After a sweaty day dripping perspiration around the streets of Insadong, we came back, freshened up, did a wardrobe change, and then set off for Digital Media City where we (just Chooch and me, Henry is lame) would be attending a live taping of a Kpop show! First, we had to have our traditional crack-up in the elevator though – we always played the “get on the elevator and leave Henry” game so that he would have to wait for another elevator and be all grumbly by the time he joined us outside.
It never got old!
(Well, it may have for Henry.)
Waiting outside for Henry — I hate when Chooch makes this face!!
Digital Media City is only one stop away from where we were staying in Hongdae, but we still left around 3:45 to ensure that we arrived at the SBS Prism building by 4:30, which was the designated check-in time.
A few months ago, we watched a video about this area of Seoul, and it’s literally built on top of a gigantic garbage dump that had, at one point, grown so large that it was 34x the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the fuck….In 1996, Seoul launched stabilization projects to fix this and prevent further environmental contamination, and now this area is home to many broadcasting headquarters, housing, and beautiful parks!
The Prism building had a bunch of people waiting outside, but it was all of the locals who line up in hopes of getting to attend the shows.
So, each network has their own weekly Kpop shows, where the artists who are currently promoting new songs come out, perform their comeback or debut song, and then usually at the end, there is a voting system (they go by digital streams, album sales, online popularity voting…I’m 100% sure it’s rigged, but it’s still fun right?!), a winner is announced, no one is surprised, confetti pops off, the trophy is passed around by the winning group members and all of the other artists on stage bow respectfully to each other. Then the winning group does an impromptu, informal performance of their winning song which usually involves them fucking around with each other, doing weird dances, interacting with the crowd—it’s just fun to watch!
Every show will let in a certain number of fans, but most of them are first come, first serve, so people will literally start lining up at like 2am. I would have loved to attend Inkigayo because in my opinion, that’s the best one, but I’m on vacation, man. I’m not spending my limited free time in Korea sitting on the ground with a bunch of kids. No offense, kids or Korean ground!
Some shows have a lottery system, but you have to register on their website which is all in Korean and a lot of times you have to have a Korean phone number too, and again — it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get in!
So when I saw that there is a special ticket just for foreigners to attend SBS MTV’s The Show, I was like, “Paid. Done.” This was literally right after we booked our flight in March! It was the very first thing we had our itinerary, lol.
It cost about $150 for the two of us, and I noticed that the prices went up as the date got closer, so I would encourage anyone who is interested in this to book it early! There are limited seats and the shows do sell out, so don’t wait until it’s only a week or two out, because you want to have a better idea of the artists that will be there that night!
For us, there weren’t any groups that we’re major stans of (except Pentagon), but the experience itself was still gold! Here was the lineup that was released earlier that morning:
Fun fact: I won a hi-touch for KNK at the first KCON I went to and I realize while typing this that it might as well be an trig equation for most of you reading this so I’ll break it down in non Kpop-speak: In 2017, I went to a Kpop festival in Newark and won a opportunity for what is called a “hi-touch” which basically means a Kpop group stands behind a table on a stage and fans are herded past in a single-file line and you get to quickly high five / hand touch each member. I know, right? You can read about my experience here!
It was starting to drizzle so we went inside the building. I was so nervous and I have NO IDEA why! Our spot inside the studio was secure, but my stomach was doing The Flops. Check out the older gentleman behind Chooch – he was totally there alone, and I thought it was awesome because kpop isn’t just for young girls and desperate old broads like me. There was even this totally metal dad there with his teenage daughter, and I mean METAL. He looked like someone in one of the Swedish metal bands my friend Alyson likes, though I think he may he may have been German?
I’m telling you, when you’re in Korea, whether you’re a Kpop junkie or not, I really feel like this is part of the experience.
At 4:30, four different tourism company representatives stood up with signs, and everyone had to line up behind the one they purchased their tickets from. Of course, the lady from Trazy, where we got ours, was barely holding up her sign so it cause confusion because what else is new?!
But it ended up being fine, because everyone received a number after checking in with her so we were able to go back and sit down until it was time to line up again.
Basically, it was a lot of waiting and standing in (dis)orderly lines.
We kind of befriended the young girl in front of us because she was just as nervous and confused as us. At one point, Chooch announced that it smelled like a shoe store in there, and she started giggling. “That’s so random!” she laughed.
Then she started talking to the girl next to her (again, the line was NOT straight), and that’s how I found out that she is only 16, from Spain, lives in Equador, but is currently studying in Korea, and the girl next to her is 23, from Australia and a student at one of the universities in Seoul.
It truly was a vast collection of foreigners up in there and it made me happy to see that we were all coming together for one shared love.
While we were standing there, several of the groups walked by upstairs and everyone screamed. I had no idea who were clamoring over because I have the eyes of a 80-year-old who spends most of her life in a cave, but it was sure exciting!
I found out later that it was Limitless and CIX!
Finally, we were taken outside the lobby and into a side door, up several staircases, and down a hallway that just screamed, “YOU ARE BACKSTAGE.”
Oh yeah, Henry left after we taken into the studio. He had big plans to go to a grocery store but instead he just went back to the room because he’s a lamer.
Anyway, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures or video once the actual recording started, so I took this picture before it started, when it was still “legal,” and then I put my phone in my purse for the rest of the evening so I wouldn’t give the security any reason to believe I was being That American and have me ejected.
