Saturday, November 22, 2014 will go down in history as the day my inner Starlight died and went to fangirl heaven, known to the rest of the world as the day six-member Korean boy band, VIXX, visited Chicago, making the first of two stops on their whirlwind tour across the U.S.
Gathering with hundreds of fellow Starlights in front of the box office of the Star Plaza Theater, in Merrillville, Indiana, hours before the concert, those of us lucky enough to snag a spot in line, inside the building, squished together to chat about VIXX, K-Pop, concerts and life in general, as we watched the painfully slow hands on the clock tick down to showtime. For those poor Starlights forced to wait outside in the freezing rain, I’m sure the time passed even slower, especially after the announcement was made that the show’s start time was going to be pushed back a half an hour. The collective groan of the ever-growing mass of Starlights was audible and understandable as being forced to wait even longer than expected is never a good thing.
As painful as it was to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and… (okay, you get the idea) the time to open the doors finally came and the mad rush to get out of the cold, wind and rain was made even more desperate by the desire of every single Starlight within a thousand-mile radius to see their beloved VIXX in person. Once inside, Starlights were forced to wait in even more lines as those with VIP access had to queue up for the much-coveted wristbands that granted you a high-touch with the boys after the show, those who had purchased Starlight Dream Packages (or who just wanted to buy merchandise) had to queue up for their loot, those who wanted to write a question for VIXX and stick it on a giant, Post-It covered board had to queue up elsewhere, and everyone with a ticket had to queue up outside the house doors for what felt like an eternity. (Oooh! VIXX pun!) I swear, the foyer of that theater had more lines than N had in Hotel King and I’m pretty sure more than half of the fans waiting in said lines really didn’t know why they were lining up in the first place. (In other words, the entire thing was a giant unorganized mess wrapped in a blanket of chaos but we won’t say any more about that because we’re all only human and everyone needs a little grace extended, from time to time.)
When the house doors finally opened, the mad dash to find seats began and for the first time that evening, I felt my heart flutter as the pre-concert excitement finally hit me. Between finding my seat, catching up with friends from near and far and trying to figure out how the heck I was going to take pictures when the beefiest security guards in the world kept telling me I couldn’t (despite the massive PRESS sign hanging around my neck), the time passed quickly and before I knew it, the house lights went down and the excitement of knowing VIXX was, at that moment walking towards the stage that stood mere feet in front of me, hit me like a bolt of lightning. This was the moment I’d been waiting years for, the moment that would make all of my fangirl dreams come true and the instant I saw the first of six dark silhouettes take the stage, my heart stopped beating and I forgot how to breathe. VIXX was standing right in front of me and the second the stage lights went up, I died.
Taking the stage as the last few bars of “Heart” played under the intro video, VIXX opened the night with “Error” and I’m not gonna lie, if it weren’t for the fact that press were only allowed to shoot the first few songs and I was holding a ridiculously expensive camera at the time, I would have completely lost it right then and there. Ugh! The things my heart did while I filled the role of the responsible reporter nearly killed me. Every single fiber of my being wanted to drop that stupid camera and scream my head off as Leo kicked off the evening with his angelic voice but I didn’t. I stood my ground and attempted to shoot video while my heart did back-flips and my hands shook like a bowl of Jell-O in an earthquake. Sadly, all my efforts to capture a few moments of this glory were foiled by an over-zealous security guy who felt it was his duty to push my camera out of my hands as he told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. Shooting him my most Leo-worthy death-stare, I flashed him my press badge and went about my business but my attempts to capture anything worthy of sharing with the world were already foiled. (ASDFJKL!) Watching my fellow members of the press being equally harassed, I decided to forgo video and just stick with pictures, as it’s a lot whole heck of a lot easier to deal with a few blurry pictures than it is a completely ruined video and it’s a good thing I did as my camera was pushed out of my face on more than one occasion by security people with a death wish. (Seriously people! Don’t ever touch a photographer’s camera! I get that you’re trying to do your job but that’s just plain rude!)
My struggle with the security lasted throughout the first set but not even the frustrations of being constantly told “no” could keep me from dying as VIXX moved from “Error” to “Voodoo Doll” to “Hyde”, “Light Up The Darkness” and “Secret Night”. Stuck somewhere between ecstasy and death as I watched Leo, Ken, Ravi, Hongbin, N and Hyuk slay every single member of the audience with their glorious dancing and their heavenly voices, the only thing that kept me from passing out was my suddenly desperate need to take as many pictures as I could before the camera had to disappear. Snapping pics to my heart’s content, a part of me was sad I was watching VIXX, in all of their glory, through the viewfinder of my camera but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do and I took full advantage of my brief opportunity to capture a few glorious moments with VIXX.
