Although the K-pop invasion in the United States may seem fairly new, K-pop has been infiltrating the state’s music world since years before due to Korean-American communities. The Korean Times has been sponsoring a Korean-themed music festival in Hollywood, California since 2003. In the beginning, they featured now veteran K-pop acts like Gummy, BoA, and Epik High. The festival wasn’t and isn’t limited to K-pop acts though. They’ve presented other acts featuring traditional Korean music, taekwondo, opera singers, dance groups, and even comedic performances. This year the concert was held at the Hollywood Bowl which is an outside venue on a hill. Their line-up included Hyejung Kang, Wonhyun Choi, Taemin (Shinee), Super Junior, Kim Beom-Su, Choi Jin-hee, Kim Yeong-cheol, Tae Jin-ah, DJ Doc, Jung Eun-ji, 6band, Ha Sung Woon (Wanna One), and Lovelyz.
Before their main concert, the festival is open for everyone and anyone to enjoy. However, it’s very much catered to Korea-Americans. The festivities are offered by the sponsors of the event who offer products that are mainly used by the Korean-American community. Sponsors consist of phone companies, banks, airlines, and food markets. Typically, you’ll find the sponsors will be offering goodies in exchange for games, signing up for their programs, or even just following them on Instagram. For instance, Wang Globalnet offered BTS stickers and bottled cold brew coffee with BTS’ faces on them in exchange for promoting their products online. However, this generally isn’t the best place to find K-pop merchandise and you’ll like to end up with just a thousand grocery bags with logos.
This year the concert was hosted by Kim Yeong-cheol (Knowing Bros) and Kei (Lovelyz). Kei was a sweet and quiet contrast to Kim Yeong-cheol’s enthusiastic and charismatic personality. He was definitely the one who stole the show. He casually switched from English to Korean while speaking to the audience as he made his jokes. The comedian even poked fun at himself by pointing out and having the camera pan over to his only two fans in the pit. He also performed his songs and got the audience pumped up as the first “official” act in the line-up. Hands-down, he was one of the best hosts in recent years with the Korea Times Music Festival.
Yeong-cheol is also an example of the festival showcasing other Korean musical acts aside from K-pop. In addition to him, there were opera singers Hyejung Kang and Wonhyun Choi who blew everyone away with their amazing voice control. Legends like Choi Jin-hee and Tae Jin-ah also graced the stage and showed us they can still deliver and hype up the audience. Kim Beom-Su didn’t leave any dry eyes with his beautiful ballads. DJ Doc, who was the final act, ended the show on a high note with their high-energy performance.
K-pop was still an integral part of the festival though. Premiering as soloists, Eun-ji and Sung Woon both showed that they’re capable of performing without their groups. Eun-ji had one of the more mellow performances with her soft voice and slow-paced songs. Sung Woon gave a cutesy performance while wearing a schoolboy uniform with shorts. Lovelyz, the only female group this year, also relied on their aegyo and gave an endearing performance.
One of the highlights of the festival was the funk band, 6band. They were previously known as Rose Motel and even performed last year at the festival. However, they disbanded late last year. Two of the original members returned to the festival but are now known as 6band. Their music is a mix of rock, funk, and silliness. They have a great stage presence that will make you dance and laugh. They’re a great example of hidden gems in the Korean music world that you might have not known before.
The two main acts that everyone was eager to see were Super Junior and Taemin. Typically, headliners end the show but in this case, Super Junior ended the first half of the show. Super Junior didn’t perform their latest hits and instead decided to go for their classics “Sorry, Sorry, “Bonamana, “One More Chance,” and “Miracle.” It was disappointing not to hear their latest singles and I partially hoped Super Junior-D&E would be a special act. However, I can understand why they would choose their classics for this diverse audience. They were also obviously limited on time since they weren’t there for the ending stage. Since it’s rare to see Super Junior in the states in general, it was great to get the chance to see them at all.
Taemin, on the other hand, did perform his latest hits “Want” and “Move” along with “Hypnosis” which is from his first album. He wore an interesting all-white tight suit with one long black glove. He brought some sexy and borderline risque moves to the family-friendly festival. Not that anyone was complaining of course. Again, it’s great to see K-pop acts that rarely come to the states so Taemin was a rare treat.
If you live in the area and are a fan of K-pop music, this is a nice beginner concert to attend. It’s also a great introduction into the different forms of entertainment that Korea has to offer. It’s definitely an event that targets the Korean-American community as the show is all mostly in Korean with no translators like you’d find in other concerts. However, you don’t need to shy away and can still enjoy the energy and beauty of the different kinds of music that it has to offer.
(Images via Korea Times Music Festival)