Seoul Grand Park: The Theme Gardens, And The Children’s Zoo.

Seoul Grand Park is huge and it has so many attractions within its boundaries. The most popular are perhaps the Zoo, the amusement park (Seoul Land) and the Theme Gardens, however it also houses a Children’s Zoo, an annex of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and a small botanic garden within the zoo. It also has a camping area and forest walks into the surrounding mountains. To add to the choices of things to do the National Science Museum is just across the street from the park.

Seoul Grand Park is a great place to visit to have a relaxing day out of the city. It is located about an hour south of Seoul itself and subway line 4 takes you right to it. We first visited in the spring of 2015 and spent almost the whole day in the zoo. We revisited this past fall (2017) and divided our time up between the zoo and the theme gardens.

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We usually take the sky ride up to the first stop, and then when we’re done for the day, walk back down. There is an elephant trolley/train thing that you can also use if you don’t want to walk.

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Here you can just see the amusement park in the distance. Seoul Land is not as big as Everland, but is popular nonetheless.

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The Theme Garden obviously changes during the seasons and we visited just at the end of summer, beginning of fall. (The roses are said to be at their best May/June time frame.)

While the rose gardens are the main attraction we strolled around the outer edges first where there are more natural gardens, and hidden gems like this greenhouse full of herbs.

There’s also a fruit tree garden, which I guess is just another name for a fancy orchard, but it had a large selection of different fruiting trees some of which were different and intriguing.

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One edge of the gardens is bordered by the lake which was quite pretty in the sunlight.

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The rose gardens were beautiful with 67 different types of roses. Although at the time we visited some were past their best, others were blooming in all their glory.

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The rose garden was a lovely place to stroll around, or to sit on one of the many benches to unwind and take in their beauty. A few scented varieties made their presence known and enhanced the relaxed atmosphere. We really did ‘slow down and smell the roses’.

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Since we were already in the Theme Garden area we decided to visit the Children’s Zoo. Oddly this is included with the small fee for the Theme Garden and not the Zoo proper. We followed the signs which led us down and under a lakeside bridge and then back up the other side.

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They have the most amazing playscape…..for goats. Unfortunately none were playing on it while we were there. The goats seemed more interested in begging for food,

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as did the sheep.

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Since most Korean live in urban environments they don’t really have many opportunities to encounter any animals. The idea of having animals as pets, including dog and cats, is a fairly recent thing. In the past all animals had to serve a purpose, either as working animals or food. Even so it was quite surprising to find dogs included in a zoo setting.

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These were the dog cages.

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The monkey area was much more hospitable. As were the areas for rabbits and other small petting zoo type animals. The children’s zoo runs classes and offers a pleasant area for Korean youngsters to become familiar with a variety of animals. But for those from pet loving countries the dog area seems unnecessarily intense, even if they are ‘working’ dogs. They were people shy and barked at anyone who came too near the bars. A supervised petting area with a couple of friendly Labradors would be much more conducive to teaching both adults and children about dogs.

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Fortunately we could stop by the Meerkats on our way out to cheer ourselves back up a little. Meerkats are always fun and these had a large and interesting space full of things to climb through on onto.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy  Seonyudo Park: In Photos Korea And The Silk Road,  and  Pets In Korea: And Some Of The Idols Who Own One.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

Map of Seoul Grand Park to http://grandpark.seoul.go.kr/eng_grand/grand/info/info01.jsp

 

Tongin Traditional Market.

If you’re like most visitors to Seoul Gwanghwamun Square and Gyeongbokgung Palace will be high on your list of places to see. Once in the general area people then seem to gravitate east towards Bukchon Hanok Village, which is indeed a place worth visiting. We have done so numerous times, but more and more people are choosing to head west to Seochon Village which has its own area of hanok houses as well as Tongin Traditional Market.

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Not one of the oldest, or largest, markets in Seoul it is nonetheless well worth visiting for its unusual approach for buying a meal.

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They use old coins as tokens for your meal. This allows you to chose smaller portions of a few different things that you may not have tried if left to your own devices. You find the small crowd gathered around the person selling the tokens and pay your 5,000 won, get your tokens and a tray and off you go. All the stalls have sign saying how many tokens each item is, and you basically just point and pay.IMG_1629

Once you have your tray of food you go back to where you got the tokens and head upstairs to a seating area. You can also buy your bowl of rice and get a drink of water upstairs. The market is narrow and crowded, especially at lunch time, as many students and workers come here to grab a good cheap meal. The upstairs eating area can also be busy. Once you’ve finished your meal watch how and where the locals place their trays, uneaten food etc otherwise the staff might take your stuff and give you disapproving looks. Elizabeth did it correctly, me not so much.