When the first set ended, VIXX disappeared backstage for a moment to drop the red and blue coats of amazing Technicolor goodness and give us poor, dying Starlights a chance to recover from the initial shock of seeing our lovely boys in real life. Trading suit coats for fedoras, VIXX returned to the stage to serenade their Starlights with “Only U”, “Someday” and “Youth Hurts” before moving into a short Q & A time in which Hyuk and Ravi were asked to pick a question from the Post-It covered board I mentioned earlier. Hyuk being Hyuk, took a painfully long time deciding which question he would choose, though no-one in the audience seemed to mind. I think it’s probably because while Hyuk teased the audience with his “I’ll choose this one… No maybe this one…” some of the other members began singing the infamous “bum-ba-dum-ba-dum” that has graced so many episodes of VIXX TV. Hearing those five notes sent the audience into a roar of laughter and cheers that made all of VIXX smile.
Finally deciding which Post-It to choose, Hyuk read it to the audience and immediately set about making the dream of one very excited Starlight come true by giving her a quick wink as he flashed her his most beautiful smile. Having successfully slayed one very lucky Starlight, it was Ravi’s turn to choose a question which he did relatively quickly, answering the ever-popular, “What’s your favorite American food?” question with a very enthusiastic, “STEAK!” Funny thing about performing in Chicago, when a K-Pop idol is asked what his or her favorite American food is, it’s written in the Performing in Chicago Handbook that you must answer “Pizza”, so when Ravi answered honestly, Ken quickly leaned over to remind him that what he actually meant to say was pizza. Though Ravi did his best to recover from this little blunder, the damage was done. Knowing what needed to be done to save the day, Ken came to the rescue, saying he loved pizza and the audience once again roared with laughter and cheers. (Don’t worry Ravi, Chicago Starlights will always love you, even if you don’t love their pizza.)
Because the show started a half an hour later than expected, the Q&A time was cut short and was wrapped up by a translator who decided that moment was the perfect time to steal a hug from one of the boys. Sending the audience into a tumultuous uproar, the translator stole a hug from Hyuk before disappearing and I have to say, it’s a good thing she ran away when she did because the crowd didn’t take very well to her teasing. The vibe in the building was pretty tense at that particular moment but Ravi quickly calmed things down by stealing the attention of the audience with an introduction of the next set so enthusiastic, the hug incident was quickly forgotten, at least by everyone but the Hyukie-stans. Though I would imagine even the most devout of Hyuk lovers were able to think of little else as VIXX performed “B.O.D.Y.” and “G.R.8.U.” because HOLY FLIP! Just hearing Ravi say, “Girl, you got a hot body” in person was enough to send me crumbling to the floor.
Giving the audience a moment to catch their breath and restart their hearts, VIXX disappeared for the only major costume change of the evening, though I have to say, leaving us to watch the “Error” video while they changed didn’t really help any of us deal with our over-abundance of fangirl feels. If anything it made things worse, especially for those poor Hongbin-stans who had to find a way to deal with an eight-foot, shirtless Beanie. (Heck, I had a hard time breathing during that video and Beanie isn’t even my VIXX bias!)
The feels only got worse as VIXX took to the stage once again, this time donned in the white suits of gloriousness that sent me into fangirl convulsions when they first wore them on Inkigayo, the day before Leo’s birthday. Appropriately enough the first song of this next set was “Beautiful Killer” and honestly, there’s no better way to describe VIXX than that. Those boy, in all of their insanely talented and beautiful wonderfulness, had me clutching my heart on more than one occasion and it only got worse after I made direct eye-contact with N. OH MY GIDDY FLIPPING AUNT! Catching N’s eye and holding his gaze for what could have been either seconds or an eternity (I still don’t know because I think time stopped at that particular moment), my heart stopped for the umpteenth time and I have no doubt my face lit up like a Christmas tree. Smiling like a fool, I pointed at N, so he’d know, without a doubt, that I saw him and he flashed me a smile so brilliant I instantly went weak in the knees. From that moment on, any time N came to my side of the stage, he’d find me and smile and I’d die all over again.
“Chaos” and “Eternity” were up next and I cannot tell you how many times I stood on the brink of tears, watching these boys perform one favorite song of mine after another. Having seen VIXX perform “Eternity” at KCON, I thought I’d be immune to its amazingness this time around but NOPE! Watching my ultimate bias doing the “Eternity” wiggle mere feet from me had me clawing at my chest once again and… OH HOLY MONKEYS, SOMEBODY SAVE ME! Even now, days later, I find it impossible to breathe as I recall the gloriousness of that moment.
As the show drew to a close, the boys took a second to chat with their Starlights, commenting on the amazing and wonderful the energy of the crowd, telling us how surprised they were to be met with so much love, how much they loved and appreciated our enthusiasm and how much strength and encouragement it gave them. From there, VIXX graciously thanked all of us for our love and support before making the customary promise to come back in the future. Somewhere in all of that Ken threw in an “ottokaji” that made every Starlight in the building squeal with glee and my heart was happy, though only for a moment. Knowing the next song would be the last, my heart broke as the first few notes of “On & On” began to play though somehow, while watching my ultimate bias group perform my all-time favorite dance, and at the same time getting looks and smiles from their glorious leader, my heart miraculously mended, at least enough to allow me to scream like crazy as VIXX exited the stage.