Seriously — I got kicked out of a Chinese restaurant once years and years ago because I was falsely accused of eating crab legs off the buffet without paying and I was like, “OK bitch, I’m a vegetarian?” but that didn’t matter and me and the dumb broad I was with were actually escorted out and it was so humiliating. And ever since, I take great strides to make sure that I don’t get kicked out places.
In that picture above, you can see the small rectangular holding cell — that’s where the people who were picked from the crowd get to stand. Us foreigners got really nice, comfy stadium seating in the back, and the view was actually perfect.
Hang-y light things!
The show started promptly at 6pm and it was nuts to watch all the cameras swiveling and the different fan site representatives sitting a few rows in front of us, editing photos in Photoshop seconds after the pictures were taken. This shit is serious business.
The hosts of The Show are Yeeunfrom CLC and Jeno from NCT Dream, which I forgot about originally and when I saw all the girls with their NCT lightsticks, I was briefly hopeful that NCT Dream was going to be there since they currently were having a comeback.
They were standing SO CLOSE to our side of the seating too! Whenever they were MCing, they were facing us with their backs to the stage and it was fucking exciting, even though we had no idea what they were saying because in case you weren’t sure, subtitles don’t appear in real life.
Each artist performed one song, and they moved it along with razor-sharp precision. It was perfect for someone like Chooch who enjoys things like this….to a point. He does lose interest quickly, but this was fast-moving and fun and there was NO downtime, so he didn’t even have a chance to drift off.
We both really loved all of the performers, but my favorites were Dongkiz, VAV, CIX, Saturday, and Pentagon. However, since VAV, CIX and Pentagon were the three top groups that were competing for the trophy at the end, their performances were actually pre-recorded, so we only got to see about 1 minute of a live performance and then they would stop dancing, wave to the crowd and walk off the stage. KPOP SHOW SECRETS REVEALED! I knew that bigger groups, like BIGBANG and EXO for instance, typically pre-record their performances and I always wondered how that worked since they are always there at the end.
I don’t know. It’s still confusing to me.
Like, some of the groups performed two songs, but we only saw one because the second one was recorded earlier.
Here are the videos of my favorites from the night:
CIX: They were the winners of the night! They are a brand new group that recently debuted over the summer, featuring members of the defunct Wanna One (RIP) and some YG trainees. I think they’re going to go far! This song was stuck in my head for the rest of the time we were in Korea, and the dance IS SO GOOD.
Pentagon: I’m still bitter that E’Dawn isn’t with them anymore, but they never fail to make me smile. I was so happy to see them perform again after seeing them at KCON in 2018! If you don’t think this song is fun, then GTFO.
(J/K, you can stay the fuck here, I’m trying to be more inclusive LOLOL.)
Saturday: THIS SONG REMINDS ME OF THE STUFF THAT GOT ME INTO KPOP! The adorable, quirky, sugary girl group bops. The whole time I watched their performance, all I could think was, “This is peak Korea for me. It can’t get any more heavenly than this.”
(But then a few days later, it did.)
Dongkiz: I have never heard of these guys before this night and they’re not even really a rookie group anymore, but this performance won me over. They are so joyful! And the Ghostbusters sample! And the actual ghost mascot! And their cute dance moves! Chooch and I fell hard for them.
OK, honestly I could sit here all night posting videos and then it would eventually just be every single stage because they were all so entertaining! There wasn’t one group that made me go, “Eh, they’re not for me.” I enjoyed them all!
It was over around 7:30 and as we stood outside in the courtyard of the Prism building, texting Henry, two girls ran past us in a Big Hurry.
“Something’s going on!” Chooch yelled, peeling out of the lot in his Mystery Van.
We ran (crowd mentality) in the same direction, around to the other side of the building, and that’s where we saw some fansite paparazzi standing on actual ladders, taking pictures with their gigantic $878947293874 lens of the idols being interviewed inside the lobby.
I texted Henry and told him what was happening, and he eventually meandered over to us, because he had already returned to the Prism building – he must have missed us!
It was a good thing that we followed those girls, because even though we had to wait and be patient for about 45 minutes, some of the idols actually exited the building right by where we were standing! (The path from the doors to the road were roped off and security was there, so we couldn’t stampede them, even though I’m sure if certain other groups were there that night, a dinky rope wasn’t going to stop anyone.)
It took us forever but I think we eventually decided that this was Dongkiz?! I don’t know enough about them to know for sure! It could be 1Team too.
But here is a collection of videos that Chooch snagged because let me tell you, that boy got caught up in the excitement and was acting like he STANNED every single one of these idols!
The other group in the video is for sure VAV. And in the first Instagram video I posted earlier in this literal novella ends with CIX driving past and it is so cute (we actually figured out that they were leaving through a different door so we ran over to the other exit just in time to watch their car pulling away!).
You guys, this was exhilarating! I felt so legit! This was a bucket list item FOR SURE.
I wonder if Chooch will tell his kids about it someday…
…and I wonder how weird they will think it is…
Afterward, we went back to Hongdae. Chooch and Henry ate at Mom’s Touch but I was pouting because I wanted Isaac Toast but THEY WERE CLOSED. Like, since when does anything close at 9pm in Seoul.
Chooch was fucking exhausted, lol.
We watched some buskers on the way back to our room and then tortured Henry with Slaphappy Hour.
This was hands down the best birthday of my whole entire life—OK, tied with the one two years ago when I went to see G-Dragon in Toronto, was second row from the stage and got to be like FIVE FEET FROM HIM during his performance of “Untitled.” That too was a pretty fucking bar-raising birthday.
NOW WHAT WILL I DO FOR MY FIFTIETH?!