KCON 2017 LA: The Magic of Saturday Night’s Concert

It’s been a little over a week since KCON 2017 LA, presented by Toyota, wrapped up and yet, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like it was only yesterday that I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people from around the world, all screaming and cheering and crying and laughing and dancing together as we enjoyed one perfect evening of K-pop magic.

I’m sure that to some, calling a single concert magical may seem a bit over-dramatic but honestly, when you attend an event like KCON, and you have a lineup as incredible as this year’s lineup was, with SF9, Girl’s Day, Seventeen, VIXX, Cosmic Girls, NCT 127, Super Junior D&E, Wanna One, ASTRO, GOT7, Heize, and KARD all set to take the stage and guests like Kim Tae Woo and Oh! My Girl scheduled to make special appearances… There just isn’t any other way to adequately describe what such a concert is really like. From the moment the house lights went down and the first dramatic notes of the opening music played, you knew that you were in for something special and for the entire duration of that concert, that feeling never left.

The evening’s magic started Saturday night when the house lights of the Staples Center went down and the giant screens above the stage flashed a message asking everyone to turn on their phone’s flashlights. With tens of thousands of tiny flashlights twinkling, a tall, dark figure hunched over a majestic grand piano came slowly up out of the floor and I swear, it took half a second for me to simultaneously squeal myself hoarse and burst into tears. Yup, my inner fangirl knew exactly who that dark figure was and she was so NOT ready for that sudden appearance by VIXX’s Leo. Sitting at a piano, no less. (Pardon me, I think I may need a moment to compose myself… There are some memories that invoke too many feels, even if they’re over a week old and this just happens to be one of them…)

Photo courtesy of CJ E&M

Opening Saturday night’s concert with Leo and Girl’s Days’ Minah performing the oh-so-deliciously Hollywood-tastic number, “City of Stars” from the film, LaLaLand. My heart was a jumbled up mess of emotions that never once had a chance to calm itself. Not that I’m complaining! Moving from this ridiculously beautiful, had me singing while tears streamed down my face, number into a set by SF9, I had no time to think, or process, or breathe! All I could do was cheer and cry and cheer some more!

Having talked about SF9 and my undying love for FNC’s rookie group when they made their appearance at KCON NY earlier this summer, you’d think I’d have gotten my fill of these 9 incredibly talented boys by now. But no! Oh! No, no, no, no, no! I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of these boys! In fact, I’m pretty sure my love for these guys is only going to grow as the years go by and why shouldn’t it? In the 2 months that passed since I last saw them, not only did their stage presence improve, but their performances did as well. They took the stage in LA by storm and HOLY FLIP! They not only killed their performances of “Fanfare” and “Easy Love” but they also decided to perform “Jungle Game” and yes, I had a freaking cow!

Photo courtesy of CJ E&M

For those of you who may not be quite as familiar with SF9 and their work, “Jungle Game” is one of the 6 tracks on their 2017 EP Burning Sensation. It’s a freakin’ fun track and the choreo is probably the hardest the group has in their entire repertoire to date. The boys have put out dance practice videos and such, on their YouTube channel for this track but it’s not one I’ve ever seen performed live. It’s also never a track I’d have ever dreamed of seeing live. So when they announced that they’d be performing it next, I may have lost my cool. Just a little bit. Or a lot. Maybe.

I’m happy to announce that their performance of “Jungle Game” was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be, and then some. The only sad thing was, their set ended long before I wanted I was ready! Then again, that’s pretty much how my entire KCON experience goes every single year so this isn’t really anything new.

With SF9’s set wrapped up, it was time for Cosmic Girls to take the stage and Oh my word! You talk about cute! These girls, in their little cheerleading uniforms and cute, cute smiles… Ack! They were almost too cute for words! (Seriously, they reminded me of my little girls so much, I almost started crying! I wanted to take them all home with me and feed them cookies and watch sappy rom-coms all night long!) Cosmic Girls (also known as WJSN) filled their 3-song set with fan favorites, “Happy,” “I Wish” and “Secret.”

Photo courtesy of CJ E&M

The only bad thing about going to a KCON concert is knowing that each set is only going to be about 3 songs. It’s sad because just as you’re getting into a really good groove with one group, they’re saying goodbye and you have to start all over with someone else. The good news is, that whoever that “someone else” is, you’re inevitably bound to love them. At least that’s been my experience these past 4 years.

As sad as I was that Cosmic Girls’ set ended way before I was ready for it too, I couldn’t be sad for too long because HOLY FREAKING COW! Seventeen’s sub-units started showing up out of nowhere and quite honestly, I just wasn’t prepared for that! The performance unit was up first, with a rendition of “Swimming Fool” that practically did me in. But then the vocal unit showed up to perform “Habit” and I just kinda… Well, you can imagine how well I handled that. And then the hip-hop unit came to finish me off with their performance of “Check-In” and honestly, I don’t think my soul and body will ever be reunited.

