Review: K-pop Night Out at SXSW

The K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
The K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

As the first of the two major Korean showcases at South by Southwest (SXSW), K-pop Night Out was one you didn’t want to miss. And luckily, it moved to a bigger venue this year so there was room for more fans and more fun. Speaking of the venue, I loved it as the stage and the main audience area were outside so everyone was able to relax and enjoy the gorgeous weather. There was also a rooftop patio where you could catch a bird’s eye view of the performers if you were lucky.

Like last year, there were seven artists and bands that showcased a variety of different musical genres from glam metal to R&B to electronic. Individually, I loved all the sets but I would have ordered them a bit different. I would have put Haihm first or perhaps second rather than fifth but kept the rest in the order they were. Why? Her set changed the vibe and the show would have flowed better if it went from Mamamoo to DEAN. But perhaps that’s just me. Regardless, it was a fun show with a ton of great music and that’s what K-pop Night Out is all about… showcasing some of the fabulous music that Korea has to offer.

K-pop Night Out at SXSW

So let’s talk about the music…

Bye Bye Badman at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
Bye Bye Badman at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

Bye Bye Badman

Every year at K-pop Night Out, there’s a group that catches my attention and this year, it was Bye Bye Badman. Their sound is just so likable. They were a great opening act to grab everyone’s attention and establish the mood and energy of the show… plus, I’m sure their set garnered them some new fans.

Victim Mentality at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
Victim Mentality at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

Victim Mentality

As always, I love their energy. Victim Mentality are one of those bands that’s just a treat to see live. The theatrics, the showmanship, the costumes – all of it add to their music to make it a show you don’t want to miss. And this set was no different.

Love X Stereo at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
Love X Stereo at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

Love X Stereo

I always enjoy seeing Love X Stereo, plus there was the added bonus of getting to hear their new songs live (and a cover of one of my favourite bands). Lead singer Annie Ko’s voice is just so beautifully haunting and is able to convey such emotion that you can’t stop listening.

Mamamoo at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
Mamamoo at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

Mamamoo

They have such powerful vocals and they really seemed truly happy to be performing. Other than a little choreographed dancing, they let their music take center stage, and it did.

Haihm at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
Haihm at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

Haihm

Haihm’s set was dark – both literally (there was no lights used for most of it) and emotionally as her music seemed to speak to the listener’s emotions. While it didn’t really fit into this showcase, at least not in the time slot it had, there was a lot of beauty to her music. I would love to hear her again but in a different setting.

DEAN at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
DEAN at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

DEAN

Oh, I see so many possibilities for DEAN. He’s the total package – a great voice, songwriting chops, solid stage presence and good looks. His set was short but nonetheless, one that captured the audience’s attention and a few hearts from the chatter I overheard.

Zion. T at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016
Zion. T at the K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW 2016

Zion.T

Love, love, love his set. Okay, I was expecting to as I’ve been a fan for a while and he has a lovely voice, but he impressed me. Zion.T has such magnetism that even though he stayed pretty much in one spot on the stage, you couldn’t look away. Like I said, I love his voice but live, it’s magic.

Final Thoughts

While this year’s K-pop Night Out lacked some of the flashiness of last year’s show, it was a fun night of great music. And as a showcase of some of what Korea has to offer, music-wise, it definitely hit the mark by promoting a variety of great musicians – from indie to upcoming to established artists. You’re not going to go wrong from listening to any of the seven so check them out if you haven’t already.

Do I wish the order was a little different? Yes, I think the flow would have been better but nevertheless, it was a fun night despite the challenges as a photographer (but that’s another story altogether ^^). Speaking of photos, if you want to see more, check out our Facebook page.

Where you at the 2016 K-pop Night Out showcase at SXSW? What did you think? Who did you like best?

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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