Nearly a month after KCON 2023 LA, I’ve decided to finally put words to my feelings of the events that transpired. Let’s clear the air a bit.
KCON has become the premiere K-pop convention, with three days of hardcore convention housed at the LA Convention Center and three nights of the most intense K-pop experience a fan could have. There’s no such thing as overload in the world of K-pop, but KCON is really reaching for those stars. And as we’ve seen with recent events selling low tickets, failing at visas, and even cancelling whole festivals, what KCON LA does every year isn’t a walk in the park.
KCON has over a decade of history in LA, with somewhat humble roots right next to USC in South LA to Crypto.com Arena and the LA Convention Center West Convention Hall. Its numbers grow every year and so does the chaos. But what we gripe about every year doesn’t hold a candle to the experience of meeting our faves, making new friends, being in LA, and just living neck deep in that K-pop world with some of the best people around.
So what about this year?
2023 KCON LA was held on the weekend of August 18-20. While normally we prep for boiling heat and thanking the first generation K-pop Gods for a fully air conditioned convention hall (because seriously there’s no reason why it smelled that crunchy in a temp controlled environment!), this year we were met with something altogether different. We were met with Hurricane Hilary. Let me just clarify, the last time a tropical storm of any kind hit California was 1939. It’s literally been 84 years. And those of us who were local were in panic mode over our homes and families being in flood zones. So what did we do?
We partied harder. Because that’s what Californians do best. Well, either that or panic.
So as the swirling storm clouds rolled in, we hit the KCON convention floor. Lots of changes have occurred the last two years, some good and some bad. Not being able to check in on the Thursday before for badges and bracelets was pretty ridiculous, as every single day the line to enter the convention center was basilisk level bad. Whereas before we would have hated the heat, this time we hated the rain. It came in spurts and poured down through the sweltering temps, causing a level of humidity no native Californian was used to. Luckily, those who came in with any experience in humidity did perfectly well. The rest of us were drowning on dry land.
The convention itself had whole sections dedicated to taking all of your money, but also sections dedicated to showing you your faves up close and personal. Seeing Shownu and Hyungwon (of MONSTA X) on the mic speaking English and laughing at each other while wearing the tightest leather outfits in K-pop history was a sight to be seen, for example.
Meanwhile, the KCON Stage basically replaced Rookie Night, which I think was a genius move. Other stages had idols doing fun variety stuff with fans, which brought that parasocial relationships everyone speaks of to new heights.
They also had the Samsung Cube, which was basically a glass cube housing idols, but who was this for? Surely not for fans with its zero sound and blocked views. Samsung getting those free promos for investors on the floor live was a wild thing to watch. LA’s own Music Plaza and Choice Music were both in attendance for you to spend all your money, not to mention the booths dedicated to PC’s (RIP your allowance). The dance stage was big this year as well, with not one winner but a huge group of winners getting to perform with IVE on the KCON Concert Stage.
The convention had so much going on from K-beauty to K-dramas to merch and all kinds of stuff to keep us fans busy.
The panels, though, were hit and miss. Although the panel where we got to learn how to dance with CRAVITY was a blast, the only thing I felt was a massive failure was food. Every year prior to the pandemic, the 626 Night Market would set up on Chick Hearn Court or LA Live Way and bring all the most delicious foods you could eat. This year, we got two vendors. That’s it. And a crappy food court situation that was so depressing we ended up just hitting up local restaurants around the venue.
Of course there was so much to be seen, it was like running a marathon! People were hitting goals in their daily steps that were astronomically higher than usual as they ran through the convention center. And with that came the funk … oh man.
YAS’ TIPS FOR NOT BEING THE SMELLY FRIEND AT KCON
Unfortunately, there were those fans who either have never experienced a convention or don’t believe in self-care and hygiene, because every day there would be pockets of fresh stench and sadness making its way through crowds.
With the rabidity of fans this time around (being the biggest KCON LA to date), I could only say that it’s totally understandable that you may have never been in this situation before. It’s also totally understandable if you are too sad to shower. It happens. But please, for the love of Taemin, I beg of you, please pack a travel-sized deodorant in your clear bag. You can also consider body wipes. I carry some in my bag when I travel just in case. You never know. It’s just like a pack of wipes, and you can wipe down your unmentionable parts from your neck to your toes if you want, and toss the wipes (please don’t flush them) to move on with your day smelling fresh as a daisy. And finally, pack a shirt to change into.
Sometimes 8 hours running and screaming through a convention hall may have you smelling like Cool Ranch Doritos and self loathing. Head to a bathroom, take a few minutes to wipe down, and change your shirt! Now you smell clean as a whistle!
I say all this because as fans piled into the pit at the concert or lined up for high touches (albeit behind plexiglass), the stench can be smelled by everyone, including your favorite idols. Please keep in mind, there is no judgement here. We’ve all been there. But for the sake of everyone around us, let’s all just take a moment to freshen up. It’s ok to do that. And anyone who judges you for doing that is just unworthy of your time.
Anyway, there were other odd moments at the event as well. Camping out made absolutely no sense. Downtown LA is not safe, and trust me, trying to camp out is a massive no no. Little birdies told us a few fansites found out the hard way what happens if you leave anything out to try to save your spot for pit. I hope those stools and supplies were cheap, because they definitely were also gone.
Speaking of, KCON LA and convention security wasn’t awesome. They all looked and often acted as if they hated their jobs and were totally overwhelmed. Not sure there really is anything they can do about this, but it was interesting to see them all wishing they were somewhere else. Keep in mind, these are locals and that storm was a’ brewin.
The concerts themselves were as good as they could get with Crypto.com’s shoddy sound system. Luckily with K-pop idols, they’re professionals and all knew how to deal with whatever was coming out of those speakers.
I will say, in hindsight, getting to see artists for only two or three songs is heartbreaking. Often times we wanted so much more. WayV was so amazing live, and to hear the entire theater singing along in unison just made me wonder why we haven’t gotten that tour. Same with Taemin and other groups.
We had great hosts of the event in Kevin Woo to Alex Reid, who were professional and fun. We had amazing preshow showcases with artists that maybe didn’t quite fit the K-pop genre like George, who sang an amazing set of R&B hits before the concert started as everyone clambered to their seats.
I could personally live without the games, as it cranks up my anxiety when they aim the cameras at the crowd, but everyone else seemed to enjoy them as idols connected with fans during the concert.
Honestly, with KCON LA, we take the good with the bad. There’s always going to be things that frustrate the hell out of us, but we at least also get the memories and experiences that make us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. It’s something KCON LA is known for, and we all prepare for it by remembering the best parts and trying to let go of the worst.
Thank you KCON LA for allowing Asian Junkie to participate, and I look forward to next year’s panic attacks.
That said, I would like to take a moment to say that because of a few factors this whole weekend was cursed for me. My memory cards fatal errored on the first day and died — I have nothing but what I shot on my phone (most of the photos were provided by KCON themselves) — and due to Hurricane Hilary, I was unable to attend all days. Here’s hoping next year the tropical storms can chill out, and we can go back to baking our asses off with some good ole fashioned California sunshine.