I now consider myself a somewhat veteran Korean pop (aka “Kpop”) concert goer; having gone to Kpop concerts in LA, Japan, and Korea, I have been able to see and appreciate how the different countries’ cultures can make for a very different concert experience.
Kpop concerts in Japan tend to start earlier (as early as 4pm on Sundays, which is something I personally like), and Japanese fans deck out in concert merchandise. The fans are very well-behaved, cheering when supposed to, and sitting quietly and enjoying the music when the songs are played. Photography is also strictly prohibited in concerts, so you won’t find anyone with a camera or phone out in the concert venue.
Seoul concerts have a much different vibe to them – fans are more expressive in their excitement and sing along with most of the songs. Unlike Japan concerts, fans tend to be less decked out in concert merchandise, with the exception of the group’s designated lightsticks.
Concerts in Asia have always been my preferred concert destinations, as fans know the ‘fan chants’ very well (verses throughout breaks in the songs that the fans chant together, so that both the group and the fans participate in the song together). And most (if not all) fans will have a lightstick, decorating the concert venue in dotted lights, which is a sight to behold in itself. Most of all, the stage is always complete and elaborate in Asia and concerts run longer, up to 3 hours. The only issue was language, when performers spoke in their native Korean and English subtitles or translations are not provided, of course.
Concerts in the US are usually a different experience; Kpop is growing more and more popular these days amongst fans of diverse backgrounds. As such, having to do the fan chants (which are usually in Korean) tend to have much less participation. While fan club organizers try to have fans bring at least lightsticks in the groups’ color in attempts to blanket the venue in the fandom color (as opposed to the official group lightstick that was designed and sold by the groups’ record company), usually only half the venue (at most) show up with lightsticks. Stage set up is mostly only about half of what it is in Seoul, due to transportation costs for the group touring, and performance time is only about 2/3 of what it is in Seoul.
Going to GOT7’s “Eyes On You in LA” concert held at the Forum on July 6, 2018, I went in with the same expectation that I had for all other US concerts that I’ve attended. While the concert was sold out, and I was expecting an amazing performance from the group, I was expecting a relatively short and sweet show.
I was in for the biggest surprise ever when all my expectations were surpassed with the GOT7 concert, and more!
The venue was colored with green lightsticks, GOT7’s fandom color; fan chants were on point, in which most of the 17.5k audience members chanted in unison during breaks of GOT7’s songs; moving stages were in full effect at The Forum, and when I thought the concert would soon be over when one of the members announced their ‘last stage’ at around the 1.5 hour mark into their performance, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the concert just kept going on and on, on high after another, until it finally ended on a climax at almost the 3 hour mark.
One of the members is originally from LA, so his family members were in attendance at the concert; however, the most surprising was that the CEO of the group’s record company was also in attendance, and received a shoutout from the group members near the end of the show. CEO’s normally do not show up at overseas concerts (they usually only attend Korean ones) so having his presence announced, along with all of the other aspects of the night really had me questioning if I was really in Seoul or LA attending a kpop concert. If it weren’t for the members’ English commentary, I might have needed to double check my current location! It is also probably worth mentioning that the 7 members of GOT7 come from various ethnic Asian backgrounds – Hong Kong, Taiwanese American, Thai, and of course, Korean. English was a necessity for their group, as was Korean.
I found myself getting more and more hooked on the video clips GOT7 played in between their songs while they got a clothing change break; although it was all in Korean, there were English subtitles at the bottom. The story line was one of a young couple drifting further and further apart, in which the guy continuously reached out to the girl, hoping to get her back, but apologizing for not being good enough for her. The girl, after realizing her mistake, eventually came back to the guy, hoping for another chance. The twist at the end of the story was that the girl actually represented GOT7’s fans “Ahgase” (GOT7’s fandom name, a play on the word iGOT7), and the guy represented GOT7 themselves, showing how much GOT7 treasured their fans. One of the members also mentioned in a clip shown where the members were chatting about their upcoming tour, how he wanted their fans to not be ashamed of being their fan, but to be proud to be an “Ahgase”.
This especially touched me as a Kpop fan living in the US; while Kpop is becoming increasingly popular in the US and worldwide, it can still be extremely difficult to explain to non-kpop fans that I am a fan of a genre where I don’t speak the language or not part of that country’s culture. It can be an isolating experience, having most friends in your existing circle not understand this passion of yours; but it can also be the most unique one where you get to get a deep insight to a culture you never really looked that deep into. That is also why there is a unique bond with Kpop fans in western countries, because as non-Koreans, we understand the difficulties involved but also the joy of sharing something we love together.
With GOT7’s concert being almost identical in atmosphere and stage set up as their concert in Seoul, it was definitely heartwarming to see the continued increasing popularity of Kpop growing in LA and worldwide. I even hope that some day soon enough, I won’t need to debate between flying to Seoul for a concert or just watching one in LA. One of the most magical aspects of watching a concert in LA is watching the fans from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures all gathering together to celebrate Korean and Asian culture, which you can’t experience as much of attending a concert in Seoul.
Special thanks to SubKulture Entertainment (www.subkultureent.com) for organizing this amazing concert!