Focusing on the phenomena that is KCON, KCON LA is an amazing experience with a total emersion into the world of Hallyu which has been working its Hallyu magic for 5 years.
Admittedly, my brush with Korean culture was when I would watch M*A*S*H with my eldest son back in the day and I did need a refresher course.
KCON made sure that I got it by offering a panel titled “The World Talks About Korea.”
According to the panel, Korea is known as a country of miracles due to its rising like a Phoenix from the ashes that Korea had become after the Korean War. As one soldier put it “How can a rose blossom from a garbage dump?”
Fast forward to 2016 and you have one of the fastest growing economies in the world and K-POP is largely a part of that tidal wave of success. It is this fast-growing phenomena that inspired Chinese journalists to coin the term “Hallyu” in the late 1990s to describe it.
Other panels that I attended were “From K-POP Fan to K-POP Professional” which was a two-part panel on how to take your passion for K-POP to the next level. There were many panelists that all had started out as K-POP fans and took it to another level by writing about the music. Their fandom began by being fans of anime, video games or K-Drama. K-Dramas feature the K-POP acts in short run series.
Each panelist began by writing blogs and/or taking photos and posting them. Panelist Tanya Rodriguez fully believes that K-Dramas are the gateway drug to K-POP and that once that chain reaction has begun there is no stopping it. Among the hints they offered were never give up, network and keep writing blogs and taking photos of K-POP performers.
Among the many talented panelists featured were: Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer and Ebony Vanderveer from InRage Entertainment, Angie Mills of Kpop Starz, Jeff Benjamin of Billboard and Rolling Stone, Jenny Zha of Soompi Mgt., Tanya Rodriguez Hallyu Blogger and YouTube videographer Popo.
A very informative panel was “Uncovering Korean Indie Music” which offered up a varied mixture of music genres which featured edgy music and not necessarily mainstream K-POP. This panel featured Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer, Ebony Rae Vanderveer, Chris Park, Christian Oh, and Joe J. Lee aka Kairos. InRage Entertainment is owned by the Vanderveers.
The panelists have worked with well known K-POP artists as producers and song writers through Warner-Chappel Music, Sony and KMG. Park is an editor at large for Korean Indie.
There was so much information pouring out of the mouths of these industry professionals that it was hard to land on a “theme,” but the gist was that it’s hard to get airplay, press and space to perform if you are performing indie Korean rock as it’s outside the K-POP “factory” which cultivates artists from a young age and has proven very profitable.
According to Park, K-POP acts work harder than USA acts to perfect their craft due to the driving force of the “factory” mentality that drives K-POP. A tactic that some sources tell me is causing a few of the K-POP performers to sue the management companies. The management teams have also been compared to slave drivers.
Coming into L.A. each day to KCON my companion Finky Linky would play K-POP in order for me to get a better idea of what it is. Gettin’ schooled in the genre if you will.
This music is fun, energetic, well performed, well produced, but I could hear shades of Warrant, The Scorpions and Michael Jackson as well as many more artists in the music. I told my friend not to be angry at me, but that there are only so many notes to play and so many progressions and then one gets into a mirky territory of “original” music. I added that it seems that the way to go in music was to incorporate ethnic instruments into a composition.
The Indie Korean Music panel offered up that concept with a great act that call themselves “Jambina” which beautifully melds Rock instruments with traditional Korean instruments. The panel played a “Jambina" tune titled “They Keep Silence” which gives me goosebumps each time I hear it and is iPod worthy.
“Dead Buttons” is another edgy Korean Indie act that the panel featured which blew me away with “Witch” which is in large part influenced by Punk Rock.
According to Park, “Korean music reps are closed minded and go with “trends, but the international market is more open minded.” Which leads to my asking how about here in L. A. outside of Korea Town or Little Tokyo? It seems that there aren’t any clubs that are able to accommodate this indie music in the designated “ethnic” towns.
Who to ask that question? James Shen of LA Street Art Gallery that stages very fun and entertaining shows at The Redbury’s “Library" in Hollywood on Thursdays that features art, music and beauty as well as a show in Little Tokyo? Or perhaps Jimmy D, an enterprising music promotor at Paladino’s in the San Fernando Valley?
The collective panel all agreed that backing Indie Korean music takes a commitment to the long run because as it is it takes a long time to break an act and get it established.
Among other panels being offered were: beauty, K-Dramas, Korean cooking and panels to help parents understand their children’s fascination with K-POP. There were also fan meet and greets, K-POP Dance workshops, well known Korean writers and directors discussions, and cultural discussions on working in Hollywood as an Asian American.
The whole weekend of events at KCON was $25.00 for three days. The concerts and special fan meet and greets cost extra. One person told me that the whole experience of KCON could cost one upwards of $800.00. Worth it? I would say yes if you can afford it and you are a huge fan of K-POP. This year’s KCON showcased the talents of: Monsta X, SHINee, BTS, Block B, GFriend,Twice, Girl’s Generation-TTS, Astro, Dean, I.O.I, F (Amber), Eric Nam.
It is important to keep in mind that the music of K-POP has subtle nuances of Country, Rap and Hip Hop smoothly blended in the music of that is K-POP. I’ve noticed that a song can feature a diverse array of music genres transitioned into it.
For a better idea of where the phenomena of K-Drama begins and K-POP picks up, it is a good idea to watch some K-Dramas such as: Heart Strings and be sure to tune in to Viki Drama Fever or other venues to catch the latest series.
My youth was filled with concerts that had Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page playing local gigs so when I tell you that Hotei is up there in that line up, I know what I am talking about…a solid point of reference I would think.
Hotei’s sold out gig at The Troubadour on July 13 was a thrill to watch and listen to. Hotei had a guitar player and drummer with him and the three of them had the sound of a full scale rock concerto and I was hooked and drawn in by the end of the first song. Sadly, my phone was jacked which had photos of the set list as well as several awesome classic rock moves that are Hotei. I do have some from my real camera though.
For those that do not recognize the name, Hotei is the composer and performer of the “Kill Bill” theme song which he played at the show. The show was peppered with a few new songs from his new album “Stranger” which lists Iggy Pop, Richard Kruspe, Emisratel/Rammstein, Matt Tuck from Bullet for My Valentine, Noko of “Apollo 440 and Texas singer Shea Seger as collaborators.
At a loss as to how to pronounce his name? It’s pronounced “hoe-tay” and is the name of the Japanese Buddhist God of Contentment and Happiness which is what I was after the show.
A shout out to Dan Tana’s waiter Goran for taking such good care of my friend and I before the show. Guess those not so nice rumors were just that…rumors.
Waiting impatiently for THE KONGOS show at The Wiltern Theater on October 28, 2016. Haven’t seen them since The Troubadour show last year and their newest effort “Egomaniac” is a great piece of creative talent. The Kongos are currently touring around the world in support of their new album.
Stopped by the Hollywood Bowl to enjoy a night of Magical Mozart the other night to keep me grounded to the roots of which all music flows…classical.
There was a time that the recording industry acquiesced to recording and selling Rock N' Roll in order to support the recording of classical music.