It’s been a bit over a week now, since KCON 2017 NY presented by Toyota, descended upon Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center, breaking all sorts of records over the course of the 2-day event. With more than 120 special guests engaged in panels, workshops and the like, a 2-day eSports tournament, over 100 sponsors and partners, this year’s East Coast edition of the Hallyu-filled convention had much to offer. Being a panelist myself, I’d love to say that having the chance to sit down and chat with some of your favorite YouTubers, writers, bloggers and the like, is what really drew in fans by the tens of thousands. But we all know that really, it was the 9 incredible artists scheduled not only to perform, but to appear at various fan interaction engagements as well, was what really drew in the 43,000 fans from all over the world.
With a lineup that included CNBLUE, Zion.T, Highlight, TWICE, NCT 127, GFriend, SF9, KNK and UP10TION, you can see why so many were drawn to this year’s New York convention. Having the chance to see Highlight alone was enough to entice me to make the 862 mile trip and I have to say, it was totally worth it!
Of course Highlight wasn’t the only group beckoning me to the Big Apple. Oh no! With all of my favorite rookie groups performing in one place, there was no way I was going to miss it! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when the lights of the Prudential Center dimmed on Friday and KNK took the stage. Oh my gosh, I thought my heart was going to explode! Opening the show with their latest release, “해, 달, 별 (Sun, Moon, Star)” KNK took the stage and I swear, I almost died! Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one. The remarks of those around me, as KNK lit up the stage was nothing short of fantastic. Wooing the crowd with their many charms, KNK’s performance was one I’ll never forget. Seeing “Knock,” with all its eye-catching choreography (and Youjin’s beautiful high notes), performed live was a literal dream come true.
As is always the case at a KCON concert, one set ends long before you’re ready for it to but you never have time to be sad because something wonderful inevitably follows. Such was the case Friday night, and it came in the form of a collaborative performance between GFriend’s Yuju and Highlight’s Dongwoon. Together they paid tribute to New York City’s famous Broadway musicals with a beautiful rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.” Voices blending in perfect harmony, this duo captivated us all with a performance that won’t soon be forgotten.
Next to take the stage was FNC Entertainment’s first boy group, SF9, and yes, I had a moment. I’ll try to spare you all of my more fangirly moments as I recount SF9’s performance but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be completely successful. Watching these boys perform “Easy Love” was one thing, but hearing them sing “Hey, little mama” in person pretty much made my entire life worth living. Needless to say, I very much enjoyed their performance of “부르릉 (Roar)” and “Fanfare” and okay, you know what? I just loved everything about their performance.
The only thing that really put a damper on my intense moment of fangirl bliss was when SF9 replaced a good portion of their time on-stage with a rather silly “Fortune Wheel” game. I know this was meant to be a fun way for someone in the audience to interact with the group, and I’m sure that for her, it was an amazing experience, but as one who has enjoyed quite a few KCON concerts, this new addition to the evening’s line-up felt very odd. Lucky for us all, the “Fortune Wheel” time did eventually come to an end and the concert was free to resume. SF9 closed out their set with as much fire as when they opened and I watched them leave the stage with happy fangirl tears in my yes. (Yes, I am hopeless.)
GFriend was next to take the stage and I’m happy to say that I’m just as much a fan of these incredibly talented young ladies as ever. Always impressed by 여자친구 their performance was definitely a favorite of the evening, not just of mine, but of the entire audience. There’s something so charming about these girls, it’s impossible not to love them. Seeing “핑거팁 (Fingertip)” performed live was especially fantastic, but “Rough” may still be my favorite. They truly are top-class performers and not even being short a member (Yerin was unable to attend this year’s convention) could put a damper on their set.
After a quick K-Pop Pop Quiz, hosted by SF9’s Rowoon and Inseong, Zion.T took the stage and I was immediately transported to my happy place. Something about having Zion.T and a piano and hearing those few lines of “Complex”… Honestly, it was nothing short of perfection. Maybe it has something to do with his overwhelming stage presence (seriously, the man is absolutely oozing charisma) or maybe it’s just his voice, I don’t know but this icon of the Korean R&B industry had the entire audience enraptured. While “노래 (The Song)” was a particular crowd favorite, it was hearing the entire audience singing along to “Yanghwa BRDG (양화대교)” that really stands out as one of the most memorable moments of the evening.
With the close of Zion.T’s set, the dreaded feelings of finality began to sink into the crowd as there was only one group left to perform that evening. Of course KCON wouldn’t be KCON without a surprise special stage and SF9 filled that role nicely, with a special cover performance of EXO’s “Call me Baby” and BTS’ “Boy in Luv.” With the entire place dancing and singing along, it was a fun stage and easily one of the highlights of the night. The only downside to this particular stage was that both tracks were abbreviated versions which mean the entire stage ended long before anyone was ready.
As much as I would have liked SF9’s special stage to continue, I can’t deny that I was more than a little excited to welcome Highlight to the stage. As a long-time K-Pop fan, being able to see this group (formerly known as BEAST) perform in person was honestly not something I ever thought I’d be able to experience. And yet, there they were, singing and dancing their hearts out on the stage right in front of me. To say I was having a moment would be an understatement. Opening with “Plz Don’t be Sad,” these veterans of K-Pop had the whole place jumping and their flawless performance of “It’s Still Beautiful” was one I’ll never forget. However, as one who has loved and followed this group for nearly a decade, it was their performances of “Good Luck” and “Beautiful Night” that had me in actual, full-on, fangirl tears. Honestly, there are some moments in life that are just too incredible to be real and seeing Highlight close out Friday night’s concert was one of them. Even as I sit here, writing about their performance, it’s hard for me to believe that it actually happened. It was just that incredible of an experience.
With the performances of the evening over, the only thing left to do was have each artist return to the stage for their final farewell. As confetti fell like snow, each act returned to the stage to wave and smile and interact with fans, one last time. Savoring these last few moments, I tried to hold onto the magic of this evening as long as I could. Sadly, as the artists slowly started trickling backstage, the spell that had held us all captive during the concert, slowly began to dissipate. As the last few pieces of confetti fluttered in the air, the last of the artists waved goodbye and just like that, everything was over. Life went back to normal. However, it’s safe to say that everyone in that room went home with memories that will last a lifetime.