When the opportunity to go to KCON appears, you can’t say no. Which is exactly how I ended up in the passenger seat of Hanna’s car blasting “Ring Ding Dong” down the I-5 and talking about our favorite groups for over five and a half hours. Throughout the entire drive down from San Francisco to LA, I was excited but I didn’t really know what to expect: I had been to other conventions like ComicCon, but I wasn’t sure how KCON would measure up. Would it be smaller? More fun? Was it worth the trip? The answer: yes to everything.
We arrived on Saturday to a line out the door just to get into the convention. I was surprised; there’s a feeling of isolation in liking k-pop so to see so many fans all gathered together was amazing.
From the minute we first arrived, I was on a not-so-secret mission: get Eric Nam hi touch tickets. I’m kind of obsessed with Eric Nam. Just a little bit. It may be ASC’s fault. Or his new song “Can’t Help Myself”. I don’t want to talk about it. But I was determined and willing to put my pride aside to walk down the convention line with a quickly drawn ‘want Eric hi touch’ sign.
My KCON tip: if you don’t initially get a hi-touch or audience ticket for your favorite group, try working out a trade from the line. You can trade your existing audience/hi touch tickets, or you can pay cash like I did! While it initially felt embarrassing, throughout the day I saw more and more fans doing it so don’t feel bad. Ten minutes into my search and $40 dollars down, I had a hi touch ticket in hand and would later touch Eric’s! I was freaking out.
The hi touch itself wasn’t until Sunday, so that meant I got to spend Saturday in the exhibition hall. To be honest, it was a little overwhelming when we first entered. It’s always such an exciting moment to hear k-pop outside of my headphones and suddenly it was EVERYWHERE: BTS was playing, fans were performing their favorite dance routines onstage and stalls were full of thousands of k-pop fans trying out Korean food, beauty items, and games.
Each booth had something fun and different to explore and usually included free gifts! My personal favorite were the fan booths in the back that had lots of group merchandise for relatively cheap prices, especially as the convention went on. I snagged a few EXO goodies and an NCT poster, so there are items to purchase even if your favorite group isn’t there. The beauty block was also another highlight, which had many different Korean beauty brands selling all kinds of makeup and even held makeup tutorials to watch throughout the day. There was even a huge inflatable obstacle course! KCON had everything!
And if you didn’t get sucked into the convention, then there were panels going on just outside. I managed to catch Soompi’s panel, and I know Talk to Me in Korean and YouTubers like JunCurryAhn also held panels. If you have any must-see talks, be sure to arrive early and make sure you know where the panel is located beforehand so you don’t miss out! The KCON app helped a lot in making sure I knew where I was going because the convention was so big.
If the entire day was an adrenaline rush, then nothing could prepare me for the concert that night. Gu Jun Pyo — I mean, Lee Min Ho — hosted the concert with performances by Gfriend, I.O.I, Block B, and SHINee. KCON is great because it allows you listen to artists you might not have heard of, like Turbo, who had recently returned from a fifteen-year hiatus. Their excitement and charisma onstage really translated to the crowd and made everyone want to dance.
DEAN killed it. He has such a commanding presence on stage that it was hard to take your eyes off of him. His vocals are no joke. Seeing Amber perform was also lovely. While “Shake That Brass” made the Staples Center feel like Coachella, watching her perform “Borders” was a gorgeous, solemn moment. Amber really shines on stage, be it as a performer or an MC. It’s inspiring to watch her in her element. SHINee then capped off the night with songs “Everybody” and “View” and it was an absolute blast.
Sunday was a day of discoveries. First was my Eric Nam hi touch, where I, a very calm and composed adult, got to shake Eric’s hand and try not to lose myself in his pretty eyes for the brief second we shared together. (I lost my mind during his performance that night; it was probably embarrassing for everyone around me. Emric is real! *cries*)
Day two was easier, because you’ve already become acquainted with the layout of the convention so you can take it slower than on the first day and pick and choose what you want to see. I participated in some games, waited in line for freebies like Shrek facemasks from Olive Young and took time out to explore the food stalls outside the convention to munch on tteokbokki and boba. While it was a bit expensive, the food was good, and you could find a lot of fun goodies like potato twisters and light bulb drinks in between McDonald’s and food trucks. There were also little raffle games outside to win boxes of EXO peppero, but I was unsuccessful. Oh well! At least there’s tteokbokki for me.
And while this may all seem like rainbows and unicorns, I have to warn you about the downside to KCON, which is that in order to see your favorite groups perform, you have to see other groups perform. Which puts you in a position of becoming obsessed with new groups. Yes, what I listed as a blessing above is also a curse, because at Sunday night’s concert I got to see Monsta X.
I had heard a few of their songs and even learned the “All In” choreography for KPOP Dance Time, but hadn’t put much effort into pursuing them further. Not because they weren’t good, but because I’m already juggling being a huge fan of three groups (EXO, NCT and GOT7) and didn’t feel like I had any more time to become emotionally invested in another group. However, Monsta X won me over from the minute Wonho and Shownu started dancing on stage, and confirmed that I was going to become obsessed when Jooheon began to rap. They really stole the show for me. I guess there’s always room for another group to be a fan of!
It also didn’t help that they had a super sweet moment onstage after the concert was over and all the other groups had left. The members all lingered on stage and threw confetti at each other and waved to the crowd and did practically everything they could to stay onstage before they really had to go. It was super cute.
Another group to win me over was Astro! Their choreography and matching outfits were very youthful and refreshing. Hanna and I could not deal with how adorable they were. Speaking of adorable, Twice was also fantastic and really lifted the crowd’s energy level. They were very cheerful and it was fun to dance along with them to such fun songs like “Cheer Up” and “Ooh Ahh”. When they performed “Uptown Funk” the entire crowd was singing along and it was such a cool moment to hear the entire stadium echo the lyrics back to them.
BTS brought the house down. They were the perfect ending to the night and the screaming reached almost ear-bursting levels when the screens lifted and you could see all seven members. Their dancing is fluid, their songs absolutely addicting, and there’s a magical quality to watching them perform. They’re at the top of their game and the US absolutely adores them. Even if you weren’t a BTS fan when you entered the Staples Center that night, you left a BTS fan.
From the concerts to the hi touches to the booths to dancing to food and meeting other fans, KCON is heaven for a k-pop fan. Not only was it the highlight of my summer, but also a weekend that I will never forget. So if you like k-pop even a teeny bit and can get to LA next year, I urge you to go. My blog post is ridiculously long and barely even scratches the surface to all KCON has to offer. I know I already can’t wait to go back next year. <3
This post was written by our guest blogger, Emlyn Travis.