Refusing to let that be the end of our time together, the audience roared with cheers, applause and a never-ending chant of “V.I.X.X.” that led, inevitably, to an encore. Dressed in a more comfortable version of their white suits that included Leo donning a white sweater (SWOON!), VIXX took to the stage one last time, delighting Starlights with a stellar performance of “Rock Ur Body” before moving into a fan-service filled rendition of “Love Come True”. After slaying Starlights with smiles and winks, intense stares, high-fives, waves, hearts and kisses, VIXX departed and I instantly dissolved into an indistinguishable puddle of fangirl goo.
Trying to cope with a rush of fangirl feels more intense than any I have ever experienced in my life, I did what I could to return to normal but knowing that, in a matter of minutes, I would be meeting VIXX in person made “normal” impossible. The wait to meet VIXX was painful, mostly because I knew that once I was herded through the high-touch I would be forced to say goodbye to them for forever. As I waited, I tried to remind myself to stay calm and think clearly, hoping against hope that just this once, the fangirl fuzzy brain wouldn’t take over and I’d be able to say something intelligent and lovely to my ultimate bias. Unfortunately all that hoping was for naught. The second I stepped into the room with VIXX and Beanie met me with his gloriously dazzling smile, I died and that was the end of everything.
I remember seeing Beanie’s smile and I remember telling Ken I loved his drama. I remember being upset that I was being pushed through the line so fast that I had to look backwards to catch Ken’s reaction to my short confession and I remember the brilliant smile and look of recognition I got from N as our eyes met for the zillionth time that evening. Not gonna lie, I almost died at that moment, which is probably why meeting Hyukie is nothing more than a blur. Either that or it’s because Leo was waiting for me after Hyuk and well, the entire world disappears as soon as Leo comes into view… Leo. Oh Leo! Meeting Leo… Standing in front of Leo… Being the subject of Leo’s gaze… Witnessing one of Leo’s rare half-smiles first hand… Having my hand linger against Leo’s… ASFDJKL! Sorry but sometimes words fail me and this would be one of them. Turns out trying to describe what it’s like to meet your ultimate bias in person is pretty much impossible. All I can say is those few brief moments with Leo will be ingrained into my brain for the rest of forever and I will be reliving them in my mind more often than I will ever care to admit. Ravi was the last in line and surprisingly enough, I can remember the feel of his warm hand against mine as clearly as I can remember the warmth of his smile. I guess meeting your first two VIXX loves, one right after the other, is a pretty memorable experience… Go figure!
With VIXX behind me and grumpy staff pushing me onward, there was nothing I could do but make my way out into the cold, wet, darkness of a VIXX-less world. Wanting nothing more than to extend my time with VIXX I made my way around the theater to gather with the mass of Starlights hoping to catch a glimpse of their biases before they disappeared forever but I was late in getting there and the group of hopeful Starlights was large. In the end I was forced to sit in my car and watch from a distance as the limo carrying my beloved VIXX become nothing more than a pair of quickly fading eyes as red as my own.
As I sit here, reminiscing over the events of an evening I will never forget, I realize there were many things I could be upset about. The night was not without frustration and I will forever be kicking myself for not actually being able to tell Leo just how much I love him (though I did have my sign and I’m hoping beyond hope that he actually read it, at least at the high-touch, if not during the show) but I’ve chosen to focus on the positive instead and keep my memories of VIXX as untainted as I can. Yes there were moments when I wanted to murder someone (I’m looking at you, over-zealous security guys) and there were moments when I wanted to cry (ahem, sound guy who decided it was okay to let Leo struggle with a mic that wasn’t working) and there were moments when VIXX obviously wanted to do the same (the stink-eye N gave the translator when she decided disappearing was more important than helping VIXX communicate with their fans, particularly comes to mind) but there were so many moments of fantastically wonderful amazingness, that all else fades into the shadowy place of soon-to-be-forgotten memories.
Seeing VIXX in person was an absolute dream come true for me and I will forever be grateful to them for being willing to suffer through a whirlwind tour, crammed into the middle of their already overly hectic schedule. I know this trip to the U.S. was hard on them, you could see it in their eyes and on their faces, in the few brief moments when they let their guards down, but they soldiered on and gave Chicago Starlights a performance we will never forget. They were sweet and lovely and wonderful in every way and I can only hope they go home with as many fond memories of us, their U.S. Starlights, as we will of them.
If I could say one thing to VIXX it would be simply this: Thank you VIXX, for making the dreams of so many come true this past weekend. Thank you for being every bit as wonderful as we all imagined you to be and for so willingly giving up so much of yourselves on our behalf. If you take nothing else away from this tour, I hope you will at least go home knowing that you have Starlights who love you eternally and unconditionally and we all wish nothing but the best for you both now and in all the years to come. VIXX, 사랑해요! 화이팅!