Moving from Seventeen sub-units to sultry Girl’s Day was kind of a lot for this one overly excited Zombie to handle but I did my best to soldier on! I’m not gonna lie, I kinda squealed a lot as the four incredible queens of Girl’s Day grabbed the attention and stole the hearts of every single person in that arena. Their performances of “I’ll Be Yours,” “Something” and “Ring My Bell” are ones I’ll never, EVER forget. Once again, the beauty of KCON is being able to see not only rookie groups have a chance to shine on a much larger stage than usual but having a chance to see veterans like Girl’s Day really work their magic. Just having the chance to watch these women, who’ve been at this for the past 7 years, take the stage and show us what real magic is… It’s an incredibly wonderful thing and all I can say is, if you’re not fans of these supremely talented young women, you should be. ‘Cause HOLY BUCKETS!

After experiencing such an incredible performance, it’s kind of hard to imagine anything could top it but once again KCON stepped up with another bit of unexpected magic. This particular bit of magic came in the form of a tribute performance which started off with Cosmic Girls performing BTS’ “I Need U.” Needless to say, this particular performance was incredibly well-received but KCON wasn’t done with this particular set of tricks. As Cosmic Girls’ special stage ended, SF9’s began, the boys returning to the stage to perform Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry” as the entire stadium erupted in a wild combination of cheers and singing. As the number ended, Cosmic Girls returned to wrap up the ever-popular number together, as tens of thousands of fans sang and danced along. Am I over-exaggerating to say that particular moment was especially magical? I think not!

Photo courtesy of CJ E&M

With SuJu still running through our heads, it only made sense for Super Junior D&E to make their appearance on the KCON stage. With a crowd too hyped for words, Donghae and Eunhyuk opened their set with “Growing Pains” while the entire arena sang along. While I can’t speak for every person in attendance, I can tell you that I was a bit emotional by this point in the evening. Seeing these two in person, on that stage. Knowing that the last time I saw them was 2 years ago, in LA, at KCON 2015. Knowing that that particular performance was one of the last they would do before starting their military service and then seeing them 2 years later, barely a month after being discharged from said service… I may have had a bit of a moment. Or two. Or three… Or… Oh forget it! I was an emotional mess the entire time these two were on stage. Okay!?! Are you happy now!?!

I kinda forgot how much I missed these two while they were away and it really wasn’t until I saw them again and remembered all those feelings I’d felt 2 years ago when they were getting ready to go away. And then all of a sudden they were back and they were happy to be there, in LA, performing once again. And I was happy they were back, in LA, performing once again. And they just looked so good! (Oh, wait. Is that too fangirly to say? Or does it even matter at this point?) Oh whatever! I was just happy to have them back and to see them performing again… It was just a very emotional moment for me.

Again, KCON magic was at work so when D&E performed “I Wanna Dance,” and “Saturday Night” I let myself have some fun. And then when they decided to pull out “Oppa Oppa” and insisted that everyone in the arena sing along and call them, “Oppa Oppa” well… Who am I to go against the wishes of such highly persuasive young men? Needless to say, I had a heck of a lot of fun during D&E’s performance and I really am so very glad that they’re back, doing what they do best. (No! No! No! Not killing overly fangirly Zombies, you sillies! Releasing really great music! Though now that I think about it, they do that whole zombie killing thing really well too!)

One would think that being on such a high at this point in the concert, things would have to be winding down. But NOPE! There were still 2 acts left in the evening’s lineup and by now you have to have some idea of who was next. Yup! It was VIXX. V-I-double-X in da… Oh sweet baby flying monkeys! Give me a minute! I’m not sure I’m ready for this just yet!

I’ve already told you that seeing Leo opening the evening’s shenanigans was enough to turn me into a sobbing mess. Well, seeing the group in its entirety… Yeah, I didn’t fare much better. As in I didn’t fare well at all. As in I squealed and cried and sang myself hoarse and had an absolutely marvelous time in the process. Oh! I love these boys way too much for my own good!

VIXX opened their set with “Shangri-La,” which was enough to send me into full-on fangirl mode. I mean, between the music and the choreo and the fact that I finally got to see that flipping fan dance in person. I just kinda… *sigh* It was a beautiful moment. That’s really all I can say. There were innumerable tears of joy shed that evening. At least coming from this zombie and they didn’t stop because then VIXX had to go and perform “Black Out” which, as a B-side track, was totally unexpected but oh, so appreciated! And, of course, seeing “Fantasy” performed live is always a dream come true so really, the whole entire set had me bawling like the insanely emotional fangirl that I am and I’m not even embarrassed about it because when you’re that happy, it doesn’t matter what others might think of you. You just have to embrace the moment and enjoy it while it lasts!

