I love Korean culture, and am obsessed with Korean-related events in London. Only, K-pop has always been something I’ve shied away from. I find it hard to accept it isn’t “my thing”, but maybe it just isn’t. I try to listen to Seoul FM so as to improve my Korean language skills (and to become “down”), however within seconds find myself replacing the poppy sounds with something that can only be described as ’80s Brit doom rock. Thus, my K-pop knowledge remains rather limited. Let’s see, I think I know who Big Bang, Shinee, DongBangShinGi, Wondergirls, SNSD and 2NE1 are. I don’t know many of their songs, though.
My repeated excuse is that K-pop just ain’t rock ‘n’ roll. Yet, as a phenomenon, it continues to intrigue me, and I love it in a live context (well I’ve only been to one other K-pop concert, but it was fun fun fun!) When I heard that the MBC Korean Culture festival was coming to town, I saw this as an opportunity to give K-pop a real chance, to embrace the hype, and to educate myself on the ever-growing fad.
So with little more knowledge than the fact that an ex-Wondergirl was in one of the acts, here are some first impressions of the MBC Korean Culture Festival from me, the non-fangirl and relative K-pop dummy (NB: please excuse my ignorance!):
:) Cool, well-coordinated dance moves, delivered with tonnes of effort and energy from London K-poppers.
:( I didn’t know the songs or dances, so couldn’t join in.
NFG verdict: Fun to watch, infectious and pretty crazy- I’ll defo follow the London flashmob crowd from now on (strictly as an audience member!)
:) Electric atmosphere, dramatic drumming and powerful dancing.
:( The many, many peaks of energy were exhausting.
NFG verdict: Awesome way to introduce the concert, and to integrate the traditional Korean theme throughout.
:) Glam, sleek girlies and catchy, poppy tunes.
:( Nothing new, different or exciting.
NFG verdict: Would undoubtedly dance to any of these tunes if they happened to come on at a club or party, and I was a tad tipsy.
:) Cover artists rather than idols, and the crowd still went mental with screams for them.
:( Slightly confused by the whole performance, especially the chest-flashing aspect.
NFG verdict: Like a Britain’s Got Talent audition. Would probably have enjoyed it a lot more had I been a FG and known the songs.
:) Cute, fairy-like performers with cool modern-classical concept and bags of talent and stage presence.
:( Way too squeaky clean for my liking.
NFG verdict: Would jump at the chance to see Queen live again, but would certainly never listen to them otherwise.
:) Eccentric and “funny”.
:( Rowdy, football-chant-like music that hurt my ears.
NFG verdict: Novelty pop act, with a confused guitarist who thought he was in a metal band. Think I’ll give these a miss.
:) Stunning fashion aspect of the show that wowed the crowd with beautiful design and graceful display.
:( Everyone around me was complaining that this bit went on far too long (I disagreed, but then I didn’t know who EXO-K were, let alone crave their presence!)
NFG verdict: A visual representation of what the night was all about: traditional K-culture meeting with modern K-culture. My favourite act of the evening.
:) Got the entire crowd up and dancing (yes, that includes me but I had had a drink or two by then!)
:( Generic, lip-syncing boy band dressed in campy women’s clothing.
NFG verdict: Played the “idol” role very well, but I’m not convinced.
Despite not being the biggest fan of K-pop music, I had an amazing night at the MBC concert. Sure, this was partly due to the fact that a variety of acts performed. Equally, though, the atmosphere was buzzing, the people were fun and friendly, and the effort everyone had gone to (performers, event organisers and crowd) was overwhelming.
I’ve gotta hand it to the FGs- their energy and spirit is second to none, and their devotion to Korean culture does seem to go way beyond pop music. The sceptic in me argues that they would have screamed their heads off regardless of who or what had come onto the stage that night, and the quality of whatever that may have been, though.
So while I still see K-pop as an acquired taste, and one far from my comfort zone, the live experience it brings with it continues to be a spectacle that I’d recommend to anyone and everyone, no matter their music taste. Disclaimer: I won’t be held responsible for the quality of the K-pop music itself.