Sunday, August 17, 2014

My KCON 2014 Experience

For my first Kcon experience I have to tell you guys, that I don't really know where to start with describing my day. I guess I can start with telling you all that I only attended one day of the Con: Saturday August 9th. I really couldn't afford two days or even close seats for the concert. I ended up with two P5 tickets for my boyfriend and I. Not to mention I bought tickets before the announcement of who was playing on which day. Which was a week or two into tickets sales, btw. I just bought Saturdays tickets blindly and without any more knowledge of anything else besides who I COULD possibly see. I just didn't want to miss my opportunity. I was so scared it would sell out.

Looking back I wish I had known then what I know now.

Friday August 8th
As you guys know I am from Las Vegas, so getting to LA isn't really that big of a deal. Just a 4-5 hour drive and boom I'm there. My boyfriend and I left on Friday evening after work at 6pm and got into the LA area around 10pm. The idea was to get in and rest up for the next day. I knew from the program that most of the panels I wanted to attend started at 11am and the gates to the convention opened at 8am. Getting to the convention around 1030-11am would be ideal. I would have enough sleep and we could even have breakfast beforehand with our friends who live in town.
Saturday August 9th 7:00am
The next morning I woke up and got dressed at around 7am. I honestly couldn't sleep. It was like the first day of school! While we were drinking coffee and getting ready I decided to start checking social media to see if there were any Kpop star sightings or if there was anything I needed to be prepared for. I began by just clicking the hashtag for #kcon2014 on Instagram. That was probably the best thing I ever did. I saw nothing but long lines of people waiting outside of the convention for it to open. Some of them had been there since 5am, some even 3am. To double check what was happening I turned to Twitter. I was right. The line was wrapped around the block. I informed my boyfriend what was going on. He agreed that going to breakfast and getting there at 11ish would let the line die down. Since we were going to take the Metro to get there we didn't have to worry about parking. We could just walk right off the train and be right there to check-in.

10:30am

After breakfast, at Nano Cafe in Arcadia, we parked at the closest Metro Station and started our journey towards the Con. From where we were it would be an hour ride. My total cost to ride the Metro was $4.50 to the Con and $4.50 back. Which is nothing compared to the 40-50 dollars parking fees my friends paid. Not to mention that I got to see a lot more of LA from a vantage point I had never seen. It's pretty cool. I even got to see Union Station.

11:00am
I tweeted to see about the line situation. Did I avoid it? How was it going? Was it gone?   ....The line had just started to move!


11:30am
I was still optimistic because thirty minutes can change everything, right? We had just got to the train shop for the convention after all. It couldn't be that bad, could it? Once we crossed the street and met up with our friends who parked at USC, the only un-full lot. We headed towards the Con.

This is where my heart sank.


The line was wrapped around the corner of the street. Hopeful we just keep walking and walking excited to see an end to the line in sight. But we never saw one. Until we wound up exactly where we had started. That's right, the line was wrapped around the entire block. Just to be sure we asked everyone in line around us and even passerby. Sure enough we were in the line for check-in.
The line was so long
This is to give you an idea of how long of a line it was. The red line is the line we were waiting in.  The white of the GA line. Those black dots are CARS.

I was so sad. The panel I was the most interested in attended was going on in 30 minutes. There was no way I would make it in time. So we waited. We took selfies. We bought water from Street Vendors. All the while, looking through the fences to see that the convention was pretty much empty. At one point we were even right beside the panel I wanted to attend and there were five people attending it. 
My friends are the best. The wait was so long. But we still had fun in line. Even captured this awesome photobomb...
2:00pm
We finally got to where the line split up into two groups. One line was for General Admission and the other lines were for check-in. I know! GA was already lining up for the concert! Crazy, but as far as I know that's what it was. We checked in. Got our wristbands, goodie bag tickets, a few scratch offs for meet and greets and headed in.

At least we thought we were heading straight in. There was another line to get into the actual convention after you check in! This line was four rows wide and 15-20 minutes long. It was for security to check bags. There were no signs saying this, or that food wasn't allowed inside from the free market outside. I had to toss my only water. I saw even more people throwing away delicious fresh Korean food that they had just purchased cause they didn't know and would miss their hi-touches.

2:15pm
Now it was official, we were in.  I was super excited. I know it was now 2:15 pm. I didn't care. I was relieved, stinky and worn out from the sun and heat already... but I was in! 
Joe and I made it!
A giant crowd around a stage deterred me from where I was heading. It was B1A4 on stage! They were in the middle of chatting with the audience. I couldn't see them very well. But there they were and I didn't have to win anything to be there! I guess they had been up for for a while, because no sooner had I snapped these pictures the interview was over and they exited the stage.
They were right there. I wasn't expecting it at all!

Goodie-bag pick-up was on the way to my first Workshop, so naturally we headed over to the counter. We froze... the line for just goodie-bags was wrapped around past the stage we were just at. I was so tired of lines I said: Screw it. Not worth it. On to the workshop.

