Pop & Culture

The top fan moments from Kcon 2014

Courtesy of Kcon

Kcon, the United States’ biggest annual gathering for fans of Korean pop culture, ended last night in Los Angeles with screams and bangs (and smoke cannons, and confetti streamers).

The daytime workshops gave fans another chance to link-up, learn about the movement, and debate everything from K-pop and fashion to K-dramas. But the party really got started later that night, when fans gained close access to some of K-pop’s biggest superstars. In the K-pop scene, the fan-idol relationship is everything, so the red carpet was a big moment for everyone.

Here’s Fusion’s recap of the moments that drew the biggest shrieks throughout the night.

1. The Viki TV pre-concert red carpet

Fans who were dedicated enough to buy a special uber-VIP ticket got to stand behind the press barricade to catch a glimpse of the night’s performers and a few other megawatt guests as they showed up for the evening’s festivities. Each artist who showed up at the red carpet introduced his- or herself, participated in a Q&A hosted by solo star Eric Nam, and plugged their new project.

Fans got a final glimpse of actor/musician/Saturday-evening concert host, Lee Seung-Gi.

Then came the year-old bad(ish) boys of BTS.

This was the first U.S. red carpet turn for some of the acts, such as boy-band BTS and girl group SPICA (below).

Pandemonium erupted as soon as the rockers CNBlue showed up, sporting some amazing men’s tailoring choices.

The crowd nearly stampeded at the arrival of Girls’ Generation, whose international fame (everywhere, that is, except for U.S. mainstream) is comparable to that of Britney Spears in her prime. Unfortunately, the nine-woman act was short one member; Sooyoung remained behind in South Korea filming her new K-drama, “Springtime of my Life.” Still, the group dazzled in their matching outfits from their popular single “Mr. Mr.”

2. BTS’ set-closing song, “The Rise of Bangtan”

BTS, or Bangtan Boys, are bad boys in suits who can also rock a hard-edge, almost Eminem-flavored rap — all while managing sharp choreography. It’s impressive, but even more so was their final song of the night, celebrating their own supremacy. It came complete with surging tempos, a light show, and a clutch of breakdancers on side stages as a nod to hip-hop history.

Photo credit: courtesy of Kcon

3. Jung Joon Young’s surprise rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”

Unlike his K-pop counterparts who perform in tightly controlled, multi-member idol groups, Jung Joon Young has styled himself as a kind of disheveled rock-‘n-roller. On the red carpet he came off as unapologetically grumpy, answering every question with some variation of the phrase, “I’m very sleepy.”

After a few midtempo power ballads, he finally perked up and said he wanted to pay homage to one of his favorite artists, Michael Jackson. He then launched into a full English-language rendition of this early 1990s hit Black or White, complete with a surprise cameo by BTS member Rap Monster. (Yes, that’s really his stage name.) Together they performed a Jackson-inspired, two-step duet.

Photo credit: courtesy of Kcon

4. SPICA’s revival of classic New Jack Swing and R&B–all of it

K-pop is bringing back the swing—both the vintage, big-bang, 1930s and 1940s kind, and the 1990s New Jack Swing blend of soul and hip-hop boom-bap. Newish group SPICA, making their U.S. performance debut at Kcon, impressed immediately with their vocal chops and song choices.

SPICA are not about the saccharine, cartoony beats and visuals to deflect from the music. Instead, they chose a harder-edged, almost Rihanna-style look of black hot pants, straps, and barely exposed midriffs. Their performance flitted between 1960s southern soul, complete with arm moves and claps in unison, and 1990s-ish R&B in the style of, say, SWV.

Rather than go cutesy, innocent, and high-voiced, SPICA stars blonde, slightly rough around the edges BOA, whose voice is throaty, deep, and asking for challenging songs.

Photo credit: courtesy of Kcon

5. CNBlue’s set closer, “Love”

Led by singer/keyboardist Jung Yong-Hwa, the guys of CNBlue have positioned themselves as a band of proper musicians in their own right. While most of their set drew thousands of lightsticks slowly waving in the air, their last song, “Love,” turned the crowd into a proper revival.

The song somehow managed to incorporate that ever-present retro swing influence with an almost Beatles-style, British-invasion inflections, before culminating in a Beastie Boys-influenced rap/mosh breakdown. Somehow, they made it work.

Photo credit: courtesy of Kcon

6. Girls Generation’s set — all of it

You have to hand it to these ladies, they know they’re divas and perform as such. Even if they come off as humble and totally adorable in their onstage introductions and between-song banter, they’re divas when the music starts. Floating up to the stage on a glowing platform that rose up through the floor, they drew instant screams with their “Mr. Mr.” outfits.

They opened their set with the K-pop megahit, dancing eight members strong like a sharp (but very cute) army. “Mr. Mr” is the ultimate earworm, full of the members trading lines while prancing in and out of v shapes and soldier lines—always with their crisp, signature choreography. It was almost Spice Girls-esque in sound and feel, but the Spice Girls never had dance steps or coordination like this.

Photo credit: courtesy of Kcon