Being the longest-running KCON running and having just completed its sixth year, KCON LA has arguably the strongest lineups and the best stages each year. This year proved to be no different as the two nights of concerts and three days of convention electrified the crowd at Staples Center. Those of us who were fortunate enough to attend got to experience three days of convention which included panels, workshops (including two of which was hosted by our very own Lindsay), and countless events meant to engage the fans and keep them entertained during the day. But it’s undeniable that the main reason why most people attend KCON is for the two nights of concerts, which is mostly what we’ll be focusing on.

Here’s the lineup for both nights:

Night 1 
Cosmic Girls (WJSN)
Girl’s Day
Super Junior-D&E

Night 2
Oh My Girl
Wanna One
Kim Tae-woo
NCT 127

Our team of writers who attended share their thoughts on: Who was the best? Who was disappointing? What were your favorite special stages? Did you decide to stan any new groups?

Mark: It’s hard to say which artist was the best because I enjoyed almost every stage but, for me, I found the first night’s concert more enjoyable because it had the lineup I was more excited for. I especially enjoyed the stages for Girl’s Day, VIXX, and Seventeen because seeing them live with the crowd going nuts is very different from watching them perform on music shows. I was surprised that Seventeen got the headlining act over VIXX but judging by the volume of cheers, it seemed like it was well deserved. Bugs Bunny must have been a special guest that night judging by the number of Carats present.

I was particularly happy about the special stages of the first night’s concert. Not only did we get a rendition of “City of Stars” from Leo of VIXX and Minah of Girl’s Day, but we also got to see each Seventeen sub-unit take the stage. However, my favorite special stage of both nights was the Cosmic Girls one. It was completely unexpected because they were supposed to cover a K-pop “classic,” and when I heard that I immediately rolled my eyes and thought here comes another overdone cover of SNSD‘s “Gee.” But, to my surprise, the Cosmic Girls came out in a shirt and tie getup and did a cover of BTS‘ “I Need U.” It looked odd seeing all 13 members do the choreography but I think the numbers worked in their favor as it added to the shock factor of the performance.

Speaking of Cosmic Girls, I got to know the group a lot better from speaking with fans at their fan club meeting. In addition, watching them live allowed me to appreciate the blocking required of a 13-member choreography. It’s something that isn’t easy to grasp from a televised performance because the cameras are always focused on specific members and rarely on the group as a whole. Needless to say, I’ll definitely be paying more attention to this group going forward.

Camiele: The biggest surprise for me was NCT 127. Not only was I able to gain a greater appreciation for their music from the two producer panels I attended (Multifacetedacg‘s “Great Moments in Production & Delivery” and “LDN Noise”), their stage was also magnificent. The baaaaaasssss! And, yes, I had to write it that way. It was just so gritty, so crunchy, and just downright dirty! It really was an eye-opener for me of just how great they are. They’re gonna be a force to be reckoned with in the coming year or two, I swear!

I was also pleasantly surprised and completely blown away by Girl’s Day. Okay, yes, I know I’m late. But I mean their performance made me not only realize that I’m a fan, but that I’ve been a fan for years without even knowing it! They have so much fire, so much spunk. When the screen lifted and revealed them standing there, poses at the ready in the center, my instant reaction was, “Now who are these bad bitches?!”

However, the highlights for me are probably going to be more surprising. First of all, KRNFX was hands down and unequivocally my favorite performer the entire weekend, and he was just an opening act. It was just him, his mic, and his looper, and he completely tore that stage apart and had the entire crowd in hysterics. He was just that damn good. And for a single person to get on the stage and destroy it the way he did? It was more than me just being a fan of his and wanting to see him do his thing live. His was such an organic setup, he blew me away with just how powerful he is as a performer. Then he brought out Lydia Paek, and I just gave up my soul. That woman is a gift.

Runner-up (but by the slimmest of margins) would have to be Heize. In just two songs she had me emotionally wrecked. She’s another who came to the stage and killed it without even trying. The special event KCON planned for her was truly one of the most emotional, most intimate moments of the entire weekend. Her emotion when she saw all the lights the fans held up for her performance of “Star” nearly had me in tears.

And can we just talk about the power vocals of Kim Tae-woo?! To say I was slain in the spirit may be overdone, but dammit I was! My entire soul left my body when he snatched them high notes out of the air!

The biggest disappointment for me was Cosmic Girls and SF9. We all know most everybody lip-syncs (except for the soloists and the old-school acts, who, let me just say, SLAYED the damn stage and taught these young’ins a lesson about how it’s really done), so that’s not a surprise. But at the very least we’d expect them to be able to lip-sync on time to the music. I won’t dwell too much on it because I honestly lost interest after their first songs.

Cjontai: The ones who surprised me the most were Astro. They had this opening with only two of their members, which confused me initially because I couldn’t figure out who they were. It was so powerful and clean that I assumed it was Got7 or Wanna One. I know they’re talented from what I’ve seen from music shows, but I still wasn’t prepared.

