As the vast majority of Kpopalypse’s reader base is international, I don’t tend to cover local events much, but those who follow my Twitter will know that I went to a k-pop club event last night, and regular radio listeners will also know that I talked to some of the organisers and promoted the same event earlier in the week. So – how was it? Did it live up to the hype? What exactly happens at a k-pop club night, anyway? This post has the answers as Kpopalypse visits Ha-ja k-pop party!
Organiser Nichi Boy and event host MC TK have been guests on my radio show before, promoting “Nolja k-pop party” a couple of times, and each time they would offer to put my name on the door for the event, and each time I would decline their kind offer, just because I had other things going on. As a musician, Friday and Saturday nights are obviously my peak business hours for anything music-related, so I’m often booked out and there isn’t anything I can do about it, but I’ve always felt kind of bad about never getting to go to these parties. Nichi Boy explained to me that the party had now been rebranded from “Nol-ja” to “Ha-ja”, and that the new party’s tickets were selling quicker than ever, plus my Friday night was clear for a change, so I thought that this time I’d better pull my finger out and accept their generosity and actually go and check out what they were doing.
So you can thank Nichi Boy and MC TK for any entertainment that you derive from the following bullshit article. Cheers, guys!
So the story actually begins on the radio show on Monday. The event organisers talked about bringing over Kevin Kim from ZE:A, and that he was there to promote his new song, called “New Rack”. What, you haven’t heard “New Rack” yet? Gosh, shame on you! Here it is:
Okay, so let’s be honest here – it’s fucking rubbish. Kevin’s delivery just doesn’t work with this kind of trap thing at all, the beat is crap anyway, and worst of all it’s entirely in English which means that I can understand every excruciating word of this bullshit. Does he really sing “I smell some green / like fresh young teen”, with a little “bitch” thrown in there just because? And people don’t have any issue with this at all but think somehow that I’m the bad guy in k-pop? Get the fuck outta here, clown. Of course I wasn’t going to shit on it on the radio because the organisers have an important job to do which is to get people to their event and it wouldn’t be polite for me to rain on their parade, and I actually felt really sorry for them being unfairly saddled with having to promote this trash. As a result I felt absolutely no obligation to stick around and watch the Kevin Kim part of the evening if proceedings went too late. I thought “let’s just get a general overview of the party for my readers, and if Kevin comes on early that’s great – and if not then it really doesn’t matter”.
So here’s a picture of myself taken by myself under a streetlight a few minutes before I arrived at the party, just in case I was physically mauled by fangirls to the point where my face was permanently mangled beyond recognition and I wanted to remember what I previously looked like. Now you may be asking yourself the following entirely reasonable and fair question: “Kpopalypse you cunt – why are you subjecting sensitive impressionable readers to your ugly bald mug? You know we only read your blog to look at pretty k-pop performers, not balding old-ass skinhead-looking dudes! I don’t care if your mother looks like T-ara’s Boram, you look like a bitch!” The answer to this very sensible, erudite and thoughtful question that any intelligent person could well ask, is that my appearance is relevant because the first thing that happened when I arrived is that I actually got age-checked at the door:
The last time I was asked for ID for age verification purposes was many years ago when I was 29 years old and I went to see The Dillinger Escape Plan. When you’re as old as Kpopalypse you begin to remember each specific incidence of getting age-checked, so I was happy to set a new record here and prove to myself that not only could I fuck your mum, but she might even consider me to be a “catch”. The nice security guy who asked me for ID had a good long laugh at himself when I pulled out my drivers license that proved that I was older than his mother, and quickly waved me in, red-faced. After this very odd incident occurred, the guy quickly gave me a metal-detector check, then I went up some very well-lit stairs, then down the other side of the same very well-lit stairs, to a box office to receive my stamp-in, then back outside the venue again, in through a second set of doors, up some more very well-lit stairs, and finally into the venue.
They couldn’t have made the entrance process more convoluted if they tried, but then there was going to be large volumes of people entering the venue later that evening so I guess all of this was sensible queue-management. Readers who live in Adelaide please note also that I had a +1 on the door that I didn’t end up using (no way was my girlfriend ever going to go to this, I have more respect for her than to drag her along to k-pop events) so if any of you want to go to future parties like this in Adelaide, hit me up ahead of time and you might be able to get in on the Kpopalypse tab. First come, first served.
