Waking up super early Friday morning, to get ready for a day’s worth of KCON adventures, wasn’t a problem for me. Between the sirens blaring outside my window all night and the fact that I was just super freaking excited about all the KCON goodness waiting for me, I was up and ready to go in no time. Little did I know just how amazing this day’s adventure would actually be…
Getting to the Prudential Center right around the time KCON opened, I headed off to do all my checking in while my friends ran off to do their thing. We all agreed we’d meet back up for the KNK artist engagement, my friends insisting that I record them during their high touch. Of course I wasn’t going to say no to that; especially not after they were the ones who got me the audience pass in the first place! With an hour to kill in the meantime, I got myself all checked in everywhere and, coincidentally enough, ran into more friends along the way. With so many people to chat with and a year’s worth of life to catch up on, the time flew by. Before I knew it, I was headed back to the artist engagement area to join the zillions of other excited fans, all anxious awaiting their time with KNK.
Inside the dark arena, the brilliantly lit stage at the far end drew the attention of every eye in the room. Like moths to a flame, hundreds of fans pressed as close together as they could get, just to be that much closer to KNK when they finally walked out on stage. Being part of the general audience and not one for getting needlessly squashed, I hung out in the back with some friends, more happy just to be able to witness this little bit of KCON magic, than anything else. When KNK did finally walk on-stage, I couldn’t help but smile. Tall, charismatic and gorgeous, KNK was everything I imagined them to be and more. They were sweet and funny and so very good at entertaining the crowd. When the time for the high-touch came, I found myself practically on the verge of tears. I know it sounds funny to say that and maybe I shouldn’t admit it but I was just so happy for my friends, knowing they were part of the seemingly never-ending line of fans parading past these beautiful boys. After all, they were in the process of making an actual dream come true!
In my defense, I have to tell you that both of these friends are HUGE fans of KNK. They’ve been Tinkerbells since before the fandom even had a name and they even have matching Tinkerbell tattoos which I think is fantastic. It was KNK that drew my friends to KCON and this moment with KNK was everything they had ever wanted out of the trip; so to see them experience this magic and know just how much it meant to them… Well, it was nothing short of wonderful and I was so happy for them I just didn’t know how to express myself. (Hey, emotional Zombie is emotional, okay?) When they finally made it through the high-touch line, they both came running over to me, their smiles more radiant than the lights illuminating the stage. Needless to say, there was a lot of hugging happening in that moment and so many stories were told. It’s amazing how many memories you can make in just a few brief moments with a group of idols but you know what? Those precious memories are ones that will never be forgotten.
Back out in the stifling heat and overwhelming humidity that seemed to try to suffocate us all, my friends ran off on a KNK high, hoping to win a chance to interact with the boys when they made their appearance at the Toyota tent later in the day. I, on the other hand, wandered over to the panel tents to catch a few minutes of my friends’ panel before running back over to join the line of fans waiting to take part in SF9’s artist engagement. Sitting in on the “What Type of K-Pop Fan Are You?” panel, I listened to my friends sharing their stories for a bit but I couldn’t stay long. My time with SF9 was quickly approaching and being the overly anxious Zombie that I am, I had to make sure I was in line early enough to not miss out on a moment with my boys.
Practically running back over to the artist engagement area, my heart dropped as I found the high-touch line and realized it wound its way around the corner and half-way down the block. With a groan of frustration I hiked over to the end of the line and joined the never-ending string of overly anxious fans, all fretting over the fact that we might not actually make it inside before the engagement ended. Of course fears always get the better of your when your emotions are high so I tried to remind myself to just chill and breathe. I may not have been the best listener but I tried and believe it or not, I actually made it back inside the arena before SF9 even walked out on stage. Supremely happy just to be there and infinitely grateful to my friends for making this moment happen, I stood there throughout the entire event, with a stupidly huge smile on my face.
I’m happy to report that SF9 was everything I ever dreamed they would be. They were every bit as charming as KNK had been and so funny and adorable and just… *siiiggghhhh* I love a group who can make me laugh and SF9 was so good at that! Watching them interact with each other and the fans was so much fun. When the time for the high touch came, I kinda had to remind myself to breathe. I’m actually terrible at keeping myself together when it comes to meeting idols as a fan. Give me an interview as a professional and I’m fine! My brain works, my confidence is high, I can hold my own and come out the other side with all sorts of stories to tell. But put me in front of idols during a high-touch and I fall completely to pieces. My brain stops working, so much so that I half the time I walk through the line without saying anything at all. I just smile so hard my face hurts and then spend the rest of my life cursing my stupidity. When my brain does allow me to speak, I usually only manage to eek out something lame like “thank you” which is what I did when my turn to meet SF9 finally rolled around. Walking up those stairs, with Chani standing right there, his smile so bright I nearly went blind, it took everything in me to not pass out. Stupid Zombie brain! With a giant smile plastered on my face, I made my way down the line, greeting each member with a meek “thank you” and a slight nod. I’d wanted to say so much more to these boys but, as always, my brain refused to cooperate. On the bright side, I did keep enough of my wits about me to make sure I made eye contact with each one and I may have let my hand linger on Zuho’s just a bit longer because, you know, Zuho… *swoon*
With the high-touch over, the boys said their final farewells and then it was back out into the stifling heat of the day. Knowing my friends were over at the Toyota tent with KNK, I tried to make my way over there but the crowd was insane and I just didn’t feel like fighting my way through. Instead, I stood on the sidelines and tried to snap a few photos before running off with other friends to catch up on life and enjoy a few minutes of down-time. Surrounded by friends, both old and new, I had a moment to appreciate just how great something like KCON really is. Sure, I was still on a bit of an SF9 high and I was thrilled that I’d gotten to experience something so rare but at the same time, in that moment, surrounded by friends, I could easily admit that being able to spend time with so many different people is really what makes KCON so great.