2:30pm

The Language of the Kdrama was hosted by Amos Yi and Hee Young Ahn. They taught us some great lines from My Love From Another Star. Most importantly they taught us how to do Aegyo. Amos even did some Aegyo for us. If there was anything a group of borderline heatstroke victims needs to do, it's practice some Korean and laugh a little. Aish!


3:30pm
After getting our learn on, we were all starving. So we checked the schedule. The next panel or workshop we all wanted to attend was either Korean Slang at 4pm or Korean Drinking Games at 5pm. We all agreed that the sun was taking it's toll. We should go get drinks and maybe shop for a bit. There had to be great merchandise here. Maybe even Hite or Cass beer, possibly Soju! Yes please! I instantly perked up at the thought of buying some Korean beauty products or even a Girls Generation t-shirt. I had saved money to lay down on anything I couldn't get online.

4:00pm

The free market that they had set up was  awesome. There were food trucks galore and some merchandise in the form of posters and t-shirts. There were a lot of vendors. We shopped around for a bit and bought some water. There was no beer... gasp! or Soju to be found. Talk about bummer. I also didn't find any SNSD shirts or any really awesome beauty supplies. Joe talked me out of being bummed because we hadn't really looked at the convention to see if the stuff inside was better due to the goodie-bag line being so long. So we settled on a snack at Mister Potato. Mister Potato makes swirled deep fried potato snacks. You get your choice of flavors. I chose Bulgogi and Joe got Garlic. Talk about Yum!

4:30pm
After our snacks and refreshments we headed back inside to the convention. Of course you had to go back through the security checkpoint. But the line was shorter this time. Mostly due to the fact that the convention ends at 6pm. We still had time to kill before the Workshop that we had decided on was to start. I wanted to check out the merchandise and finally get my goodie-bag!

The goodie-bag line was still super crowded. Boo! So I just walked over and started to look at the other booths. The only merchandise being sold was KCON shirts and posters. Nothing else. There were fanclubs and Youtube reaction video booths set up too. Which was cool. I just really wanted to buy a G-Dragon One of Kind shirt, some keychains... anything. I was so disappointed.

Then things got weird.

The merchandise row they had set up was so narrow and it was the only way to get to the bathrooms and the workshop I was heading to. Combine that with the large crowd still waiting on their free stuff and you have havoc. Joe was holding my hand as the crowd started to get denser. Then he let go to let a woman with a baby pass. Then I was stuck. Me and 20 people were mashed together in a crowd of people. We were being squeezed so tightly we were sweating on each other. We stayed like this for what seemed like 10 minutes. I almost started to panic, when a tall man in a green shirt decide to start yelling for everyone to move along. It worked and he got me, himself and his friend free. 
Right under where it says convention is where the merch was. Teeny tiny living space.
5:00pm
The workshop I was really happy about seeing was finally here: Korean Drinking Games! Wooo! And it didn't disappoint. It was hosted by Dave Levene, Ssin, The Cuckoo Crew and YD. It was by far the funniest thing I have been a part of. They showed us games like Baskin Robbin 31.
Dave Levene was so sweet.
6:00pm
The convention was closing. You could tell that everyone was heading out. But I finally got my blasted goodie-bag. Which was just a cloth bag, a dogtag and a convention program. The same one you can digitally download. Nothing big. I was bummed I didn't get glowsticks for the concert. So I bought two for $5 a piece. I wanted the full Korean concert experience dammit!
We didn't know what to do at this point. It was 6pm. The concert was at seven. So we started to exit the convention with everyone else. We noticed a huge line had formed. I assumed it was for the concert, since the General Admission line had started lining up at 2pm, what would have changed. Since the line was already past our point of view we decided to ask what it was for. So we asked one of the KCON employees. You want to know what he told us?

"I dunno what it's for. Go stand in it anyways. It's great advertisment."What a douche. Just say that you don't know and leave it at that. We walked past the line and into the free market to get dinner after we found out it was the line for the concert. Why wait in line when you can have a delicious dinner right? Right. So we had a Sushi Burrito. So good! 

Besides the line would die down right?

6:30pm
Wrong! We started the long walk to get into line for the concert. It was moving pretty fast. But I was so doubtful that we would make it in on time. Turns out they were scanning your tickets for the second time that day, and checking bags.
The green line s the concert line. The purple line is for the assigned seats.
Once we got to the parking lot of the free market again we were told that people who had assigned seats were in another line. We moved to that one. The line we were waiting in the whole time: the P2 seats. That's right folks. The people who spent more money than me had to wait in line the longest. 

7:00pm
We got inside and got our seats. Not without a glass of wine for me and a glass of beer for Joe. We deserved it! As soon as we sat down the show started. 

The concert was amazing. The glow-sticks moving to the rhythm of the music. The crowd singing along, The idols speaking in a mix of Korean and English. It was such a treat. It really made me feel like I am not alone in my obsession. And when G-Dragon hit the stage. I lost my shit. 

Here is a recap of the concert from where I was sitting. 
Joe is a best for getting this footage while I fangirled.
The stage was in the center. So at least to me, it looked like no one had a bad point of view. Except the people on the floor. The stage seemed too high for them to see over it, unless the singer was right in front of them. 

