The fragrant smoke from grilling meat fills your nose, the sound of pop music melodies fill the air, and a crowd of hot, sweaty, sunburned but smiling people surround you. Kcon is a world of its own. The largest K-pop related event in North America, it brings fans of K-drama, K-pop music, Korean fashion, and Korean food from all over the world to Los Angeles for the weekend.
There are a million things to talk about when it comes to Kcon but what really sets it apart from any other K-pop fan-organized convention or event is the concert. This year it was a two night extravaganza of some of the biggest names in K-pop and some of the most up-and-coming rookies as well.
Kcon made a lot of big changes this year. That’s to be expected as the convention organizers learn and the convention grows and some of the biggest changes were directly related to the concert itself. The most obvious change – and the one that pretty much every other change stemmed from – was that they switched from a one night concert to a two night concert experience. This had both benefits and downfalls.
On the one hand, having two nights of concert allowed for more K-pop groups to attend. This is probably the most important benefit in my mind because the more K-pop groups I can see at one time without having to travel the better. Why only see six groups when I can see ten? Equally important is that the two nights of concert time meant each group got to perform more songs than they did last year. Once again, why see three songs by each group when I can see five?
Unfortunately, changing to two nights of concert also raised the prices of the convention tickets. This came as an unpleasant shock to some people as the prices from last year weren’t cheap in the first place. However, it is unrealistic to expect two big scale concerts to be cheap. Even when it isn’t K-pop music festivals are expensive and when it comes to K-pop, and all of the groups have to be imported, it is understandable that the price tag is high. Would I like to see Kcon find a way to manage the finances so more fans can come without breaking the bank? Of course, but that may take some more time.
A new option Kcon offered was only buying concert tickets for one night. These tickets came with convention access for both days but only included entrance to one of the concerts. While I’m sure many people are like me and wanted to go both nights, there are plenty of fans who only want to go if one of their favorite groups is going to perform. By offering one night concert tickets Kcon allowed fans to make that choice for themselves as opposed to being forced to sit through a concert where none of the groups may have interested them.
While we are on the topic of prices, let’s talk about the seats in the concert venue. I say this with the utmost confidence; there’s not a bad seat in the house. Every price level of seat had its benefits and downfalls. The two expensive ticket options are for the standing floor area which insures a close-up view of the idols’ faces. I suggest these tickets if your ultimate bias group is performing and you not only want to see the sweat drip down their faces but also want a chance to meet them.
Comfort, however, is not the expensive tickets’ strong point. You’ll spend more time standing in line, more time standing in general, and that should be taken into consideration. Kcon tried to do a better job of organizing the line up for floor admission this year, but it still isn’t perfect. Security still isn’t getting the details communicated to them and likewise there were fans that got screwed over when it came to concert entry. Another small issue this year was that the stage was very, very, tall which meant that the floor level viewers did have to crane their necks up a little and couldn’t see the far side of the stage well. If there is anything I’d like to see go back to the way it was in 2013, the stage height would be it.
The rest of the seats are numbered and involve actual chairs and likewise are much easier to line up for. These seats are up in the balcony area so the biggest downfall is that you won’t be as close to the idols, they won’t see your face, and you may miss out on some idol/fan interaction. On the bright side, though, you will be able to see the entire stage perfectly and the best of the balcony seats are actually still very close to the stage. Personally, I’d say the bottom row of the balcony is the best place to be in the entire arena.
The higher you get in the balcony the farther away you are from the stage, but I can tell you from first hand experience that even the cheapest tickets in the very back are good seats — especially if you are a choreography buff. You can still see the idols very clearly, even their facial expressions if they are facing you, and all of the dance moves and choreography blocking is crystal clear in a way you never get from the choppy camera work of music shows. Don’t be afraid to spend a little less money, especially if you want to go both nights, because it will still be a great show.
At this point you are probably begging me to get on with it and actually tell you about the groups that performed. Mcountdown will be sharing the filmed version of the concert and there are already a ton of fan cams, so I suggest you check them out rather than take my word for it. I can wax poetic about VIXX‘s choreography, SPICA‘s live singing, SNSD‘s cuteness, and BTS‘s energy, but without seeing it for yourself it is difficult to understand the magnitude of the experience. I will say this; I never regret going to Kcon, not matter how sweaty, sunburned, and tired I get, because seeing K-pop groups perform live is awe inspiring.
It is also never the same twice, as Teen Top and G. Dragon can attest to. Having attending both years, they are what you would call Kcon veterans – an it showed! Teen Top was ten times more relaxed and on point than last year, which was a hug relief. And G. Dragon, well, let’s just say taking off his sunglasses this year made up for his disengaged attitude last year. He really connected with the fans and many told me it was almost like seeing his old self.
Kcon still has many issues, they are improving the convention every year. While the concert is certainly a huge part of the event, the rest of the convention has also experienced a lot of upgrades, although I won’t go into them all here. I also encourage anyone that attended this year to contact Kcon directly if you had any issues you want to discuss, have an idea for improvement you want to share, or simply want to thank them for working so hard. If Kcon continues to improve and change in they way they did this year, I can confidently say it will become the number one go-to convention for all things Hallyu someday soon.