s closers.

“Cat and Dog” will also go down as a great track of KCON 2019. As a song itself it expertly combines the cuter aspects of TXT with the more popular hip-hop sounds of most boy groups these days. It’s silly, brash, and best of all, earnest. This in turn makes it also an excellent bridging point from them into the next group Ateez.

As a further balancing act before that though, IZ*ONE came out with “Highlight.” “Highlight” is their most mature sounding song yet. Its stripped back R&B is helped by a pair of running synths and a trap beat, on top of which the girls eke out an elegant vocal. This gracefulness carries on in the dance as they hold up their hands and barely sway their hips, calling “look at me” in the chorus.

 

Not wanting to disrupt this flow too much, Ateez opened with the melancholic electro of “Aurora” and the decidedly dated tropical house of “Wave.” Ateez are burdened by the fact that every concept they’ve tackled so far has been a clear derivation of other groups. Particularly with these openers —you can’t give yourself a name when people are thinking of the groups who have done this before and better. Of course, even their next and final two tracks suffer from similar problems. This suffering only happens on track though, taken to the stage is a different story.

Closing with the heart-stopping duo of “Say My Name” and “Halla Halla,” Ateez made sure they wouldn’t be forgotten. The group left absolutely nothing on that stage; their sweat is now a permanent fixture of Madison Square Garden. It felt like they never had to stop, and could keep destroying the stage for the rest of the night. The chaos was still controlled but they were almost ready to let it go. It was a stunning display of control when they seemed to not want it at all. There’s aggression in K-pop dances, but nothing ever came close to feeling violent until rapper Mingi jumped over someone and seemed to headbutt the air. A funny but in some ways alarming moment.

The Boyz kept a serious air to the night but still calmed things down, as they began their set with “No Air.” Although a fitting follow up to what Ateez had brought, it felt lacklustre and even anonymous alongside them. This was put to bed immediately though, as the boyish charm and confidence of “Right Here” filled the place with glee. “Right Here” is one of those rare songs that starts off as if it’s already at top gear and yet at every turn still manages to find something small to lift it further. Making it not only a great song but an exceptional live experience. Also it was a smart move to put in the middle of their set, as closer “Bloom Bloom” is a lesser but still fun track that carried on the great energy of “Right Here.”

Needing to slow things a bit after that explosive one-two punch, Baekho and Minhyun of Nu’est came on for a cover of Adam Levine’s “Lost Stars.” Slowing things down was all this performance could really off as it’s not a good enough or well known enough song to otherwise justify inclusion. Certainly not with the potential vocal abilities of the two men singing it.

 


Also on KultScene: K-POP UNMUTED: THE DANCE EPISODE

Nothing can really inject life into night quite like a Twice knock off, though. IZ*ONE were next up with just that on recent b-side “Airplane.” The cute vitality of the track and the girls more than made up for “Lost Stars,” as well as giving the night its tempo back. Unfortunately, they undid all of this right after as they played two games that took up at least 10 minutes. It would be ok if the games were fun but, it was clear that most of the audience were not paying attention after the first two or three minutes.

In fairness to IZ*ONE, they have the songs to once again reignite things. They ended with a brisk quartet of singles “Violeta,” “La Vie en Rose,” and Produce 48 tracks “Rumour” and “Pick Me.” Despite the cute image many might of them have, all of IZ*ONE’s tracks have major punch to them. This is emphasised really well live, as the bass in the choruses of “Violeta” and “La Vie en Rose” hit hard, but the melodies are never lost. No one carries this idea as well as Lee Chaeyeon. Their main dancer was one of the true highlights to watch over the whole weekend, earning her the nickname, the goddess of wind, with power and grace always together and never at odds.

 

There is no better group to headline this night and to unite all the ideas that have come up than Nu’est. Newly back to full strength as former Wanna One member Minhyun returned earlier in the year. Nu’est have been hard to pin down as a group thanks to changes like this, but they have consistently shown an unquestionable level of stability in sound and performance. They brilliantly mix the harder aspects of the dubstep and hip-hop that pervades their work with a slower sensuality in how they actually navigate these influences. Even up to their latest single “Bet Bet,” which they opened with, this continues. The battle between the ruthlessness of JR and Baekho, and the softer falsettos of Minhyun and Ren are on full show here. Aron sits in the middle somewhere, filling in gaps so as the others don’t quite lose themselves.

From there it was pure joy. “Love Paint” was the best song of the weekend, “Segno” so sweet and uplifting, and closing duo “Look” and “R.L.T.L (One Morning),” an exemplary rendition of the dubstep, dance music work they do. The only problem was that they were one song short. “R.L.T.L” was a good song to end on but only if we had known beforehand. As it was it felt like the perfect setup for “Overcome” to drive us home. But as soon as they finished, the lights went up and the other groups started to come out to say goodbye. There was definitely a slight feeling of being cheated. This was something their labelmates Seventeen would learn from though.