Rested and hydrated, it was time to head back out into the heat and meet up with other friends. After their time with KNK, I knew they’d have stories to tell and boy, did they! I was so happy, listening to them tell me about their experiences. For girls who had driven across half a continent, they’d certainly been rewarded for all their suffering! I don’t think any of us could have dreamed about experiences as amazing as the ones they were having and the weekend wasn’t even close to being over! With stuff going on all over the place, it was hard to keep track of everyone and everything but I did manage to meet back up with friends as they were waiting for Highlight to make their appearance at the PyeongChang tent. Catching up on all of our day’s adventures, I happened to see this big black van pull up out of the corner of my eye and immediately this massive rush of people flies past me. The next thing I know, Highlight is stepping out of the van and almost as quick as I can turn my head, they’re walking right past me! Talk about having a moment! Only at KCON can you have random idols strut past you like it’s no big deal!
The massive rush of fans who’d just flown past me now turned to swarm around the tent where Highlight stood. Completely cut off from the tent and anything else going on in that area, my friend and I decided it was time to go do something else. Wandering around the convention area, we found food samples and dance crews and Taekwondo instructors and all sorts of fun things. Stopping here and there, simply enjoying all that KCON had to offer, the time flew by. Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back down to the artist engagement area one last time. Splitting up once we got there, my friend joined the massive high-touch line while I joined the seemingly never-ending line of fans holding audience passes. Again, the fear of missing things was high but having just passed Highlight on the convention stage (how they got from one end of the grounds to the other is beyond me but they did!) I had a feeling that even with the long lines, we wouldn’t be missing much. I’m happy to say, I was right. When Highlight did finally appear on that brilliantly lit stage, the crowd went absolutely nuts. There’s something to be said for a group whose been around as long as these guys have. They might not do all the cutesy fan interactions that the rookie groups are so fond of but they certainly know how to make a heart flutter! Watching my friend go through her high touch practically brought me to tears again and I’m pretty sure her tears were real when she found me afterwards. I guess this just goes to show that sometimes dreams really do come true!
After Highlight’s fan engagement, it was time to check in for the Red Carpet so off I ran, back down to the other side of the Prudential Center. I spent a lot of time running back and forth over the course of the weekend and honestly, my feet hated me for it. (It’s been a month since I was in Newark and I still refuse to wear anything but sandals…) Still, the running was worth it, especially when I had friends to meet up with and a Red Carpet to photograph. Joining my fellow journalists and photographers in the press area, we took all our test shots and did all of our other pre-Red Carpet planning. With everything set as well as it could be, there was nothing left to do but wait for the artists to make their appearance. And so they did, in all of their pre-concert glory… *swoon*
To tell you about each group would take forever so I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves…
Each artists’ time on the red carpet was amazing. They each knew exactly how to strike a pose for the camera and win the hearts of their fans, all at the same time. I think Zion.T’s outfit was my favorite out of all of them. Seriously, that man has so much swag and charisma, it’s unreal. He can capture the attention of the entire room, just by walking into it. It’s incredible! Of course having JunHyung’s tattoo peeking out of his jacket the entire time Highlight was on-stage was a bit… distracting. But work-mode required my attention go elsewhere so that’s where it went, at least until after the event was over. (And for those of you wondering if I have more pics to share, the answer is yes and I will get them up in an album… Soon… I hope…)
Back outside, the first few drops of rain began to fall. With nothing but the concert left to look forward to, I dodged raindrops as I ran off to meet up with some very good friends of mine before the show. With an entire year’s worth of life to catch up on, the time we spent together before the show passed in a flash and before we knew it, the light of the Prudential Center were dimming and the booming voice announcing the night’s lineup shook us to our very core. The moment we’d all been waiting for had finally come and we were more than ready.
If you want to know what Friday night’s concert was like, you can read the recap I wrote for ATK Magazine here. It was a fun show, to be sure, but it had a very different vibe than the KCON concerts I’ve attended in previous years. Still, experiences were had and memories were made. I squealed my way through KNK, screeched through SF9, danced my way through GFriend, swooned my way through Zion.T and bawled my way through Highlight’s entire set. I was JUST. SO. HAPPY! With the concert over there was nothing left to do but relive all the most magical moments of my day with some of my most precious friends. So that’s what I did, at least until utter exhaustion got the better of me. Crawling into bed more asleep than awake, I was out almost before my head hit my pillow.