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

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KCON17NY

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.

GFRIEND g friend kcon 2017 17 ny new york pics pictures pic picture kcon17ny kcon2017ny kpop k-pop

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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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.

KCON 2016 NY’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

It hasn’t even been a year yet but it’s already that time when all things Hallyu are celebrated in one convenient location here in the States. After its first installment last August, KCON returned back again to the East Coast, bringing its M! Countdown concerts to the famous Prudential Center in the NY’s metropolitan area. This time, not only did the convention grow from being a one day event to a two day event, spanning from June 24 to June 25, but KCON 2016 also saw a lot of new faces and talents. KCON 2015 NY felt like a pilot episode in comparison.

On Day 1 of KCON 2016 NY alone, popular rookie group Seventeen met senior boy group BTOB at both their first KCON experience. Soloist Ailee drew both female and male Korean pop fans in throngs, while Amoeba Culture’s Crush and Dynamic Duo made their second KCON appearance and welcomed Korean hip-hop philes to the 18,000+ seat venue. The roster this year was a significant upgrade from last year, which haphazardly seemed to throw together a bunch of repeated acts from previous cons. What’s more, the lineup for KCON 2016 offered more diversity, reflecting the careful planning that went into maximizing concert turnout (as of now, the attendance is still TBA).

But the music is just one aspect of Hallyu, with K-Drama as another. A new addition to KCON 2016 NY was the special guests, which included idol actor Yim Siwan (“Triangle,” “Misaeng”) and actress Park Bo Young (“A Werewolf Boy,” “Oh My Ghostess”). Together, the two stopped by the South Korean entertainment network tvN booth during the convention and acted as special MC’s for a segment of the night, giving the regular hosts a break.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

As per usual, the MC’s were selected from the pool of performers. Ailee, a native English speaker slated to perform during the first night, was an obvious pick. As the she ascended from the stage lift, however, the fans cheered doubly for not only her but also for co-host, Rap Monster from BTS, who made an early appearance ahead of his scheduled Day 2 performance (in hindsight, the two also served as MC’s for KCON Abu Dhabi back in March so perhaps it was my bad for not seeing it coming). While introducing the event in both Korean and English, the bilingual duo quickly became half the attraction with their charming chemistry. And with their rallying cry “Let’s KCON! Let’s M! Countdown,” the other half was shortly set in motion as well

Rookie King Seventeen Makes Their KCON Debut

Emerging out of 2015 as one of the hottest rookie groups, Seventeen didn’t fail to deliver a remarkable performance. Under the dim lights, a VCR of the members dancing to the intro song “Shining Diamond” segued into the real deal. A chorus of screams at the appearance of 12 (rapper Wonwoo is sitting out of promotional activities at the moment due to health problems) half clothed in black, the other in white, indicated that the show was finally underway. They wasted no time as they dove right into their latest hit “Pretty U,” blithely working a couch into their choreography in front of a color pop of city streets backdrop. They really set the standard for the following track, the EDM-trap mix “Chuck,” which varied stylistically from the musical-esque number from before, but still sustained the same austerity of in-sync choreography.


Also on Kultscene: KCON 2015 NY’s M! Countdown Concert Recap

To finish off their half-hour set, the boys threw it back to the classics that shot them to where they are now (though would it be much of a throwback if it was only to last year?). Starting with “Mansae,” the audience transformed into a sea of arms swaying to the beat of the “mansae,” the point choreo that the members took time out to teach beforehand. It’s always a welcome sight to see the union of fans and artist, even if it’s just in such a simple gesture as waving an arm. Even in “Adore U,” which marked the end of their set, there’s that familiar point dance – a literal point dance – during the hook that’s easy enough for even the average caveman to follow. When they are on stage, Seventeen just exuberates overflowing youth and spryness. The only drawback to this, however, is because they are still maturing as a group, they are still stuck playing by the books, which means they couldn’t make full use of the stage that was given to them. A forgiving qualm, though, for the group with the insane vocals and an entertaining live show to boot.

Crush Gives New Meaning to One Man Show

Being a soloist on a stage of such a grand scale is always going to be nerve wracking. Projection becomes all the more important, and hyping the audience up requires extra effort. Fortunately for Crush, he’s got that covered, and all in just a-less-than-usual three songs too. No introductions were needed here for the R&B singer who went straight into his 2014 slow jam “Sometimes” as soon as the music cued him to the stage. From start to finish, he single-handedly turned the M! Countdown concert into a lounge party, belting out a string of long notes and ad libs to a round of cheers in the process. Besides his interesting Canadian Tuxedo x French beret collaboration that he donned – which must be a fashion faux pas in at least ten different cultures – the guy really did no wrong.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

“Sometimes” was only warm-up for what’s to come. The palm leaves that decorated the LCD displays behind him were very appropriate for the summer vibe-y single “Oasis.” Crush even revealed his knack for rap when covering for an absent Zico in his “It G-Ma”-styled verse, during which he doused crowds with bottled water while jumping around on the extended stage. By this time, the crowd was already so amped up that his request for the audience to put their hands up seemed superfluous. This revelry continued well into “Hug Me,” which featured help this time from Dynamic Duo’s Gaeko, and even more of a water show. Things were only now just getting heated.