From Kevin Woo through Nu’est all the way to TXT, K-pop has been through too much to recount. KCON is always good at trying to tell this story of K-pop in a few hours and this night was no exception. The flow of every group’s set and the transitions between them felt natural and propulsive. Everyone had their place and performed it to the best of their abilities.

All photo credits to KCON USA

Were you at KCON NY 2019? What did you make of the performances? Share your thoughts 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.

Inside KCON NY 2015

IMG_7472editAfter four years of hearing the question “Why not New York?” CJ E&M and MNET America answered our prayers. KCON 2015 graced the New York metro area (The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey to be precise) with its presence for one day; a far cry from the three day extravaganza that Los Angeles was treated to the week before, but none the less KCON came to the East coast.

EXPO

Because of lack of space within the Prudential Center, the brains behind KCON utilized the streets and area around the venue to host expo booths, panels, and workshops. Although the amount of booths available to visit were few, there was still plenty to do between the fan engagements, workshops and panels. There were booths where you could try on and take pictures in hanboks (traditional Korean clothes,) eat ddukbokki (Korean spicy rice cakes) and various other exhibitors doing raffles where attendees could win prizes. There were also vendors selling fan-made goods and band merchandise as well as fan group booths to visit.

Throughout the day, one of the most popular booths, other than the food vendors, would have to have been the Toyota (one of the convention’s sponsors) tent where people could dance along to their favorite K-Pop video and get a prize. At one point, idol group Teen Top stopped by the tent for a photo op right before their fan engagement.IMG_7251edit


Also on KultScene: Fantasy vs. Reality Performances To See At KCON NY 2015

The K-Pop Festival booth was another place to be; there was a DJ blasting non-stop K-pop hits and throwing out random prizes into the audience. It was not uncommon to see people randomly bust a move in the middle of the street when their favorite song came on. Although there was enough things to walk around and see, the variety of exhibitors and vendors cannot be compared to that of KCON LA. According to CJ E&M America’s Chief Marketing Officer, most of the exhibitors and vendors are based on the west coast or in Korea so traveling the extra distance to the east coast made things difficult.

Additionally, the lack of space available was a challenge to host anything on the scale that’s similar to KCON LA. Another factor that greatly affected KCON NY was the fact that CJ E&M America and most of the other groups involved in putting KCON together are not based on the east coast. They are not familiar with the area, the venues, or the companies and vendors that are willing to participate with an event like KCON. Hopefully by seeing the success the exhibitors had this year, there will be more exhibitors and vendors willing to set up booths for the following years.

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PANELS and WORKSHOPS

The panels and workshops at KCON NY were similar to the ones that were held at KCON LA. Fans got to sit down and hear what industry insiders had to say about certain topics like Korean rap and American crossovers, or to catch up with their favorite YouTube stars. The ever popular Korean beauty routines were also taught in the workshops, which gave attendees a chance to get out of the sun and relax a bit between events.

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KPOP FESTIVAL

The New York KPOP Festival held a mini event that even those who did not have a ticket to the MNET concert could attend. With the party like atmosphere, K-pop fans enjoyed music and dance acts from different groups and performers. Finalists from online polls also competed to be the opener at that night’s MNET concert, and with the special appearance of VIXX’s N as a judge made fans extra excited.


Also on KultScene: Breaking Down KCON ’15 LA’s Red Carpet Looks

As the debut appearance of KCON on the east coast, it seemingly went off without any major problems. Seeing the success of KCON LA and KCON NY; there was a combined attendance of about 75,000 people, no small feat for anyone. Hopefully it will bring more interest in the festival and K-pop in general. Being able to create an event that is more than just a concert, but actually give fans a chance to get more involved with the culture that they love is a great thing. Not to mention the friendly and harmonious environments that was created by the organizers and attendees would make anyone proud.

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Fantasy Vs. Reality Performances To See At KCON NY 2015

VIXX KCON NY Read more

Fantasy Vs. Reality Performances To See At KCON 2015

소녀시대 (7)

Just about every K-pop fan living in the United States has been waiting anxiously to find out who will be heading to KCON 2015, held this year for the first time on both sides of the continental U.S. Now that we know a few more acts, here’s KultScene’s second annual fantasy versus reality playlist for KCON.
The convention heads to Los Angeles’ Staples Center on July 31-August 2 and Newark’s Prudential Stadium on August 8. KCON Los Angeles will feature Super Junior, Shinhwa, SISTAR, Got7, Roy Kim, Block B, and AOA, while KCON NY, held in New Jersey, is in its inaugural year and will star Girls’ Generation and VIXX.

