Serenading Sonamoo with Sketches – Incheon Fansign 2017-02-18

I have made it my mission to see Sonamoo at least once every time they have promotions. I want to have a complete collection of their signed albums, much in the way we have ended up with the full discography of Boys Republic works by way of constantly attending events for them. In doing so, however, I picked up a little side-quest along the way. During their last round of promotions I promised my favorite member, Euijin, that I would draw her in an updated form under their most recent promotional image. This was after giving her a piece of fan art which she really enjoyed and praised afterward, asking for another piece going forward. Having made this a face-to-face promise and having missed my chance at the early fansign I’d gone to for this round of promotions it meant I would have to see them a second time this round. Since the first signing I wrapped up my artwork, printed it out on crisp card stock, and was fully prepped for another shot at Sonamoo.

         

Unfortunately the group was only a week from wrapping up promotions entirely and their only manageable fan signing was all the way in Incheon. Since this is outside of Seoul to the west and we are in the northeastern corner of the Seoul residential district it meant almost a two-hour transit out to the signing venue. Luckily the Incheon signings often have the option to order your albums by way of text-and-bank-transfer, so you don’t have to travel to the other side of the city just to grab an album for the weekend’s signing event. This meant we would only have to make a single round-trip out to Incheon instead of two and it made the event far more reasonable. Either way it didn’t matter to me, it just meant I had a two-hour trip during which to get more and more excited to meet up with Euijin again. It was a long, long, long bit of travel but when we got off at the Incheon Bus Terminal stop and exited the subway we started to see familiar sights right away. There was a huge Daiso which we recognized from a signing a while ago with the boys. We had purchased little dinky dollar store gifts for all of them there and knew this was a venue we had seen before. I also remembered the Shinsegae Department Store that was hosting the event. It was a labyrinth and didn’t seem to have escalators connected to each other at sensible locations, so we had to wander around in the B1 floor, find an escalator up to 1F, then wander yet again until we could find another set of escalators going to the fifth floor. The cultural hall on this floor, an auditorium style stage room we recognized from previous signings, would be our final destination.

     

Jessy and I showed up at the little booth they had set up outside the hall and collected our albums. I got the green one again and Jessy got the white/pink one (they printed two color schemes for their albums) because we couldn’t remember which ones we had already gotten. We also picked up one of each kind of poster for this album, meaning I would finally have a poster of Sonamoo! All the other albums didn’t come with one at the places I bought the albums for them so I didn’t have any posters of this group yet. It was kind of unfortunate since they shot up to my highest ranking favorites in all of Korea shortly after their debut. Newly equipped with our merchandise and little lanyards proclaiming our randomly-drawn seat numbers (kinda neat – they usually just use tickets) we proceeded into the hall and took our seats. Jessy ended up right in front again, seated slightly off to the right in seat #9. I was seated near an aisle a few rows up in seat #56, though my vision wasn’t obstructed at all since the auditorium-style seating tiers left a clear line of sight to the entire stage.

I rushed to label my album with post-its and tried to get everything squared away before the event started. I was either too slow or I had underestimated the time remaining before the start. Sumin came prancing out onto the stage without any warning and the crowd started to cheer. I looked up from my album thinking “What? What’s happening? What am I missing!?” and noticed Sumin literally skipping around on the stage and waving to everyone. She was followed by Minjae after a short while and they kind of played around on stage for a bit. They were there way ahead of the other members so they started joking that this was a special fan signing and only those two members would be there. The other members soon came out from behind a curtain off to the side and joined them behind the table. They did their official greeting, commenced the signing, and I had an opportunity to catch up with my post-its.

I noticed Euijin saw me pretty quickly because she waved up to my spot. Nahyun did as well and I actually noticed a ton of attention from her whenever there was free time. NewSun was also very very attentive as well. Literally half of my pictures of her were direct eye-contact shots where she did some sort of pose for me. I’m not sure if it was because I was the only one she noticed taking pictures consistently in her direction or if I just stood out somehow. I honestly don’t know what her level of popularity is compared to the other members.

There was a lot of fun going on behind that table before it was my turn. D.Ana got a little Finn (Adventure Time) hand warmer and was insistent on opening it up and playing with it. She couldn’t seem to figure out the shrink-wrap coating, though. Fan manager tried to get it for her, she tried herself numerous times, but it wasn’t until she’d gone through a couple dozen fans that she finally broke through the high-tech force field holding this thing prisoner. She was so pleased with herself once she got it out, though. She put it on her arm and started bouncing it on the table, punching the air, and poking it’s stuffed face over and over. She had this happy baby face on the whole time. It was adorable.

    

Euijin was very demure today. She seemed to be presenting herself as super ladylike and elegant – moreso than usual, anyway. She was less derpy and more classy. She tends to flip-flop between the two fairly seamlessly. I noticed that all the members seemed really tired and some of them were acting a little sleep-deprived-drunkey because of it. MinJae especially – she was being a giant silly goof and kept laughing with half-lidded eyes at everything. They were doing a good job of powering through things but you could tell they were all really sleepy.

Jessy’s turn came around well before mine, I was still writing my Post-Its when she took her turn with the girls. Being among the first to go up though, she ended up getting very little time with each member. Somehow though, she had managed to finish her post-it questions before it was her turn. Looking back on it though, she knows she made mistakes with how she asked the question, and this came through in several of her interactions. Guess that’s what you get for not having enough time to check what you want to write first. Oh well. Sumin greeted her excitedly, in proper Sumin fashion, and noticed her post-it question almost immediately. Jessy had asked which member she would date if she was a man. Sumin found it hilarious, looked down the table as if appraising her members, and finally wrote Nahyun, still laughing. She then passed Jessy on to Minjae with a big high five and thank you.

Minjae of  course went all in on speaking English. They went through some niceties, and eventually Minjae asked Jessy what she was doing here in Korea. Jessy told her that she teaches English, and Minjae got super excited and said that her mom teaches English too. No wonder she’s pretty good at it! They exclaimed over this for a moment, before Minjae addressed Jessy’s post-it. She also laughed and wrote down Nahyun without much though, saying it’s because she’s fun.

Time to move on to Nahyun herself. Strangely enough, she also decided to start things off in English this time. It’s a bit odd for Nahyun, since she really doesn’t seem to know much. It was rather amusing too since she was basically just saying random words, “Hello! Oh~~ sexy!” etc. Very quickly she started laughing like crazy at Jessy’s post-it. It took her a moment to decide on her answer, but she ended up writing down Minjae (and that the question was hilarious). Jessy then told her that Minjae had written her name down as well, so she turned to the page to check before turning to Minjae and having a small freakout-fest, probably confusing the crap out of the fan talking to Minjae at the time.

Jessy moved along to D.Ana in the midst of all this. Her fan had already moved along, and she was investigating what all the commotion was with Nahyun and Minjae. So when Jessy moved over she pretty much immediately started in on the post-it question, laughing her head off just like all the rest. She decided at first to write her own name down, very enthusiastically. She then as a sidenote, added Sumin, as a good choice as well. She then ended up checking on Jessy’s age, and adding Unnie to her name before sending her on her way.

Euijin’s turn. She ended up being the most confused by how Jessy had written her question, and it took a good amount of explaining before she got it. When she did though, she couldn’t stop giggling. She ended up choosing Nahyun as well, so Jessy told her that a bunch of members were choosing Nahyun. She got a bit fake-huffy about that (probably because they weren’t choosing her) but then laughed and said it’s because Nahyun is very fun and energetic. She then signed Jessy’s photocard of her before sending her along to Hi.D.

She greeted Jessy very excitedly, probably since, as we’ve mentioned before, she seems to remember Jessy the most. Hi.D thanked Jessy for coming back to see them, and also said that she should come even more often. She stumbled a bit with Jessy’s post-it question, but eventually decided on New Sun. She then went poking her nose at what all the other members wrote down, exclaiming over how popular Nahyun was, and just generally giggling about the question. Very quickly, it was time to move along with another request for Jessy to come see them more and a high five.

New Sun came last, also greeting Jessy excitedly. She told Jessy that she remembered her coming previously, thanked her, and told her to come even more. She then quickly addressed Jessy’s post-it. She looked around at the other members a bit before deciding on Nahyun as well, with a laugh. With a final high five, Jessy was sent on her way back to her seat.

A good chunk of fans got their shot and I snapped off a ton of pictures before it was my turn. I handed off my lanyard to the staffer taking them and went right up to Sumin. She had no idea who I was again so a lot of what was said was the usual first-time-meeting-a-foreign-fan stuff. She was again shocked that I knew Korean and commented on it. I in turn commented on her shirt, which I really liked. It was a floofy, puffy-armed poet’s shirt and I said she looked like a pirate. I don’t know if she took that as a good or a bad thing, she had an unreadable response. She finished signing the album and handed it back, but MinJae was taking a really long time with the fan in front of me. As a result, I ended up looking back at Sumin and we both had a moment of “All right, so this is happening, now.” It was really awkward. I was actually quite content but I could tell Sumin was scrambling for something to fill the silence. I’m completely comfortable in silences during conversations but I know a lot of people aren’t. Honestly I would have been completely content to just keep looking into her eyes for the rest of my time – Sumin has super beautiful giant doe eyes. She ended up asking if I had eaten and I told her I hadn’t because I was on the subway. Then she asked where I came from and when I said Nowon she kind of gasped. At that point I was ready to move on to MinJae so we had to cut things off a little abruptly. Timing just didn’t work with Sumin that day, I suppose.

MinJae knew who I was immediately but it was a little confusing. She referred to me as the one who comes to see them “often,” and when I said that wasn’t the case she got really confused. She asked if it was my first time seeing them then and I also said no. I then had to explain that I didn’t see them as often as I’d like because I work too much, which was mostly true. Things seemed to make more sense to her at this point. She did recognize me, I just didn’t agree with that “often” part. Then she asked how long I had been in Korea and I said 4 years, to which she gasped a little. I told her I was living in Nowon and she wanted to know when I planned to go back to the states. I told her I had no idea. We then exchanged compliments about each others’ language skills. Today was the first time Minjae didn’t absolutely insist on using English, so she was able to speak more freely than usual and it was a lot more comfortable for me, too. Despite this, she still remains the best English language  user of the group. I told her as much and she denied all charges. I told her that even her pronunciation is really natural and she even blushed a little at that. I feel like none of them are confident with their English ability at all so maybe I hit on a point of pride for MinJae.

D.Ana was next. I’m a little doubtful about whether she remembered me or not. It could go either way with her and she didn’t do or say anything that would give it away one way or another. She did check on how long I had been in Korea and how long I intended on staying. She also wow-ed tremendously at the distance I had traversed to be there that day. As soon as I mentioned living in Nowon her jaw dropped and just stuck there. Then she went on about how that was so far and it must have taken hours. She had trouble believing that I was OK with traveling that far just to come see their group. She told me I needed to go home and rest because I must be tired after the long trip. She signed my album, the only member to write 오빠 after my name (which I actually really hate, but she’d have no way of knowing that and it’s usually supposed to be a really good thing. I appreciated the gesture considering she’d have no way of knowing being “Oppa’d” makes me uncomfortable). She also signed my photocard without my even asking – I had gotten hers in the album this time.

There wasn’t any doubt that Nahyun remembered me this time and she seemed really excited when I approached her. She is sort of the hyperactive and bubbly member of the group though so this wasn’t anything unique or special. She also asked about the commute to come here and also wanted to know about my plans to go back to the states, if there were any. She seemed really excited about me wanting to stay and said I need to come see them all the time if I am going to be in Korea. She paused for an awkward moment before deciding what she wanted to write in my album and then she decided on “So thank U!” before signing her name. I giggled inwardly at her awkward English but couldn’t bring myself to correct her. She seemed so proud of herself as she called out the words while writing them over her picture.

I had been waiting for this conversation for a long time, and Euijin recalled me with zero effort. That was what all this was for, after all. I’m even wondering a little if she is starting to remember me by name, since she referred to me directly really early in the conversation. It’s possible she looked down at the post-it on my album, but I don’t remember her doing so. If she did she was really smooth about it. Anyway, I told her I had made a new picture for her and pulled it out of the little envelope I had brought it in. I gave it over to her and she spent a short while taking it in and commenting on how she liked it and how it looked really good. I explained how last time I couldn’t give her the picture because I needed to finish it and she more or less forgave the delay. She was asking about how I drew the pictures. I told her it was a combination of pencil and digital coloring, since I have a tablet I can use for drawing on a computer (I was really proud of myself for doing all of this in Korean, by the way and she was, as always, so patient with me). I asked her how I should draw the picture next time and I think I must have worded it awkwardly. She rephrased it in a way that made no sense to me, to check if that was what I was asking. It’s actually the first time she corrected my Korean, which I appreciate so much. I hate when people let mistakes slide just for the sake of a smooth conversation. How else am I supposed to learn? I tried again and she pointed to a picture of herself in the album, with a smile and a wink as I moved on. I guess it doesn’t matter to her how I draw her, as long as I am drawing her and not abandoning her for the other members. I don’t think there is any worry of that happening, Euijin!

