Real Live Action

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Words & Photos Courtesy Of
Jayden Hwang

As I walked into Vancouver Kpop Con, it was unlike any event I had ever attended in the Lower Mainland. The Hard Rock Casino was full of booths with different themes like K-Beauty Make-up, Korean Language Program, Kpop Program and more. There was a crowd lining up for each of these booths, but I was lucky enough to have a small talk with Peter, who was promoting language and Kpop programs. His booth was representing Kyung Hee University and Sejong University for the language program where fans can join to take classes to study Korean. As well, they are running a Kpop Program in Seoul to provide fans with opportunities to meet up with famous Kpop celebrities, aiming to open up environments for people to experience Korean culture. Seeing this booth full of interested people, I could really feel how far Kpop has come into the global market not only to promote the music itself, but also the Korean culture as a whole.

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As I walked around, there were multiple booths selling Hallyu (한류: “Korean Wave”) goods, posters and t-shirts with pictures of popular boy bands, including GOT7 (갓세븐), BTS (방탄소년단), Wanna One (워너원), Monsta X (몬스타 엑스) and EXO (엑소).  At some of the other booths, vendors were selling albums with brand-new music and some relatively older albums from popular groups. I was happy to see the album 1+1=0 I PROMISE U by Wanna One, which I have played multiple times on my own Kpop radio show on CiTR 101.9 FM, K-Pop Cafe.

I went up to the theatre to see the performance by A.C.E., a relatively new group who made their debut last year. I could see some fans searching for A.C.E. on the internet and listening to their music before the performance began, in anticipation of the live show. When it was time for the performance to start, the lights in the theatre went off and a short promotional video for the group played on the screen that included some footage of their performance from the day before in Toronto for Toronto KPop Con. At the end of the video clip, the countdown began and A.C.E. emerged onstage. As they started singing and dancing, many audience members were screaming and cheering out of excitement for the group. One of their standout performances was when A.C.E. danced to the song “Gashina” (가시나), a cover by the popular Korean singer Sunmi (선미).

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As I was sitting in the audience, I could hear various languages being spoken, including Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, English, Vietnamese and others. It struck me that the variety of these spoken languages could symbolize the diversity of the fandom culture of Kpop, as it can be enjoyed by many people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Vancouver Kpop Con was an opportunity to experience how Kpop fits in to the larger Vancouver society. As this city is greatly diverse with people from all over the world, speaking different languages and engaging with many cultures, there is great promise for the expanded success of Kpop in Vancouver.

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Wire Spine

w/ Champion Lawnmower, Smoker, Bedwetters Anonymous, Céline

author
Hannah Toms
photography
Milena Krondl

The crowd who came to see a show raising funds for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Sacred Trust Fund and the Secwepemc Nation’s Tiny House Warriors — two Indigenous organizations fighting against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion — was sparse, with maybe only 20 people standing in front of the venue’s small stage. However, the audience’s size did not diminish its enthusiasm for the five standout bands on the stacked bill.

New band, Céline, featuring Tom “Tommy Tone” Whalen on drums and Sonya Rez from Necking on bass, began the show with their first ever set. They seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage, playing an upbeat punk with confident vocals and powerful drumming. Their energy set the tone for the following performances.  

Hardcore punks, Bedwetters Anonymous played next, but not before screening horrendously corny commercials for The Gap and Cadillac from the early 2000s on the screen behind the stage. The send-up of consumerism and excessive capitalism reminded the audience of the show’s purpose: to help stop big oil companies from exploiting Indigenous lands for profit. Bedwetters followed this interlude with a set of very fast and short songs consisting of snaking guitar leads and wildly skillful drumming. All three members performed in their socks.

Photo by Milena Krondl for Discorder Magazine
Photo by Milena Krondl for Discorder Magazine

Tom Whalen came back for the next set as one half of Smoker, an ironic ‘80s synth pop duo whose shtick is promoting cigarettes. The two sang over pre-recorded tracks including “Smokin’ in the Streets” and “Teach Your Baby to Smoke” while flexing their ‘80s dance moves with completely deadpan expressions. The hilarity of the performance aside, Smoker displayed substantial talent for pop songs.

Continuing Bedwetters Anonymous’ use of commercials to satirize capitalism, Champion Lawnmower performed with aptly chosen lawnmower infomercials playing behind them. Although I’ve seen them live countless times, the group’s melodic guitar and bass riffs, well-timed song breaks and humorous lyrics make for the kind of music you don’t get tired of.

Closing the show with a significant change in tone was industrial dark-wave duo, Wire Spine, joined on guitar by one of the members of Bedwetters Anonymous. With Red Gate’s sound system turned way up, the drum machine beats of their backtracks practically shook the venue as the group performed. Frontperson Jesi grooved wildly to the almost sinister sounding synth melodies.

Photo by Milena Krondl for Discorder Magazine
Photo by Milena Krondl for Discorder Magazine
Photo by Milena Krondl for Discorder Magazine

As I left Red Gate’s East Hastings location for perhaps the last time (it closes at the end of May), I walked out with a sense of empowerment, fuelled by social justice and anti-capitalist themes. The show was a reminder of the importance of supporting Indigenous issues and the role that local artists can play in this process. Here’s hoping for more politically-charged shows at Red Gate’s new location, with a better turnout next time.