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We tried to get a good sampling between us so we could try as much as possible. Some things were exceedingly yummy. You can also pay cash for your food, but using the old coins as tokens makes it a more interesting experience.

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Elizabeth kindly stood in line with a hungry bunch of middle schoolers, who were a bit pushy, for my favorite Hotteok.

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An interesting way to grab a quick lunch and try a good selection of street/market type foods Tongin Market is well worth a visit.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also like Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Markets,   Tuho,   and   A Look at Hongdae.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec,

Namsan Tower, Seoul.

On our first trip to Seoul in the spring of 2015 we, like everyone else does on their first trip, went up to the Namsan Tower. Elizabeth did one of the love locks, and so on this trip we decided to go back and check to see if we could find it. The photos will be a mix from both trips, the one in spring 2015 and one in the fall of 2017.

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We’ve enjoyed all three of our trips to S. Korea and each season has its pluses and minuses. However one of the things you’ll notice about the spring photos is how hazy they are. This is because spring is the worst time of the year for fine dust problems. So if you have allergies or breathing problems you may want to take that into account when planning your visit to S. Korea.

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Namsan Tower is on top of a mountain that is within the city of Seoul. This is one of the great things about Seoul. There are multiple mountains and hills inside the city and many have been left as green spaces where numerous Seoulites hike on weekends. On our first trip we took the subway, then walked to the cable car and used it to get up to the tower. You can also hike up the mountain, or take a bus part way.

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On our second visit we walked from Seoullo 7017 Skypark to Namsan Park, which is huge. We walked along the city wall for a ways and through a small portion of the park before cutting through to the cable car.

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One day I will walk all the way up….probably…well maybe.

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One of the main things that Namsan Tower is famous for, apart from being the highest point in Seoul, are the ‘locks of love’. Many places in the world do the same thing, but perhaps non are in such a spectacular setting.

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Once off the cable car we headed to where Elizabeth had put her ‘lock’, and it wasn’t there.

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They had cleared out all the locks and we have no idea what happens to them. So somewhat disappointed she decide to try again and bought another lock and placed it in a different area. Hopefully this one will survive until we return again. (We took multiple photos on each visit to make sure we can go to exactly the right place.)

Feeling like a drink was in order we headed to the tower itself for lunch and a drink. There are multiple places to eat at the top of the mountain, some are tucked away in a mini mall type space, but we always eat in the tower itself. Our first trip we chose the cheaper option and then on the second trip we decided on having a better view so went to a slightly fancier restaurant.

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The food was delicious and the view amazing, even though it was a bit hazy. We could even see the Lotte World Tower in the distance, which is currently the 5th tallest building in the world.

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On our first visit we checked out some of the things inside the tower itself and found the post office where you can write and send a love letter.

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And a restroom with probably the best view ever.

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Many people head up to Namsan Tower to catch the sunset, so just be aware that the lines for the cable car can be longer just before sunset. Also check the weather and visibility. Like many big cities the sky can be hazy at times, making photography a little difficult.  I hope you find time to visit Namsan Tower on your next trip to Korea.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy  Seonyudo Park: In Photos,    Korean Games, And Where To Find Out More About Them.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

Dumbfoundead: The Yikes! Tour.

It was a good day when I heard that Dumbfounded was to bring his Yikes! Tour to Austin, both because I wanted to see him perform, and because Austin is a lot closer to home than either Houston or Dallas. Also I’ve been on some fairly heavy meds lately and an Austin stop meant Elizabeth could drive and keep an eye on me.

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We got to downtown early enough to have a pleasant dinner and still be in the middle of the ‘meet & greet’ line. Everyone was excited and upbeat about the show and new friends were made and old ones caught up on everyone’s news. The show was at Stubbs, an iconic Austin eatery and live music venue. Fortunately Dumbfounded was appearing at. the more intimate indoor stage rather than the outdoor one.

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The venue staff got us all lined up and we proceeded to take our turns meeting Dumbfoundead. He was gracious and allowed hugs and multiple photos, taken with each person’s personal camera/phone by a very helpful staff member. We also got an individually signed poster, tee shirt, goodie bag etc. There was no rushing or pushing and all the fans seemed very happy with the experience. Dumbfoundead even found his patch!

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We had a long wait between the meet and greet and the show starting. I began the evening down near the stage, but the heat and the crowd started getting to me so I headed upstairs to grab a beer and a place on the balcony where I could lean on the railing.