Queen Ailee Makes Her Return Home

Ailee’s just one of those artists where even if you are not a fan, you are a fan. Her vocal prowess cannot be denied, and she was able to demonstrate it once again during an incident that happened while she was performing her routine to “Mind Your Own Business.” About halfway through the song, a technical malfunction caused the backing track to stop, leaving a visibly rattled Ailee to finish her verse acapella. Audiences applauded her diplomacy, even when she stepped backstage to resolve the issue (one concert go-er in my section made the snide remark that someone was getting fired that night) and when she came back for her second take.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

“This has never happened to me before,” the New Jersey native says before making light of the situation and viewing the glitch as a welcome home gift. One thing remains certain, and it’s that we can at least count on Ailee to provide fans with honest stages, which is something that cannot be said about all idols in the K-pop industry.

After going through both break-up power anthems “Don’t Touch Me” and “I Will Show You,” the diva also disclosed how nervous she was to perform that night (“I’ve never been nervous before, not even my debut performance, not even my first solo concert”) in front of all her friends and family for the first time, all the while holding back tears. The sincerity of her words compounded by the overall pathos of her homecoming were probably what compelled audiences to stand for her closing song “U & I.” Fans could not even be pressed that she did not perform “Q&A” with Seventeen like some thought she would. Cute as it may have been, this was all about her.

BTOB Did That!

Ever since their first music show win with “It’s Okay,” BTOB has swapped out their charismatic boy band image for something more softcore, which has still been working out in their favor. Presented by an enchanted forest visual display and a LCD light show that signaled the coming in of the members clad in rose quartz suits, they opened with the ballad “Remember That,” riding on the same success the aforementioned “It’s Okay” amassed for them. Rappers Minhyuk and Ilhoon still served with their subdued raps, while the vocalists never once faltered in their department.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

The group also filled their slots with their lesser known singles, such as “All Wolves Except Me” and “Beep Beep,” the former a jazzy swing track bursting with all kinds of brassy sounds and the latter a similar funky saxophone-centric piece that seem more in line with their personalities. The youngest member Sungjae even worked in some aegyo (a cute display of affection), sneaking a quick “bbyu” before the lights lowered, causing fans to giggle.

Personally, the main highlight of their stage wasn’t even their live performances off of their own discography, but their impromptu rendition of One Direction’s “History.” As if he was not already savvy in the art of rap, main rapper Ilhoon wowed the audience with his overwhelming high notes. Sometimes it is actually stressful how underrated this group is, but hopefully KCON bringing them out for the first time will lead to future invites and more recognition.

If You Didn’t Stan Seventeen Already…

…Then you probably did after seeing their special stage. Part of the appeal of KCON’s “M! Countdown” concerts are their exclusive performances in which the acts cover the hits of others or collaborate together to produce something greater than the sum of their parts. This year, in a phenomenal medley Seventeen returned back to the stage with a cover of After School’s “Bang,” the bop that made being in a marching band cool again. They even looked the part in their ornamental navy military jackets topped with epaulettes, cheering “S-V-T” with Pledis pride. This transitioned smoothly into a modern, more synth-y (if that’s even possible) version of Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry.” It may not be the first time the group has shown us their spin on the iconic dance (check out their “Weekly Idol” appearances), but it’s exciting nevertheless seeing it done on American soil. To wrap it all up, Seventeen paid homage to the reigning kings of K-pop TXVQ with their bubbly render of the 2006 song “Balloons,” which is, like, oh my god, the last time they did this was when they were still trainees shooting for their mini series “Seventeen TV.” Not tied down by any choreography, the twelve were finally able to make full use of the extended stage, merrily greeting their U.S. fans for the first time.


Also on Kultscene: Tips on How to Maximize Your KCON 2016 Experience

Dynamic Duo Brings the Club Over to KCON

Debuting in 2003, Dynamic Duo made the most sense as headliners. But more than just seniority, they also possess the attitudes and the finesse of a headliner. Before they even stepped foot on stage, their digital selves were already initiating a call and response tactic, asking “Who Are We?” followed by concert attendees hollering out their names. When they did make their noble entrance, they came in full-force from the get-go with “BAAAM,” employing more call and response approaches. Jiving freely to the upbeat tempo that the DJ on stage was mixing, they had genuine fun on stage and the audiences reciprocated that.

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Courtesy of CJ E&M

By the time they were performing the EDM infused hip-hop jam “Shoot – Goal In” the crowd were already on their feet, dancing in place. Again, who knows how many folks actually knew the song, never mind the lyrics, but the manner in which members Choiza and Gaeko were able to hype each other up (e.g. – rapping to each other as opposed to with each other, echoing each other’s words, etc.) was entertaining to watch and exhibited real artistry.

The rest were an honest blur. The duo picked up enough momentum and was not about to break it as they went straight into Gaeko’s own percussion based “Rhythm is Life.” When the time came to conclude the night already, they were bouncing around to their dance party anthem “Friday Night,” which could it be any more fitting? In the midst of the smoke and light sticks, the place was a full fledge rave, and everyone was high.

And with the customary shower of confetti, Day 1 of KCON 16 NY was over. A vast improvement from last year’s KCON NY, it really set the bar high for future ones. One day of KCON NY fun still remains, however, who knows what will happen then?

Did you attend KCON 16 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.