Readers may be familiar with rookie boy group Mont (Members Of the National Team) from the disastrous YG survival show, Mix Nine. In the show, Yang Hyun-suk visited an agency located in the far mountains, away from the busy, chic and trendy city of Seoul. He expected to find country hicks, not trainees. Instead, he got the raw talent of the boys that would go on to debut as Mont — leader Narachan, vocalist Bitsaeon, and rapper Roda. Even YG could not’t bear to leave them off his bus of trainees that passed the auditions for the show.

A little over a year later, Mont debuted on 4 January 2019 under Fly Music Entertainment. The group is presently performing at venues around the world, from Asia to upcoming concerts in Europe and Latin America. I had the chance to catch the concert at their Mumbai stop for India’s Mont For You tour.

Mont’s discography, consisting of nine distinct songs, is largely energetic, cheerful, and sweet. In keeping with the tone of their music, the boys introduced the concert by first referring to the “floods” (i.e. heavy rains) drowning Mumbai when they arrived and stated that they hoped the concert would “get rid of your [fans’] worries.”

The concert was preceded by a Meet & Greet, and album and poster signing, among other things. By the time I arrived for the concert, fans were already euphoric from earlier events. As Mont are rookies from an unknown agency, tickets were inexpensive and the audience, small. I would venture to guess that no more than 150 fans attended the Mumbai stop — but do not let that fool you into thinking the concert was a lackluster affair. Cheers were so loud, you would be forgiven for thinking that the audience was at least double its actual size. During the concert, Narachan admitted that hearing the rousing and enthusiastic cheers of fans had made the members standing backstage nervous.

Understandably so, production and stage design were non-existent. Mont performed on a bare stage framed by ordinary black and red curtains, and the much too-bright lights of a regular college auditorium. The VCR, a fancy backdrop, mid-concert water sprays, even colored lighting — all staples of K-pop concerts — were absent. I suspect that this is more to do with the venue than with Mont concerts in general as images from the earlier Bangalore concert do show some of the aforementioned elements.

On a naked stage stripped completely bare of any effects, there was nothing to distract the audience from the three boys on stage, as they were forced to hold the attention of the crowd on their own, alone. It is here that Mont proved their mettle.

What could have easily become yet another stage by university students at that college auditorium, remained a professional performance worth paying for. Mont are true K-pop idols, trained performers with the stage skills necessary for such days. Special effects — though they would have undoubtedly added value to the stage — were not missed. Instead, Mont effectively utilized the small size of the crowd to turn the concert into a uniquely intimate affair.

The three members led the concert themselves in English as best they could, intermittently calling in a translator to help. Each song was introduced with a small skit, a mix of spontaneous and pre-prepared lines, about it. For instance, at one point Narachan asked Roda why he looked so tired. Roda replied with a comical sag of his shoulders, “I’m so tired.”

The audience burst into laughter.

Looking sheepish, Roda explained, “Because, next song….”

Turns out the next song on the setlist, “Tired,” has a misleading name. It is loud, cheerful, and energetic. A song meant to bring you to life when you can no longer summon the will to move. The members also made sure to let us know it was a self-composed and self-choreographed song.

In this way, beginning the concert with their debut title “Will You Be My Girlfriend?”, Mont covered the whole of their discography, two BTS covers (“Idol” and “Boy With Luv”) and special solo stages in vocals by Bitsaeon, dance by Narachan, and rap by Roda (that left the boys shocked at how good they were, if they do say so themselves). Despite being a group of only three, Mont used the entire stage, spreading out during their choreography and moving around constantly with seemingly limitless energy, so that the spacious stage never seemed to overshadow them.

The small size of the crowd meant that even during the concert, Mont was able to interact with individuals in the audience, and not just with the audience as a collective of people. They occasionally attempted to teach fan chants, only to be surprised each time that fans knew the chants already. They responded to questions and comments from individual fans and asked their own questions.

The interaction was bolstered by fans’ attempts to communicate in Korean, leading Narachan to ask the occasional fan if she had studied the language. Such was the love that when Mont asked, in the lead up to the BTS covers, whether fans loved any other group, the crowd replied with a resounding, “Only Mont!”

Even as Narachan worked hard to lead the fan interaction, Bitsaeon showed off his vocals and Roda, his rap. I admit I was not expecting the Mont members to be this strong. I am familiar with Roda’s rap abilities, which are well suited to more aggressive songs like “Long Live The Republic of South Korea,” but it was Bitsaeon’s vocals that took me by surprise. Mont’s main vocal is more powerful live than one would expect from the digital versions of their songs alone. By all accounts, Mont’s vocal abilities stood the test of a Hindi song performed live in Bangalore, but sadly, the song was not performed in Mumbai.

Speaking of Narachan, it was his birthday! And Roda had just wrapped up his. Cakes were brought in, fans sang the birthday song in Korean, wishes were made. Of course, the wish made was to return to Mumbai.

Perhaps because it was stripped bare off all effects, Mont brought a sweetness and innocence to the stage that I have not seen in other concerts, K-pop or otherwise. There was a sweetness tinged with a more edgy appeal led primarily by Roda’s slight but unmistakable hip hop swagger and occasional ad libs. All things considered, if Mont are stopping by your city, I recommend taking the opportunity to see them. Who knows? This nugu group may defy the odds and go on to fly high one day.

(Instagram, YouTube. Images via Fly Music Entertainment, Kpop High India, Pink Box Events)