I suppose I should mention that in-between “Shangri-La” and “Black Out” KCON decided to throw in a segment of fan interaction very similar to what they did in NY. I will admit that I was a little nervous, at first, as to how this “Pinata Time” would throw off the pacing of an otherwise practically perfect concert but it actually worked out really well. VIXX kept things moving, posing with fans for various photos, allowing those close enough to make some pretty fantastic memories without making the rest of us feel too left out. It actually all went by very quickly and I genuinely appreciated the chance it gave me to attempt to compose myself and enjoy a little bit of sane time just watching VIXX be VIXX before I broke down into another overly-excited fangirl fit. (Hey, I go to concerts to have fun so fun is what I have!)

From “Shangri-La” to “Pinata Time” to “Black Out” things moved at a snappy enough pace to never lose the energy and excitement that had been so skillfully built up over the course of the evening and I really appreciated that. It made it possible to move from fan interaction time back into full-on concert without losing any of the evening’s momentum, which meant that by the time VIXX wrapped up their set, the energy going into the night’s closing set was just as high as it has been when Leo and Minah kicked things off two hours earlier. That being said, I was still a bit sad when VIXX ran off-stage but I can’t lie. As soon as Seventeen took the stage, that sadness turned to immeasurable joy because OH! MY! GRACIOUS! I WAS WATCHING SEVENTEEN!!!

You know, at this point there’s no reason I should even attempt to try to convince you I was anything other than a complete fangirl mess because we all know that would be nothing other than a bald-faced lie. After all I’ve already told you and all we already know about me as a person, we both know that by the time Seventeen took the stage this particular Saturday night, I was in such an emotional state, that any sort of pretending to be anything other than a squealing, uber-happy, fangirl mess would just be wrong.

Photo courtesy of CJ E&M

When the boys of Seventeen opened up their set with “Don’t Wanna Cry” I did exactly that. I bawled my stupid eyes out as I sang along to a song which I’ve loved since the very second it dropped earlier this year. (Also, just for the record, I haven’t been able to stop playing this song since I got back from LA. There’s just something about, or maybe the emotions tied to it, that I can’t seem to let go of, even now… It’s just fantastic, even if it does make me cry. Every. Stinking. Time. It. Plays!)

Mixing things up a bit, the boys moved from “Don’t Wanna Cry” to “Rock” (which, don’t even ask me how sore I was the next day all thanks to that song… All I can say is, OUCH!) before going into their own “Pinata Time” which, again, made me a little nervous at first but honestly, by this point in the concert, I was so far removed from my usual (mostly) sane self, that I didn’t mind the break in the usual concert flow. Especially not when it brought on cute fan interaction and a mini-performance of “Uptown Funk” and “Mansae” that got the entire crowd singing and dancing along. From there we were teased with snippets of some of the group’s more well-known tracks, including “BoomBoom” and “Adore U” but it was the closing, “Very Nice” that got everyone up out of their seats.

If you’ve ever wondered why such a relatively new group would headline an event such as KCON. If you were one of the ones who asked yourself why Seventeen, of all people, were chosen to close out Saturday night’s concert, all I can say is, you have to see these boys in person to understand. Their charisma and talent, their stage presence and presentation are so overwhelmingly incredible that even if you’re unfamiliar with their work, you can’t help but get swept up in their performance. They’re just that good!

The end of Seventeen’s set brought with it the end of the evening’s festivities. As always, KCON brought each of the night’s acts back on stage for one final farewell and, as always, I had to fight off tears as I danced and cheered and waved goodbye to each and every one of the incredible performers who had played a part in making such a magical evening possible. I’m sure I looked like a total idiot at the time but I had friends with me, doing exactly the same thing and even if I hadn’t, I honestly didn’t care. I’d just spent 2+ hours experiencing one of the most amazing and magical K-pop filled moments of my life. I wasn’t about to let a little self-conscious nonsense stop me from expressing my gratitude and joy!

Photo courtesy of CJ E&M

When the last of the artists waved their final farewells and the house lights finally went up, the spell of the evening was lifted and just like that, life returned to normal. Or as normal as it could, after such an incredible experience. I’ll admit, I’d gotten a bit carried away with the squealing. (A fact I’d come to (somewhat) regret as I realized I still had 2 panels I was speaking on the next day… Oops!) Of course the best part at being at KCON is having so many friends around to share in all of your joy! Together we could relive all our favorite moments, squeal over all our biases, set excited over all the things we were looking forward to experiencing tomorrow… In short, we never really came out from under that KCON spell because we knew there was so much more in store for us tomorrow and that, in and of itself, was pretty darn magical!

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