Saturday, 13 September 2014

SM Town Live 2014

This is VERY overdue. About a month ago now, we went to SM Town Live. After staying up late and freaking out over the user-unfriendly and foreigner-antagonistic GMarket, we had tickets and the event had actually arrived. I don't think it's ever come to London. I think the closest we got was Paris, so we were determined to go.

For those that don't know, SM is a music label in South Korea, home to some of the biggest stars in K-Pop, including Super Junior, Girls Generation, and the ever-ubiquitous EXO. SM Live, is basically a huge gig where their entire roster performs, as individual groups or artists, as well as some inter-band collaborations. It's also an exciting chance to see the SM 'Rookies' (future K-pop stars in training) in their element before they've even debuted.

Me, trying (and failing) to take a photo with the World Cup Stadium sign.
It was pretty easy to get to the stadium, as you'd expect, and even more impressive was the efficiency of the queuing systems. There were THOUSANDS of people there already, but it didn't feel particularly scary or stressful. Or maybe that was just because they were all 5ft tall teenage girls. (No, they can be pretty scary. I'm looking at you 사생 kids.)

We milled around for a while and went to buy some merch. I was hoping for a nice t-shirt or something but sadly, for a huge company with a ton of money and creative power, they don't actually have much that I would wear. There were plenty of people there wearing merch from previous SM Town shows though, and it all looked great, so maybe this is just a dry spell.

We settled for a book, which turned out to be just 140ish pages of painfully beautiful Korean faces.

There was also this intriguing booth selling ice creams, and from what I could tell they were themed for each artist's 'colour' (every SM act has it's own colour and logo branding that they slap onto a million and one things for people to buy and show off their devotion with ease. It's a pretty good idea, especially if you're targeting people like me). Unfortunately, there wasn't anything clear in English, and all I could really see was something about the SM Passport which is a like a VIP pass. So I'll assume for now that they were special fancy VIP ice creams. Sob.

We went and queued up to go in and the line started moving almost instantly, and dead on doors opening time, another refreshing change from gigs at home. There's a strict "no photos" policy in play, yet again, with ushers flagging down anyone with a camera out, even for selfies.

However, it's a pretty huge venue so naturally everyone was taking the risk for some sneaky snaps, and once the actual event was underway, there seemed to be zero pretences of even TRYING to be sneaky. Ho hum.

I won't go into a lot of detail, because that'd be boring and who knows, it might be a spoiler for the future. If you're desperate, there's probably a ton of fancam videos on YouTube that you can watch. For now, I'll just mention some of my favourite moments.

So the entire event was 6 HOURS LONG. I'm not going to lie, that's pretty great value for money. The first half was great, all-singing all-dancing, but it wasn't until it got darker that I realised those first few hours were a WARM-UP. There was a few moments pause, and then a DRONE appeared, dripping with sparklers and lights as it flew over the stage for the first performance, and it really started to have a party atmosphere. Which continued for another 3 hours.

As well as the drone, fireworks shot from the stage throughout the evening, as well as wonderful light shows from the fans. Remember what I said about colour-coding each fandom? At the back of the venue they'd divided up the stalls into sections for each of the groups, so people there could choose their favourite and support them. A popular piece of merch is a 'fanlight', usually a tube of coloured plastic in - you guessed it - your favourite group's colour. So you end up with a neatly segmented rainbow screaming and singing its way through the night. The beauty of this is when each act comes out, one block of colour will inevitably go crazy and ripple like mad. Similarly, down in the mixed standing area (which, confusingly, had seats) it was a sea of coloured dots, bobbing around to the beat. Too cute.

Here's TVXQ's section going for it.

A highlight for myself and Nick was "Boys Day". On another label, there's a group called Girls Day (who happen to be one of Nick's favourite groups) and they recently released a very popular song with a very saucy (and, understandably, popular) music video.

Changmin, Kyuhyun, Minho, and Suho all came onto the stage, in red dresses VERY similar to the ones in the original music video, and performed the infamous dance. I could barely concentrate on the song I was so busy laughing! I'll share the love here. Watch it below:

The rookies did quite a few performances throughout the day, but the standout for me was Taeyong. His dancing was so incredible, really unnatural looking (in a great way!) and sharp. To have such control over your body to be able to do that is something that makes me really appreciate dancers. Even his face was somehow scary in a creepy way, all through the dance. To think he's still a fair few years from debuting and he's already this good has made me quite excited for the future acts of SM.

It's not the best video, but it should give you an idea!

The icing on the cake (I'm hoping you'll see what I did there) was seeing Red Velvet perform live, days after their debut. They were so cute and full of energy, and Happiness really is a very cute, catchy song. Not to mention, their colour-coded, dip-dyed style is a surefire way of getting me to love them. (FTR, Joy is inevitably my favourite. Dat green~)

So, yes. Let's ignore the fact there was a child choir (creepy creepy) and focus on how great f(x), SuJu (nothing beats seeing Rockstar and Motorcycle live), TVXQ, EXO, SNSD and SHINee were. And just how loud that screaming was, hahaha. Ouch.

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