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The show started with DJ Zo who instantly got the crowd moving. The balcony offered a perfect place to be able to see him work his magic. (We could also feel the music vibrate through the balcony floor which was kinda interesting and cool.) Having appeared with many top notch artists, including Jay Park, and as an opening act for Justin Timberlake, DJ Zo knew exactly how build and keep the momentum going.

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He played a wide and eclectic mix, and cleverly added just the right amount of latin and popular music to appeal to the Austin crowd. Everyone was singing along and bopping to the beats, becoming more heated and intense when a favorite song came on. He really got the crowd hyped up.

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Next we were lucky to see Year Of The Ox come on stage. Having only ever watched their videos it was a thrill to see them live. They lived up to my expectations and gave a great performance. Lyricks and JL took me back to when rappers spoke up about their personal experiences and causes because that was an important part of what made them who they are now. Their lyrics were incisive and I loved the line “My new name is ‘when’d you get back’ ?” from Jet Lag. (I travel as much as possible, more when I was younger, so I’d often hear that very same phrase.)

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My favorite song was perhaps A-Zn Foods which covered issues such as heritage, tradition, gentrification and cultural appropriation, all with humor and cutting wit. Being a transplant to the US myself some of these issues resonated with me. And although it may seem an obvious thing, I appreciated being able to hear the lyrics clearly with non of the mumbling of some rappers.

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Finally Dumbfoundead came on stage and the roars of the crowd unbelievably became even louder. Having grown up in LA’s Koreatown Dumbfoundead also rapped about his experiences with perhaps Cochino most clearly showcasing the ignorance and racism of many towards Asians and those of Asian descent.

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In between songs there were stories, banter and interactions with the crowd. Some fans had travelled more than a few hours to get to the venue and they were there to enjoy every moment. The youngest in the crowd was an 8th grader and the oldest was probably me. Everyone of us had a blast. The smallish venue was perfect . (The show was very close to being sold out, with less than 10 tickets left an hour before the doors opened.)

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Dumbfounded was an engaging and entertaining performer who not only executed his songs almost flawlessly but also knew how to work the crowd. He made us all laugh a few times, particularly when he missed the entrance beat to one of his songs and had to start over. If you get a chance to catch one of the shows on the rest of the tour I heartily recommend you go.

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Being up on the balcony also worked out for us since we were able to spot Lyricks near the upstairs bar allowing fans to take photos with him. He was kindness personified and seemed pleased that I said I would be embroidering Year Of The Ox’s patch next.

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I must apologise to Dumbfounded as we ended up having to leave a little before the show ended. (Maybe next time I’ll be on less medications.) Even so the show was lit and I thoroughly enjoyed my night out in Austin. Thank you and good luck with the rest of the tour.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Mostly Elizabeth Marzec.

You may also enjoy Gyeongju: Why You Should Visit On Your Next Trip To Korea,    A Visit To The Show, (SBS Music Show)   and Hanji: The Paper Of Korea.

You can obviously find fancams and official channels on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/user/dumbfoundead      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw7RrKdqIMddn-JpnOtnWPg     https://www.youtube.com/user/zomanno

 

 

 

Zion. T. Delights Dallas Fans.

I first came across Zion. T when he appeared on the Infinite Challenge Music Festival back in the summer of 2015. Totally the opposite of HaHa, his ‘partner’ for the event, Zion. T was so relaxed and laid back that it was fun to see them interact together. I was intrigued and have been listening to his music ever since. Still I was a little concerned when I heard he was going to do a solo tour in the USA and Canada. It is often hard for any artist to be alone on stage for a whole performance, let alone when they don’t speak the same language as the audience.

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But I needn’t have worried. Zion. T gave a tremendous performance and had the crowd engaged and enthralled the whole time. Once he entered onto the almost unlit stage he captured the audience’s attention right from the first notes.

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Throughout the whole evening he was a master of understatement and minimalist expressions and actions, but every movement and gesture was so meaningful and precise I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He seemed pleased with the audience’s raucous and enthusiastic reception and he really began to enjoy himself. We even saw him smile from time to time at some of the crowd’s comments.

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He sang multiple fan favorites and encouraged everyone to sing along with him. In fact when he sang Just he asked the crowd to sing Crush’s part. He was pleased when many were able to do so. There was far more interaction with the audience than I was expecting. He spoke quite a bit in Korean and apparently asked if we got snow in Dallas. Perhaps misunderstanding, or just joking around his fans assured him they did, which I’m not sure he believed.

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He was totally confident, and controlled the pace and the emotions of everyone in the theatre. He was incredibly charismatic for a stick thin man in a baggy suit and sunglasses. He relied on nothing more than his songs and skills as a singer. I think his seemingly quiet demeanor must hide a strong and beguiling personality.

