Henry said he knew he should have trusted his gut, but after dealing with me wheedling away at his willpower for three weeks, he finally cried uncle and told me to go ahead and buy three tickets to K-Expo, a Kpop/K-beauty/K-everything event that just happened to be occurring in NYC the day after we were seeing BTS in Newark. I mean, it couldn’t have worked out any better! Plus, Henry even found a discount so we were able to save some cash on the tickets.
My promise to him was that if he agreed to go, I would get the cheapest tickets, because they were being sold in tiers, with P1 being the best and included all sorts of artist engagements which sounds great but at the end of the day, I just wanted to see the performances.
There were four smaller-scale groups/performers on the bill: The Rose, A.C.E., Kim Myungsoo aka L from the group Infinite, and the reason why I wanted to go so badly: Astro!
I’ve really started to stan Astro pretty hard recently and thought it would be cool to see them while they’re still a smaller group. Henry got on board because he doesn’t mind the music but there was the promise of Korean food vendors so he was OK with throwing down for tickets, and then Chooch saw that there would be games and that was enough to win him over.
Henry had it all arranged. We’d check out of our hotel in Newark early Sunday morning, park at the hotel he booked for us in Jersey City, and take the train right over to Pier 36 in New York. All we knew was that it’s on the East River, right across from Brooklyn. The event wasn’t supposed to start until 11am so we figured we could roam around and sight see until then, check out the Brooklyn Bridge, try not to get taken. You know, regular tourist shit.
Let me tell you something: for about a month leading up to the BTS concert, I felt sick to my stomach. Nerves, you know? I always get that way when I’m going to see someone I like a lot and this was a pretty large-scale concert, so I was all worked up over it. But every time I thought about attending K-Expo the next day, I calmed down. I was really looking forward to this one without getting worked up. I just had this feeling that it was going to be a really chill event, so I felt relaxed every time I thought about it.
WOW, I HAVEN’T BEEN SO WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING IN A LONG ASS TIME.
I woke up really early that Sunday and it was a good fucking thing too, because I had mindlessly opened Instagram, as one is wont to do, and the first post I saw, right there at the top, was from the organizers of K-Expo: All That Korea. It said that there was a last-minute venue change and now the event would be held at Melrose Ballroom in Queens.
“Queens?!” Henry cried. “Now I have to figure out how to get to QUEENS?!” He was frantic and I was, at this point, rushing around the hotel room with wet hair, tossing things into my luggage so we could check out and get a head start.
Oh, did I mention that at the last minute, I splurged and bought Chooch and myself tickets to the Red Carpet event? So, KCON does this too and I always wanted to go but it’s only included in the higher tiered tickets, and it’s just basically where you get to watch the groups literally walk in on the red carpet and get interviewed. I was excited that K-Expo was doing this too, and it was only $20 so I figured K-YOLO or whatever.
Well, according to the JUST RELEASED event times, check-in for P1 and the Red Carpet was at 9am.
9AM YOU GUYS.
It was like 7:30 by this point and Henry was fucking flying down the highway from Newark to Jersey City. Luckily, the staff at the Holland Hotel were awesome and gave us really great directions to the train station.
“Where the hell are we going again?”
Pretty proud that we taught Chooch at an early age not to fear public transportation in other cities. He was a pro at the Seoul subway system by the time we left Korea! I wish I had gotten an early start with it instead of relying on cars all the time.
Also, while waiting for the train, I kept staring at that 333 Grand sign and realized that I now see Hangeul in everything.
Apparently, there was work being down on one of the stations, and as a courtesy, all passengers got a ticket for 2 free subway rides after we exited in New York!
I wanted to do the touristy “gasp and swirl” when we emerged from the bowels of the train station into Oculus (where the NJ transit and NYC transit systems meet) for the first time, but we had a fucking subway to Queens to catch. Basically, we just followed Henry.
My first impression of the NYC subway was “IT’S JUST LIKE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN!” I loved it. And there was some elder-goth sitting across from us and we kept making eye contact. She was on the phone and I was certain she was talking about us, too, because we were so clearly non-New Yorkers, so I was thrilled when Henry was like, “THIS IS OUR STOP, GO.”
When we were emerged from the subway (we had to walk down this long, empty and 100% creepy corridor and even though I was chanting, “WE’RE GONNA DIE WE’RE GONNA DIE” I secretly loved it), I was like, “WOW SO THIS IS QUEENS. SO THIS IS WHERE DAVID BERKOWITZ HEARD THE DOG AND DID THE KILLING.”
Because most of what I know relates to horror, murder, Kpop, and Days of Our Lives.