I was weirdly excited when talking to Hi.D. because she actually remembered me for once! Literally every conversation I have had with this girl has been a carbon copy of the last. She would ask if it was the first time I had come to see them and I’d tell her I’ve been around since debut. She would ask if I’d eaten yet (which she still did, but it was mostly because she was hungry and food was on her mind) and I would usually say no. I did so again this time and told her it was because of travel, but I said I would grab something to eat after the signing. She seemed appeased by this explanation and sent me on my way after she finished signing inside the book. She actually wrote “Thanks for coming to see us again” in Korean as well. I was so proud of her for finally remembering me!

NewSun was, as usual, last up. She also remembered me – in fact, the first words out of her mouth were “Hey, I remember you!” in English as she pointed at me. It’s a little less surprising with her since at most of the signings I actually had a ton of interaction time with her. She seems the least comfortable with English of all of them and is a little hesitant to venture forward with Korean even if I say it’s OK. It’s like she didn’t believe me or something. This time that wasn’t the case and we could actually chat a little bit. I eventually asked her what she wanted to do if she wasn’t a singer and she said she would be a producer instead. I had wondered if that was the case at other events but never thought to ask until now. I wished her luck and she thanked me for coming. I told her I would learn even more Korean to talk to her more next time and she laughed as I walked back to my chair.

         

The remainder of the signing was super entertaining. They were all kind of punch-drunk from promotions and were acting super goofy all night.  NewSun was  a pose maniac and always seemed to know when my camera was trained on her for the rest of the night. Since she was at the end and tends to have very little to say she often had spare time with no fans in front of her. MinJae was also a giant ham, but that’s more naturally her style. Euijin was less derpy and more demure than usual that night, and she came off as super girly and more elegant than usual. I’m not sure what I think of that yet, I just know she looked good overall.

       

Eventually they  got to the point where they had free talking time with the fans and MinJae and Sumin kept embarrassing themselves by trying to say things in absolutely awful English. MinJae tried singing parts of “Orange Cappucino,” one of their non promotional tracks from their new album. It’s actually the first song they’ve released I can do without, but the girls seem to absolutely love it (Nahyun especially, she dances along like a fool to it) and it seems to resonate really well with domestic fans. It’s a giant metaphor for a girl thinking a guy is sugary sweet like a syrupy cappuccino drink and how they want to drink them up with a straw. If you think that sounds a little awkward, imagine MinJae sitting there going “Oh yeah, so tasty, so sweet, delicious yum yum boy” while Sumin giggles incessantly. NewSun eventually saw Jessy laughing her head off at their antics and called out “Hey, there are foreigners here! What do you think you are doing?” MinJae and Sumin got all embarrassed and apologized, though we were still just laughing and waved it off. There was a moment for Japanese fans later when they tried to get Hi.D to sing something from an anime she likes. She said some things in Japanese but this part was lost on me altogether. There was a ton of language play and  a lot of sprawling around on the table between poses. We could tell the girls wanted to rest, though when it finally came time for bow-outs Euijin literally danced her way off the stage. She was the only one who seemed wide awake at the end of the event.

          

Hopefully they had the opportunity to get home and get some shut-eye. With about two hours of transit ahead of us, chasing the last trains home across all of Seoul, we were looking forward to some of the same. My artwork was well-delivered and well-received and I returned to Nowon with a sense of Mission: Accomplished.

     

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Monte Cristo – The Musical

With every new attempt at musical theater in Korea we seem to be getting a little more adventurous. Working our way from tried and true favorites whose English scores we can sing along to as if overlaying them on top of the Korean words we are actually listening to, we are now able to follow along with totally unfamiliar musicals and are starting to see things we find interesting for their own sake. No more rehash of what we already know, just in Korean. We are finally able to slightly expand our cultural horizons, having finally built up the confidence in ourselves and in our language skills to watch musicals as they speak (or sing) for themselves.

We have a tendency to see musicals involving high intrigue and a lot of backstabbery and two-timery. I also noticed that it’s a rare case when the protagonist of our musical choices walk away alive, much less happy. To follow along in this thread we thought we would check out the currently running musical “Monte Cristo,” a musical partially written by Frank Wildhorn, responsible for my favorite musical of all time, “Jekyll & Hyde.” Interestingly enough, it seems that this is yet another German original musical that hasn’t made its way to English yet (to my knowledge). We loved “Elizabeth,” which falls into the same category, so if you combine all these preconceptions of this musical’s potential we were pretty excited all around. The cast also had quite a few names that we recognized from other shows we’ve seen, including Kai. We hadn’t actually seen him live yet, but we follow the Korean TV show “King of Mask Singer,” and he is consistently on the show. He was first a contestant that blew us away, and has since been a regular on the judging panel, often showing off his talent from there. We’ve basically become a fan and have been wanting to see him live, so this seemed like a great chance. Not to mention the discount we picked up, having taken advantage of a “Cultural Week” sale and netting our tickets at a sweet 20% off. We invited a friend from work, and the three of us would be watching from our favorite perch at the very front of the second tier of seating. It was the perfect marriage of price affordability and viewability, so we were content to see a great show from a great spot.

We arrived at the theater with a lot of time to spare. We usually see musicals at the Blue Square Theater in Itaewon – one of the few reasons we ever frequent the district – but this one was being performed in Chungmu Art Center. It was very similar once we got inside, if a little more classically designed aesthetically. Blue Square was a little more modern and we would later notice that the acoustics seemed slightly better, but this place was just fine and quite comfortable. There were fancy red carpets leading up little stairs on the way into the theater seating areas so you felt really important going in. The show wasn’t sold out so the three of us had a little cushion around us where no one else was. It was nice and lent a sense of artificial privacy. We enjoyed the preshow visuals being projected on the curtain. There was a HUGE map of the Mediterranean chunk of Europe and some quotations in English and Korean both. I like old maps, so I had fun trying to find places whose names have changed since the days of Napoleonic Europe.

The chimes sounded and the usual warnings to check that phones were off, you’d no need for a bathroom in the next hour or so, and you had no food or drink were declared. Then it was time for the curtain to go up and the show to begin.

Things started with a lot of CG and a text narration on the screen that went a little fast for me to read in Korean. I knew the story though. Napoleon was being held on a small island far outside of post-Imperial France and under heavy guard. A young man made berth aboard a merchant ship on its shores. He met Napoleon, naively accepting a messenger’s job to someone on the mainland. All of this was told by projecting the suggestion of rocks, waves, and various environmental effects on a screen in front of the actors, who stood on raised platforms to put them at the correct height against the environment. They showed through partially transparent portions of the “screen” and it made the illusion of setting. This was all exposition so I forgave the heavy use of film and CG to get things going. Once they returned to the mainland docks it was all live-action and real sets. A huge ship sailed at the audience and stopped at the edge of the stage as its crew disembarked and started to celebrate their glorious return into the port of Marseilles. Here, Edmond Dantes, the protagonist played by Kai, takes the central role and is appointed captain of his vessel after the death of his captain. He celebrates with his fiance, Mercedes, played by Lina, and they open with a grand duet on the prow of the massive ship. This was our first time seeing Kai and our second time seeing Lina. We had seen Lina in “Jekyll & Hyde” and I preferred her to another actress playing the same character. Kai was so unbelievably powerful, however, that even Lina had trouble keeping up with him in the duet. We were a little worried at first but we soon realized that this wasn’t a fault of Lina, but an excess of talent in Kai. We were in for a treat with him as our lead.

Soon to enter were the antagonists of the show, Danglars, The Judge Villefort, and Edmond’s long-time frenemy, Mondego. The latter was played by Choi Min Chul, who we were familiar with in “Elizabeth.” We liked him at the time but felt he was ill-suited for the particular role into which he was cast. This role suited him much better, especially making use of his naturally villainous eyebrows. That man had a death glare to rival none other. He also was a master of extending long and tense silences. He worked sound as well as silence to his advantage so he made an excellent antagonist. Those three plotted against Dantes to frame him and set him up for his downfall shortly thereafter. When Dantes met with Villefort, he was forthright about his accusations of running messages for Napoleon. Just as he was about to be dismissed of all charged he revealed that he was going to deliver the note to Villefort’s father, a sympathizer of Napoleon and therefore a traitor to the new France. Villefort, seeing his politics and family compromised by a captain being released with this knowledge, decided to reverse his decision and sent Edmond to stew for the rest of his days as a traitor in the French island prison, Chateau D’If.

Parts of the set spun around and the back of the previous town scenery had suddenly become the interior of an old, shabby, rocky, and barren prison cell. There were stone walls that, when lit from behind, revealed prisoners who would sing their laments from behind a screen. When unlit the screen resembled the rest of the rock wall, but when lit it showed the prisoners in their cells. It was a really cool effect and a good use of stage space. There was an awesome three-way Mondego/Mercedes/Dantes song which spoke of their various feelings on Edmond’s predicament but obviously Kai stole the show out of those three. He was left to stew in his cell until further notice.

Soon (and by soon I mean 14 years in the plot later) he was joined by a burrowing old man who had surprised him by tunneling straight into his cell floor. They soon became fast friends and made a pact to work together to tunnel out of the prison entirely. They sang their way through this endeavor, all the while demonstrating a montage of master-student tutelage between old man Faria and Edmond Dantes himself. Dantes learned to read, to use a sword, to master economics, to study all manner of crafts of the state, and most importantly he came to understand the most befuddling and all consuming question that had plagued him all these years during his imprisonment – why and how had he come to be labelled a traitor? Finally enlightened as to whom and how his fate had been orchestrated they showed, using the same backlit stage settings, the duo digging their way out of the Chateau. Eventually the tunnel collapsed, piercing a lung of Abbe Faria, who, as a duet came to an emotional close, died in Edmond’s arms mid-verse. The sudden abruptness of the death, the way he just trailed off into unlife, and Kai’s slow realization of it and denial of its implications were expertly done and this scene was, for me, one of the highlights of the musical.

Using his friend’s death as a means of egress, Edmond posed as the corpse and was tossed over a cliff instead of his friend, disposed of by all appearances as another victim of the catacombs. This scene was done similarly to the introductory scenes. Guards climbed stairs with projected cliffs on a screen in front of them, making them look as if they were climbing up a promontory peak to toss a bundle into the foam below. The lower area of the stage was shadowed, so they could toss the “corpse” into the waves and stage hands could remove it totally invisibly from the audience. Next an underwater montage was displayed and out of the water, on a cable behind the screen, Kai suddenly “swam” up from the depths and disappeared above the stage entirely. It was a really interesting way to use the stage space and was really believable given the challenging scene they had to portray.

What followed was perhaps my favorite part of the entire musical. I have to admit I am a little biased since I absolutely love pirates, and it was time to swash every buckle in the house because Edmond was pulled onto the deck of yet another massive ship. This ship was created by a really interesting mix of stage elements. The rear deck was a movable stage piece itself, but the planks of the main center deck was merely suggested by lights shone on the stage to make it look like wooden boards. Barrels, a mast, crates, and various other ship-board elements were scattered about to populate the ship with props and the ensemble arrived decked out in pirate guard to populate it with a crew. They had a jaunty pirate song which made me laugh and cheer alternately. The scene was full of comic relief. The pirate queen, Louisa Vampa, played by Baek JuHee [백주희] was a lovely blend of sexy and sassy, as all pirate queens ought to be. This was a notable divergence from the film version, in which the pirate captain was a jolly male buccaneer by the same name. We assumed the change was made simply because there are very few female characters in the story, and they wanted to balance things out a big. Vampa was joined by a first and second mate who were likewise decked out and were actually mildly distracting during the course of the scene. It was one of those numbers where so much was going on and even minor characters were so engaged you weren’t sure where to look. You had a huge cook wielding a cleaver, raiders fighting with each other, sexy mates teasing other pirates, the queen ordering folks around and taking no guff from anybody, and a deckhand who kept trying to outshine the other pirates only to be embarrassed in his lameness.  It was super fun.

Eventually, after an intricately choreographed pirate dance and song number, the pirate Queen called out her hired muscle – a slave who went by the name Jacopo. There was a cleverly choreographed battle involving a lot of interfering pirates and an ultimate defeat by Dantes. Jacopo was spared following his loss and he pledged his ongoing allegiance to his savior from then on. It was then made known that Dantes had a map obtained from his mentor while in prison that would lead him to the isle of Monte Cristo. He wished to dreg up old pirate treasure from that island, and using his new friends about Vampa’s ship he made good on that intention, finding himself and Jacopo wallowing chest-deep in gold and jewels by the end of the month. It was then that Edmond declared his intention to Jacopo regarding his newfound riches. He would use his financial power and the station he would soon, quite literally, purchase for himself to seek vengeance on those who had robbed him of so much of his life. There was a quick return to the mainland and those involved in Edmond’s past as we were shown how things were panning out back home.

