With nothing official to do at KCON until that afternoon, I let myself sleep in a bit on Saturday morning. It was nice, not having to rush straight over to the Prudential Center and I especially enjoyed a nice, relaxing breakfast with my friend. Once properly caffeinated, we gathered up our things, checked out of the hotel and made our way back to Newark, ready to enjoy another Hallyu-filled day of fun.
Arriving at the Prudential Center, I made straight for the convention stage to catch a bit of the Woorigarak Dance Team’s performance. Having never really had a chance to watch any traditional Korean dances, I really loved watching this talented group perform. Their brilliantly colored costumes and waving fans were so gorgeous, it was truly mesmerizing to watch. I would have stayed there to watch their entire performance if it hadn’t been for the fact it was about 10 million degrees that day and there was absolutely no shade anywhere near the convention shade. Turning to find someplace cool off I ran into a fellow drama lover, her teenage daughter and her daughter’s friend who not only wanted to stop for a second to say hi, but also wanted to take pics with me and the BTS plushies I’d made for the girls. Surprisingly, they were also willing to hang out with me for the rest of the day. (Which is something that totally blows my mind because most days, I don’t even want to hang out with myself.) So we did.
No longer alone, I spent the rest of the day wandering the convention grounds with my not-really-new-but-new-in-the-sense-we’d-never-actually-met-in-person-until-that-day friends. We stopped to shop at booths, sampled a few foods (for the record, mango Melona bars are delicious!), and mostly just chatted about this, that, and everything in-between. It was a truly lovely way to spend the day and it made me so happy, knowing that this silly little blog of mine is what brought us together. #MindBlown
Spending the day in such pleasant company, time passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time for me to head over to the press area and check in for the evening’s red carpet event. Meeting up with friends and colleagues, we chatted about our panels and adventures of the day as we waited to be escorted into the hockey house where the event was to take place. Once again the press made a mad dash through the massive crowd, weaving in and out of people as we tried to keep up with Master Speed-Walker Kevin and his awesome crew. Once the press had all been gathered outside the hockey house, we were escorted inside and immediately Kevin got to work, making sure we were all fairly and comfortably situated. This was particularly awesome for be as I’d been in the back row of the press area the night before and had to fight my way around heads as fans pushed in behind me. Knowing this was the case, I was granted a place in the very front row, not two feet from the stage which made me so happy. Immediately I got to work, fiddling with setting on my camera and taking test shots as the mass of fans poured into the darkness behind me.
Not long after, Danny Im was standing on-stage, introducing the first group of the evening, MAMAMOO. Being a fan of these four incredibly talented ladies, my internal fangirl was having a bit of a moment as MAMAMOO took to the stage. As I’ve said before, Hwasa is a particular favorite of mine so having her stand just a few feet away was pretty darn awesome. I was a bit too caught up in trying to take usable photos to let my inner fangirl show too much, but there were plenty of other fans there to pick up my slack.
Eric Nam was next to walk the red carpet and I have to say, he is quite charming. With a great sense of humor and a killer smile, he had the entire audience wrapped around his little finger. Everyone was laughing and swooning and having a grand ole time which was pretty awesome as it left everyone very much excited for his concert performance later that evening. Well, it made me excited anyway. I guess I can’t really speak for anyone else…
As much as I enjoyed both MAMAMOO and Eric Nam’s time on the red carpet, I have to admit that the next two groups were the ones that really got me excited. When DAY6 stepped out onto the red carpet, my inner fangirl started doing cartwheels. Seeing DAY6 in Toronto back in May had solidified them as one of my favorite rookie groups and I’d been dying to see them again, ever since. To have them standing right in front of me was a flipping dream come true and I tried to make the most of this rare moment by capturing as much of it as I could in photos. I’m happy to say my efforts paid off and I even managed to catch a couple of the band members checking out my fairy hair. *squee*
As DAY6 walked off the stage, the energy in the room went from excited to down-right electric as the anticipation for the evening’s final group grew to unimaginable heights. With such an incredible amount of energy in the room, it was impossible not to share in that excitement and I waited with baited breath for BTS to make their grand entrance. When the boys finally appeared, the audience exploded into cheers and the press pit lit up like a fireworks display on the 4th of July. With cameras flashing and the fans cheering, BTS made their way to the stage and I had to mentally remind myself to just keep breathing. Desperate to get as many good photos as possible, I tried to focus on the task at hand and for the most part, I think I did a pretty good job. I mean, yes, I had a bit of a moment when I realized Hobie was standing almost directly above me (because you know, 7 boys and Danny all crowded onto that small stage means pretty much every inch of that stage is taken up by people) and I had an even bigger moment when he looked down at me and gave me one of his life-giving smiles, but other than that, I stayed pretty focused. Well… I tried to be focused anyway… But Suga made it really flipping difficult! Darn boy! He nearly stopped my heart with nothing more than a look and a smile! (I am so hopeless!)