So the layout of HQ complex is that there’s a stage and a floor space that maybe holds 500 people, then there’s two levels of balcony facing the stage that could probably take another 300 folks combined, a third, tucked away “chill-out room” which is further upstairs and that you could maybe squeeze another 100 into (that oddly played western rap music all night, and very little k-pop at all – weird given the incredible over-supply of chill-out songs k-pop actually has), and this room also has a tiny balcony that faces the main stage, and then there’s also a fairly large outdoor balcony which faces onto Hindley St’s red light district, from which you can see fantastic sights like this:
I ended up spending over 50% of my time chilling out on the outdoor balcony during the entire night simply because the sound system was just so fucking loud as fuck. This bring us to what I felt was the main negative point of the night – I’m all for loud music and have been responsible for many damaged eardrums myself and even I thought it was a bit excessive and they could have dialed it back a notch. It was so loud that most of the songs actually did sound better on the outdoor balcony, the bass sounded great inside the main venue but the high end of every song was just a mush of reflections and it wasn’t always easy to even work out what song was being played if it was something where the melody was the distinctive element instead of the beat. I’d often be in the main room when a new song came on that sounded vaguely familiar but that I couldn’t quite identify because of all the audio mush clogging everything up, and then I’d rush outdoors just so I could figure out which song it was and then once I got out there I’d realise it was a song that I knew really well. In particular a lot of girl group songs actually sounded really weak because the high volume exaggerated the shrillness of the vocal frequencies to the point where it was just unpleasant to listen to. I’m pretty sure the audio engineer for the night was at least partially deaf, as you don’t actually need to have everything cranked up to jet-engine levels for people to have a good time (yes I’ve seen Motorhead live and they were considerably quieter!). Modern sound systems are actually quite good at sounding loud without actually being loud if you know how to operate them properly, but that definitely wasn’t the case here.
I was there fairly early so there were only about five people on the dancefloor at that time as depicted in the blurry-ass photo above, but Nichi Boy was already up on the decks playing tracks. As it was early in the night, the songs were mostly the “better quality but less popular with the masses” type stuff. The first song that was on when I walked in was Mamamoo’s “1cm (Taller Than You)“, I’m pretty sure I recognised Yezi at some point, and there was lots of the better Korean rap music being played in general. The music selections were well considered for the event, everything rocked pretty hard and there were no boring soft R&B numbers, it was what was needed to get the dancefloor gradually filling up, Nichi Boy’s DJ experience certainly showed here as he worked the decks in a no-fuss manner.
A small outdoor kitchen was prepared on the balcony where some people from local Korean restaurant BA:M Food & Drink were serving fried chicken and octopus balls. The guy pictured is pouring some garlic and soy sauce onto my $10 fried chicken box, and goddamn this was fucking tasty. Their food was absolutely great, serving the need for quickly prepared fast food but without being the kind of over-salted untasty bullshit that usually gets served up for music events and I’m definitely going to check out these guys’ restaurant in the Adelaide Chinatown when I’m down that way next, because I would have eaten even more that night but I had dinner before I arrived so I wasn’t that hungry. BA:M proved that South Koreans really are the masters of the fried chicken takeaway, Sydney KCON’s crappy catering take note, these guys know how to do it right!
Back inside and Nichi Boy was joined by the night’s host and “hype-man” MC TK, who grabbed the mic and did his best to work the crowd. MC TK is always a huge bundle of energy whenever I see him, he’s a lot of fun to interview on the radio show, and he certainly lived up to my expectations by being an incredibly hyper dude who spent the next two hours engaging with the audience. While songs like Sunmi’s “Siren” definitely didn’t sound any better with a guy yelling random things over the top of the mix, the function of a good hype-man can’t be underestimated and MC TK’s relentless confidence and uplifting personality was a key part of keeping the people on the floor moving and feeling good. As this happened and the venue filled up even more, Nichi Boy’s tracks made the gradual transition to more popular material.
It was around this time that the following incident happened:
A very bold k-pop fan (who should be commended for her courage) tried to engage with Kpopalypse. She started by asking me “do you like k-pop?” which seemed like an odd question, but perhaps wasn’t unreasonable as I suppose theoretically I could have just been there to pick up girls or whatever. I replied that yes I did like k-pop but I didn’t bother telling her why I was really there, that I was invited by the organisers or anything like that. She then asked me about my favourite groups. I told her that I didn’t really have favourite groups as such, as the songs don’t actually come from the people in the groups but outside songwriters, and that the artists in the groups generally have minimal superficial input at most so therefore there’s not actually much point getting invested in a particular group’s songs. She replied “it’s not really like that these days though”, to which I replied that, actually yes it was. She then just sort of extracted herself from the conversation without saying a word and wandered off and went and talked to some other people, which was pretty funny, although I did feel a bit bad for her.