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Having performed for just over 30 minutes Lil Boi joined him on stage and the two sang and rapped together until Zion. T left him alone on stage. Lil Boi did a decent job of keeping everyone pumped up and having a good time. I think he was pleasantly surprised at how loudly the crowd cheered him on. He definitely had many fans in the theatre. I’d like to add that the DJ was also remarkably talented, although I unfortunately don’t know his name.

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But no matter how good Lil Boi was, we were there to see Zion. T and the crowd went wild when he came back on stage. I think he really was pleasantly surprised at how loud, happy, and enthusiastic everyone was. He also enjoyed that so many people knew his songs well enough to sing along.

He finally tried to end the show, but the audience kept him on stage a long time after the show was meant to end. They kept begging for more until at the end it was pretty much a Zion. T directed singalong as no wanted the evening to end. But of course end it did.

 

P1 ticket holders were lucky enough to be able to hang around and wait for group photos. Listening to everyone talk as they waited in line there wasn’t even one person who hadn’t been thrilled by his performance. When he came out to be in the group photos he surprised us by allowing autographs, selfies and even hugs. He was so kind and pleasant to everyone, even with the language barrier. I even got to show him his patch and explain it was hand sewn. And yep, I got a hug.

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He’s an incredibly nice man, as well as being an incredibly talented singer, rapper, songwriter and performer. I would recommend that everyone listens to his music and definitely go to his remaining shows.

Have a great day everyone.

 

 

Please do not use without permission and accreditation. All photos to original owners. To Debora Marzec, and those photos of me to Briana-Michelle Trejo.

 

Wolji Pond At Night: In Photos.

In 674 CE King Munmu, of the Silla Kingdom, had a pleasure garden built for his enjoyment. The ‘park of the moon’ had multiple buildings, lakes and gardens. Unfortunately it burned down in 935 CE and was forgotten. In 1974 it was rediscovered and excavations took place which found enough information for the city to reconstruct part of the pleasure gardens. Of the more than two dozen original buildings only three have been rebuilt to original specifications.

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Wolji Pond is now popular with locals and tourists alike, particularly when they open it up in the evenings.

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With a path winding around the pond there are fantastic photographic opportunities wherever you look. Although we had time constraints, we had to catch a train back to Seoul, many people were sat on convenient benches just admiring the beauty displayed all around them.

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Our visit to Wolji was part of a day trip from Seoul to Gyeongju, but to see everything the area has to offer I would suggest at least a 2 day trip.

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The excavations of the site found many wonderful treasures which can now be seen in the Gyeongju National Museum. Being a game enthusiast the most intriguing find for me was a 14 sided die with which you could play a drinking game. The die was called ‘juryeonggu’ and you can read more about it here. 

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There were lots of people with rather fancy cameras taking photographs as the pond, buildings, and lights challenged people to try and get that perfect photo. Many others were using their phones to get selfies and more personal shots. Wolji pond was just so beautiful at night even photographs can’t do it justice.

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Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Bulguksa Temple: In Photos,   and   Seokguram Grotto.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photos to original owners. All to Elizabeth Marzec except photo of us which was taken by Kenneth Kim.

Korea Spotlight @ SXSW 2018.

Korean Spotlight is the new name for what was formerly known as Kpop Night Out, an event sponsored by Kocca and others. It is an official showcase at SXSW, one of the world’s biggest music festivals. Last year the lineup included Big Phony, No Brain, Galaxy Express, MFBTY, Hyolin and Red Velvet. You can see my review here.

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This year the lineup was Say Sue Me, Junoflo, DPR Live, Crush, Cifika, Lee Hi, and KARD. As I’ve come to expect at this event, the venue staff although pleasant, didn’t handle things well. I have complaints, which I won’t go into here, but I have emailed Kocca to let them know how messed up the whole line up and entry process was. I was number 548 in the door and totally missed the whole first act, even though I had been inline from 9:30 am onwards. The venue only holds 1,000 so over 400 people who were in line missed the first act and possibly some of the 2nd too.

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So my apologies to Say Sue Me, both from myself and from all the other fans who wanted to see you perform. From what bits we could hear from outside you sounded great.

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With the floor already heaving with people we headed upstairs and kinda got a view of the stage. If you read my review from last year you know I’ve experienced watching from up near the stage and from near the back, so it actually works out that this year I can give you a review from the side and up from the balcony. The Belmont is not a great venue in that a lot of the space available doesn’t actually have a view of the stage. Basically the venue can hold 1,000 people, but the floor area is jam packed if all 1,000 try to see the stage at the same time. Upstairs was less packed, but only those lining the balcony rail could see the stage. We were at the closest end which gave us the odd angle, further along the front rail had a pretty decent view.