Things were not going so well for Mondego and Mercedes. They married a mere month after Edmond vanished and Mondego had consistently mistreated his wife as they raised their alleged son, Albert. I was a little excited to see how Albert would be handled, since he was my favorite member of VIXX, the ever-shy and reticent Leo. He’s an excellent vocalist and I am glad he’s trying out new things, but I was a little worried since he’s usually so painfully shy and introverted. I didn’t know how he would play a character in musical theater. I also didn’t know how his voice – excellent and highly coveted among idols – would compare to the tried and tested superiority of his castmate Kai. Leo is lanky and Jack Skellington-tall, but even he stood under Kai, who towered above all rivals both in terms of skill and actual countenance on stage. It was hard to live up to, but considering he was supposed to be a kid seeking approval of father figures this general “lessening” of character actually worked out, in some strange way. Still it was hard to see Leo as a character and not just Leo.

Mondego came into the scene and Leo exited, and the following was an excellent example of why I like Choi Min Chul and Lina as musical actors. Mondego admonished Mercedes and made use of that “tense silence” skill I mentioned earlier. He slowly tossed coins on the table, one by one, stretching out the gap between each clink as they fell, his gaze constantly intense and holding everyone in the room in a nervous anticipation. When he eventually left in a huff, storming off stage right, you could hear an audible release of breath from the audience as the tension dissipated. The man is a great theatrical actor if given the correct role.

Lina had a following number as Mercedes. It was a big mournful number lamenting her situation having fallen into family ties with Mondego. I took note of Lina’s skill here, not so much in the way she projected her voice with sheer power and command like Kai, but rather in the way she was able to maintain strength of character through singing. She never sacrificed character for a note. She acted through her singing exceptionally well and was able to really bring out the emotion in both the character’s present situation and in the lyrics of the song currently being performed. I’d go as far as to say she was the best at this particular theatrical skill despite being overshadowed by Kai’s overpowering presence in other respects.

The next time Kai was seen onstage he was decked out in a huge, flowing robe and was seen accusing those responsible for his downfall by literally approaching and pointing angry fingers at the actors and actresses themselves. They stood upstage and were lit in turn by overhead spotlights as Edmond threw his accusations at them and declared his intent. He marched up a royal, palatial staircase and his new court – lavishly dressed back dancers twirling and careening in an elaborate and very, very angry display of choreography and song – joined him in a final flourish before the lights cut out and the orchestra hit one final time.

With that we were left with intermission, but all three of us were so happy we spent the entire duration discussing parts of the play that had made us happy. We were so excited. We also had high hopes for the second half of the play, when all the intrigue and back-stabbery takes place. We were up in the cheap (relative term – they still weren’t cheap per se) seats so we were out of the revels that spilled into the aisles below. There was a grand carnivale in between the rows of seats below us and the aisles filled with acrobats, tumblers, jugglers, and various motley-clad performers of all shapes and sizes. This was the grand festival that Albert wanted to attend, so it was basically Leo stumbling around looking naive and innocent amidst bawdy performers and garish entertainers. It was somehow fitting, especially knowing just how innately shy Leo is as a person. He eventually had to follow some pretty little thing into the back streets and undertunnels of the European city where he was assaulted by a mess of thugs who would lash him to the wall next to the Count of Monte Cristo himself. It was then, seeing Kai next to the gangly and super-tell Leo, we realized just how monstrously tall Kai was himself. They had a duet which basically amounted to a “Women – can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em” number. Poor Leo was dwarfed by Kai yet again, this time with respect to his vocals. This isn’t a strike against Leo as much as praise for Kai. He simply presents massively oversized shoes to fill.

Next up was a funny scene where the Count broke free of his bonds with relative ease while Albert struggled awkwardly with his – again, somehow suitable since Leo was in the role. It made it funnier somehow. The Count busted him out and bade him flee as he held off the returning gang of thugs at point of saber. The swordfight was a little extended and more action-ey for it’s own sake than the musical necessarily called for. As far as musical action scenes went, it was quite entertaining, though. I’m just not sure so much was necessary. A handful of exchanges and a few key vital attacks to dispatch a foe would have been more than enough – the extended riposte-and-parry duels that took place seemed to be on the excessive side. Whatever the case, Albert would introduce the Count at the next grand gala to all the key players back in Marseilles. Of course, all of these people were targets for the Count in his grand scheme of revenge, so it was interesting to see how that would pan out.

It was revealed that the whole abduction was staged by the Count to get this introduction in the first place. At the gala the Count was basically the new hot thing in the city and everyone was wondering about him. The nobility was rife with gossip and he met his old adversaries one by one. It wasn’t until Mercedes found herself face to face with him that she recognized him as Edmond Dantes. They have a weird soliloquy with Mercedes and then Dantes joins in, making it a duet wherein he firmly denies his identity and claims that Edmond is dead. After Edmond confronts all his old agitators under his new guise he conspires with Jacopo to set up a grand scheme of vengeance to gradually encompass them all.

This next part was done in a really strange way that I didn’t much care for. Dantes (Kai) stood on a pedestal in the center while the ensemble came out dressed in crisp business suits. They each had a letter embroidered on the back which spelled out the name of his old shipping company, Morrel, when they stood beside each other. This ensemble danced from point to point on stage while the three main conspirators of Edmond’s downfall all met their own ends. All of Edmond’s machinations played out in one scene as a result of an extended montage. I thought this was really unfortunate, since they managed to shrink all the intrigue and political maneuvering of the original story into a single musical number. It was all over really quickly and the ensemble dancing around with briefcases full of money just looked out of place. They looked more like 1950s Chicago than Napoleonic France. I felt a little robbed by how quickly and how condensed the best part of the story was presented.

After this, Albert (Leo) left to confront Dantes and challenge him to a duel. There was a musical number following this by Leo’s fiancee (Who I honestly thought was kind of a superfluous character. I couldn’t tell why she was even there other than to give someone else a female role in a largely male-dominated cast) Later there was a scene in which Mercedes tries to plead with Dantes to let Albert off the hook. He continues to deny everything and hold to his new path of revenge, so Mercedes has a much more impactful and stronger musical number about how she yearns for her dream of a life with Edmond.

The duel itself soon followed, and after a clear miss from Albert’s pistol the duel is interrupted. Dantes fires his shot into the sky and lets Albert live. He, after all, has no qualm with the child, only the father, Mondego. After the duel he begins to question the path he has been walking on since his rebirth as the Count of Monte Cristo. Is this vengeful path the correct one or is it consuming him? It is an exploration of the righteousness of his search for justice and whether or not vengeance can ever be truly just. Kai, of course, made this number strong as hell. We were all pretty much blown away by it. It is only after this moment of self-reflection that he is able to confront Mercedes with more than his previously stony heart. They finally feel as if they can reconcile and move on into the future when Mondego shows up to confront Dantes and lay claim to his wife and child.

What follows is another cleverly choreographed but curiously long duel between the main protagonist and antagonist, ending in a stunning freefall of Mondego off the raised platform at the back of the stage. The Count originally wanted to let Mondego free with his life after he clearly lost the duel and found himself disarmed, but when Mondego came after him with a knife he was shot by someone other than the Count (It may have been Jacopo? I honestly can’t remember who did this). This differed from other renditions where the Count is either forced to or decides to dispatch Mondego at the very end. Taking the final life off of the Count’s hands seems to somehow make his decision to leave vengeance behind more complete, I think.

What follows is a torrent of revelation. Having confessed his identity, Mercedes then confesses that Albert is really Edmond’s son, conceived during the initial return to Marseilles before his imprisonment. To provide for that son she had to marry Mondego super fast after Dantes was taken to prison, which explained her betrothal to his previous companion and later betrayer. They reconcile fully and find themselves family anew, once separated by time and tragedy. As the actors came out for the final curtain call I found myself realizing that this is the first musical in a long time we had sat through where the protagonist not only survives, but wins. There was a certain satisfaction in that.

During the curtain call there was a huge roar of applause for the Pirate Queen Vampa (Everyone loves a raunchy bit of swash-bucklery), Mondego, and of course, Kai as the leading role. Even his reprise was phenomenal. They all took their final bows and we left feeling satisfied with the night’s performance, eagerly awaiting our next venture out into Korean Musical Theater.

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Phantom

I always keep a lookout for fun musicals in Korea. A while back I saw a few that looked fun, but Jeff was rather ‘meh’ about them, so we passed. That was until I checked again later and there was some sort of push for people to see musicals. This included a whole pile of discount ticket options. With the lesser price, Jeff was willing to give more musicals we were unfamiliar with a chance. The first one we decided to go to, Phantom, was something I was pretty excited about. I mean, I enjoyed the movie and way back when read the original (though abbreviated) story in high school French class. Jeff however didn’t like the movie, doesn’t tend to like opera, and had no other real connections to it in any way so he was thoroughly unexcited. We met halfway and got tickets, albeit even cheaper seats than usual – way up on the 3rd floor.

When we arrived at the venue, Blue Square, we did the normal rounds: buying a program and taking pictures of the few things laid out for us. There really wasn’t much to see this time though, no costumes or anything, just a few big posters and a cast list. Perhaps that was for the best though since we arrived with very little time to spare before the show was to begin. We headed up to our seats, marveling at the stage decorations. The giant chandelier was of course the centerpiece, increasing my excitement. Soon enough the lights dimmed and the music started.

It was the wrong music.

This was NOT my Phantom…

As I watched the opening scene in confusion, I wracked my brain trying to understand, and eventually remembered a conversation we’d had a year or so previously. There are two Phantoms: “Phantom of the Opera” and “Phantom.” They use the same story as inspiration but take it in different directions. I had completely forgotten the existence of the slightly newer and less popular “Phantom,” and had just assumed this was a production of “Phantom of the Opera.” Feeling thoroughly disappointed, and a bit stupid, I nonetheless decided it would actually be really interesting to see an entirely new and different take on a story I knew so well.

So Phantom starts out with a cute little song in town with everybody sort of happily dancing about doing normal small town things. The song seems to be an important one for the show, as it reappears several times. I couldn’t help but be quite disappointed in it though, as half of the words are “melody, melody, melody and lalalalalala.” It shows Christine trying to sell something, when Philippe, the owner of the Opera house notices her. He tells her that her voice is really good and she should try out to be part of the Paris Opera House. So of course, after the song finishes on a very jolly note, she heads off to the opera house. Before showing how that goes though, we’re introduced briefly to Carlotta. She sends Joseph Buquet to investigate the underneath of the opera house. There he meets the Phantom, who chases him back out of his lair and presumably kills him.

Time to see everybody practicing for the Opera as Christine arrives and looks on from the side. Time for a big conversation that didn’t quite make sense, but it seemed to be the Opera House was changing management, and the Phantom of course dropped a letter for the newbies. They of course think it is all rubbish. The next part was likewise confusing in that the old manager had a big, long conversation with the Phantom himself. This seemed really odd to me, being used to the Phantom of the Opera and how ethereal the phantom is, especially early on. Here though, the Phantom is very clearly just a man pulling some strings from the very beginning.

Time to see what happens to Christine as she arrives at the Opera House. (Also very odd to me, as in Phantom of the Opera Christine is raised in the Opera House.) Things don’t go so well for her, as the other performers make fun of her pretty badly. Eventually though she is taken to the new manager, who is currently trying to console his wife, Carlotta, after she supposedly sees a ghost. Carlotta is rather different in this version as well. She is especially annoying and very much a diva and using her position, and husband, to make people do unnecessary and ridiculous things for her just because. Christine gets handed off to Carlotta to essentially be her servant. We see Christine dealing with all of Carlotta’s outfits, when the Phantom notices and appears before her. He begs to be allowed to teach her, while remaining a secret.

There is a brief glimpse of the new manager describing more letters from the Phantom declaring that Carlotta should not be in the opera, and him deciding that he thinks the notes are just a trick from the old manager. Then we see a montage of Christine and the Phantom practicing, while they sing another song that has very few words, and instead mostly just la’s and other music note names. Next came a sort of party in which Philippe checks up on Christine. They then have a singing contest between Carlotta and Christine, in which everybody essentially cringes at Carlotta and marvels at Christine, before giving her a part in the upcoming opera.

