You’re going to learn a lot today, but not much about k-pop. What little you’ll learn about that will be about one group only, because they were my first k-pop concert AND I went to two different events for them. Enjoy the flood of words!
As I detailed previously, my initial experience of Western pop-related concerts began around eighth grade and stemmed mostly from spontaneous invitations rather than any intentionality on my part.
When it comes to k-pop concerts, my attendance at which began in my post-collegiate years, everything has been very intentional. I’ve seen five groups in concert so far, soon to be six as of April 26 (Yo, NCT 127!) – but I’ve been to more than five k-pop concerts. And one GOT7 fanmeet – basically a mini-concert with more interactive games and interviews.
In which tickets are purchased at great expense (that is, the expense of our heroine’s wits & sanity)
GOT7 had the dubious honor of being the very first k-pop group I saw live, and I’m dedicating a whole post to them. Although I’ve lost my fervor for them, they were my first after all – and the whole experience was special to me, not so much because of them but because of the people I went with.
See, after college, I moved home to a place where I knew no one. In an effort to get myself to do more than work and sit at home watching anime and dramas, I decided to start learning Korean – which I have done mostly by teaching myself because there aren’t a lot of cheap options available. However, during that first year of learning (I think I’ve even mentioned on this blog before) the local community college had continuing education courses. And for $99 I could learn Korean for 8 weeks, and meet other people who had a common interest. Sounded like a pretty good deal.Through these classes I met a good friend, B, who now lives and teaches in Korea – although I didn’t really start spending time with her until the second session of the class.
B had been steeped in Korean and k-pop culture for quite a while before I had, so she introduced me to a lot of it, including having been to some k-pop concerts. So in 2016 when GOT7 dropped their album “Flight Log: Departure” and announced a North American tour, she suggested we go – and I enjoyed them enough to decide it was worth spending $250 on tickets that included photo with them. And, you know, go to a concert with people.
My other friend, C, who I had managed to enthuse about k-pop, decided to come with us as well. So I slept over at B’s house Friday night to prepare for ticket buying that Saturday. And sure enough, the next day at 10AM – which is the time all U.S. k-pop tour tickets seem to go on sale, it may be the same with all countries’ acts here – the ticket war began.
I had been supremely confident that just because I had the money to spend on these tickets that we would, in fact, receive them.
Boy, was I wrong.
I figured that if both C and I were on our laptops and her on her phone app as well that we could easily secure them. But when we refreshed our pages at 10AM it was insane. Finding three Priority 1 (P1) tickets for three people proved impossible – I quickly handed my laptop to B and got on the phone with the automated box office and managed to buy some tickets through there, taking what I could get. We ended up with an assortment of five tickets, all separated and of nearly the lowest price. Meaning so-so seats and no photo.
As disappointed as I was not to get the chance to meet them, which I had been extremely hyped to do, I bolstered my feelings by keeping in mind that I was going at all, and going with friends at that! So we booked a hotel – the concert was a five hour drive away – and pre-ordered our Agha-bongs* in preparation.
The concert date rolled around. C lived in a completely different state, so two days before, she flew in and the three of us stayed the night at B’s house. We drove out to the concert city, five people stuck in a sedan – B’s mom and brother came since we needed to do something with those extra tickets! After getting comfy in our hotel we explored the city for a while.
In which details of the concert are quickly passed over
The next day being Sunday (WHY a concert was on a Sunday?? I guess k-pop acts take what they get in the U.S.) C and I went to Mass, then we all checked out of our hotel and headed toward the venue. Nearby was an H-Mart – a Korean grocery store – so we stopped there to eat and look around. Inside most H-Marts (they are all around the country wherever there’s a large Korean population) there are also a few – or a lot – of other smaller stores selling various merchandise. So that’s where I bought, for the first time with my own money and not as a gift, a k-pop album, but I can’t remember for the life of me which one (and I remember how I got all my albums!).
I also utilized my then rudimentary Korean and the shop owners were impressed, thereby tripling the amount of free pens they had already given us.
Finally, finally we got to the concert, and it was as fun as expected. The downsides (let’s get them out of the way): sitting separately from each other; the venue being in the round but the stage – and the walls around it – being square, so occasionally my view of a member was cut off by the wall; and the intense, unnecessary screaming and occasional obscene comment while the members or their translator was talking.
To that last point: I scream as much as the rest of them at these concerts. But even at Josh Groban, the JoBros, and Switchfoot/Relient K I didn’t encounter people screaming while the artist was talking. It’s disrespectful and quite frankly communicates – whether you intend it or not – that you see these people purely as objects, because what it does is effectively block them from speaking. It doesn’t matter what they want or what they have to say. You want to scream in a frenzy because they open their mouth? That’s not respect. At best it’s misguided enthusiasm; at worst slavish devotion and possessiveness.
Ahem. I’ll get off my soapbox. I’ll get on it again in a later post about one of these concerts because believe it or not there’s more to say.
On to the upsides!
GOT7 has two members who speak English fluently and a couple of others who are very good at it, so that added to the experience. Mark and Jackson could make jokes and help hype the crowd a bit more, and we didn’t always have to wait for a translator. They performed well, and at one point came out into the crowd! Unfortunately for C and I, though they passed near us we couldn’t see them super well due to being slightly towards the center of our respective rows. But we had fun waving our lightsticks around all the same!
The most enjoyable stages they performed were when two members paired together to perform never-before-heard songs, like “1:31 AM” and “WOLO.” My personal favorite was Mark and Jinyoung’s “Higher,” where they dressed in powder pink and blue suits respectively, and using heavily streamer-covered mics; making them look, as C put it, like anime magical girls. And she meant that in the most complimentary way possible.
