I was asked by the wonderful team at Beyond Hallyu to join them on a wild adventure to see Boys Republic. Admittedly, I didn’t know much information about them, nor know any of their songs, names, or … well … anything, so I was going completely unaware of anything that was about to happen. And I do mean anything, because the only K-pop concert I’ve been to, surprisingly, was Big Bang‘s, which was something understandably a lot grander than this.
The authors of Beyond Hallyu did warn me about what could happen, or at least which types of people I may come across. They were actually very clear, which made me wonder how frequently these characters could be witnessed, and it was a bit unnerving as I considered possible trampling by wide-eyed monsters or something to that extent.
When I arrived I was predictably partially drunk already, because after a two-hour train journey, what else is more comforting than some trashy mags with four cans of gin and tonic? You have to live your life a little.
I immediately noticed things were a bit off, and this was something I had read about in the UK and the US before: basically how demeaning the promoters can be. Sadly, all the stereotypes seemed to prove correct, with people in charge screaming and shouting at generally behaved kids. As much as I sniff my nose at K-pop from time to time, these fans shouldn’t be treated any differently than ones going to see their local screamo band. Kids just want to have fun. If this was me at 14 and the promoters acted like they did with my favorite Slipknot cover band or whatever, I would’ve be very sad. No, it wasn’t a major thing, but it was very apparent.
Pretty much the whole time I felt overwhelmed and confused, and I think a lot of people could tell too. During one moment I caught myself glaring at one of the members, and I’m pretty sure I scared him since he looked like death took his soul, with me being the reaper. After knowing that I can take souls or whatever, even of K-pop stars, I thought it was about time to get drunk and loosen up.
During the evening I tried to play the game “Do you know Asian Junkie?” and the answer was a generally unanimous no. But one of the Beyond Hallyu staff found out that the sound techies have a casual look now and then, which was a nice surprise.
As for the concert, well, there’s really no nice way to put it: it was bad. There was a certain disconnect during the songs between Boys Republic and the crowd, which wasn’t really helped by the fact that they weren’t actually singing. On the plus side, the fan interaction sessions were a lot better and helped add some levity.
Unfortunately, there were so many non-music things that had to do with what went south that night, like the group being too diva-ish during the day, and how most of the staff had to leave them for a drink break because they couldn’t cope. But of course, the main problem was there were also the usual issues with seemingly any overseas K-pop concert.
People who have been to them know what I mean, because you can look at any social networking platform after an event and there’s several fan accounts that all have similar underlying themes. Additionally, when other bloggers recount to me their experiences in Los Angeles and New York — this includes Korean rappers’ shows too — they all have similar problems. Between the disorganization/incompetence, a group who may or may not want to even be there, and even the crowd being lame (many didn’t really know the group, and a friend of a member told me they had no idea what their songs were), it seemed all too familiar.
My conclusion? Sadly, Boys Republic is just another added to the list of groups that probably won’t visit the UK again, at least if we’re basing it on the non-free ticket turnout and their apparent experience here. By default, you’d like to be positive about events like this, but as a non-fan I found it difficult to see past anything but the problems that usually plague these events. And in that sense, this certainly was an eye-opener to experience it first-hand for once.
Oh yeah, and as a bonus there were the screams that still haunt me until this day, as every night I hear an “oppar saranghae” before I sleep.
Photos taken by Beyond Hallyu.