After many hours of DJing, with pretty much no warning whatsoever the K-OTIC Crew dance group hit the stage. These dancers did a medley of various songs starting with BigBang’s “Bang Bang Bang” but with no song’s section lasting for much more than one minute. Their performance was great and exceptionally high-energy and they were loved by the crowd (by now nearing capacity), unfortunately it was also all over extremely quickly. After nearly four hours of DJing it was a letdown to only get a four minute performance from these girls, but then they went at it so hard that it was hard to complain too much. After this, the really popular songs came out. Blackpink’s “Ddu-du Ddu-du” came on with fire cannons and confetti and the crowd absolutely lost their fucking shit.
While it’s got to be said that I don’t like a lot of YG productions as far as them being standalone listening experiences goes, there’s no denying that in a club context, their songs fucking work, and it’s easy to see that a lot of their new material is optimised for just that environment. Anyway a few more popular songs came and went, and then the decks changed hands to what I believe was Andy Trieu from SBS Popasia and Kevin Kim from ZE:A.
So this was the point where I got bored and started to leave. Why? First, by this stage it was after 1am and I was tired, and with the decks having just been swapped over, I knew it was probably going to be another hour before Kevin Kim finally got to do his thing, and I wasn’t about to deprive myself of sleep after getting up at 5am that morning for work to hear someone potentially just sing “New Rack” for two minutes and then leave. Even if Kevin did do a bunch of ZE:A material as well, that may not have been much better. I felt like they could have got to the main event sooner than they did – it’d be different if it was a multi-artist lineup but it’s a little rough to make an audience wait until the early hours of the morning to see the main act in situations where there really is only one main musical act. Secondly, Andy’s DJing was just nonsense, he was clearly just waving his arms around the decks pretending to do things. I didn’t bother to get footage of it (maybe I should have), but as a DJ, I know how DJ consoles work, and I know the difference between when someone is actually DJing and when someone is pretending like they’re doing something while a pre-recorded CD plays. Look at the first clip below. Fake DJ on the left, real DJ on the right.
DJing is not something that’s so complicated that it even needs to be faked, so god knows why people do this, it’s really not that hard to learn how to use a DJ deck if you have any sense of rhythm and musical sense at all. Maybe people do this because they’re just lazy, or maybe there isn’t time to prepare, or maybe it’s because there is in fact so little to club DJing in reality that people feel awkward onstage just sort of standing there feeling like they’re not doing anything, so they feel like they need to add some sort of extra visual element to lessen the feeling that they’re sitting there getting paid to do basically fuck-all. There’s no crime in that really, when you think about it it’s not that different to dancing to a pop song, but it’s also not something that I’m going to sit and watch for an hour and pretend to be entertained by when I can go home and play songs to myself on my home stereo and wave my own hands around the CD player if I want.
So here’s what this event did right:
- Well-organised, no noticeable technical hitches
- Nichi Boy’s DJing is quality, respect
- MC TK is hilarious and very watchable
- Kickass food that put most event catering to shame
- Big venue, lots of space so not claustrophobic even when full
- K-OTIC crew were legit great
- Staging and pyro was very nice
- $25 for a k-pop event is hard to argue with
Could use improvement:
- Maybe just a little too loud
- A shame about “New Rack” sucking, just bad luck I guess
- K-OTIC should have had a few full-length songs instead of just one medley
- Took too long for the main events of the night to actually happen, if doors open at 9am I think it’s courtesy to try to have the main act on by midnight
- Andy reply to this with a YouTube that shows me that you know how to operate decks and I’ll edit this article to say that maybe you didn’t fake your set
Overall it was great and the positives definitely outweighed the few negatives. While I’m not really into DJ nights in general I’ll probably continue to go to these k-pop ones when I can (as long as they’re willing to continue to have me crash their party and then write honest reviews) and I definitely recommend that others in my town do the same, or if this show goes on the road, that you catch it in your city if it appears there.
I’ll leave you with a bit more of the great pyrotechnics from the night.
Thanks for reading! Kpopalypse will return with more posts soon!