The View From The Back.
After seeing MFBTY I asked the fans around me if they would let me switch out with my friend who was about 8 rows back, as he is a huge fan of Hyolyn and of Red Velvet. They kindly acquiesced and we swapped places. I had thought the crush was bad at the front of the stage, but it got worse the further back I went. In order to experience the concert from multiple places, I eventually worked my way all the way to the back. The view from the first 10 rows or so was pretty good, and photos from there came out better than right at the front. Whether it was the venue, or the artist’s preference, many of the lights on stage were focused out toward the audience, and were blinding at times and making it hard for anyone trying to take pictures.
Hyolyn’s set was delayed a little as the staff had to wipe up the water from MFBTY, Yoonmirae had sprayed a little water towards the fans. This shouldn’t have crept into Hyolyn’s time since there were already decent length gaps between each performance of the night, but I guess the stage technicians weren’t quite on the ball.
According to my friend at the front Hyolyn’s performance was sensual and sexy and she got down and low, and kept all eyes focused on her as she controlled both the stage and the crowd. She made eye contact with the fans and beamed that mega-watt smile multiple times. If you want to see the fancams he made you can see them on youtube and see just how close he is to her stellar performance. Her backup dancers were excellent too.
I stopped at another decent viewpoint, about half way back where there was a step up. A different group of friends had a spot here and had a good view, although it was a place they had to stand firm on, as people behind them kept trying to push them off the step. After escaping all the way to the back after Hyolyn’s set I managed to grab a drink and breathe a little. It was nice to take a break from the crowd after about 6 hours. A group had also found that the upstairs balcony had a good view, if at an awkward angle for some, others had given up on watching and had found seats where they could at least listen to the show in comfort.
I made an attempt to find a spot to watch Red Velvet when they came on stage, but the mass of people was packed too tight. I did though watch larger men who arrived right before Red Velvet came on force their way through, with no regard to the fact that other people had waited for hours to see them. I personally had a large man push me aside…..and then stand right in front of me, before he then managed to push another woman aside and move further forward. Yes know that’s how concert audiences work, I’ve been going to concerts since the late 70’s, but it was the rudeness and sheer disregard towards other people which I didn’t expect from Kpop fans.
To make sure I could at least see some of Red Velvet’s performance I found a tall guy at the back who was filming with his phone and ended up watching them on the small screen, with occasional glimpses of the stage when the crowd shifted and moved. Red Velvet was somewhat nervous and initial technical difficulties made them a little unsure and awkward. They may also have been a little intimidated by the very close, and very loud crowd, especially being in a foreign country. They seemed sweet and adorable, and did eventually relax a little. At one point Irene had to go backstage for a few minutes and I’m not sure what that was about. The fans were hyped up, and very vocal, thrilled to be able to be this close to their favorite idols.
Even after the show was over fans streaming out of the venue seemed reluctant to have the evening end, and they stood outside in small groups going over their favorite moments. Eventually everyone dispersed as exhaustion began to set in. I was in line at 10am and the show ended at 2am. It had been one long day, but it does show the commitment of Kpop fans to their artists and music.
This was my second KPOP Night Out at SXSW, the first being in 2015, and this one was definitely a better lineup of artists and a slightly better venue. The Belmont worked well on some levels, but the stage is small, the standing room for the audience is narrow and enclosed by high walls which, alongside it being at outside venue, made it quite hot and oppressive in the tightly packed crowd. The view of the stage is not good for about a third, or more, of the audience.
Still most fans will put up with a lot to see their favorite artists, although producers and organizers shouldn’t rely on that. A few people I spoke with said that it might be an event they go to every couple of years or so, rather than every year because it was just so exhausting. Also I think maybe mixing up the genres of Korean music a little more might be popular. A Trot singer might be a lot of fun, especially if they sang some of the really popular songs that we all hear in Kdramas, and on variety shows. Or B Boy dancers, since Korea has some of the best around. The draw will always be the idols, but for this show anyway, the fans did their best to make it a fantastic experience for all the groups, not just their biases.
Thank you to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, KOCCA, and MU:CON, plus anyone else who helped bring KPOP Night Out to SXSW and Austin, Texas. Y’all come back y’hear.
Have a great day everyone.
Photo credits to ‘Sangheili19’ (check out his youtube channel for some amazing fancams of the show.) except for last photo, credit to MFBTY ? or original owner.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.