9:30pm
The concert ended. The entire line-up came out onto the stage to give thanks, wave and accept our love. I can not imagine how overwhelmed they must be to know that there is this much love for them here in the US. It was sort of magical.
Then we headed back to our hotel via the Metro. I don't even want to know what traffic was like.

Would I Do It Again?
It would depend on the venue, the line-up that year and the weather. I say this because I feel like the venue needed to be larger. There were over 40,000 people there. More than what they expected. So I wouldn't be surprised if they move the location to somewhere else that could accommodate all of the people. There wasn't enough parking at all. The bathroom situation was terrible and the convention was all outdoors. If they had it in Vegas for example, there is plenty of parking, food and best of all. It would all be inside of a convention center 5 times the size of the place that they had it this year.

What Could Have Been Better?
The check-in process. I found out after much forum chatting on Reddit, Soompi, Youtube and Twitter that the check-in was such a nightmare because the folks who bought the floor tickets were promised a line order for the concert on a first come first serve basis. That means that if you were there at 3:00am you were give a wristband with a number on it, guaranteeing you a spot in line for the concert before anyone else.

The problem with that? They didn't honor it. They let people in according to the way they lined up for the concert. So everyone who waited wasted the time that they could have been asleep. Or they could have just bought cheaper seats and sat with me. There were plenty of spots up by me.

The concert check-in was even crazier. Remember that line I was in? Yeah. Some of those P2 ticket holders didn't make it in till Teen Top was playing. And Teen Top played before the final act of the night. Talk about bullshit.

The selection of merchandise was lackluster. Want to know what I bought at Kcon? A pair of glowsticks. They did have shirts. Kcon t-shirts aka the ones you can buy on their site. Click here to buy one. There were posters at the free market and even some G-Dragon goodies at the free market. Nothing that really made me swoon. I was really wanting to buy hoodies, bags, dvds. cds, keychains, make-up, and plush dolls. Kcon really dropped the ball on taking some more of my money.

The lay out was all wrong. The merchandise area was in the biggest bottleneck of the convention. There were huge areas as you can tell by the map above that didn't have anything in them. Why not put the goodie-bag pick up there? And put the Merch next door and left the fanclubs where they were.

The concessions inside the con were disappointing. The free market outside was awesome. There was a ton of food. From sushi, to bulgogi, to Boba tea. They had it all. Except for booze. I know I would have loved to have had a beer while I was waiting in line. Not only that, but you couldn't take it into the convention at all. The food inside the con was non-existent. You could get water, lemonade and coke for 4-5 dollars a pop. But that was it. Until the concert started... Once inside the arena a beer or wine was $10 a glass. 

Besides the panels and workshops there was nothing to do. That's right I was bored. The panels were spread out and so were the workshops. They did have a Running Man style theme tent to play games and another area to learn Kpop dancing for you to explore. I just wanted more immersion. We literally walked from one side to the other in less than 5 minutes. That is counting the bottleneck "merch" area.

I was hoping for a community art project, a banner signing to thank idols and a photo booth. A little tent set up for Korean street food with Soju. An area to put yourself into your favorite drama scene or Kpop music video. I know that they had Korean Cooking panels, but what about an all day cooking station with a different item being cooked every hour. They should just hire me already. Seriously, if you guys are reading this. You need me!

What Could Have Been Worse?
From what I have read about previous years, not much. Except for concession tickets. Imagine all that I went through to only have found out in order to have food or a drink I had to exchange my money for tickets. Bullshit. So I am glad that they got rid of that.

What Are My Overall Thoughts?
Unless you have the hi-touch passes, P1 tickets or Red Carpet passes to meet/see your favorite Korean Star up close, skip the convention, and just attend the concert. Save yourself the sunburn.

Kdrama on. 

2 comments:

  1. Been waiting for your recap of KCon. You didn't disappoint. Thanks for telling the good, the bad and the ugly. Your boyfriend made great footage.
    I can't believe that the food and merchandise was so skimpy. I would have thought that would have been one of their best income makers.
    All that energy at the end of the concert looks like it could power LA and all surrounding areas for the next month.
    I agree they need to change the venue with that many problems and those crowds. And I agree that Las Vegas would probably be a better setup for the crowds and expense. Maybe the Korean stars and crew don't want to fly that extra leg over, but it shouldn't be that much of a problem.
    Yes, I think you should write a letter to the sponsors and organizers. It sounds like they could really use help. I thought beforehand that it sounded like great fun to go, but after reading your review, I'm content to watch at home. Way too much chaos and crowd for me.

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    1. Thanks for reading all of that. I was just really let down. I was looking forward to a complete convention experience. I frequent conventions (mostly due to me being a nerd that lives in Las Vegas) and I was really let down with the disorganization. If they had it all in an indoor arena or let everyone check in on Friday, I could have been able to attend a lot more panels, maybe even meet more people. But since I was in line until 2pm, those things didn't happen. And even if I had been in line earlier I wouldn't have gotten in till noon. The girl I chatted with on Twitter got there at 7am. She got in at 1230pm. Something is wrong with their system. I think that they should admit that they need help. The convention is doubling in crowd every year and the way they have it organized right now, they can not accommodate that crowd anymore.

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