Because I had to get this off my chest, this is a retelling of the infamous doomed festival KAMP LA 2022, told from the perspective of an actual attendee. I’ve written this three times, and each time I felt more and more compelled to realize this is definitely something that will remembered by those who were there, though not necessarily in the way that the promoters hoped. I can’t possibly express how ridiculous it is to write out all of the shit that went wrong, but I guess I’m gonna try. Amazingly, we had a fabulous time anyway.
All of this starts after the sudden broken promises, which I’m going to skip waxing poetic about because I feel like we been through enough. Something to keep in mind throughout all this is that this was hyped as potentially the biggest K-pop event in US history.
So let’s start where the real action began: The hunt for rain ponchos. That’s right, on top of all the nonsense we as fans had been through the last 48 hours, mother nature was about to crash the party. The Rose Bowl is a massive stadium capable of holding over 90,000 bodies. It’s an open air stadium that touts all events are come rain or shine, but you can’t bring an umbrella. So we stopped and bought rain ponchos, looking like rubber duckies in bright yellow through the entire show on Saturday. The weatherman forecasted a rain storm, and boy did it rain.
We headed to the Rose Bowl driving through beautiful Pasadena, California with not a drop of traffic in sight. We pulled up to a sparse parking lot and walked with the crowd into the venue. And there was a crowd! Don’t let the reports fool you, there were lots of people there … eventually at least. The problem is the Rose Bowl is freakin’ huge. The other problem is even though the company gave Dady1 attendees a very small window to request a refund, and droves of attendees did just that. So yeah, there was a crowd, albeit a small one.
Due to the rain in the forecast, the venue tented off the sound booth and video platforms. Because of this, most of the view for the center lower seats were obstructed all the way up to ADA. The venue then shifted the seating. They ushered people into GA free of charge and moved everyone else forward closer to the stage. We kept our seats dead center at the top of the seating because we had ADA seats out of necessity, but the view was fantastic.
Which is why I decided to live stream the entire concert.
Out of the gate, P1Harmony stepped on stage. They looked fantastic, they danced their feet off, and sang with all their might! Once the show started, all that rage that stormed through our systems calmed to match the drizzle, and the absurdity began to settle in.
They gave a fiery performance of a whopping seven songs with hard hitting beats and explosive choreography, and just as explosive was the arrest that happened at the end of their set.
Well, anyway, the stage was huge with a massive arrow like catwalk, a full light and sound setup that was definitely a big budget setup. The group danced and sang, and everyone enjoyed the performance.
As many pointed out, though, the problems with KAMP continued after. No fault of the boys, of course.
We then waited through an extra long pause in the program as more people began to trickle into the stadium. Suddenly, music was booming and T1419 ran out on stage. They got into formation … waiting for the music to either stop, restart, or who knows what. But the song didn’t stop, and they just stood there awkwardly as the song continued without them. Finally, one member stood up straight, squared his shoulders and walked off stage. The rest of T1419 followed him off stage, one by one jogging after him.
We waited a few more moments only for the music to start again, the members to run out again, realize again it’s the wrong song, and head back off stage. THE ABSURDITY OF IT ALL! Not gonna lie, we were cackling at the whole situation by the time they started for the third time, but they finally got it right, and T1419 began their performance. Not only did they do a fantastic job in a pinch as they were not supposed to perform that day at all, but they blew us all away in their nautical themed outfits and fun choreography. We are definite fans now.
Of course the problems didn’t end with solving the audio track issue. One of the most prominent problems on Day 1 of KAMP was the translators. They were atrocious. I assume these people were not professional translators and just bilingual staff members who were roped into translation, so I’m trying my best not to blame them for doing a terrible job.
The first translator took on the job of host, attempting to delay as much as possible with inane questions, interrupting the members as they attempted English, or finishing their sentences in Korean. It was a mess. At one point, she asked the members who was the best BTS impersonator, and the entire crowd hissed at the loaded question. The boys handled it with an exemplary level of professionalism for a new group, saying they looked up to BTS. One T1419 member sang a small clip of Jimin’s “Serendipity” after an awkward moment of pressure. They then exited the stage just to return to kill more time. Day 1 was a disorganized mess already.
MOMOLAND stated they were supposed to fly in the day before, but missed that flight and flew in the same day of the show. They apologized to fans and performed energetically even though they were severely jetlagged.
The rain began to pour and we donned our yellow ponchos as MOMOLAND stepped out off of the main stage, and even though it was cold and raining, performed on the catwalk. They thanked fans for showing, and that was the moment it really set in that these artists were really here for us. As the other group doing double work, they did their best and it was such a great performance, even minus two members.
iKON stepped on stage shortly after, and for a while there we completely forgot how angry we had been that morning. The Konbats were out in full force to see iKON live, and honestly it was well worth it. This may have been the longest set I’ve ever seen them perform with six songs total, and they rammed through their set at breakneck speed with hard hitting EDM sounds as they turned the heat up in the stadium — and not just because Bobby removed his fringed hoodie and reminded the world that yes indeed he was (a) daddy.
I am forever floored by iKON. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the neglect is, when they perform live in the US, it is always unforgettable. And this time was no different.
Super Junior — THE ENTIRE LINEUP SANS TWO MEMBERS (Heechul and Siwon) — then stood on that stage and it was a sea of blue. ELFs came from around the world to see SuJu, and let me tell you, they really turned out. We got over an hour, a massive 10-song setlist of these grown-ass men doing grown-ass performances for their grown-ass fans, and it was the most glorious thing I’ve seen all year.