We go through Philippe, random folks about town, and the Phantom marveling over Christine in her role. Then Carlotta comes in and offers Christine some fancy drink meant to help the voice and nerves before a show. Carlotta, acting the friend, convinces Christine to tell her about her teacher as well. The whole while, the Phantom was hiding out in Christine’s mirror, watching this, and also earlier Christine and Philippe kissing. Finally the show begins, and Christine has voice troubles thanks to her fancy drink. The Phantom also appears in his angered state and causes the chandelier to come crashing down on the stage, before stealing away Christine, as the curtains close for intermission.

The second half begins with the Phantom in a boat carrying Christine off to his world. The stage was pretty neat during this part, as they had tons of fog and the boat seemed to be floating across the stage in various directions as a projected background changed to make it seem to be going in different directions. As they arrive at the Phantom’s lair, the old manager appears and argues with the Phantom to give Christine back. The Phantom sends him away, but then leaves himself, and the manager sneaks back in to try and take Christine away himself. He reveals that the Phantom loves her because Christine sounds like his mother, that his face is deformed and awful, and also that he is actually the Phantom’s father.

Next there follows a very long straight-up ballet section where we see the backstory of the Phantom and his parents falling in love. The dancers that show this story were really, really good, but it was a little odd how drastically the show changed from musical to ballet for this part. Everything was happy and wonderful for the two lovers until news of the mother being pregnant, and it is revealed that the father was actually already married to somebody else. Phantom’s mother then disappears for a while, before being seen buying special herbs and attempting to either kill the baby or herself, it’s not really clear. Either way, she passes out and the father takes her off to the catacombs of the opera house, where she gives birth to a hideous baby. She seemed to love the baby anyway, until she died when he was still growing up. The father continued to raise him, though Phantom had no idea it was his father, and eventually gave him a mask to cover his awfulness. The Phantom, mourning his mother and his hideous began to cry nightly, and to cover things, his father created the opera ghost story.

Back in the now, Christine decides to stay in the Phantom’s lair to talk to him before leaving. The show returns to those still in the opera house, trying to figure out what happened to Christine. The Phantom comes to visit Carlotta, who refuses to leave, and is thus killed. Meanwhile, Christine is still hanging around in the catacombs having pleasant dates and such with the Phantom. Until she asks to see his face, and they fight. She of course persuades him to take of his mask by confessing love, but then immediately runs off once seeing it. Phantom of course freaks out and starts breaking and ruining everything around him. He declares that if he can’t have Christine, then nobody can, and essentially goes on a killing spree through the opera house. Eventually he is injured and the old manager tries to help him escape back to his lair. They have a nice heart to heart about Christine loving the Phantom, life not being so bad, who Phantom’s father is, and what his mother thought of him. Phantom freaks out anew when Christine and Philippe wander into the scene. Police converge on the scene and eventually Phantom begs his father to help him by killing him, which he does. Before he dies fully though, Christine gets a last moment to put him at ease by looking on his face and telling him he’s beautiful.

I ended up very surprised at how vastly different this musical actually was from what I knew, Phantom of the Opera. It basically only has the same character names and some loose ideas are the same: Phantom lives at the Opera house and most people think he’s a ghost and he loves Christine and tries to push her above the current reigning diva. There were some small things I liked about this take on the story, but overall I greatly prefer Phantom of the Opera. I prefer the Phantom feeling more like an actual phantom, and think Phantom of the Opera actually makes you feel for his character and the love story a bit more. This one did give him more of a backstory which was neat, but somehow it just seemed more lame. The music is also much more exciting and fun in Phantom of the Opera. Nonetheless, it was fun to see the different stories. It was also fun to see Park HyoShin live. He is a really famous Korean singer, and happens to be one of Suwoong’s favorites, so I was curious to see how good he was. I still have to say I think my favorite main musical actor is Ryu JungHan, but he did do really well.

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Sonamoo at Gimpo 2017-01-22

Recently reinvigorated from my long hibernation from the K-Pop scene by a total immersion in fresh Lime water had me completely refreshed and ready for the next adventure – a visit to SECRET’s baby sisters, Sonamoo. As I’ve mentioned many a time, SECRET and Hello Venus have been neck and neck for my top girl group slot for the longest time, with SECRET only recently pulling into a pretty secure first place. Sonamoo, on the other hand, since their debut, have been pulling forward drastically and with breakneck speed. They have pulled up right alongside Hello Venus and are now competing for second place, though it’s a hard fought battle at that point. There’s just so much that they do that reminds me of SECRET (They are both TS Entertainment groups after all) and they are a whole lot of fun as individuals. They also don’t have that whole re-imaging process that Hello Venus went through possibly acting as either a boost or a barrier to my reaction, depending on the circumstances. Furthermore, Euijin has a very similar effect on me to Lime, and her memory is incredible. That alone is worth major bonus points. I was going to put this to the test again after the break between songs, since they were going to have another signing event at the Gimpo Lotte Mall – a signing venue we’ve frequented many times before.

We had picked up the album that Friday at the Youngpoong bookstore on the ground floor, noting a Dreamcatcher signing also being promoted at the same counter. They were to appear on Saturday while we were attending the Hello Venus signing and Sonamoo was scheduled for Sunday. The day rolled around and we returned to the bookstore to cash in our tickets, this time managing to land the very first seat. I couldn’t believe the draws we’d gotten. Last time Jessy got dead last, this time I was absolute first. The lady at the counter congratulated me but I had my doubts. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see things through at the point position or if I should try to trade farther back. I decided to roll with it because, for pictures anyway, I would be completely unobstructed. I would be off to one side because I’d be first in a row so it meant a less direct line of sight but it also meant close-ups and no one in my way except the fans at the table. Gimpo has pretty crappy lighting conditions for fan sign pictures so I decided to take whatever photographic advantage I could manage. Jessy, on the other hand, was buried somewhere back in seat 36. We were separated, but again, this meant possibilities for pictures. She could take for me and I could take her picture while she talked with the girls. We decided to go with the hand dealt to us.

     

The girls marched in from the elevator and greeted everyone – Hi.D appeared more awake than I’ve seen her in a long time. Usually she seems the most drained of all of them. This time D.Ana seemed a little out of it, but not to any remarkable or worrisome degree. She just seemed a little less outgoing than usual in her reactions to the crowd. I had to lead the pack so I had literally zero time to prepare for anything. I stood up and walked forward right away to Sumin, who waited eagerly with that winning smile of hers. She kind of does exactly the same thing for each fan, but it works. She greets everyone really warmly and excitedly and never misses a beat. She always heads the line and there’s probably good reason for this, she’s really good at making the fans feel welcome as they approach.

The conversation with Sumin was a little clinical. It was really obvious that she didn’t recognize me right away. I tried to jog her memory by mentioning that I gave her the drawing last time but she just sort of smiled blankly and said thank you. I didn’t much expect otherwise, but it would have been nice. Minjae was unfortunately similar in that respect. She has this bizarre insistence on speaking English with me and it actually makes things slightly more awkward. It’s almost like I know she’s trying really hard and it automatically limits the number of things we can say. She even wrote “Nice to meet you” in the album. It all sounds really practiced and I wish that we could get past that line since hearing the same thing at every signing is kind of lackluster. She’s really funny and playful in general but I don’t go often enough to stand out in her memory consistently. Maybe this is a sign about what I need to start doing…

Nahyun was third in line and she took a second to think things over before she recognized who I was. She asked if I gave her a picture the last time I came to see them and I smiled and told her that yes, that was me. She said she “looked at it well,” which translated really awkwardly into English but I got what she meant. She giggled and wrote something in my album that I couldn’t really make out that well. That’s one of the biggest challenges about fan signing events – sometimes things written in fast handwriting with thick sharpie are really illegible, especially when they’re often written in a slangy interpretation of a foreign tongue. Good Luck figuring this one out, Jeff…

D.Ana was next up and she also clearly had no memory of me from any other time. She asked where I was from, how long I was in Korea, if I lived here, and I answered all of those things. She seemed to gasp a bit when I said I had been four years in the country. She signed the album straight away, writing my name in Korean (I think she was the only one this time) and chasing it with 오빠 which always makes me cringe a little, though it’s meant to be more endearing than anything. She said I needed to come see them again and then I moved on. It may have been my most uneventful D.Ana conversation yet.

That was all forgotten an instant later when Euijin’s face lit up and before I even managed to settle down in front of her, she said “Hey, I have your picture!” and gave me a high five. The one that matters remembers me accurately! I told her she got it right and we both did the whole “It’s been a while, how’ve you been?” thing. I was really more comfortable talking to her so my Korean was way better than with the other members. It’s like my brain makes a choice before I talk to someone about my comfort level and that directly correlates with how well I can speak the language. It meant for a really fluid conversation with Euijin, though. I told her it was too early for me to finish the picture I promised her last time, so I would finish it and give it to her later. She said that was ok and she wanted to see it, so now I have to make good on my promise to draw her with the new concept and image. This was an issue that was literally eating away at me until signing day so I’m glad she was really chill about it. Then again what was she really going to say? She almost misspelled my name as Jeef, which I thought was hilarious, but fixed it really quickly in the album and even signed my photocard. This made my day since I’d been waiting to get a Euijin card since debut days. Then it was time to move on.

My conversation with Hi.D could be just as easily linked back to any other signing I attended for them because it was literally the exact same conversation. “Is this your first time seeing us? Oh, you’ve come since debut? Really? Wow… Are you hungry? I’m hungry…” She has a one-track mind sometimes. Still, I was being moved along very quickly so there wasn’t any sort of an awkward silence with her.

NewSun on the other hand was a lot more talkative this time than previously. She was quietly signing the album when I piped up and complimented her change in hair. It was the first time she performed with long hair instead of her normal short bob or boy cut. She looks very different – not at all in a bad way, just very different. I told her it looked pretty this way and asked which she preferred. She said she liked the long look more, which surprised me a little. Then she spun the question on me and I told her they are both good, but one is pretty while the other is cute. She seemed to like that and thanked me, we did a quick hand clasp thingy, and then I walked off.

  

Jessy caught me when she was going up in the line. It was really shortly after I was finished – so quickly it surprised me. They were really rushing things. I wondered if it was a Gimpo signing thing, since this seemed to happen a lot in mall signings. Maybe it’s more expensive to reserve more time in their event centers or they have to beat mall closing times or something. Whatever the case, the signing was moving like lightning. I noticed I had very little time with them today and it wasn’t just because I was foreign and potentially awkward and first in line, therefore easy to sort of move along quickly. Everyone seemed to be moving along at a rapid pace. Anyway, Jessy walked up to Sumin and started her time with the girls while I watched from the floor.

She, like everybody else, was getting a very short amount of time with each member, and since she had prepared a post-it note question, that ended up taking up most of her time with each of them. In a way though, it made a nice change from the normal “Hi! Where are you from? When did you come to Korea? etc” Sumin still managed to rattle most of that stuff off as well though, and Jessy in turn told her that she was teaching English here, which earned her a 멋있어요! (Sort of translates to ‘That’s so cool!’) She addressed Jessy’s post-it as it was time to move on, mentioning that her favorite of their title tracks was 넘나좋은것 (I Like U Too Much.)

Minjae was up next and of course started on her normal English attempts. She really is pretty decent, at least with this normal fan introduction stuff. Jessy let her have her fun, while answering her very simply in English as well. Minjae ended up also choosing “I Like U Too Much” as her favorite title track. When Jessy told her it was the same as Sumin, she said that she thinks that’s what everybody will say. It’s kind of funny though, that really isn’t one of our favorite songs of theirs…

  

Nahyun was pretty much more of the same, though a bit more awkward. She attempted briefly to use English, but was clearly struggling intensely. Jessy switched over to Korean to save her, and she breathed a giant sigh of relief. When she answered Jessy’s post-it though, she didn’t process everything or something. She told Jessy her favorite song was “Orange Cappuccino.” This is one of the random extra songs on their current album, and not a title track at all, which is what Jessy asked for. Oh well. She clearly really likes that song though, as she went nuts every time it played during the signing.

D.Ana was up next and she started into the normal questions as well, but then things connected in her head and she suddenly pointed at Jeff and asked if we were friends. She then started freaking out a bit as she asked if we were dating and then rattled off a pile of questions that Jessy didn’t especially want to answer and exclaiming over how nice it must be to have a boyfriend. It was pretty amusing how excited she got. Eventually though Jessy was moved along, and D.Ana only just barely wrote down that she also likes “I Like U Too Much” best as well.

