Review: Toronto Kpop Con 2015

Loved the way they ended the show... the fans loved them too
Loved the way they ended the show… the fans loved them too

First of all, I want to start with a big congrats to the organizers of Toronto Kpop Con! Despite a few glitches, the day was amazing and I saw lots of happy faces on those attending. There was a lot of engagement in the panels (huge thanks to those who asked questions during my panel!), tons of fans buying things in the marketplace (some stalls even had lineups) and the performers – the dance crews, YouTube stars and NU’EST themselves – all rocked! Huge thanks to Gerald from Pop! Goes the World! for inviting me to host a panel – more on that later.

What was Toronto Kpop Con 2015 like?

On a complete tangent, I keep wanting to write “K-pop” instead of “Kpop” in “Toronto Kpop Con” and having to omit the dash is driving me crazy… or rather crazier than I normally am.^^

But enough of my foibles, let’s talk about Toronto Kpop Con!

One of the cool vendors
One of the cool vendors

The Convention

While I would have liked to sit through all of the panels (I love hearing different people’s opinions), the ones that I saw impressed me and showcased an interesting mix of people and K-pop related topics. Those I saw all brought their A-game. They also generated a lot of fun questions, engagement with the audience and shared different perspectives.

The fabulous Angel introducing the "HALP! My  Sibling is a K-pop Star!" panel with moderator Jorge and guest, Clinton Lau (brother of Henry Lau of Super Junior-M)
The fabulous Angel introducing the “HALP! My Sibling is a K-pop Star!” panel with moderator Jorge and guest, Clinton Lau (brother of Henry Lau of Super Junior-M)

I think the one with Clinton Lau, Henry Lau’s older brother, really stood out for me as it humanized a well-known Canadian K-pop star. Fans – of any genre – are often guilty of putting their idols or favourite stars on pedestal and perhaps not always thinking rationally about them. So it was nice to hear about a K-pop star from the perspective of his older brother in basically the same way we would all talk about our siblings. I think this put an interesting spin on him for fans – and perhaps made them think.

Keynote speaker, iDR and Gerald, Pop! Goes the World  founder
Keynote speaker, iDR and Gerald, Pop! Goes the World founder

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch the later panels as I’d put my media hat on and had other commitments. I was especially sad to miss the Critical K-pop panel as I often enjoy their articles. So if any of our lovely readers caught it, please let us know what you think.

My panel at TKC 2015 with the fabulous Annie, Bernie, Chris and Shawn
My panel at TKC 2015 with the fabulous Annie, Bernie, Chris and Shawn

My Panel

As you may have heard, I hosted a panel at Toronto Kpop Con called “Korean Indie Music 101” to talk about the wider spectrum of Korean music outside of idol music. I was super lucky that the special guests I invited to be panelists all said yes (yay!) with two of them attending in person and two by Skype. Huge thanks and appreciation to Shawn Despres and Chris Park for coming to Toronto for the panel and to Annie Ko and Bernie Cho for Skyping in from Seoul, Korea. Yep, that’s right, two of our panelist participated all the way from Korea!

And while I have been on panels before as a speaker, this was my first time moderating one. Despite a couple of minor technical issues (Annie & Bernie had a hard time hearing us, although we heard them fine), it was a fabulous experience. All four panelists brought a different perspective and experience in the Korean music scene to the table so the information we shared was well-rounded and informative. I’m pretty well-versed on the topic and I even learned something.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to review myself and my panel so I’ll just say that it was a great experience. Special thanks to those who asked questions during our Q&A (yay, people asked questions!) and again to Shawn, Chris, Annie and Bernie for being so amazing!

Editor’s note: a few days after the panel, Annie Ko, lead singer of Love X Stereo, journeyed to Toronto to perform at Canadian Music Week. Of course, I caught one of their shows and chatted with Annie afterwards so stay tuned for the interview and review coming soon. Definitely check out Love X Stereo if you ever have the chance!

Toronto Korean Film Festival (and the lovely Bianca) at TKC
Toronto Korean Film Festival (and the lovely Bianca) at TKC

The Marketplace

There was plenty for K-pop fans to purchase from CDs to buttons to pillows with K-pop idols faces. In addition, a few organizations such as the Toronto Korean Film Festival and U of T Korea Club also had booths that fans could visit. There were even some fan clubs. While not my cup of tea, it was easy to see that many of the booths, especially those selling CDs and cute stuff, were super popular.

My favourite dance crew of the night, East2West
My favourite dance crew of the night, East2West

The Canadian Dream Stage

Now, I’ve seen a lot of K-pop dance groups perform (and dance competitions) over the past couple of years but I have to say, none has impressed me as much as the Canadian Dream Stage. There were ten dance groups who performed, as well as some collaborations, and they were a treat to watch. 

Keely Valentine
Keely Valentine

In addition, the YouTube guests (whom fans could meet & greet before the show as well) also performed a couple of songs. And Keely Valentine did a few songs as well.

Loved the performance by Aaron Lim and Gemini
Loved the performance by Aaron Lim and Gemini

Basically, it was a show… before the show. I have to say though, that one group – East2West (a dance crew from Montreal) – and the collaboration of Aaron Lim and Gemini really stood out for me. Note to self, check out Aaron Lim and Gemini’s YouTube pages, I’d love to hear more from them.

Baekho had a powerful voice...
Baekho had a powerful voice…

NU’EST

I’m going to admit a deep, dark secret… I really didn’t know much about NU’EST before Pop! Goes the World! announced that they would be headlining. Despite being jet-lagged (they only arrived the day before), NU’EST put on a good show (if the screams of the crowd were any indication) punctuated by chats with the audience. Aron and Baekho (translated by CJ Kim of My Music Taste) did most of the talking but all of the interaction was super cute.

Cute pose. Bet those fans are happy!
Cute pose. Bet those fans are happy!

After a solid show, the audience wasn’t done with them so chants of “encore” and “one more song” soon filled the theatre. To which NU’EST responded by performing three more songs. While their performance was probably better appreciated by the fans, their obvious enjoyment of performing (and the fans reactions to them) was evident and fun to watch, especially Baekho, who seemed to spend the entire show smiling.

Too cute, it's a NU'EST train
Too cute, it’s a NU’EST train

Final Thoughts

Yeah, there were a few glitches and things were a little off-schedule (*sigh* no press conference) but for a first major event, run almost entirely by volunteers, it went pretty well. There were definitely lots of happy faces in the crowd – both at the convention and the concert, and the chatter afterwards on social media was positive. Props to Pop! Goes the World! and My Music Taste for a great first Toronto Kpop Con! I can’t wait to see what they have in store for 2016.

The fan signs for the concert, they got quite a reaction from Baekho
The fan signs for the concert, they got quite a reaction from Baekho

Did you go to Toronto Kpop Con? What did you think of it? We’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. And if you want to see more of our photos from TKC, check out our Facebook page!

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday – this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it’s taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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