It’s no secret that I love music or that I’ve been looking forward to seeing all the different Korean musicians that were scheduled to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year. I mean, I flew all the way to Austin, Texas from Toronto, Canada to see them. Sometimes when you really psych yourself up about something it disappoints, this wasn’t one of those cases. It was a blast to see old favourites live again like Nell and Crying Nut, to discover new favs like Jambinai and Idiotape, and to crush a little on seeing Jay Park so close I could almost touch him. But as usual, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s rewind a bit to before the show.
There’s nothing like wearing a tank top in March or seeing the unbriddled enthusiasm of fans to help one shake off any jet-lag and tiredness and get into the spirit of the show. I chatted with a few random fans from the ‘tickets at the door’ line up (side note: there were three line ups – badges, wristbands and ticket buyers – with those with badges and then wristbands given priority) and while the vast majority of them were there to see Jay Park and HyunA, the two K-pop acts; pretty much all the bands performing were mentioned. But the best part was how once the different bands started playing, the crowd paid attention and lots of them discovered that they liked what they were hearing. How do I know? There was time between the sets to chat and so of course, I did. Those around me were having a blast!
The perfect start to the evening, Jambinai has such an amazing and unique sound. Blending traditional Korean music and instruments with that of a rock band, Jambinai has found a way to make the ancient rock, literally. I liked them when I was just listening to their CD but live they are even better. I’d definitely recommend checking out their music and catching them live if you have a chance!
You would never know they weren’t originally in the line up (their officially scheduled showcase was on Wednesday) as they seemlessly fit in. While screamo isn’t a genre I listen to often, Hollow Jan captivated me while they were on the stage. So much emotion in the music and performance, it was almost impossible not to enjoy their set. If you get the chance to see them live, take it!
I’ll admit, I’m a fan and was super excited at the chance to see them live again (I saw them in Seoul before). Unfortunately, they had some technical problems with a mic which must have been frustrating but otherwise, they had a solid set. The final couple of songs were the best and this was were Nell came alive. I hate to say it, but I was hoping for a little more from them. Not that it was bad, it was a good set.
They always bring so much energy and fun to their performances. I love their music but live… live, they are simply amazing. You get energized just wathcing them. By the time they came on I’d made some new friends in the croud and I told them that they would like Crying Nut. After their set, one of the girls turns to me and says, “you’re right, they are amazing!” I think that, more than anything I can say, speaks to their performance and the crowd’s reaction. They gained fans from their set!
The crossover appeal of Idiotape is emense, especially as nothing can get lost in translation. They came on and immediately the vibe when from rock bar to dance club. Idiotape were completely silent, no interaction with the crowd, just letting their music speak for itself. And speak it did. As a huge Beastie Boys fan from high school, I absolutely loved the remix of Sabotage. If they came to a club in Toronto, they’d kill it!
I’m normally a pretty quiet person but I’ll admit that when Jay Park came on stage, my inner fan girl wanted to come out and play. A consumate performer with buckets of charisma, Jay Park owns the stage… and the crowd went crazy. It was easy to see that he was a fan fav. And just to make the crowd even crazier, he started his set with four layers of clothing – tank top, shirt, sweatshirt, jacket – to strip off… and you knew it was all coming off! He was joined on stage by a couple of dancers and Loco, a labelmate on Jay Park’s new label, who had a smooth rap style and was obviously jazzed about being on stage (huge grin the entire time). I thoroughly enjoyed the set.
Okay, don’t hate me but this was the set that I liked the least. It was the shortest of all the sets and while HyunA made all the right moves and sounded super cute when she was chatting with the audience, she lacked the confidence and charisma the other performers had. That being said, from the pushing and shoving, it was obvious that many in the crowd loved her. And I will admit, her music is catchy.
Oh, did I mention that Lady Gaga stopped by K-pop Night Out to take in the final two sets – Jay Park and HyunA – and could be seen dancing to HyunA’s Bubble Pop.
All in all, it was an amazing show and I loved the format. By putting the non-idol acts before, it helped introduce the audience to a wider variety of Korean music than they may have been aware of beforehand. And it worked. Plus as I arrived early, it was cool seeing them wander in and out of the club (which is how I got the picture above). The club may have been ridiculously hot – I had to leave my prime spot at the front twice to get water so I wouldn’t faint – but it was super fun, there was great music, and the vibe was so possitive towards Korean music. A good “K-pop Night Out”!
To see more pictures from K-pop Night Out (and other Korean music showcases), please check out our Facebook page.