Next came Euijin. When she got to Jessy’s post-it and also wrote that she liked “I Like U Too Much,” Jessy, surprised, told her that everybody else was writing that too. She flipped through the other pages to check, laughing. When she noticed that Nahyun had written something different she paused, and Jessy just said “But that’s not a title track….” Euijin laughed, agreed, and called Nahyun a 바보 (fool). It then got especially awkward as the conversation was finished, but Jessy couldn’t move on yet because of another fan. Euijin ended up telling Jessy she was pretty, so Jessy thanked her but told her that she was also pretty. But Euijin countered with “No, you are MORE pretty.” This was beyond weird and rather lame at this point but she couldn’t think of anything to say but to counter with the same thing. At least from Euijin’s face she seemed to think similarly to Jessy and they both ended up laughing as Jessy was finally able to move on.

Jessy moved down the line to Hi.D, who greeted her excitedly, saying it had been a long time. She then double checked that she wasn’t crazy, but confirming that Jessy had in fact been at other signings, to which Jessy agreed. We’re not sure why Hi.D always remembers Jessy, but hooray! Sadly though, Jessy got an especially small amount of time with Hi.D, so there was barely any time between that and Hi.D saying that she also like the same song as everybody else. She told Jessy to come more often before sending her off to the final member.

 

Time for NewSun. She greeted Jessy in such a way that made her genuinely unsure whether she remembered her or not. She didn’t ask any of the generic questions, but she also didn’t say anything that made it obvious that she remembered her. NewSun was however very amused to discover that everybody (except Nahyun) wrote down the same song as their favorite. Jessy agreed, saying that it was indeed a good song. (It’s not actually one of our favorites, but it is still good.) Very quickly, it was time for Jessy to head back to her seat, with a final goodbye to NewSun.

After Jessy was done there was a whole signing of photo opportunity to try to catch. I was seated right in front of Minjae so it was basically me, the girl next to me, and Minjae goofing off and getting all the pictures and poses we could manage. I tend to luck out with Minjae, to be honest. Nahyun was also a big cute doofus, as is her custom. D.Ana was really unfortunately positioned so I didn’t get much of her, and Sumin was always busy with the first fan in line, so she was often blocked by someone’s back. I enjoyed playtime with Minjae and Nahyun until the signing wrapped up, at which time I noticed Euijin milking the crowd for compliments and Minjae started to sing a sample of their song for everyone. Nahyun would not stop doing their dance, to the point where their fan manager had to calm her down. They had a quick sendoff and a goodbye for everyone. I managed to get goodbye waves from Euijin and Sumin before they left. After that it was time to gather our things and start the long trip across Seoul to our apartment. It was a regrettably fast signing, but I’ll gladly accept any chances to see my favorite groups and it’s about time I got some lady k-pop exposure after all of Jessy’s boy group events!

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The Lime Show – Hello Venus at Dongja Art Hall 2017-01-21

Aight, peeps. It’s LIME TIME! Happy Birthday to meeeeee!

The second half of 2016 has been a light one for us as far as KPop activities were concerned. There was the occasional fan signing, an event or two seemingly at random, and the odd musical here and there, but as far as attendance at music shows or regular patronage of any particular group we have been safely out of the loop for quite some time. Part of me blames 2016 – the year without a soul – for the lapse in enjoyable music. I started to find myself drifting away from Kpop as a mainstream source of entertainment for myself because of shifting trends in the market and a lack of good material. So many artists I loved have disbanded or changed dramatically this year, not to mention lackluster releases from other groups I came to like later on in the game. Boys Republic, our main source of integration into the Kpop circuit, have been promoting in Japan and haven’t had any mainland events for some time, so we haven’t attended a live show in a while. I started considering latching onto one of my girl groups so we could continue going to shows and stuff, and no sooner had I started to mill this idea around in my head than 2017 arrived and saved me from the Kpop doldrums.

It took them an inordinately long time to figure out how to assemble this heart.

Suddenly airwaves are awash with all my favorites. If I had to list my top girl groups, SECRET and Hello Venus had long been wrestling for number one with Sonamoo quickly chasing up to a close second behind them. Hello Venus falls to SECRET only because of Hello Venus’ re-image after the break from Pledis. I haven’t found it as appealing while SECRET remained consistent, even in the wake of their loss of Sunhwa. Still, while SECRET has been pushing solo work and we haven’t seen nearly as much of them in recent weeks I find myself arguing over whether to attend Sonamoo or Hello Venus events.

With fan signings for each staring me in the face, I say “Is it too much to ask for both?”

This heart took noticeably less time to build.

I ended up buying albums for each, hoping that the lottery style draws wouldn’t bump myself or Jessy from being able to see them. I hadn’t actually gone to a Hello Venus signing yet and I have a perfect record to maintain with Sonamoo, so I had a lot riding on this one. Luckily we got into both events, and Saturday would lead us off with Hello Venus just outside of Seoul Station.

It was a snowy day – and I mean SNOWY. Seoul is known for snow that barely counts. We’ll get a light dusting which is melted by evening and people are suddenly running around hiding under their umbrellas in giant down bubble jackets. It’s kind of funny to watch. This snow was different. This was a homey type of snow. We’re from Pennsylvania and we know BLIZZARDS. If we get two feet of snow we just call that a Thursday, get out the shovel, dig out the car, and go to work! It was that kind of snow and it came down in thick, quarter-sized flake clumps that stuck to our hair and jackets as we made our way to the subway. It was about an hour’s ride to Seoul Station and we started to recognize our route from an earlier signing. We had gotten horribly lost and followed a Sonamoo fan down to one of their signings at the same venue. It was in a basement level theater room called the Dongja Art Hall. We saw some fans through a window from the street and found our way down to the entrance. They checked our tickets, we drew numbers, and we had a quick laugh at our picks with the door warden. Jessy picked dead last – #100 of a possible 100 – and I picked 98, just two seats away. We managed to swap with the poor Korean boy in seat 99, sandwiched between us, and we ended up together. We were dead last, but together nevertheless.

Yooyoung FLIPPED OUT for this Snorlax. She was bouncing it all around the table for quite a long time.

We were seated a good 20 minutes before the event was to begin so we had plenty of time to sort out post-its and whatnot. As I said, I had never done a Hello Venus signing before, so we were watching the crowd and following suit as far as our post-its were concerned. I had heard they were highly regimented with Hello Venus and kind of strict about certain things at signings, so I had my hackles up a little about little things that might go awry. We didn’t see a whole lot out of the ordinary though, so we wondered if that was a temporary phase in response to the mouthbreathers that may have come out of the woodwork immediately following their switch to sexy from their original cutesy, girl-next-door feel.

Alice always… ALWAYS looks like she’s up to no good.

It wasn’t long before the girls themselves arrived. They all came out and it was the Lime Show right from moment one. Alice had a few cursory words to say but it was mostly Lime that greeted everyone. She was all over the microphone and had moods and spirits high right away. She also noticed us super quickly. She waved emphatically and pointed us out to Yooyoung, who sat next to her. They were in reverse age order, so Yeoreum was seated first and it ended with Alice at the end. I noticed right away they were super, SUPER eager to interact with fans and posed like crazy for pictures. Lime actually requested that we take a bunch of pictures and post them online (but only the pretty ones!) and gratuitously posed for a ton while the first few fans made their way down the line to her. We got a whole mess of attention. Lime seems to have a slant toward the foreign fans and gives them a ton of attention in general. We’ve seen this in action at shows for them all the time and I personally have benefited from it at their showcases at Lotte World. The standard held especially true for her, though other members were just as actively engaged with fans.

Give us a smooch!

Fans kept pushing the benches as they shifted sideways so Seoyoung took it upon herself to check that everyone minded the gap.

We had a lot of time to watch them as well as the fandom while we awaited our turn. We were bringing up the caboose this time, after all. We noticed the fandom was predominantly male and they seemed kind of disaffected. They clearly liked the girls but I know there are a ton of guys who bounce around from girl group to girl group depending on who is performing. There were actually a handful of guys who, after finishing their round up with the girls, seated themselves in the back of the room to chat. We caught them talking about Lovelyz, Twice, and I.O.I. events they had participated in and were comparing the groups and Hello Venus as well. I had to grit my teeth a little bit. We are so used to fierce fan loyalty issues so this kind of flippancy with the groups seemed like a taboo being broken in-house. I thought it was in poor taste to be focusing on other groups while actively participating in a signing event for this one. I don’t care if you are multi-fandom, that’s the case with me, too. I’d be a hypocrite to say otherwise. At lease have the good form to keep things to one group while you are at their event, though!

The benefits of being a foreign fanboy – every performance feels like it’s just for you.

The fans were also really muted in general. The girls tried to get them to sing along and only MC Lime had any success with this. Poor Yeoreum and Seoyoung tried a handful of times and failed miserably to elicit any reaction from them. I felt kind of bad. Seoyoung was especially silly and fun for fans watching or taking pictures between her signing participants. She kept pointing to the benches that were placed for fans to sit in while they talked with the girls. That was a nice touch – some groups make the fans comfortable as well during signings. The benches kept sliding more and more to the side as fans were moving and some people almost fell through a gap made between two of them. She kept pointing out the benches and saying “Be careful!” but in a really overly exaggerated way. It was adorable. She also showed a bunch of mock anger whenever anyone called for her attention for a picture and made surly pouty faces with hearts, kind of ironically posing for the camera while joke-irritated by the call-outs. She was definitely having fun with it.

            

Lime was fully aware that I had my camera trained on her from moment one to the second she left because I got a ton of hearts, waves, designated poses, eye-contact, the works. It was awesome. Jessy got a fair spell of attention, too. I was basking in it. There’s nothing like having a bias that is all-in for the foreign fans and has a sweet spot for English.

TARGET LOCKED

Yooyoung was like a robot in some respects. She was really cute most of the time, but she fixed her hair in EXACTLY the same manner using EXACTLY the same motions at EXACTLY the same time following every fan that moved away from her. It was like clockwork. She seemed to get the most random plushie gifts though, and she was especially fond of the little snorlax doll she got from a fan about halfway through. She made him bounce and beeble bobble all over the table and seemed just giddy about having him.

There was something I noticed about Nara and it struck me as extremely familiar. I remember when I first saw SECRET live at a signing event and got to meet Sunhwa in person. I was blown away by how unbelievably pretty she is and how much that effect is magnified in person. I never took much notice of her but she has this elegant and hyper-feminine style that comes through in spades when face-to-face with her. It was an effect that was fairly unique to Sunhwa until I saw Nara up close. She did exactly the same thing. I knew she was pretty and even said she was prettier in person before, but it doesn’t compare to the face-to-face drinking-in of her overall image. She was an absolute knockout up close. She was elegance personified and completely demure and refined in all things, down to her smallest motions. She looked like she was always on a runway from beginning to end, and it was really quite stunning. She’s not my favorite member, but she very well may have had the biggest impact visually. Honestly I think I can say all of them were way prettier in person than in any picture I’ve seen of them. It was a little staggering in hindsight.

Hello Venus’ resident supermodel

We waited a good while and took a ton of pictures until the fan sign nearly came to a close with us at the very end. We joked a bit in line about whether the girls would be excited or dreading seeing two foreigners at the tail end of the line. They didn’t know we had any Korean skill so they were going totally on preconceived notions. We knew what Lime would think, but weren’t certain about the rest.

We went up and stood in line. I was to go first and Jessy was immediately after. There was a bit of a mix-up that ended up turning things out in our favor as we got up to the line. There were tone of staff present at this signing. One seemed to be literally timing each fan’s face-time with her phone to move things along so that each fan got exactly one minute with each girl. There were three separate staff members handling people in the queue line alone and they each had very distinct jobs. There was one to take tickets, one to check post-its, one who literally pushed people back against the wall so we were all flush with the side of the room at all times while also leafing through individual pages to make sure there was nothing except post-its in the albums. They took longer with some than with others, so I think they may have even been vetting the questions on the post-its to make sure they were all kosher. From a staff perspective it was the most regimented signing I’d ever attended. Most signings don’t care if you are going in exact numerical order either once you are up in the line, as long as you’re more or less in the right spot. For instance, if I was 98 but I made it to the line before 96 staff usually wouldn’t much care. 96 and 97 had gone missing somehow though, and they stopped everything to call out those numbers and get them up there before me. They took so long prepping their albums and leafing through them that they eventually let Jessy and I through early, however reluctantly. It was to our benefit though, because we wouldn’t be absolute last and therefore miss out on that I-have-no-fans-in-front-of-me-photo-opportunity that always happens as they wrap up fan signings.