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First up, for us, was Junoflo, who I saw last year when he performed here with MFBTY. Actually from California, he was on Show Me The Money in 2016 where he gained experience and respect for his abilities. He is now signed with Feel Ghood Music.

 

 

He was accompanied by Anne One this year who was also here last year. An experienced singer she is also signed under the Feel Ghood Music label.

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Junoflo was much more confident this year and easily got the crowd amped up and excited.  Ann One has an amazing voice which she effortly used to capture the audience’s attention. They had also brought their own DJ, but unfortunately I didn’t catch his name. Together and solo they put on a great performance. Their set passed by quickly as everyone was so focused on their engaging performance. I think we’ll see great things from Junoflo in the future as he is definitely talented.

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Next up was DPR Live, another young man with a lot of talent and potential. Fairly new to the music scene he has hit the ground running and was maybe the most anticipated performer among those waiting in line. Many were there specifically for him. I guess my biggest criticism was that no one could see his face from the side, or the front because of his cap.

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There was quite a cheer as he finally took it off.

 

 

 

 

 

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There was also quite a bit of noise for one of his stage companions, Christian Yu, who could be seen bouncing around at the back of the stage.

 

 

 

 

The lineup order for the evening was a little odd as the next act was also a solo young man. Crush has been around for a little while now, since 2014, and has a solid fan base and had many fans in the audience.
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He draws from an eclectic mix of music and one can hear echos of multiple musical styles in his songs.

He started off a little low key, but he soon was his more edgy self, interacting with the audience and the flock of photographers in front of the stage.

 

He eventually warmed up enough, both symbolically and literally, to take off his flag inspired jacket. More engaging and dynamic. he ended his set on a high note with the audience pumped up and excited.29357152_10216356720854477_4172601633332527104_o

And that’s when poor planning led to a lull in the action.

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Cifika came on next. Although she herself was visually eye catching, she basically just stood on stage singing/playing her music. She just wasn’t spellbinding enough to keep everyone’s attention. I felt sorry for her as she would have been better received if she didn’t come on stage after three dynamic guys in a row.

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While she was on stage people sat down, many weren’t even attempting to see the stage. When Lee Hi came on next some stood back up again, but others just left. I even saw one girl sleeping quite soundly on the floor. I didn’t take a photo as that would have been quite embarrassing for her.

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Lee Hi is talented and lovely and many fans were excited to see her out of the YG dungeon and in the USA, but putting her after another solo woman just did her a disservice.

 

She was engaging and sweet and her lovely voice soared through the warm night air, but fans who didn’t have a great view became disinterested. Just by voice alone she couldn’t hold them.

Unfortunately Lee Hi was put in an untenable position, but hopefully she didn’t see people begin to leave. The fans that remained rallied and tried their best to make her feel a Texas welcome. I just hope they succeeded. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and I hope she comes back to the US sometime soon.

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This is a photo of that once full area right before KARD came on stage. Although there’s a line of fans along the balcony rail, about half the total people left before KARD appeared on stage.

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The final act and highlight of the show was KARD a co-ed group that has a solid fan base in the US. I saw them in their pre debut show in Houston and liked them. They have good chemistry with each other and seem really quite grounded. Their music is catchy and fun.

They performed a mix of their newer songs and a couple of fan favorites. They also engaged with the fans and threw tea shirts and things into the crowd. They finished before 2am, but the venue staff started making us leave before they had actually left the stage.

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There were some good acts, but the lineup was off, plus the chaos and confusion of getting in, and the misinformation given out by the staff all contributed to a less than stellar experience. Highlights ended up being the small things, like making new friends and catching up with old ones, seeing some of the performers out on the streets and waving to fans, or even just seeing them before and after their acts in the ‘green room’ area.

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I travelled from San Antonio, stood in line for 10 hours, watched all the performers, until 2am and then we drove back to San Antonio. I was awake for 22 hours straight. I don’t think the companies in Korea understand how dedicated some fans are, even for groups that are not their ‘biases’. Not one of the groups/soloists was a favorite of mine, but I went anyway…..to support the growth of Korean music in Texas and the US in general. So in return please listen to our concerns and advice. If given a chance we can help you in so many ways, from improving your fan base here in the USA to making sure you understand the nuances of the places you are visiting.

My thanks go to my friend Sebastian who did all the driving, and took almost all the photos. Photo credits to original owners. The photo of Say Sue Me is from the internet. All the others are by Sebastian Gallardo, plus a couple are mine.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Have a great day everyone.

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