Another highlight for me were the Pinata segments. Normally, international fans can only view these variety-oriented interactions through fancams from Korean engagements. It was nice of these artists to interact with us. We’re so used to feeling like outsiders since we’re foreigners that I appreciated this acknowledgment of us being a part of the K-pop fandom.

I think that’s what made the fan engagements more meaningful as well. Nobody was late, as far as I know, and each artist spent a good hour answering questions and playing games. I could feel the love, and I believe they could too.

I didn’t really have any disappointments except for KARD and VIXX. Their stages felt too short. Just as I’m getting into their vibe, it’s time for the next artist. They weren’t shortchanged; everyone got a fair amount of accommodation for their performances. I’m simply a fan that wanted more because they were so good.

I was a little surprised to see Seventeen as the headliner instead of VIXX on the first night. I mean, they definitely put on a show worthy of the honor, but I assumed it would’ve gone to a more seasoned group. Not mad at it, however, since Seventeen was the main reason I came to KCON.

Lindsay: I’m going to agree with Camiele that my most gloriously surprising group was NCT 127. I’m already a big fan of them, so it wasn’t a revelation in that sense, but just like you said, they are SO MUCH better live than I could ever have anticipated. I felt that their performance was the highlight of the entire weekend, not only for me but for many in the crowd. As the K-pop idols like to say, it was lit. There’s something to be said for the emphasis SM Entertainment always seems to put on performance-based choreography, and on that note I just want to be clear that I know they were lip-syncing and I don’t particularly care; I didn’t feel that the lack of live vocals took away from their stage presence, whereas it does for other groups.

In this regard, I also have to give Wanna One their due. Their performances were smooth, powerful, and showed the amount of hard work and dedication these guys have had to put into “debuting.” It was like watching a much older, more experienced group take the stage and I can only assume the trial by fire they went through on Produce 101 has something to do with that. But yeah, as Cjontai points out, their fans were by far the most visible and intense within the KCON audience. Again, we can thank Produce 101 for that (it’s honestly a shame they’ll be disbanded).

Two of my favorite moments of the weekend happened during the Sunday concert: 1) making KARD’s Somin cry by singing her happy birthday, and 2) making Heize cry by doing a special camera light event during her song. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen K-pop idols cry at KCON and I think it shows the increased attempt to connect fans to idols within the concert context, as Cjontai pointed out.

Mark: I totally agree that NCT 127 killed it on stage and, judging from the cheers they received during member introductions, they seemed to have the most fans in attendance despite Got7 being the headlining act of Sunday night. I didn’t feel that the lip-syncing took away from my enjoyment of the performances either because it’s K-pop, after all, and even if some parts are sung live, the voices have to be processed anyway to make them sound more like the song. I was there for the physical performances and, based on how winded and sweaty the performers looked, I’m sure I got what I came for.

My favorite moment of both nights was actually watching the Oh My Girl members speak English. Having been to their labelmate B1A4‘s concert, I have a sense that WM Entertainment wants their idols to engage international fans by memorizing and rehearsing lines in English to the point where they come off as semi-fluent despite the lines sounding somewhat trite. And there’s always that one member who has to take bear the brunt of the burden and for Oh My Girl, that member is Seunghee. The way she delivered her many lines with such confidence, spunk, and tenacity really showed her dedication and willingness to relate to the fans. The fact that each member spoke in English and didn’t resort to the subtitles on the big screen to convey their message was a bonus. Unfortunately, they quickly rushed off the stage after only performing two songs. Customs at LAX must have gotten word that they were there.

Like Lindsay, I too enjoyed seeing the performers get emotional at certain moments. The artist-fan engagement really added something to the show. Speaking of fan engagement, the Pinata (or if you’re Astro, Pina colada minus the “cola”) segments were new and unexpected, though very much welcomed.

Lindsay: Oh my gosh, yes, Seunghee was the star of my night. She was so cute and bubbly. I also appreciate how well they integrated group members into the concert as MCs. Jackson, unsurprisingly, stole the show. However, I think everyone did a very good job with their English and it is a testament to the benefits of creating globalized K-pop groups that include members from countries outside of Korea.

As for the variety elements, some worked better than others. I think my big takeaway from KCON as a whole this year is that throwing “swag” into a rabid crowd of fans is a terrible, terrible idea. The members of Astro ended up telling the audience to be careful because they were all fighting so hard to get a hold on those signed shirts (and this was not the first time over the weekend I had witnessed such a scene). Basically, variety elements good, throwing stuff into crowds bad; more sexy poses and fun dancing, please.

Readers, did any of you attend the convention or the concerts at KCON LA 2017? Please share with us your experiences! If you’re looking for more photos from Saturday’s red carpet, please be sure to check out our Facebook page.