      

Beware of Maknaes – they stare like none other

I approached Yeoreum a little hesitantly, as I had the least to say to her. She’s their new maknae after the member additions and while she seems fun she doesn’t have the same attachment value with me that the original members have. Seoyoung also has such a strong personality that it’s easier to converse with her. Yeoreum, as a result, was going to be the first and likely the most awkward. This was true for a number of reasons. She tried to greet me in English, which was clearly difficult for her so I jumped right into Korean. We got through the usual basics – “where are you from,” “oh wow, you speak Korean!” and other such typical first-signing things. I told her that I had met the other members a long time ago – back when they were promoting “차 마실래” but today was the first time I could meet her in person. I was hoping this would be a conversation starting point and unfortunately she just sort of smiled and said “ok…” so I didn’t know exactly where to move the conversation. Then she did something Suwoong is famous for doing at his signings with the girls. Needless to say I normally have a slightly different experience with him but it was time for what goes around to come around, since Yeoreum apparently does the same thing. She really slowly took my one hand in hers, then the other, and then she made really intense eye-contact for what felt like a really awkwardly long time. She didn’t say anything, she just stared for a length of seconds. I had literally nothing to say and it was really awkward, but I’m the sort who takes a direct stare almost like a challenge, so it was like I entered into an impromptu staring contest. I locked stares right back and wouldn’t back down – I’m like a caged primate in that way. I know idols are taught to do things like this to make fans feel special, wanted, and to kind of connect with them so that they come back but all those normal little tricks are kind of transparent with me and tend to make me feel awkward rather than comforted or special. She eventually asked how old I was (there was a really long pause before she did this). This was the first time I had to deal with this question using Korean since my birthday and it was the big 3-0 this past year, so I couldn’t for the life of me think of what the new word was. I fell back on 29 because I actually remembered “twenty” and then chased it with “Grandpa Jeff,” and she got all consoling and went “no, no, no, Oppa” and I kind of nodded but we ended up back in the stare-lock again. Then she asked if I had anything I was curious about and I said I didn’t really know and it was hard to think of things to say in Korean. She nodded and eventually time was up and I had to move on to Seoyoung. As I was moving on she tried to make some sort of comment about my eye, and I didn’t catch all of it but I think she was saying something about having really long eyelashes. Considering the amount of staring involved I wasn’t too surprised that was the take-away from the conversation. I like Yeoreum and all, but that was such an awkward signing for so many reasons…

The new maknae – Yeoreum

Jessy had a much less awkward time with Yeoreum for many reasons, though she still mostly just went through the basic first greeting ritual: Hi, Where are you from? How old are you? Oh, you can speak Korean! etc. Then, once it got to that awkward point where neither of them had anything to say, Jessy sprung a question on Yeoreum that she’s used on many a new idols post-its. She asked her to draw the member next to her, Seoyoung. Yeoreum seemed dumb struck for a moment, then looked over at Seouyoung, laughed like crazy and told Jessy that she can’t draw well. She started drawing anyway, and it actually turned out really well. A lot better than most idols that have drawn for Jessy before in fact. Jessy told her it was really good, but she wouldn’t accept the compliment. Eventually Jessy was moved along to the waiting Seoyoung, who just so happened to ask about the picture before turning to her page. Jessy told her that it was her as drawn by Yeoreum. She immediately turned to Yeoreum and started yelling at her about it, despite it being well done.

Power Ranger Pose Down!

Backtracking a moment though: When I shifted on down to Seoyoung, she was immediately a giant ball of adorable. She was all squeaky when she said Hi so I did the same thing. She got a fit of giggles over this and then went on in really deliberate English over the usual “Hi, nice-a-mee-choo!” stuff, so I cut her off pretty quickly. I told her, in Korean, that Korean is all right and she didn’t need to use English. She like flipped her lid over this and started asking how I learned Korean. I told her I taught myself and just study on my own, which she seemed impressed with. She asked if I lived in Korea and I told her yes, but I used to live far so I didn’t often have a chance to see Hello Venus. She asked when I started being a fan, probably thinking it was fairly recently but I told her I liked them since debut and she flipped out again over this. She was all bouncy and bobbly all over the place during our conversation – generally very animated and squeaky. She wrote a message that read “Happy –unintelligible scribble-“ before handing back my album. Before I moved on she made sure to give me a huge high-five and a thumbs up, calling out “Yeah!” before sending me on my way.

Seoyoung sweepy…

After Seoyoung finished yelling at Yeoreum for her drawing, she moved into her actual conversation with Jessy. She attempted a bit of English for a while, despite Jessy already having spoken in Korean regarding the picture. She went through a few basic questions like “Where are you from?” and “How old are you?” in English with Jessy simply responding in English just because Seoyoung seemed to be enjoying herself by using it. Once she seemed to run out of English things to say, Jessy asked her, in Korean, to draw Yooyoung, the member next to her. She got a really big kick out of this idea, and started drawing. Sadly, staff decided at almost that exact moment that Jessy’s time with Seoyoung was finished, and thus started trying to move her along. Seoyoung was frantic about not getting to finish her picture but eventually let Jessy move on with a bald Youyoung on her album page.

Once upon a time Yooyoung was the maknae. Now she has lots of cute-competition

Yooyoung is a different sort of cute. She is more of a quiet and ambient cute than Seoyoung’s over-the-top in-your-face cuteness. Yooyoung is also one of those way-prettier-in-person sorts. I don’t take much notice of her on TV but she was way way beautiful up close. She seemed really nervous at first and was desperately struggling through an English greeting but I told her Korean was Ok, too. She actually apologized. I didn’t want her to think she had offended somehow so I told her it was all right and she was all curious about how long I had been living in Korea and what I did here. I told her about the teaching gig and recapped what I had told Yeoreum about being able to meet them during their earlier promotions. She remembered the barista day, but not details. I have zero expectations that any of them would remember me from all that time ago so this wasn’t surprising. Still, she went on about how I need to come see them more because she will miss me and she’s happy I could come again now. She wrote as much in a little message in my album and shook my hand as I left, reminding me how unnatural a Korean handshake is (it’s very dead-fish-ey. I’m all firm and vigorous hand-shake-ey and they are probably like “Whoah, what’s going on with this guy?” if I did that so I always have to dial it back tremendously).

When Jessy moved over to Yooyoung, she of course noticed the ridiculous picture first thing. Seoyoung owned up to the drawing before Jessy could step in and tell Yooyoung about it, but either way it resulted in Yooyoung yelling even more at Seoyoung than Seoyoung had earlier at Yeoreum. Jessy was dying of laughter, as was the staff standing behind them at the time. Eventually she laid off, since a new fan had appeared at Seoyoung, and instead started asking Jessy the normal first-signing questions. Jessy jumped in after telling Yooyoung she lived in Korea and asked her to draw Lime. Yooyoung kept staring Lime down as she drew, seriously creeping Lime out as she finished up with Jeff. Yooyoung’s drawing was also quite good, and very cutesy.

A long awaited rendezvous with Lime!

I can only imagine what my face must have looked like when I approached Lime. She’s among my favorite K-pop people period, not just limited to Hello Venus members. We had a running gag that she was my K-pop girlfriend for the longest time back when we first came to Korea. I also know that she has a wonderfully fluent grasp of English and seems to really enjoy using it so I was curious to see how this would go. She was really comfortable with it right away and asked a lot of the usual stuff, including name (She said Jeff, not Jeh-Peu), where I was from (She wanted to know specifically, too, not just USA) and all the normal introductory stuff. While content may have been the same as, say, with Yooyoung the entire flow of the conversation was a million times more comfortable and fluent. She wanted to know specifically where in Pennsylvania I was from and I told her where. She said she wanted to visit there one day and I laughed, asking her “Why, we don’t have anything fun there.” We both laughed and then I switched over and said the same thing in Korean. She started totally spazzing out and immediately started gushing over the fact that suddenly I was speaking full-on Korean with her. She asked if I lived in Korea and again wanted to know where. I told her and she knew the area. She made a comment about how it was a little far, which was true, and then she took a second to do her signing. Then she turned to me and hilariously told me how awesome my English is. She got all flustered and tried to take it back but I poked fun at her a little. I told her her Korean was great, too and she laughed again. Then she fixed her comment, saying my Korean was good and she wants to learn more English. She then turned to Nara, who I was going to see next and started to point to me while Nara kind of sat with this petrified face. Lime told her she didn’t have to worry at all because I can speak Korean really well so she could say anything. I kept shaking my head and laughing as I high-fived Lime before moving over to Nara. From this point the girls kind of blurred together because they didn’t really regard Jessy and I as separate entities anymore.

Don’ worry, Nara. We’ve got you covered. No English required today.

Poor Nara was like a deer in the headlights right from the start and she put a hand on her chest saying “I can’t speak any English.” In Korean, I said, “But you just did…” and she paused for a second, seemed to consider it, and then said that’s all she knows. She learned that so she doesn’t have to say anything else. I laughed and we started going through the normal greeting stuff. Meanwhile, Jessy had moved over to Lime, and was going through a similar pile of questions, but in English. When Lime asked where Jessy was from though, she realized that it was the same place and started asking if we’d known each other before and came together today. This is when Nara turned to Lime and Jessy, pointed excitedly and asked if she was my girlfriend. I nodded, saying we were both fans and came here together. She checked that we came to Korea together, too, and I confirmed that as well. She got all schoolgirly and giggly about the whole thing and then wrote a little note, loosely translating to “Girlfriend for a long, long time.” Jessy and I have a kind of understanding about stuff like this. I’m totally going to read that as if she meant herself and Jessy can totally run with the whole running gag about Suwoong being her secret boyfriend. Neither of us ever get jealous so it works out. We consider it even. A handshake sealed the end to Nara time and she was decidedly less dead-fish than Yooyoung, which was a little surprising considering how demurely she carries herself in general. Jessy had a similar response from Lime, though slightly less giggly, before moving over to Nara and starting Nara’s schoolgirling over anew. Pretty much Jessy’s whole conversation with Nara ended up being about the two of us as a unit and how jealous Nara was that she didn’t have a boyfriend too. On one hand, it was a nice switch from the generic questions that made up most of this signing, but it’s also not a topic we generally talk about so it was also really awkward.

Chatting with the older members was like a giant party. It was so natural and fun.

Moving on to Alice, she had another quick moment of English greeting before we did the switchback to Korean, which seemed to greatly relieve Alice. She did a check about Jessy as well and oddly enough it was actually Nara that turned and answered her question (like I said, these last three kind of melted together). Alice then turned to me and kept talking about Jessy. She seemed fascinated with the idea of a couple coming to the signing. She said she wanted a boyfriend and was jealous of us. She made a comment about Jessy being pretty as well and then said “Look good” in English, which got a giggle out of me. I had apparently spent too much time with Nara and/or Lime so it seemed like Alice got cut a little short but she did that hand claspey thing that idols sometimes do as I got up and waved goodbye. I had made some sort of contact with each member, so score on that note!

Myeeeeessssss… Everything according to plan…

Jessy eventually switched over to Alice as well, and pretty much got more of the same. Alice also just wanted to know everything and anything Jessy would say about me, or us. Eventually Jessy told her how long we’d been together, approximately though since we don’t even really keep track of that, and Alice and Nara completely flipped their lids insisting that we had to get married. Thankfully for Jessy, staff decided that it was time for her to move on before she had to explain that we want nothing to do with that. All she had time to say was that it was too expensive, which neither of them could much argue with. Jessy headed out with a handshake and a “Come see us more often.”

We were not dead last anymore, so we got back to our seats and had some time while the last fans completed their rounds to get photos of the members as their spot opened up. Poor Yeoreum and Seoyoung got the mic first since they were at the front end. They tried to rile up the crowd and get them to sing along to their debut song but the guys didn’t seem to want any part of it. Jessy and I jumped in and sang along. I did the main part in a really high falsetto which Yeoreum actually took note of and commented on. I didn’t own up to being the source at the time but got a kick out of the reaction. They were trying so hard to get a reaction from the crowd I felt a little bad for them. It was especially notable whenever Lime finished up and snagged a mic, literally going “Quiet, I have a mic now” and completely owning the floor from that point on. It was literally The Lime Show for the next hour or so. She was a natural MC for the event and had everyone laughing right away. She started out by getting everyone to sing her happy birthday. We did, but everyone used her actual Korean name in the song. She got this huge pouty face and started to whine. “No, no, no, I’m Lime! Lime! We have to do it again!” We all sang it a second time just to sing to her as Lime and she did a little flourishey dance to the whole thing. She talked a little about her birthday and how she is 25 now (Korean reckoning).

There was a lot of Lime-attention for the next ten minutes and a little bit of ribbing from the older members, but Lime gave as good as she got so it was all in good fun. Eventually she stood up and started doing some of the dance to Mysterious. She got Yooyoung to demonstrate a part of it as well. They got Alice to do the rap parts, which she did in the most derpy-sweet manner you could imagine. They had to teach her the individual lines though, since Yooyoung and Lime always do those, but she did them right away albeit very awkwardly. She still got a ton of applause for her efforts though.