I looked at the time and it was only a little bit after 9am, plus Henry said the walk to the venue wasn’t very far so I started to calm down finally and enjoyed the time we had to make fun of Henry before we got to the place and suddenly realized that we needed him to buy us stuff. That’s how it works with us, it’s a cycle. We always bite the hand that feeds us until we need him to buy us a toy or a concert ticket and then our tunes changes RIGHT QUICK Y’ALL.
I knew we were headed in the right direction because we were behind two girls with Kpop accoutrements on their clothing and purses. Yeah, I see those dangling kpop idol Chibis. And then we heard a burst of maniacal girl-screams from over yonder, so I knew the venue was near.
And here is where everything took a turn.
I asked some K-Expo staff members at the front of the venue where to go to register for Red Carpet and she very distractedly said, “Go to the end of that line.” I looked over and saw a handful of people standing at the other of the venue, so we began to walk over there, thinking that was it, but then quickly saw that the line turned and went all the way down the block and then turned again onto another street. We just kept walking and walking, with no end of the line in sight.
Finally, halfway down the next block, we reached our destination.
“Holy shit,” I mouthed to Henry, who frowned his response back to me.
It was one long-ass motherfucking line at 9:00am.
And the best part was that no one knew what was going on! NO ONE! And then the goth lady from the subway rolled up! SHE WAS FIVE PEOPLE BEHIND US IN LINE! We died!
As much as I know you would love a play-by-play of our time in line, I will break it down for you quickly:
- We stood in line for over 2 hours. Oh yes, over 2 hours, when the Red Carpet was supposed to happen at 11:00 and NO ONE WAS INSIDE YET.
- Some guy kept coming out of his house and he was PISSED that there were people lining up on his block. So pissed that at one point, he pulled out his phone and recorded all of us and then apparently called the police, who had already been called numerous times and this I know because—
- —some All That Korea guy who looked like the villain in a K-drama with his slicked back hair, pastel suit, and bare ankles sauntered down the sidewalk and started yelling at us to stop blocking the sidewalk (THAT HIS PEOPLE TOLD US TO STAND ON, THANK YOU) and that if the cops were called again, he was going to have to SHUT IT ALL DOWN.
- Some girls behind us were having a passive aggressive pissing match over who has had the most kpop experiences and one of them raised her voice and said, “BTS ISN’T EVEN IN MY TOP 1O SORRY BTS FANS.”
- But then later, she was listening to Taemin’s “Move” so I turned around and said, “OK I HAVE TO GIVE YOU THIS” and handed her a sample of one of my Taemin Valentines that has my card shop info on the back and then we started talking about our biases and she was pretty cool but if you ask Chooch, he will tell you that it was awkward to watch.
- Henry had to leave our line and go stand with strangers in a different non-P1, non-Red Carpet line and he was not happy about that but it was honestly a highlight for me.
- Some total d-bag New Yawker meathead from the Melrose Ballroom repeatedly trolled the sidewalk, screaming at all us to move over and I was like, “Buddy where the fuck do you want us to go?” Also, HOW MUCH OF A NUISANCE COULD WE HAVE TRULY BEEN?! A bunch of fucking KPOP FANS.
Finally, sometime around NOON, the line began moving and staff members came around to scan our tickets and give us our wristbands. We passed this great sign on a creepy store and then also passed creepy Henry who was standing in a line full of young Asians. He wasn’t hard to spot with his dumb beard and Everfresh hat. Chooch and I cracked up.
After Chooch had his (SPECIAL EDITION! – he’ll never let us forget) Snapple confiscated by the same meathead bouncer who was screaming at us earlier, we made it inside the ballroom and my initial reaction was, ‘…..oh.”
It was just a nightclub, and not a very big one at that. Pier 36 had a capacity of 5000 and this one was 1,040ish (I only know this because we were standing across from a plaque near the entrance at one that had the capacity on it. I figured they much have moved venues because they didn’t sell enough tickets but there sure as fuck seemed to be more than 1000 people standing in that line out there.
Also, I saw a screenshot later on of Pier 36 responded to someone bashing them on Instagram and according to THEM, All that Korea never paid them, which is allegedly the real reason there was a venue change.
The Red Carpet started before they even got all of the P1/Red Carpet ticket holders inside, so they were REALLY off to a great start. It started pretty soon after Chooch and I got inside, when Jeff Benjamin, a writer for Billboard and self-proclaimed kpop expert came out and totally bored us with a bunch of small talk about himself. Wow, he was fucking douchey.