Shaken by Suga, the rest of the time BTS spent on the red carpet was a blur. WAY before anyone was ready, the boys said their final farewells leaving the rest of us to be hurriedly shooed out of the dark hockey house and into the massive crowd of excited fans waiting for the start of the evening’s main event. Meeting up with a couple of friends, we safely stashed our cameras away before diving into a big bowl of deliciously spicy ddeokbokki. Oh gracious! That ddeokbokki was so good! Sure, it burned my ears the entire time I was eating it but I was so hungry, I didn’t even care. With our dinner finished, it was time to make our way to our seats for the concert. Of course we were spread out all over everywhere so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
Finding my seat with ease, I had time to just sit back, relax and take a moment to appreciate just how lucky I was to be a part of something so epically awesome. Sitting in an arena with tens of thousands of fellow fans, the energy in the room was fantastic. As the minutes ticked by, the excitement in the room grew and once again, I felt myself getting excited. Having been at the concert the night before, I knew what was in store for us and that only made me more excited. (Of course knowing I’d be seeing MAMAMOO, DAY6 and BTS might have had a little something to do with my excitement… Maybe…) By the time Danny Im took to the stage to open up the show, I was more than ready to let my long-contained inner fangirl run loose. Cheering along with thousands of others, I happily welcomed the evening’s opening act, JuNCurryAhn, to the stage. Being a fan of his covers, I loved having the chance to watch him perform both the main theme from Descendants of the Sun and BTS’ “Fire” in person.
As the lights dimmed on the evening’s opening act, the energy in the room intensified so much that by the time Rap Monster and Ailee stepped on-stage to officially kick things off, the entire crowd erupted into frenetic squeals of glee. With such incredible energy in the room, MAMAMOO had no problem keeping that energy high, delivering a performance very bit as wonderful as I’d ever dreamed it would be. To say they were amazing seems like such an understatement but as I can’t think of a word to more adequately describe them, amazing will just have to do.
Eric Nam was next to take the stage and Oh! The way he made his entrance was just so… dreamy! *sigh* His whole set started off with a video that ended with him buying a big bouquet of red roses and as we’re all sitting there in the dark, watching this video, a spotlight turns on and there’s Eric, standing in the middle of the audience, with a giant bouquet of roses that he proceeds to hand to random people in the audience as he slowly saunters his way onto the stage. It was one of those moments that made me smile as a rush of warm-fuzzies hit me. It was such a cute moment and I was just so happy for those who got one of those roses that I just couldn’t help but heave a happy sigh. Of course after that, getting to listen to Eric sing was like living in a dream and I know there were more than a few people swooning during his set.
Just as had been the case during the red carpet, the end of Eric Nam’s set brought with it an overwhelming rush of excitement as I knew DAY6 would be the next to perform. With the energy in the room as high as ever, JYP’s rookie band took to the stage and I was instantly transported to whole new level of fangirl heaven. As I’ve said, I’d already seen DAY6 perform in Toronto so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, but I was so very, very wrong. I don’t know if it had something to do with the atmosphere in the room, being surrounded by so many excited, screaming fans, or what but DAY6’s performance completely blew me away! Far removed from the cozy, intimate setting of a fan-meet, DAY6 dropped the cute “boy next door” persona and took on the role of world-class rock stars. And can I just say, that role suits the very, VERY well.
Wrapping up their performance with a collection of covers that included CNBLUE’s “I’m a Loner” and the Wonder Girls’ “Nobody,” and a collaboration with MAMAMOO, DAY6 took the already hyped crowd to a whole new level of ecstasy. As the lights dimmed on the band, the crowd nearly jumped out of their skin, as the anticipation for BTS reached a whole new level of intensity. However, before the evening’s most anticipated group made their appearance, we were first treated to a rare yet beautiful collaboration between Ailee and Eric Nam. It was a truly gorgeous duet and one that segued perfectly into the evening’s final act.
As the lights dimmed on Ailee and Eric, the entire audience jumped to their feet, the building ringing with the cheers of tens of thousands of wildly excited fans all anxiously awaiting the appearance of the convention’s most beloved group, and of course I was one of them. Dying from a lethal combination of excitement and anticipation, I nearly screamed myself hoarse when BTS finally stepped on-stage. Dancing along to every song, I squeed and cheered and sang and cried myself silly as I watched my boys deliver a heart-stopping performance. I really wish there were some way to describe the energy during their performance but everything I try to type seems to fall so short. The boys’ performance was lit. The crowd was hyped beyond imagination. The energy and emotions of both the boys and the fans was so indescribably high, I just don’t know how to capture that in words. All I can really say is that It. Was. Incredible.
To end an evening on such a high was without a doubt, the best way to wrap up my experience at KCON NY. I was so hyped up on feels I felt like I could take on the world. Meeting up with friends afterwards, we had so much to talk about, so many experiences to share, we could have spent the next week talking it all over. Unfortunately, the end of the concert brought with it the end of our time together and though I would have liked to have spent at least a few more hours reminiscing over all that we’d experienced over the course of the weekend, all we really had time for was a bunch of hurried goodbyes before we all went our separate ways.
