Seen & Heard: A Review of KCON 2014

What do you get when you put thousands of K-pop fanatics into one Los Angeles sports arena parking lot? Chaos, excitement, and more snapbacks and flannel shirts tied around waists than you’ve ever seen in your life.

KCON 2014 was unprecedented in its size and global reach this year, bragging attendance of 42,000 fans from all over the United States, appearances by 10 major K-pop headliners (BTS, B1A4, CNBLUE, G-Dragon, Girls’ Generation, IU, Jung Joon Young, SPICA, Teen Top, and VIXX), over 100 Los Angeles vendors, 114 combined sponsors, labels, media companies, and merchandisers, and 130 special guests.

moonROK attended the convention for the first time this year to see what all the hype was about, and are here today to tell you what we saw and heard from fans, artists, and organizers throughout the weekend.

 

Seen: BTS Fans Everywhere

We knew Bangtan Boys were popular, but boy oh boy we did not know that they were THAT popular. Look in any direction at the convention and you were guaranteed to see at least three fans sporting BTS jerseys. In Korea, BTS are still considered more or less as a rookie group, but in America they are clearly more than that. One Mnet employee even admitted that the program “American Hustle Life” in which BTS travels to the United States to learn about American hip-hop culture is one of the network’s most popular programs amongst American audiences. Indeed that popularity was proven at KCON 2014 as A.R.M.Y members were out and in uniform as far as the eye could see.

 

Heard: SONEs

The prize for the loudest fandom at the concert portion of the weekend definitely goes to Girls’ Generation fans. When the curtain was lifted and they stood there on that pink pedestal, the stadium physically shook with the booming cheers coming from the crowd. The large number of SONEs in attendance may have been due to the fact that SNSD recently celebrated their 7th anniversary as a group, or perhaps because it had been so long since the group performed in America. In our professional opinion, we just think everybody likes Girls’ Generation at least a little bit, and even if you don’t want to admit it, when they perform “Gee,” let’s face it: you’re not going to not sing.

 

Seen: Not the Panels

Attendance at this year’s panels was a bit disappointing. We made the rounds at most of panels, and noticed that audience hovered around only 20 or 30 people on average. At most big conventions, panels are typically the highlight of the weekend and in fact are the reason for hosting a convention. Conventions take place in order for professionals in a field to “convene” and discuss current events and developments in that specific field, in this case, “all things Hallyu.” Many of the panels did indeed focus on these things, but the increasingly obvious problem was that KCON attendees were not there for the panels – they were there for the concert. We talked to multiple KCON 2014 attendees and asked them why they decided to attend, and every single time their first answer was “the concert.” So while the attendance at this year’s KCON was overwhelming and we think that it is fantastic that so many people came, it would be great to see a little more emphasis placed on the panels in the coming years.

 

Heard: The “Dance All Day” Tent

Perhaps the reason that attendance was so low at the panels was because the “Dance All Day” tent was straight up bumpin’ all weekend. You could hear the boisterous “OHHH”s from all the way across the stadium each time a new song started, and even when the tent wasn’t hosting events such as dance contests, K-pop choreography classes, and showcases, there were constantly hundreds of people gathered around the tent. Run by K-pop choreographer Aimee Lee Lucas and her crew of smooth-stepping K-pop enthusiasts, “Dance All Day” was certainly the most popular tent of the convention.

 

Seen: Fans and Fashion Icons

Street style, cosplay, chic and classic – you name it we saw it. KCON 2014 attendees went all out this year when it came to dressing up. Despite the sweltering heat, brave fans wore full-fledged cosplay outfits including leather jackets and pants, feather boas, high knee socks, and wigs. Some outfits were so convincing that those wearing them could have actually passed as idols themselves. The hard work of the fashionistas of KCON 2014 did not go unnoticed though; those who dressed up were constantly posing for photos with other KCON attendees, and even getting featured in online news outlets (such as moonROK) – check out some of our favorite KCON 2014 fashion icons below.

 

Heard: Chaos and Confusion

“Wait, where’s the fan event?” “Is there really only one exit?” “I have a ticket but not a wristband can I still get in?” “How do I get to the concert entrance?” These questions and more could constantly be heard around KCON 2014. The magnitude of this year’s event combined with a security staff who seemed to know only as much about what was going on as the attendees did created quite a bit of confusion when it came to figuring out where to go and how to get there. Furthermore, because the event is organized around a circular stadium, the only way to get anywhere was to go all the way around the arena, which meant passing through all of the vendors, squirming your way past the outdoor convention stage, and then fighting your way through the fansite booths, which were constantly crowded with lines of attendees wanting to get their hands on their favorite group’s merch. When we asked attendees what they thought KCON should improve upon for next year, their answers were overwhelmingly “organization.”

 

Seen: Really Long Lines

Continuing with the theme of chaos and confusion, one thing that you could always count on seeing at KCON were lines. Lines to get into the convention, lines to buy food, lines to buy merchandise, and one huge, whopping line to get into the concert. Furthermore, there was only one entrance to the convention, and only one person checking tickets at that entrance, which meant that you had to stand in line for nearly an hour just to get inside. In fact, these lines are where we heard most of the complaints about KCON. We also talked a few members of the hired security team, who seemed to have just as many complaints as the attendees. Because they were understaffed, many members of the security team ended up working 18+ hours each day of KCON – probably not a fun job to have in the summer heat, especially when that job mainly consists of telling people that they can’t go somewhere or do something and then dealing with the resultant anger of those people. Hopefully next year KCON will hire more security so that there will be shorter lines, less confusion, less sunburns, and more content attendees and employees.

 

Heard: Squeals of Joy

Despite all of the confusion, chaos, and complaints, the concert made it all worth it for everyone. Throughout the concert and even after the concert was over, attendees could not stifle their squeals of joy. At the end of the weekend, it became clear that despite all of the things that KCON might have gotten wrong or could have done better, they achieved their overarching goal: to bring K-pop fans from all over the country to one place where they could interact not only with each other but with established K-pop artists. Yes, attendees might remember how sweaty they got in their flannel shirts and snapbacks while they waited in line for two hours, but more importantly, they’ll remember how awesome G-Dragon’s performance was, or how cool the crowd’s glowing lights looked as they pumped in unison to CNBLUE, or seeing Girls’ Generation perform live for the first time ever after being a fan for seven years.

 

In conclusion, the good times at KCON 2014 outweighed the bad, and we here at moonROK have no doubt that next year’s KCON will be bigger and better than ever.

We also took a ton of pictures at KCON this year! We’ve posted some of our favorites below, but check out the full album on the moonROK Facebook Page!

 

You can find out more about KCON at their Official Website, Facebook Page, or Twitter.

All non-moonROK images courtesy of KCON
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