1. Super Junior
Fantasy: “Can You Feel It?” is a song by Super Junior D & E (Donghae and Eunhyuk,) which is technically just a subunit of the group, but it’s honestly one of the most fun songs from 2015 and it wouldn’t be difficult for the group to sing together. A lot of fans may not know the dance, but if Super Junior wants to get the place moving, a quick lesson will get everyone at the Staples Center standing up and flailing their hands all over the place. We wouldn’t be adverse to oldies like “Miracle” either.


Reality: “Mamacita” is super Junior’s latest title song, so unless the group throws a curve ball and announces a comeback before they come stateside, it’s a safe bet to say that everybody at KCON LA will be shouting “HEY! Mamacita” by the end of the night.
Also Expect: “Sorry Sorry” and “This Is Love”


2. Shinhwa
Fantasy: “Eusha! Eusha!” is old fashioned, but any old school fan of Shinhwa will want the group to play some of their iconic songs. We’d also kill for “Wild Eyes,” or a newer song that we at KultScene personally love, “On The Road.”


Reality: “Sniper” is Shinhwa’s most recent song and is absolutely amazing, so we won’t mind that they’ll perform it. They may perform “T.O.P,” one of Shinhwa’s most popular songs ever, but due to the age of many of the fans, the group may pick to some of the newer, arguably safer, sexy songs.
Also Expect: “Venus” and “This Love”


Also on KultScene: Fantasy Vs. Reality: Performances at KCON 2014

3. Roy Kim
Fantasy: A new English song. Yes, it may be asking too much, but Roy Kim is talented and spends part of the year in the United States at Georgetown. So it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to debut a brand new song at KCON, like the ones that helped Roy Kim achieve success as a singer.


Reality: “Home,” there’s no question about it. Roy Kim will definitely sing this beautiful song about the feelings of being home. Hopefully he’ll bring the dog from the music video.
Also Expect: “Love Love Love” and “Spring Spring Spring”


4. SISTAR
Fantasy: While it was popular in 2014, it’s unlikely that SISTAR will perform “I Swear,” since “Touch My Body” was a much more popular song. If they do, it will be a nice chance to hear them focusing on their vocals more than some of their more sultry dance tracks.


Reality: We’ll likely see a performance of SISTAR’s yet-to-be-released summer track. The girl group is making a comeback in June.
Also Expect: “Alone” and “Touch My Body”


5. AOA
Fantasy: It would be absolutely fantastic if AOA performed “Get Out.” The girl group used to perform as a band, and have done so occasionally, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see a band performance from them. We’d also love to see “Confused” performed.

Reality: Since hitting success, AOA has a lot of successful songs (and a new song coming out so we’ll see that,) but nothing is as defining for the group as “Like A Cat,” their sexy, dark song. Jimin may also perform a solo song.
Also Expect: “Short Hair” and “Miniskirt”


Also on KultScene: KCON 2014 Day 1: M! Countdown 2 Nights In L.A.

6. VIXX
Fantasy: Let’s see VIXX perform “Love Equation.” It’s a remake of R.ef’s song from the 1990’s, but this 2015 release went under the radar and is too cute to be ignored. “G.R.8.U” would also be a nice way to lighten up the stage from some of VIXX’s darker songs.


Reality:Whatever VIXX performs will be good and be filled with an interesting concept.The group will definitely perform “Error,” one of their most dynamic songs to date.
Also Expect: “Eternity” and “Voodoo Doll”

7. Block B
Fantasy: “Conduct For Zero” is another song by a subgroup that we love. Block B’s Bastarz subgroup is just three members, but we’d be fine if Block B’s other members left the stage to see the trio perform this dynamic song. And if they refuse to perform a song by a subgroup, Block B should attempt to silence the Staples Center by performing their vocally impressive song, “Be The Light.”

And can Zico please perform at least one solo song?


Reality: “Her” is a slightly psychotic, fun to dance to song and the audience at KCON LA had better join in on clapping along with Block B’s song.
Also Expect: “Jackpot” and “Very Good.”


8. Got7
Fantasy: Got7 is still a new group and a lot of their lesser known songs deserve some love. If the seven member group performs “I Like You” or “Gimme,” the audience at KCON may be surprised, but we’ll be pleased.


Reality: There’s no doubt that Got7 will perform “Stop Stop It.” The group is widely popular among American fans, so expect many people to be singing along.
Also Expect: “Girls Girls Girls” and “A”

9. Girls’ Generation
Fantasy: “I Got A Boy,” because they didn’t perform it at KCON LA last year and we still can’t get over that.


Reality: Their brand new song that we’re eagerly waiting for, and perhaps a few new songs off of their new album. And “Gee.” Because they wouldn’t be Girls’ Generation if not for “Gee”
Also Expect: “Catch Me If You Can” and “Mr. Mr.”


What songs do you want to see performed at either KCON this summer? Share your thoughts 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. Read more