KCONTACT 2020 SUMMER

The spread of the Coronavirus has altered the course of many events. Large gatherings such as concerts and conventions are not possible due to the threat of mass infection. For events like KCON, the liability of gathering crowds of screaming K-Pop fans was too much of a risk. Rather than create an outbreak scenario, the organizers have made the event virtual and created KCON:TACT.

KCON:TACT was a week-long program consisting of online concerts, meet & greets and exclusive content hosted on Mnet’s YouTube channel. Many of the artists who were scheduled to appear at the various global KCON shows participated in this event.

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My viewing schedule was centred around female artists. Unfortunately, the daily schedules posted on KCON’s social media didn’t have the exact times each artist would perform. So I had to suck it up and wake up early every day and watch live at the wee hours of the morning.

That meant enduring the numerous boy bands who made up the majority of the KCON:TACT roster. That is not a slight at boy bands, they are just not my preferred listening when it comes to K-Pop. I made a few exceptions for groups such as SF9, VERIVERY, AB6IX and N. FLYING. I shall digress before I get myself into any hot water with fans of Korean pop boy bands.

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The concert portions of KCON:TACT consisted of mini-sets from each act and various forms of fan service such as video calls and virtual photo ops. The stage setup used for this online event was large enough to accommodate the groups with many members. It had multiple screens on the floor and sides capable of displaying various images, including the wall of fans lucky enough to be chosen to be part of the live broadcasts.

Each artist performed a small number of songs during their time on stage. The average time for each act was around 20 – 30 minutes, including talk time. So that usually averaged to about 3 to 4 songs per performance. Many being either the artists’ latest songs they were promoting and/or their greatest hits. Sure, it wasn’t much but when you only have 4 hours of air time to fill there isn’t much space to work with for performances plus the meet & greets.

What was most impressive during the concerts was how each group or individual artist would interact with the virtual audience. It seemed to work out well for the most part with only a few language barriers and awkwardness.

Speaking of what could have been awkward, there was a great moment during GFRIEND’s talk segment with a fan from Arizona. The young man they were speaking to was quite happy to be chatting with his bias Sowon.

Maybe he was a little too excited. I was a bit worried that he was gonna go to the pervy side when he asked to show her something. The program director must have been like, “OH SHIT!” as you can see the camera cut away from the video call for a few seconds. Thankfully he did not pull down his pants and instead he gleefully showed her his life-size standee and his custom t-shirt with her image on it.

The meet & greet portions of the event were mini idol variety shows hosted by Eric Nam. The initial idea of a meet & greet did not sound practical to me. I was expecting something along the lines of K-Pop fans trying to talk over each other over a video call vying for their idol’s attention. The actual result was a better presentation than what I imagined.

There were very few of these shows that held my interest, to be honest. I show full bias by saying I enjoyed the IZ*ONE, GFRIEND, OH MY GIRL and especially the MAMAMOO meet & greets. The rest was an opportunity for me to catch up on sleep while waiting for the next concert performance.

I believe the KCON:TACT event ended up being a decent replacement for the location-based concerts. Despite what a small vocal minority on social media say, USD 19.99 for a week-long concert series with at least 5 artists per day was a good deal, in my opinion. The amount of effort that went into pulling this off could have resulted in a higher cost to watch.

Due to the current world situation, I understand that it may not have been wise to splurge on an online K-Pop concert. And if you had to resort to less than ideal means to satisfy your idol, cravings more power to you.

However, those of you who could afford it and are just too lazy to read the fine print about what membership you were supposed to get to view the concerts and other exclusive content? Well, you have no right to complain about the cost if you didn’t invest the proper amount of time in reading the KCON:TACT FAQs before purchase.

I have no comment on the benefits of KCON:TACT. Once I saw that there were applications involved that set off a red flag. If the real-life benefits are a clusterfuck, there was no way the virtual ones would be any different. That is all I have to say about that particular topic.

As for my thoughts about KCON:TACT overall? Besides the disproportionate number of dude groups to females, my main issue with this type of format for KCON is that the concert sets were too short. Perhaps it would have also been better if the Meet & Greet talk shows were on a separate stream rather than the main one, it would free up some time for more songs from each act and keep the music going?

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Other than that, I got my money’s worth per day and would probably pay for another online concert if this format is to forced to continue. While it wasn’t the perfect situation (I too prefer being at a show in person), it was the best that could be offered to fans of K-Pop. At the very least I got to see a lot of the K-Pop acts I am into perform and it was better than getting nothing at all. For that, I am thankful to KCON for setting up this kind of event. Hopefully, next year it will be safe for everyone to gather again and we can all mark out to our favourite artists together.