   

Lime was the first to take center stage in the front and she said it was time for them to do photo time for their fans. They wanted suggestions for different kinds of poses or situations to enact. They did a generic group pose first, one with hearts, a Power Rangers action pose as suggested by one of the guys in the back, and a few others. I felt a little bad for them at this point because a ton of the fans were asking the girls to either sing part of Twice’s latest song, “TT” or have them do some kind of pose from that song. I thought it was in really poor form to ask a group at their signing to impersonate a competing girl group, especially when they are in the awkward position of being seniors to that group yet not nearly as popular. I kind of gritted my teeth at all of those requests. The Power Ranger request resulted in Lime going off on this weird tangent wherein she tried to get Yeoreum to fight with her in this miniature choreography fight scene. It was this bizarre mix of awkward and entertaining. Those two members were having a blast in the front while the rest of the members stared at them wondering what they thought they were trying to do.

Alice makes some truly bizarre faces sometimes

After a little while of playing around on stage, Lime takes the mic in hand yet again and decides it is time to hula dance. She said something about Nara and Hawaii and this led into the hula somehow. She said they would all dance and then everyone could get a photo time shot of the group doing the hula, so she counted down from three and started into the dance right away. Meanwhile the rest of the group stood behind her watching her make a fool of herself. They said they’d really do it the second time and once again they pulled a fast one, making Lime dance all by herself. They managed to pull this same trick like five times straight before Lime got even one other member to do it with her. It was funny how clueless Lime was while at the same time having absolutely no shame whatsoever.

Nara looking phenomenal

Next she decided to go out to the foreign fans in the audience to have us pick their next pose. I immediately knew where she was heading. She ran off the stage with a pile of papers and headed up the aisle. It felt like she was literally hunting us down, which may have been exactly the case because I later found out that Jessy was sitting behind me pointing at my head while Lime was on the prowl. Besides, when she said “foreign” fans I knew she likely meant obviously foreign. There were a good number of Japanese fans in attendance and a few other Southeast Asian fans as well, but we were the only ones I noticed of Western/European descent. We stood out a bit, as we’ve become accustomed to. Still, that left me sitting in the chair thinking “Oh good, here comes Lime!” and of course she showed up right in front of me seconds later. She handed me a pile of papers and had me take the top one, and now in English again she told me to take the paper and open it, then read what was on the page. It said Aegyo, which I laughed at before handing her the paper back. She ran back up to the stage and then it was a series of little harassments from one member to another to get them to do dreaded aegyo performances. Yeoreum was on deck first and they made her do that little ghost girl speech, but then they said that the “Maknae face” had to do it, since Seoyoung is pretty much overflowing with Aegyo. Yeoreum was no slouch but Seoyoung was a natural. Then they practically forced Nara to do it and she looked more like a runway model who stopped in the middle of the stage to make a declaration of some sort. When she was finished she literally ran and hid in the curtain off to the side of the stage. It was really funny.

    

They announced their finishing touches to the night which would wrap up in a performance of their latest single, “Mysterious.” I had my camera trained on Lime for 90 percent of the song and even though we were fairly far back we got a ton of attention during the song and a lot of eye contact in pictures and throughout the performance. It pays to be obvious sometimes. They said their goodbyes, we waved to a ton of the members (Alice seemed particularly excited to wave goodbye to us on the way out) and then headed out the doors to begin our trek home. It was my first Hello Venus fan signing and it was jam-packed with memorable moments. It was a great signing all told and I almost want to go for more of them. Who knows, maybe during this vacation I will see more of them than anticipated.

WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

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Se7en – A CoEx fansign 2016-10-29

dscn0087Our exploits in South Korea have brought us face to face with a number of personalities in the Korean music scene and our fairly diverse fandom interests have made it a very interesting ride. We’ve been up close to and directly interacted with favorites of ours and rookie newcomers alike in various settings and capacities. Through and through, despite our best efforts, there are occasional artists that, for one reason or another, remain evasive to us and manage to escape even our most diligent efforts to see them. Recently we managed to catch up with one of these rare beasties and had the chance to speak with him at one of his fan signing events.

img_3303Before coming to Korea we attended a festival for Chuseok in the north Jersey area, just across the river from New York. There was a massive and widely acclaimed K-Pop concert that drew people from all over the nation and beyond. There was no ticket price and the playlist was extraordinarily competitive for the time. We were still barely getting into the fandom at the time so we had to research a few artists. Jessy found one that was on the guest card that she ended up particularly liking: solo singer and musical actor, Se7en. Unfortunately he had to cancel, so while the show was phenomenal in its own right we never did have the chance to see Se7en perform. When we came to Korea he had recently gone to the military, so he was off the grid for most of our stay here. After his tour of duty ended he took a lengthy personal break due to a ‘scandal’ during his military time that left the public with a much less favorable attitude towards him than when he first started said military duty. After a few months though he landed an acting role for Elizabeth, the musical. We finally had the opportunity to see him perform – not once, but twice – and loved the experience. Jessy was especially pleased, having felt robbed for years of the chance to see a fast-favorite artist of hers due to various circumstances. Months went by afterward and we were surprised to hear that Se7en would finally be making a comeback to regular performances. We knew we had to get in on that action, pronto.

img_3592There was a fan signing event at CoEx Mall – a location that, due to the spaciousness and tiered nature of their live event area has become one of our new favorite fan signing venues. It’s so easy to get great pictures, it’s well-lit, and you aren’t crowded at all. It’s a very comfortable and well designed area for a fan sign, and it just so happens to be very conveniently located to our current home, so we went to the YPBooks in the mall and picked up our albums way ahead of time, awaiting the weekend to see if we’d gotten into the lottery-style admission list.

Luckily for us, though not so much for Se7en, the event was just shy of selling out, so everyone managed to get a seat. Due to that scandal during his military days and the negative attention from it, he lost a lot of fans. This meant more room for us, but we don’t hold the issue much against him and still want him to net back the fans he lost and continue to be successful. Still, this meant we were in for the event and we arrived back at the bookstore that evening to trade in our receipt slips for our seating assignments. One of the big drawbacks of lottery-style signings is the seating is almost always randomly designated, so you’ll never sit by friends or people you are attending with. (Unless of course, some other random fans agree to trade seats with you, which we generally feel weird about asking people at random like that.) Jessy and I somehow managed to pick seats near each other despite this fact, and we were way up in front, to boot. She was #10 and I was #14. Sadly, when we actually found our spots at the signing, we discovered that Jessy was front row, but I was second and way off on the other side. So much for being conveniently near each other and talking during the signing. Either way, neither of us felt quite ready to go up there that early but we figured ourselves out, prepped our albums, and waited for Se7en to arrive. I did my usual scan of the participants of the signing event – I was the only guy except for one and a little boy, the significance of whom I would learn about soon.

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When he arrived he was all done up in a dapper leisure suit jacket and turtleneck and he addressed everyone with this bizarre mixture of smoothness and total awkwardness. He came off as generally humble and sort of uncertain of himself. Then again, since this was one of his first direct interactions with fans for his first comeback after his scandal, that’s not terribly surprising. He asked if anyone had any questions or general things to say before the event but no one was feeling terribly forthcoming with their words, feeling it better to save them for their one-on-one time with Se7en instead of announcing everything to the whole crowd. Things got under way fairly quickly after that.

dscn0189Jessy was first of the two of us, and early in the line considering her draw of seat #10. Se7en greeted her warmly, immediately and flawlessly switching into English. He asked her the normal first meeting a foreign fan at an event sorts of questions. Jessy told him that she was from America but had been living here in Korea for a couple years now, to which he was surprised. He took a ton of her signing time to address her little post-it request that she had stuck in her album: draw a picture please. He asked her what he should draw, and Jessy told him to draw himself as Death from Elizabeth, but she thinks he made up his mind before she got the part about Death out. He started drawing intently, while Jessy sat there trying to figure out what in the world it was he was drawing. He didn’t go about it in an obvious sort of way, and it was only when he was finished that she could see anything. Eventually she told him it looked like a bunny, which he agreed to happily, before thanking her for coming and sending her on her way. It was only after the signing, when Jessy looked at his picture again, right-side up, that she realized that it wasn’t simply a bunny. She even felt a bit bad not making the connection earlier. It was Se7en’s little bunny mascot sort of thingy that he uses on merchandise and the like. It has one ear flopped over to make a seven and everything.

dscn0078Only a handful of other fans later and it was my turn to step up to bat. I got this weird murmur from the crowd when I walked up and Se7en himself raised an eyebrow, shaking my hand and welcoming me right away. I ate up the attention, one of the perks of being a little narcissistic and standing out so much as the only white foreign guy at an event like this. We broke right into a very comfortable conversation. His English is completely fluent so it was unlike a lot of fan signs that have this weird slogging through multiple languages to contend with. He started out in English, asking the usual “Where are you from,” “What are you doing in Korea,” and “How long have you been here” stuff. He decided to test my Korean after I told him I have been teaching here for my fourth year now and from that point on we kind of melted back and forth between languages. I told him about how we’d seen the musical he was in twice with different lead actresses but always with him playing Death. I also told him we’d really enjoyed it. He then asked how I had even found out about this signing anyway in a kind of “So what brings a guy out to a fan signing for a pretty Korean dancing dude?” sort of way. I told him that I’d seen the musicals with a girlfriend and she knew all about the signing, so we came together. He asked me to point her out at that point and I did, so he peeked out from behind me and waved out to her. I turned around to resume the conversation but he kind of bumped my shoulder and went “No, turn around!” as he posed. He was staging a picture of us together that Jessy was taking. I was oblivious but went along with it. He ended up looking great – I looked about as unprepared for a photo as I actually felt at the time. Still, it was cool of him to set that up. He signed the album, thanked me for coming out, I pandered a bit more about how I liked his rock star style of Death more than others I’d heard, and then I moved on for the next fan.

img_3549Unlike many other solo signings, Se7en really spent a lot of time with each fan. Usually solo artists blaze through the signing because there is only one of them and they need to address everyone. In the interest of time they often keep it short and succinct but I found that we had plenty of time to chat comfortably. We didn’t feel at all rushed. A ton of people got multiple things signed. If I’d known I would have brought our Elizabeth CDs and program books. A ton of them also got selcas with him – a practice often frowned upon at signings. I don’t know if it’s just how things normally are with him and his agency or if he’s just trying to be especially fan servicey to win back his public. He even stopped the signing to hold up certain fan gifts that particularly touched him and publicly thank the people who gave the gifts, making sure that everyone present appreciated the gesture as well as he did.

dscn0108This openness with the fans didn’t come without drawbacks, though. There were a few fans who took extra liberties due to the comfort level. One mom had her child wheeling around on heelies with a camera behind her, filming the entire event and furiously snapping pictures of her mom and Se7en together. I feel like they got away with that because of the kid’s cute factor, but it was still something of an exploit. Se7en just rolled with it, though, and even invited the kid forward for some one on one time. It was like they got two signings for the price of one, though, so while I’m glad Se7en was gracious about it, I’m not sure how I feel about the fan taking that sort of liberty with the situation.

img_3218There was also another fan that was just too much, and you could see it written all over Se7en’s face. She sat down and instantly had her camera three inches from his face. She video recorded their entire interaction this way. She spent forever talking to him, and I could hear Se7en starting to make gestures like it was time for her to move on and let the next person come in. He was being very polite but she either didn’t or refused to get the hint. She ended up grabbing his hand and started to pet it with her free hand, like someone might do over the table on a date or something. He was visibly awkward at this point and continued to try to gracefully maneuver out of the situation. She just kept grabbing at his arm and stuff and took forever to go away. Fans who noticed were definitely not cool with the way she was imposing herself on him like that. Leave the poor guy alone, thirsty girl!

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Not all of the fans who got extra attention were annoying, though. One of them was kind of a rare treat for all assembled. Remember that little boy I mentioned earlier? It turned out he was one of the boys who played alongside Se7en in Elizabeth. He played the young Rudolf, before he grew into the other actor who played adult Rudolf. Se7en introduced him to the audience and even started to sing the song they share in the musical. Hesitantly, the boy responded, but we could tell he wasn’t prepared to sing in front of a totally unexpected audience and was really embarrassed. Se7en let him off the hook but was clearly pleased to see him. He signed his album and had a few more words before sending him back off to his mom. It was really cute and threw us back to the day we saw them perform, as we checked later and this was in fact the kid we saw the first time we went to see Elizabeth.

dscn0127Se7en kept breaking out into dance between fans and there was one point when they goaded him into singing a chunk of his current promotional track. He was also still stopping every so often to mention some particularly interesting gift from a fan, so even though our turn was over very early the rest of the fan signing was still super fun. Also, since I had pointed out Jessy later on and I was very obvious out in the crowd, there were many occasions when Se7en would pose for us between fans. That’s a rare thing at a solo signing since they spend most of their time directly occupied. The last little special highlight of the night was when a fan showed up with a four-tiered layer cake, lit up a giant wax 7 on the top, and had everyone since “Happy Birthday” to Se7en right then and there. The fans were all in on it, and he was clearly touched, though he did question the timing since his birthday was over a week away from the signing date. The fan staff took the cake away and the fan had her own one-on-one time with Se7en, but you could see how appreciative he was of the gift and little surprise from the assembled fandom.

img_3432When the only other male fan in attendance got his turn, we got yet another surprise. Jessy, being front row and all, could hear their entire exchange. Se7en treated him similarly to Jeff in that he asked him why in the world he was there to meet Se7en, since he pretty heavily targets a female audience. He worded it differently though after Jeff’s interaction, asking the fan if he too was there with a girlfriend, while gesturing and looking out into the crowd straight at Jessy. She made a face and gesture as if to ask him ‘what?! how many boyfriends do you think I have?!’ He must have gotten at least part of that message, as he clearly stifled at laugh before turning back to the other fan to hear his real answer, which was in fact that he simply liked Se7en on his own.

