(Photo : Karen May Cunanan )
Although the day started off rough with heavy rains, clearly Mother Nature got the memo that the second day of KCON 2017 NY Presented by Toyota was beginning. By the time former Coco Avenue’s Jenny Lyric took the Convention Stage for a surprise morning performance, the sun was shining, the sky was clear, and there were already people lining up for the concert’s general admission. These fans were not about to miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to see their faves up close-one Once, the name for Twice’s loving fans, even braved the rain and camped out in line overnight. That’s some serious dedication.
Panels for the day started off on a serious note with Cross Cultural Clashes in Hallyu, moderated by KpopStarz’ own Lai Frances, where POC Hallyu content creators WhitneyBae, Eddi, Jasmine, and former Coco Avenue members Jenny Lyric and Jenna Rose discussed issues like cultural appropriation as they appear in the Korean world.
Excitement only grew as more attendees filled Prudential Center’s convention grounds, with many fans sporting gear of their favorite group, ready to participate in the day’s programming. The Toyota and ATT booths played popular K-Pop jams where attendees were free to go up and showcase their choreography knowledge. Twice’s TT was especially popular-people would run to dance as soon as they heard those iconic opening synths. Aside from dancing, attendees could receive free samples of Korean snacks and skincare, try their luck at winning full-size items (Innisfree’s claw game was particularly fun), and pick the brains of their favorite Korean beauty gurus at panels, workshops, and QA sessions.
Here’s a part of Korean culture that usually goes unnoticed: their massive gaming scene. KCON NY offered a taste of the hype with a tent that boasted, in addition to air conditioning and an escape from the heat, a place to test out new games and devices like the Game Vice, purchase merch from popular gaming teams like Counter Logic Gaming and Immortals, and see Amazon’s ‘Mobile Masters Invitational’. The tournament included mobile games Summoners War, Vainglory, and Hearthstone, and a total of $65,000 in prizes. Casted and streamed on Twitch, the ‘Mobile Masters Invitational’ featured pro players battling it out live and gave con-goers a small taste of the gaming scene that also takes a large spot in Hallyu culture.
Another highlight of Saturday was Super ANX’s Kpop Battles, a live Kpop dance cover event where teams from all over the country (one team came all the way from Texas!) to show off their skills. HARU, hailing from New Brunswick, New Jersey, defended their spot as reigning champions and took home the first place trophy for the second year in a row with Dreamcatcher’s GOOD NIGHT. Rice Paddy Heroes came in at 2nd Place and DIAMOND came in at 3rd Place, both from Boston, Massachusetts.
The convention portion of KCON was a great lead-up to the second and last day of KCON’s M! Countdown concert. JunCurryAhn and 1Million Dance Studio made up the night’s pre-show, leading into the concert’s opening act: Twice presented concert-goers with a tribute to girl group legends with their take on the Wonder Girl’s hit “Nobody” and miss A’s “Bad Girl, Good Girl”. Up10tion took the stage next, performing their comeback “Runner” even before it debuted in Korea. The rookie group’s clean and exciting choreography, especially in their song “Attention”, garnered lots of noise from the fans. The group was followed by NCT 127, another new boy band who recently celebrated their one year anniversary. Their explosive title tracks “Firetruck” and “Limitless” contrasted greatly with the feel-good vibes of “Good Thing”, “0 Mile”, and a cute section where members Taeil and Doyoung serenaded a fan with love songs. NCT 127 ended their set with “Cherry Bomb”, their newest comeback-the audience went wild at the group’s jaw-dropping choreography.
UP10TION then returned to the stage for a special stage where they performed ABBA’s “Honey Honey”, a heart-warming tribute to their fans, called Honey10s. Their cute vibes led smoothly into girl group wonder Twice, performing their hits “Signal”, “TT”, “Cheer Up”, and “Knock Knock”, and even including a special section to interact with the audience and pose cutely for photos. CNBLUE, the night’s final headliners, then took the stage with “Between Us”, “Cinderella”, “It’s You”, and “Can’t Stop”. Frontman Yonghwa was extremely playful with the audience, dancing and moving around the entire stage.
All of KCON’s Day 2 performers then came out for the closing stage, sending the audience their final goodbyes with waves, finger-hearts, kisses, and lots of confetti. It was sad to see KCON 2017 come to an end-but it was an experience that I’ll always treasure and never forget.