But then one-by-one, the artists were called out, and everyone’s phones shot up into the air.
First, we had The Rose. Admittedly, all I know about them is that they’re an actual band and that Joan went to see them with Ashley on one of the Joan Day vlogs. (If you would have told me three years ago that I would become someone who watches vlogs on YouTube, I’d have punched you in the throat; yet, here we are.)
Next came A.C.E. – I think they are so great! There were A LOT of people there just for them, too. Like, a lot a lot.
AND THEN ASTRO! I was so stoked for them! I might have cried a little bit, especially when Cha Eunwoo spoke English!
He’s the fourth guy from the left.
Kim Myung-soo was next and honestly, he seemed mildly irritated to be there, and I would later learn that all the artists were definitely feeling the bad vibes that All that Korea was emitting.
Here’s my snippet-collection!
After the Red Carpet, which literally only lasted for about 20 minutes, we found Henry standing against a wall behind us. Apparently, they let all the riffraff in before the Red Carpet was over so Henry got to see the end. We decided to check out the upstairs, which is supposedly where all the vendors were, i.e. the “expo” portion of the event.
WOW. It was fucking hazardous up there to say the least. It was U-shaped up there, because it was essentially the balcony-area for the venue below, so people were pushing and shoving, trying to get through and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. It was awful, and also there were NOT 20-30 vendors as promised. We saw maybe 5 on the one side we were able to make it to, and then as we attempted to make our way back to the other side, we passed by the bar and I overheard one bartender ask the other if there was going to be food, and the other bartender laughed and said, “No.”
Wait, what? It wasn’t even 1PM yet! This thing wasn’t going to be over until after 9, and they weren’t going to have ANY food available?! We went back downstairs to see if there was reentry, and by this time, even more people had been stuffed inside there. Staff members were screaming at people to not crowd the stairwells and those people were all confused because there was literally nowhere else to stand.
And then one of those asshole bouncers told us no reentry, in a rude way that was expected by this point, so we went back inside and stood, pressed against a wall, by the entrance and watched as even more people were being let in. This was, ironically, when I first noticed the capacity plaque on the wall.
I was actually having a hard time breathing at this point because my mind was reeling with all the different ways we could perish inside this building. First of all, it was very clearly a safety hazard and I cannot for the life of me believe that the Melrose Ballroom was allowing more and more people to flood the room. Second, there was NO FOOD—how does that even make sense!? It’s one thing if this was JUST a concert that started at 6, then we wouldn’t expect there to be food. But this was billed as an “Expo” with “food vendors” and now there were no food vendors and absolutely no announcement from All that Korea telling us so.
I just kept imaging someone screaming and starting a stampede, and I know I’m a super selfish person but there was no way I was going to endanger my kid’s life by making him stay there in a building stuffed past capacity, with nothing to eat all day long, and no where to even stand or sit comfortably without fearing for your life. So I made the executive decision to leave and that is what we did, without looking back.
It sucked because that wasn’t a cheap thing for us and it was something that I was looking forward to, but come on, let’s be real. It was a clusterfuck and the fire marshal should have been called.
Later that day, I checked Twitter and Instagram and knew we made the right choice: people were PISSED. There was no clear separation of the different ticket tiers, so some people who paid $300 were relegated to the back of the room while some of the basic bitches who only had P4 (what we had) were all the way at the front. The artist engagements sounded like complete disasters, causing the artists to continuously apologize because they felt so bad things weren’t going smoothly, the P1 people were promised signed posters and they got ones that just had the signatures copied, one of those meathead security guys ended up getting fired because a video of him being racist toward the groups went viral, people were passing out, some people even went to the hospital.
Oh, and they decided hours after we left to honor reentry once they realized that, hmmm, maybe the whole “no food” thing might be an issue, but people were saying that they weren’t even able to move in order to get out of the venue, that’s how packed it was.
A bunch of people are trying to get refunds, even though it clearly states “no refunds” on the website, because when you really look at it, it’s a classic case of false advertising and they are being so shady about it. I got a canned response to my complaint about how they could have just canceled it but they did what they could to make sure fans still got to see the artists they love, etc etc, and therefore are not going to honor requests for a refund and I was rolling my eyes all the way to the Better Business Bureau website.
I don’t know what will happen. At the end of the day, I’m happy that I got to see the artists during the Red Carpet event and that we salvaged the day by having fun in NYC instead of risking our lives (not even being dramatic here) inside a shitty venue that when you google it, “Melrose Ballroom shooting” is one of the first things that comes up. But lesson learned – I will never attend another event “organized” by these chucklefucks.