I had wondered if they would ever release it on an album, and was disappointed when their next two albums showed nary a sign of it. To my surprise I discovered it on their most recent release – they made us wait almost two years for all these songs they teased at concerts!
In which our heroine and her friends experience the rest of the day & night in a haze & she somehow manages to wake up covered in a blanket she most certainly did not fall asleep with
After the concert, we went to a Korean sauna/bathhouse/spa/whatever you want to call it (찜질방) for the first time ever, and it was fun. Sort of awkward at first – if you use the baths you have to be naked after all – but fun. The way they work is you go in and pay for entry good for 24 hours and are given sauna clothes (shorts and top) and an electronic wristband that looks like a watch – so you can add any other purchases inside to your tab. Then you enter the locker rooms and baths – separated, of course, by gender – where you can choose to use the baths or not, but MUST change into the sauna clothing. B’s mom opted out of the baths, but us other three decided to take the plunge, and after the initial awkwardness, enjoyed it immensely.
The actual room with the baths was echo-y and we got dirty looks when we spoke too loud (and they told us a couple of times, I think, to keep our hair out of the water? I had mine up in a ponytail but my hair was long and I am short – there was only so much I could do). And there were three baths – a normal warm one, sort of like a hot tub; a ridiculously hot one; and then a super, super cold one that ended in a wall with a waterfall. We decided to experience all three – but chose not to take advantage of the $90 massages (though I desperately want to do that and now actually LIVE near several saunas so I totally should try).
Then there was the sauna room itself. Actually, it was one giant area filled with smaller rooms. Each room had a different theme and supposedly got this or that toxin out of your body. While that’s pretty much balderdash – though there are health benefits to saunas! – the rooms were very pretty and the experience relaxing. They had all sorts of rooms – the Gold Pyramid, Salt Room, Amethyst Room, Charcoal Room, and the “Fire Sudatorium” at an insane temperature. My favorite, though, was the Ice Room, because a) the cool was a nice contrast to all the other warm rooms and b) it was lit with blacklights so our teeth glowed unnaturally bright and a little bit blue.
This place, giant as it was, also included a movie room full of recliners. Since B, C, and I didn’t go to bed until 1 AM (we didn’t get there until at least 11PM ok!!), we missed out on getting nice comfy recliners, and didn’t think to check upstairs for space because we didn’t know there was an upstairs (!). So we slept on awkwardly in giant chairs (B got lucky with a sofa).
And I woke up with a blanket I most certainly not had when I fell asleep so someone was very kind but also slightly creeped me out.
Some of us ate at the cafe there the next morning – yes, there is food. They just scan your wristband-thing, and when you leave you pay for whatever is on your tab. And then we proceeded to drive home and all went about our business afterwards.
Overall, then, for GOT7 themselves: they gave great, fun performances. But as with most concerts, there’s not a whole lot to remember about them – it’s more the memory of the experience being enjoyable, and it was.
That’s kind of GOT7’s characteristic! Not being bad or mediocre, not being the most excellent, but providing talent and solid good fun.
In which our heroine takes to this day the fastest journey of her life
Which is why 6 months later in January 2017 the three of us (just us three this time) found ourselves going to the GOT7 fanmeet on a Wednesday. C and I had to work the day before and after. No, no weekend leisurely trip was this – it was a night-before flight in for C and a day trip there and back in my new car. The first time I ever took a similar day trip but not quite the last.
Being in the same city as before and being only a five hour drive, we had some time to kill before the fanmeet, so we returned again to the H-Mart and stores within; once again purchasing, of course, certain merchandise. Mine at the time was INFINITE’s album “Infinite Only,” released a few months prior and my very first INFINITE album. The editing on that photoshoot was so bad even the members poked fun at it in an interview. Really, it’s like they edited the members to look like each other!
If you don’t know them super well you might not be able to tell…but I think the editing is pretty obvious!
We went to a Starbucks as the sun went down to finish prepping for the fanmeet and open our goods – I to be disappointed by this awful editing, C to be amazed at SHINee’s “Misconceptions of Us” that was two albums in one.
Eventually of course it was time so we made our way over, and butted in line even though the security guard passive-aggressively called us out and glared at us. I’m not proud of it but I will make excuses: it was absolutely freezing out and the mass of people was not moving! They left ginormous three or four foot gaps between one set of people and the next because they were too busy talking. And quite frankly if you don’t care enough to pay attention, don’t seem to mind the cold, and we’re cold (AND we’ve all been assigned seats, this isn’t General Admission) it serves you right that us three would hop in.
Luckily, the three of us sat together this time and got to enjoy each other’s comments and reactions together. The fanmeet was fun, like the concert. It included some dance performances but a few interviews and games: for instance, interviews with fan questions on stick notes stuck to a board; and a Korean hacky-sack type game. At the beginning of the fanmeet they actually handed out tickets, and for this game called numbers – seven lucky fans got to partner with the members! I really wanted to be one (none of us three were) but at the same time I reveled in my disappointment because I was sure I would make a fool of myself up there.
The highlight of this event was Jinyoung using more English – his voice is lovely velvet as it is, and he had clearly worked hard to prepare a comment so we were all very proud.
After the fanmeet, we jetted out quickly so we could catch at least some Z’s eventually. After a while we stopped at a fast food restaurant to eat and watched the video GOT7 was streaming live from backstage after their meet-and-greet photo ops were done. They were tired but pumped, and I was chuffed because one of the members, BamBam, said he had eaten seollongtang (설렁탕) which I had also eaten for the very first time that day.
Somehow we made it home and slept, and C made it to her flight. And then we went right back to daily life.
And those are my experiences seeing GOT7 live! Probably should’ve called this “Sauna with a side of GOT7” but whatever.
We’ll see how long the rest of these posts are….