Eventually the signing wrapped up and the ending was fairly uneventful. They had to close up shop a little quickly since we’d gone over time, so the goodbye was brief. We were asked to remain seated and chill until Se7en took off but a lot of the ladies didn’t listen and they followed him off to the elevator. Jessy and I were good little fans and hung back. No need to fuel any bad reputation images that K-Pop fans may have nowadays. Now armed with another very unique signed album apiece we turned about and headed back to the subway. Satisfied and greatly amused, we made our way home.

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Back in the Fray~ Fansign Crashing and a Floating Stage

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100% finally made their comeback!

It’s been a crazy time since our escapades in Australia. Work has been rather demanding, and the Kpop scene really hasn’t had much going on to get us up and moving in our small bits of downtime. Until something happened that I was pretty well convinced was not going to happen ever again, 100% had a comeback! I absolutely love this group! We’d done a handful of things in their name way back when, but then they just sort of dropped off the face of the Earth for almost two years, so we assumed they had probably quietly disbanded. Thankfully, we had assumed wrong.

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I of course had to go to something. Music shows would be a bit tricky partially just from figuring out their rules, and partially because they have an official fanclub of which I am a part, but Jeff is not. This would put us in different priority levels, thus in completely different parts of the line, and alone in a sea of fans we know nothing about. Instead I decided to jump on fansigns. Unfortunately, they continued their trend have having very inconveniently located and timed fansigns in relation to my schedule. It turned out that we could make our way to their first fansign, but we couldn’t actually buy albums for it. It was time to crash!

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Hyukjin has noooo idea

The signing was at the Coex Mall, which we’ve been to for multiple other signings. It’s a really nice place for them, both if your attending or just crashing. We headed out from work Friday afternoon, arriving with plenty of time to grab some food before the festivities, and still be among the earliest to arrive. We sat ourselves in the benches just above what they had roped off for the actual fans with albums to be signed. While we waited, a somewhat surprising amount of other fans filled in around us, including a Japanese fan we know from when she used to attend Boys Republic events with us. We also watched as the staff (mall and 100% fan staff) collected nearby benches for the fans to sit on while having their albums signed. These benches normally sit in the middle of the mall simple for people to take a rest. It was especially amusing because the benches had tables sitting at each end of them, which they left in place out in the middle of the mall, while taking just the bench. The tables looked lonely. It was nice to see that 100% was still treating their fans awesome at fansigns though, since I’d seen them give chairs to the fans at previous fansigns, whereas most groups just make you stand or kneel in front of the table. It’s a small thing, but leaves a nice happy feeling behind.

Eventually, the guys showed up, just sort of strolling in from the side. Instead of settling into their chairs as per normal though, they were going to treat us to some live vocals. They had set mic stands up in front of the table before the guys arrived, so they took their positions there instead. After a small introduction and thanks for waiting for them for so long, it was time to sing. Not gonna lie, this was the biggest reason I had to crash this particular fansign. 100%’s live vocals are just amazing. Always. We weren’t quite sure what song to expect since their title track right now is a dance song, but these were clearly mic stands and a space that didn’t allow for dancing. I wondered if they wouldn’t do a ballad song off their album instead, but was excited when it was in fact their title track, 지독하게 (Better Day).

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Their performance was great of course, with Rockhyun and Hyukjin going especially nuts. I’m not sure if their mics were set louder or if they just couldn’t hold themselves back, but they were a good bit louder than the other three members. Sounded great either way, and drew a decent sized crowd from out of the mall. They addressed this after finishing, telling all the people that had gathered who they were again and to give them a lot of love. They also mentioned how nervous they were since it’s been so long. They were worried that nobody would come out to see them, just as if it was their very first fansign after debut all over again. Poor guys.

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RBF – the struggle is real

After a bit more random talking, most of the guys went and sat in their chairs. Rockhyun though was going to treat us to one more song, a cover Park HyoShin’s It’s Strange (박효신의 이상하다). He did really well with that too of course. The members made it difficult to keep my camera steady though, since they were goofing off and swaying along to the song behind him. It was cute. When he finished, the signing got started in earnest. We spent the time trying to catch the members in between fans, both to take pictures and to play around with them. We ended up succeeding at getting all of their attentions at one point or another. Even Chanyong, who was clearly sick and thus the least interactive for the day. Minwoo was definitely the most aware of us, which was somehow appropriate since he’s the member I’ve seen the last, thanks to his military service. He kept poking his head back up our way and waggling around like a goof or making silly poses to copy me, and then laughing. Rockhyun and Hyukjin noticed a few times each as well. Jonghwan though took the longest to catch though, but this wasn’t surprising since he was first in line for the signing, so he was the most consistently busy. At the end of the signing though, he had the most extra time, which he used to play with all the fans. I kept trying to grab his attention with normal actions like waving, but that just wasn’t enough to draw his attention so far above the fans clearly there to see them. It took me flailing my arms around like an idiot. When he noticed though he gave me one of his trademark judgy looks (he has resting b*tch face pretty bad) before copying the stupid flail and laughing.

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Once all the members were done with signing, they only had time for a brief ending speech of thanks, before it was time to head out. They had taken a really long time with their signing actually, and I’m pretty sure the mall folks were trying to get them to leave so they could clean up and close. They waved their way out, and we headed back home in short order.

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Count OneJunn welcomes you to the stage

The next morning we woke up at a very reasonable time. We had wanted to do some shopping before our event planned for the evening. We spent the day in Myeongdong, before heading over to the Han River park for a concert of unknown sorts. Boys Republic had this event on their schedule, with a time and place, but we literally couldn’t find ANY other information about it. All we knew was that there would be some sort of floating stage that Boys Republic would be performing on sometime after 6pm. We arrived maybe an hour before then in case good seats could be obtained.

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Han River Cruise

We found the little floating stage sitting in the water in front of a very large tiered seating area, with very few people hanging around on it. Across the walkway from that though, and closer to the stage was a small cluster of chairs, all roped off. There was also a small cluster of various artists fans surrounding the chairs, and they had clearly been waiting there for a while to claim the seats. We recognized a handful of Royal Family among them, waving and chatting with some of them, before plopping down on the tiered seating farther back.

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The event’s MCs, of Melody Day and Halo

We sat there waiting until past 6 o’clock, when finally something started happening. Next to the chairs, there was a red carpet area of sorts that some people had started lining up along as well. We meandered over to stand with them, simply because we were bored, and no more people seemed to be arriving to steal away our spots. Eventually the MCs for the night came meandering down the red carpet and went up to their podium to practice their lines. Jeff was excited since one of them was from Melody Day, so he meandered off to find a better view.

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Melody Day maknae Yoomin looking elegant as an MC

After a while, the MCs wandered back past us, and soon after others started appearing as well. Halo was the first, most likely since one of them was the second MC, but they failed at red carpet. Instead of walking down the obvious red carpet, with it’s line of fans and backdrop for pictures and all the cameras waiting, they walked down the normal Han River walkway behind all the fans and cameras. They were pretty much fully past the red carpet before people started to notice, and even then the reaction was pretty small. Apparently they wanted to stretch their legs and simply walk through the crowds, since they just kept wandering down the walkway, past the stage. Maybe 15 minutes or so later, they meandered back the way they’d come, having picked up a handful of fans trailing after them by this point, going back to the vans for a bit before they did their stage. The majority of our fans, us included, weren’t paying a whole lot of attention to it.

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A very mist-enshrouded Berry Good

Shortly after this, Berry Good made an entrance on the red carpet, and headed back behind it to some manner of waiting room. They kept popping their heads out between curtains to play with the fans though. I don’t especially consider myself a fan of them, but I do think they deserve more attention than they get. The have talent, some decent songs, are pretty, and fan interactive. I don’t get the luke-warm response, but that goes for a lot of groups anymore.

Finally, at least an hour after Boys Republic’s schedule had this set to start, it started. The MCs came back out, did their little opening bit that we’d seen them rehearse earlier, and Berry Good went out to the stage to do their thing. During this, we spied off in the distance, beyond the red carpet, a van pulling into the designated idol van parking area that gave us a strangely familiar and suspicious sort of feeling. We also noticed a crowd gathering around it that seemed familiar, and couldn’t help but notice that Royal Family had disappeared from around the red carpet area. We wandered over that way, to be greeted excitedly by our fellow Royal Family. The boys were hiding out in their van, but one of them kept poking his hand or fingers out the window at us. While this was going on, One Junn, fully rolled down his window, but was just making a funny face at us all, and immediately rolled it back up again without changing expression. Everybody whined at him a bit, so he rerolled it down, laughing, to wave briefly and say hi for real, before hiding once more. Eventually the window with the random fingers poking out rolled down to say hello for real too. It turned out to be Minsu, and he seemed to be fully trying to fill Suwoong’s role in his absence, as he’s more commonly the one to poke himself out of the van windows. (Suwoong couldn’t attend this event because of his drama filming.) Minsu was going around the crowd saying hello to everybody, but when he got to me he sort of flipped his shit. He waved like such a maniac that literally all the other fans had to turn around to see what was so exciting. They were much less excited than Minsu, unsurprisingly, and simply turned back to him after discovering nothing exciting.

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Melody Day being so awesome Jeff broke his phone while running to see them

Moments later, he rolled the window back up, leaving us to stand around and chat amongst ourselves. We essentially stayed there for the rest of the show, instead of meandering back to watch groups we didn’t much care about. The area had really filled up with people at this point too, so the chances of seeing well were very low too. So we decided to simply hang out with Royal Family and Boys Republic’s van. Eventually another van pulled in alongside ours, squashing us up against it. I waved at the group as they exited, and got jokingly reprimanded by another Royal Family member for waving at others with Boys Republic right there. I contradicted that I was clearly not excited, but simply being nice, and she just laughed. At another point during our waiting, Melody Day took to the stage, and we briefly lost Jeff. He ran off to watch and take pictures, since he quite enjoys them. (They were perhaps the only other group in attendance that we liked much.)

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On his return trip, he had a very unhappy accident. His phone managed to fall out of his new jacket’s pocket, shattering the screen to pieces. He arrived back at the vans fuming, and thoroughly unable to enjoy himself the for the rest of the event.

After a little while longer, Boys Republic finally emerged from their van in full to head down to the stage themselves. We walked with them to the red carpet, and then veered off to find spots to take pictures of them from. One Junn was the only one to pose for us there, and the horrible lighting made him look 100% like a vampire. They then made their way out to the stage to wait their turn. We headed off to find a place to see the actual performance but were having trouble, made even worse by Jeff no longer caring. He was all bent out of shape over his phone, though a little bit appeased by the fact that on the way out he had walked within centimeters of Melody Day. He had very nearly brushed shoulders with their main vocalist, Yeo-Eun, as she walked back to her van. We stood on some one of the tiers from before for a bit, but could barely see any of the stage. We instead headed down to the crowd surrounding the cluster of chairs, assuming that at least some of those people would leave when Halo finished up their stage.

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Don’t forget baby Suwoong!

Our assumption was right, and we managed to wiggle our way into a front row, side space pretty quickly. I joined in with the rest of Royal Family, cheering like mad, and possibly confusing poor Minsu. He took over most of Suwoong’s main parts, and I cheered as if it was Suwoong doing them. They performed three songs, Get Down, Hello, and Real Talk, and also had a small talking section. They mentioned that Suwoong was missing, and One Junn held up his hand to show where he should be, but made him super short, and we all whined at him from the audience. After they wrapped things up, it was time to head out, as they were once again the closing act. (I know we only get that sort of recognition during these small shows, but to at least rate the closing act for a large portion of the small shows we do still feels nice.) It was pretty late at this point, we were both hungry, and Jeff was understandably surly, but we simply jumped on the subway for the long ride home, deciding to deal with other issues once we got back home.

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