By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief
K-pop is often thought to be a genre that consists mostly of beautiful idol groups in glitzy clothes singing addictive pop melodies while they dance in tightly choreographed cadence to a pre-recorded track. By its own merit, K-pop has become the largest niche genre in the world, but most know it more for its razzle-dazzle factor and less for its artistic content.
Korea’s artists offer a wide spectrum of musical attitudes and styles, and of these styles, Korean hip-hop and R&B are leading the charge towards the mainstream. Korean hip-hop and R&B are currently enjoying a level of international popularity of previously unseen magnitude, lifting the two genres into such high national and global awareness that I am hesitant to lump them into K-pop at all.
Among the leaders of this charge are the artists at Amoeba Culture. Founded in 2004 by Dynamic Duo members Gaeko and Choiza, the label sought to create “new ideas and positive energy for the further growth and spread of good music and culture,” and have been signing and promoting artists who seem to have done nothing but exactly that over the past couple of years.
When Amoeba Culture announced that they would be bringing their all-star roster to New York, I’ll admit that I was more excited for this concert than any K-pop idol concert I’ve been to recently, and judging by the line of fans that started lining up at the venue at 9am on Saturday, I was not alone. Terminal 5 can bee an intimidating venue for an artist – with three tiers and a massive general admission floor, when T5 doesn’t sell well, it’s obvious. When it does sell though, it’s incredible, and Amoeba packed the house to the rafters, making it the first sold-out Korean show (even amongst idols) in New York City of this magnitude in recent memory.
DJ Friz opened up the show with a hype-inducing turntable set, weaving the beat seamlessly back and forth between EDM and hip-hop. Friz worked the turntables for many of the other artists on stage as well, and when he brought out the first one, the crowd lost their minds. Crush took the stage with an overwhelming amount of confidence that was only bolstered by the squeals coming from all of the ladies in the audience. For his opening number he performed “A Little Bit” off of his debut album, and with it’s slow jam verses and double time chorus the song served as a great build-up to the rest of the show.
Crush cruised through the rest of his set with vocal prowess that made his performance look and sound effortless. Crush’s voice has a sort of glossy timbre to it that lends a feel to his performance that is all at once robust yet tender, allowing him to belt the anchor notes on “Sometimes” and “Hug Me,” glide flawlessly through the runs on “Whatever You Do,” and soar past and sustain the highest of falsetto notes on “I Fancy You.”
One of the best parts about the Amoeba show was how fluid the transitions between performers were. Because Amoeba Culture artists collaborate with each other so frequently, they were able to progress the lineup with a constant and unbroken flow of music throughout the entire night. Zion.T took the stage alongside Crush to perform their first duet “Two Melodies” and their more recent collaboration, “Just,” together, before Crush stealthily left the stage to let Zion.T do his thing. Zion.T’s set list was a superb combination of his slower R&B ballads like “Yanghwa Bridge” and his more funky up-tempo hits like “Baby.” It was clear that the singer had a particular aptitude for communicating with the audience (despite the fact that at least 50% of the attendees were non-Korean speakers), swerving and dipping in and out of the melody and encouraging the crowd to participate in the performance.
Audience participation only increased when box-headed DJ Primary arrived on the scene to perform “만나 (Meet)” with Gaeko then joining the two for “See Through” and Choiza eventually making his way on stage for “? (물음표).” Like Crush did, Zion.T slyly snuck off the stage to make way for the force that is Dynamic Duo. After performing a few of their laid-back collaboration hits like “Johnny (자니?)” with Primary, Dynamic Duo took the show positively stratospheric. Performing their biggest hits both old and new including “출첵 (Attendance Check)” and “BAAAM,” the two rappers had the crowd screaming their signature “Who are we? DYNAMIC DUO!” call and response chant frequently and fiercely.
The entire Amoeba Culture roster came back out on stage for a thrilling performance of their closing song, “Friday Night,” igniting the audience at its peak point of flammability and culminating in an explosion so massive that for a solid 20 seconds, everything was just one big blur of sound, lights, confetti, and hands in the air. After the artists took their final bow, there was a sort of lifted feeling amongst the crowd, almost like the clarity of a release – that feeling that you get after a particularly long and strenuous work out. Everyone seemed to be dizzy with euphoria, still exhilarated and enthralled by everything that had just happened.
That euphoria didn’t come from the over-produced video effects or flashy choreography routines that we normally see in K-pop. It came from Amoeba Culture’s founding mission to put out “positive energy” and “good music.” With those two core values anchoring the artists that took the stage that night, Amoeba Culture proved that sincerity and artistry triumph over glitz and glamour every time.
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Tags: Amoeba Culture Choiza CRUSH DJ Friz Dynamic Duo Gaeko Primary Zion.T