On March 8th and 9th I had the pleasure to attend KPOPCON 2014, the official 1st K-Pop convention in the USA that’s held annually in Northern California at UC Berkeley. This was my first year attending and I was pleasantly surprised by how much was accomplished with such a small staff of wonderful volunteers.
For my reviews I usually gush over all the lovely things I enjoyed and sum up the event or concert, however I’ve been to my fair share of conventions ranging from Anime Expo to Wondercon. I’d liked to dive in to the two different K-Pop convention experiences of KCON and KPOPCON. Both very different yet aim to reach the same goal of connecting with fans. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Panels tend to be a HUGE reason that I love attending conventions. I love listening and learning from the masters, but I also love the discussions they bring up. While KCON has the money to get big names from the industry to talk about the roles they play and their challenges, to a certain degree it’s censored as to not ruffle any feathers (unless you have Parker aka Dumbfoundead as panelist that is). KPOPCON on the other hand got to delve into some heavier topics that fans can relate to and experience on a daily basis. For example Crystal Anderson and Kaetrena Davis Kendrick of Kpop Kollective‘s “Chromodynamics of K-Pop” session explored the use of culture appropriation in K-Pop and how it doesn’t allows equal racism, but can be used a more positive use of culture exchange (full presentation can be viewed HERE). Hannah Michell teaches “Understanding Hallyu, Korean Pop Culture and Its Consumption” at UC Berkeley and held a workshop on Gender and Sexuality in K-Pop. While this topic was repeat information that my friends and I discuss regularly, this was a great conversation starter for younger fans who may not be fully aware when consuming their K-Pop media. Then there was the “Idols in Dramas” panel run by the ladies of Dramabeans and Viki! Although this is a more light hearted panel topic, make no mistake that everyone let their opinions be known on how they felt in regards to your oppas acting skills or lack there of. All in good fun, of course!
Every con-goer knows that you need to bring some power bars and water if you plan on surviving the day! K-Pop conventions are no exception! KCON had it’s legion of food trucks to tied over hungry fans, but with a some what confusing food ticketing system (keep it simple, just take my money!). KPOPCON is probably the only convention I’ve gone to that provided food even if it was only bagels in the AM and bibimbap for lunch. That was a nice touch considering they could’ve had attendees fend for themselves at the surrounding restaurants near campus. Lunch was held in front of the Dwinelle Hall building with DJ PeterLo providing music for everyone’s enjoyment.
Most conventions tend to have some form of live performance be it karaoke, masquerade, dancing or in rare instances, such as KCON, a full blown concert. In this case I won’t be comparing KCON’s idol studded concert to KPOPCON’s local talented cover groups ’cause they simply aren’t the same thing. However KCON did have plenty of side stage performances that are akin to KPOPCON’s Performance Night. So with KCON they’d have performances going on and off throughout both days but the turn out was meager and a little subdued at times unless a big name was on stage such as Danny Im or Yu Seung Woo. Con-goers cheered and clapped but side stage performers were for the most part passed by in favor of lining up for fan meets which is to be expected when oppas/unnies are around. KPOPCON’s performances were a highlight in comparison. The level of passion and support that was shown by the audience at KPOPCON was amazing! Every group was extremely talented at their craft, and it was fun to notice the pattern of which songs were popular to cover from 2013 (heard a lot of Girl’s Day, EXO and Trouble Maker). Not gonna lie, I got super excited to see KPG cover VIXX’s Voodoo Doll. No matter who was on stage the crowd went NUTS. Our friends at KPOPSavant attended last year and said that everyone’s improved so much! You could feel the sense of community that I noticed was a little lacking at KCON.
I loved KCON. I loved KPOPCON. Both for different reasons. KCON was like a typical large scale convention; TONS of things to do (almost too much! I want to do everything!), great panels that allowed for some insightful knowledge on artists creative processes that helps make them seem more personal and accessible, booths for companies and fanclubs to bring awareness to their products or their favorite K-Pop artist(s), and a bangin’ concert! KPOPCON was amazing on a more personal level. It reminded me of a time when I’d attend 3-4 conventions annually in NorCal AND SoCal. I’d go for the panels, to hang out with friends, to make new friends and to just meet with people who shared a passion in a common interest. It was that sense of community that I loved about going to conventions especially when participating in KPOPCON’s Fan Meet Up on the second day. It was great to see so many fandoms interacting and smiling as they shared their love of their groups. KPOPCON had that unified/connected feeling that I think KCON is working towards achieving.
KPOPCON 2014 was an absolute joy to attend and cover. I’d like to thank Matt Wei (Co-Founder), Karen Yu (Co-Producer), Cary Lo, Danielle Song, Divina Magracia, Mindy Huang, Petra Pilar, Shawn Park, Tuhina Das, Valeria Zaragoza, Yang Qu and all volunteers for all their hard work. We look forward to next year’s convention!
Be sure to follow KPOPCON‘s SNS outlets for future news for 2015!
Official Site: http://www.kpopcon.com/
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+KPOPCON/posts
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