Since I’m about to see my gateway group, BTS, live at the Oracle Arena in a few hours, I thought it would be fun to write about the first K-pop concert I attended. It was last June, about six months into my K-pop fan life, and it was honestly (pun intended, as you’ll read…) one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had in my life!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I obsessively watched coverage of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics last February, and one of the pieces that NBC ran had Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir spending time with Eric Nam. At that time, I only knew Eric as one of the co-hosts of After School Club, a weekly internet show for international K-pop fans. I don’t think I even knew he was a solo artist, but seeing his Olympic segment piqued my interest enough that when I heard he was going to be playing San Francisco on his “Honestly” Tour , I knew I really wanted to see his show. Unfortunately, I had a tougher time getting the girls super excited about it. They were already set on seeing GOT7 in July, which was going on sale at the end of April, and had plans to attend KCON in August. I think they didn’t want to spend more of their allowance on an artist they didn’t already stan. But with tickets to Eric only $40, I didn’t want to pass up the chance for us to see a K-pop concert without an enormous crowd and a sky-high ticket price. I basically told the girls, “We’re seeing Eric Nam, I’m paying,” and that was that! Thankfully, when his album dropped soon after we bought the tickets, all three of us fell in love with his songs and were happy we got tickets before it sold out.
In the weeks ahead, we would go through the stressful hell of buying both GOT7 *and* BTS tickets, so buying those Eric tickets was looking more and more like a pleasure cruise. As the date of the Eric show approached, the girls and I became fully-fledged members of Nam Nation, learning every word to his English songs and doing our best with his Korean ones. By June 6, the girls were such Eric stans that they both regretted not asking for VIP tier tickets. The best I could do for them was to let them wait in line all afternoon so they could get as close to the stage as possible. This was the start of my poor-parenting habit of pulling them out of school early to wait in line for shows, ugh – not proud. But it paid off because even though they didn’t get the VIP experience, they got to enter the venue at the same time as the VIPs, so they got to be exactly where they wanted to be, against the stage. As for me, I was just hoping to find a few parents to stand with in the back of the room! Unfortunately, none of the kids in line were young enough to need parents, so I was a bit nervous that I was gonna be the only ahjumma at the show. Thankfully when I joined the back of the queue at 7pm, I shared friendly smiles with those around me, and had a great chat with the girls in their early-thirties that were in front of me. We talked about how and when we got into K-pop, the various groups we stanned, and what concerts they’d seen before. I was flattered when they were surprised I had teen daughters because they didn’t think I was that much older than them – Yay!! Apparently I didn’t look as out of place as I felt, and it began to strike me that K-pop fans were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! When the GA guests filed into the venue, I was really touched that these these two nice young women came to find me in the back of the venue, and the three of us hung out the rest of the show.
Sometimes you don’t know how great an experience is until you have other experiences with which to compare it. Being my first K-pop concert, I didn’t know at the time that this would also end up being one of my best. I’ve since learned that you truly cannot beat seeing your favorite artists in an intimate club environment. And better yet, since we’re talking family-friendly K-pop here, there weren’t any of the typical club tropes to deal with. I’m talking about the ever-present shirtless sweaty drunk guy that bumps into everybody, or the pushy cigarette girl asking you to buy candy every 10 minutes. There was no weed smoke causing me a migraine, no endless F-bombs dropping from the stage. This was the most wholesome club show I’d ever been to in my life! The venue played K-pop over the sound system before the show and the crowd knew all the words to everything. It was especially cute when Pentagon’s “Shine” came on and everyone did the shoot dance together.
Eric opened his set with the song “Potion” and immediately I was blown away. Even though this was a relatively small concert, it had the look and feel of a big production. There were awesome back-up dancers, cool lighting changes, the acoustics were perfect, and I had a perfect view thanks to a bench along the wall that I opted to stand instead of sit on. Eric entertained us for two hours straight with his beautiful voice, awesome songs and, most importantly, his incredibly warm personality. He really is so at ease on stage talking to an audience, and he made everybody feel like we were just sitting in a living room with him as he sang songs and chatted with us. He treated the audience like old friends as he told stories of being an intern in San Francisco, and shared a hilarious tale about passing out one night on a MUNI bus.
I wasn’t even sure if K-pop shows had encores, but when Eric left the stage the first time, I figured he had to come back because he hadn’t performed his new single “Honestly” yet. I texted the girls to see what they thought of the show and both responded ecstatically that it was the best concert they’d ever seen! Of course it was the only concert Shayla had seen, lol! But she also said it was the best night of her life. The best night of her life! If you’re wondering if you should take your kids to a K-pop show, there’s your answer. I was excited to hear everything about their experience at the front of the stage, but before I could text back, Eric and his dancers appeared on stage again and treated us to “Honestly,” a few acapella lines of “Ooh Ooh,” and the concert’s closer, “Can’t Help Myself.” This truly was a perfect concert, and I’m so thankful it was my first K-pop concert experience.
As the house lights came up, I worked my way through the crowd to find my girls. I had gone into the evening thinking that I wasn’t going to buy any merchandise, but the girls begged me for tour t-shirts. Trying to go the frugal route, I told them we could buy one shirt for them to share – great idea, right? No, not a great idea. Teenage girls can share pretty much any piece of clothing in each other’s wardrobe, but I learned the hard way after Eric Nam that they cannot and will not share a tour tee shirt. They both wanted it to wear it every day for about a month after the show, and even I have non-buyer’s regret from not getting a shirt for myself. At least we each have our own memories though, and all three of us agree that Eric Nam at August Hall was an amazing first stop on our K-pop concert journey.