Leaving one set of friends at the train station, I did manage to meet up with another and we spent quite a while catching up on not only the events of KCON but on life in general. It was great, being able to spend a little bit of time with friends I only get to see on very random occasions, but I can’t say much for the location of our chat. I would definitely not recommend choosing Newark’s Penn Station as a place to meet up with friends but as it was the one place we all needed to be to get to where we were going, we made due. When the time came for us to catch our respective trains, we said our last goodbyes and as they headed their way, and I headed mine, my time at KCON NY officially came to an end.
Hopping on a train headed for Manhattan, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. As much as I had enjoyed my time at KCON, the combination of heat, hunger and plain old exhaustion had started to make me anxious to be home. Once I made it to New York’s Penn Station, I found my way to the subway platform that would take me out to the airport. (A feat I was rather proud of seeing as how New York’s subway system is one of the most confusing I’ve ever used!) After waiting for about 10 million hours, the train arrived and I shambled aboard with the 10,000 other subway riders who’d gathered on the train platform. Once inside, I settled myself as comfortably as I could, lugging a heavy camera bag and suitcase in an over-crowded subway car. In other words, I stood crammed like sardines in a tin for 90% of the ride. Three and a half hours later, I found myself checking in at JFK, so tired, hot and hungry I was on the brink of falling over.
Lucky for me, getting through airport security at 4 in the morning is pretty easy and once I’d put myself and my stuff back together on the other side, I was free to set out on a search for coffee and food. It was a quest I thought would bring me very happy results. Unfortunately, I very quickly learned that not a lot of restaurants in the airport are open that early. Unwilling to give up on my quest, I trudged my way through the massive terminal that would ultimately lead me to my gate. As the miles and miles of terminal brought me nothing but dark storefronts and barren restaurants, I fought off the urge to collapse into a sobbing puddle of over-tired zombie goo. Just when I was on the brink of a total meltdown, I came upon an open coffee shop and OH! HAPPY DAY! I was saved! Ordering the largest drink of the menu, I wanted to reach across the counter and give the barista a hug but instead, I paid for my drink as I wiped a rogue tear of joy from my eye.
With coffee in hand, I felt revived. Well… Maybe not revived, but at least I no longer felt like I was dying. Energized by the rush of sugar and caffeine, I found the energy to continue my million mile trek across the world’s longest terminal. At some point during my wanderings I began to wonder if I hadn’t somehow stepped into some sort of Inception-inspired mental maze and at another, I began to fear I would never get out. (Clearly the lack of sleep was starting to get to me.) Just when I began to lose all hope of ever finding the exit to this stupid maze (or my gate) I found it! (The gate, that is, not the maze exit.) Collapsing into one of the empty chairs, I spent the next hour or so in a sort of half-coma. I tried to pass the time by reading more of Pride and Prejudice but my brain was too exhausted to handle the strain of reading so instead I settled for spacing out to CNN’s coverage of Brexit as I contemplated a trip to Scotland and whether or not I could talk my husband into wearing a kilt.
When the time came to board the plane, I felt like weeping. I was just so ready to be home. Settling myself into my seat, I spent the hour and a half flight somewhere between delusion and a coma. I really would have given anything to be able to sleep on that plane but it never happened. Instead I passed my time watching the people in business class enjoy a squishy chair and a hot meal while I cursed at myself for not spending the $40 that would have secured me such luxuries. When the plane finally landed, I (again) had to fight back tears as the dream of collapsing into my nice squishy bed was soon to become a reality.
You can imagine my devastation when I sent a text to my husband, telling him my plane had landed and he responds with a text telling me he hadn’t even left the house yet! (I live an hour from the airport.) UGH! It took every bit of my strength to not break into tears at that moment. Instead of melting down, I opted for food and coffee, both of which I found with ease. Bless you Starbucks for your delicious elixir of life and your heavenly, energy restoring manna! (Clearly, I had crossed into the land of delusion at that point.) With food in my belly and coffee in my hand, I managed to endure the excruciating hour-long wait for my ride home and better yet, I managed not to strangle my husband when he finally arrived to pick me up and take me home. I honestly can’t tell you much about the hour-long ride home. I know my kids were happy to see me and I’m sure my husband blabbered on about everything they’d done over the few days I’d been gone, but I remember none of it. All I remember was walking through my front door, collapsing onto my couch, and regaining consciousness sometime late that afternoon.
Though I can’t say those last few hours of my trip were enjoyable, the rest of it had been fantastic. Spending time with friends, both old and new, was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend, as was having my heart stopped by a punk of a boy named Suga. (I still can’t recount the story without hyperventilating.) Being a part of the Over 30 panel was also a highlight, as was having the chance to work with so many amazingly incredible people. Honestly, being a part of something as epic as KCON is something I really can’t wrap my head around. I don’t know how I got to be so lucky but it truly is an honor, being able to say I was able, in some minuscule way, to help make KCON as amazing as it is. I can only hope that whatever tiny part I played, somehow helped make someone else’s KCON experience as equally epic as my own.
Of course now that I’ve finished telling you about my adventures at KCON NY, I have to ask…
WHO’S READY FOR KCON LA!?!
*throws both hands in the air and waves wildly* See you there!