They greeted the crowd like it was their concert, really. The group laughed and joked with the audience, and they roasted the terrible translator (I’m assuming this was translator #2 because it was a different voice completely and she sounded like Eeyore in Korean, just sad to be on the mic) on stage with zero remorse when she truncated a translation and the guys caught it.
SuJu then celebrated Donghae‘s birthday with the entire audience. By this time, with the areas designated, it was a pretty full audience. In no way was it lacking. Yes, it was smaller, but again, we were loud and raucous.
And then it was over at a shockingly early hour. It was so early we were actually able to get rest and get ready for Day 2, for which we still had no updated artist roster. Good times!
On the morning of Day 2, we finally got the new roster and breathed a sigh of relief to see Epik High on the list even though Tablo tweeted a cryptic emoji that had everyone in a panic the day before. We arrived to the Rose Bowl, again the smoothest drive I’ve ever taken to that venue, and parked. We entered, bought t-shirts with the hilarious plan to buy red puffy paint and draw giant X’s over the artists that didn’t make it. This is how we deal with our grief, okay?!
Anyway, to kick off Day 2, T1419 stepped out in gorgeous embellished white suits and proceeded to absolutely obliterate the stage as if they had something to prove. It was magical. I was so impressed to see just how hardcore they are, this fresh group getting their chance to perform here and on their allotted day with their allotted setlist and not a sound issue in sight.
Day 2 commenced in more botched translations, but also more participation of the boys comfortably speaking into the mic. The translator this time took their time translating, no longer running the boys over. It looked like things were looking up for Day 2!
MOMOLAND then entered the stage missing yet another member. Ahin had not felt very good, and it was decided she not perform that day. I can’t confirm why, but the girls did a standout performance in the pouring rain the day before. So, that might have something to do with it.
Regardless, even with another member missing, the girls pushed through and gave great performances as they danced to their hits. They were charismatic and gorgeous up close. This wasn’t my first time seeing them, but it felt like this was a much more mature MOMOLAND, and everyone loved it.
Then Chungha stepped on stage and we finally got our sound error of the day (livestream broadcast here). They switched a song on her and she had to act fast, which she did! And she kept going as if it was nothing like a total pro. She’s also gorgeous.
Chungha spoke to the fans, letting them know that through it all she was just so happy people were there to see her and that she was there to perform for them. It was humbling and sweet to see and hear her pointing out her albums in the crowd. “Oh! There’s my debut album!“, she said excitedly into the mic at one point. Even with her adorableness, no one can miss how fierce she is as a performer and she did not hold back at KAMP.
Then it was time for Epik High’s set, which started with Tablo introducing DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin like they were super heroes ( of course!), like they were boxers stepping into a ring, like they were about to save the festival as if it was the world. The man is a genius but he’s also naturally hilarious. So, when he got on the mic and just started speaking from the heart, I suddenly felt so sorry for everyone who didn’t go to KAMP.
It was hysterical as he called out the entire debacle in the most glorious monologue I’ve ever witnessed on stage. Like Shakespeare, Tablo spun words into beautiful sentiments, reminding fans that in ten years or twenty years they have an answer for where they were for KAMP. He laughed on stage, barely able to get through his own speeches as he made innuendo after innuendo about the terrible choices made by KAMP and how the artists that were able to make it are here to perform for fans and are so happy to see everyone there. That even through the mess, we make the best of it.
They then performed a fantastic high energy power set of their hits as fans danced, jumped, and screamed the lyrics back at them. I would like to apologize to anyone who watches that clip because honestly I could no longer hold back. So … just a warning, camera kinda goes off the rails with Epik High, which is exactly how it should be if you see them live.
Finally, aespa stepped on stage and their show began, and I’m going to say this in the most diplomatic and unbiased way possible: although they have a bunch of hit songs, gorgeous costumes, pretty faces, and pretty voices, there was something missing at KAMP, and that was stage presence.
I felt like the stage simply swallowed them whole. They looked amazing. They sounded good. It just felt … stiff. We see them on screen and digitally, and they look like a total badass girl group blast! But that night, they were just getting through it, I guess.
I’m sure diehard aespa fans enjoyed it but there was something definitely missing. Maybe the girls were jetlagged. Maybe it was the fact that Giselle got physically yanked off stage by a man I’m assuming is their manager because her costume was about to fall off her body during performances. Maybe it was just really difficult to follow Epik High’s absolute banger of a set. I don’t know. What I do know is, I look forward to seeing aespa again, if only in the hopes that it will rouse something in me that will make me enjoy it more than I did that day.
As I look back, days after the entire fiasco went down, I realize just how much fun we all had. Sure, I’m a filthy filthy multi, which means I wasn’t banking on just one artist to bring me joy with their live performances. And of course I was deeply disappointed on missing out on some of my faves. But that in no way shape or form stopped me from enjoying the artists that did show up.
Honestly, I hope that someone out there tries again. I believe in second chances and I want so very much for another K-pop festival to rival KCON because I don’t believe monopolies are good for anyone, and certainly not in K-pop.
So here’s to surviving KAMP, in all its missing visas, lack of transparency and information, lack of translators, arrested fans, missing artists, brutal weather, sound issues, and chaotic glory. While the event itself was a mess, seeing these artists live and seemingly surprised that people showed up was better than a consolation prize. It was a win.