This past weekend I went to Kcon LA, which was held at the LA Convention Center with concerts in the Staples Center. It was my second Kcon, and I was curious to see how the atmosphere of the event would change after being moved to a convention center. Last year felt more like a street fair, but this year certainly felt more like a convention. It felt weird for me because I’d just been there one month before for Anime Expo. It was great because I was already familiar with the area and knew exactly where I was going. The best part was the convenience of being right next to the hotel, so you could go back any time to rest, deposit your swag and purchases, or change into and out of costume. There were also plenty of restaurants in the area. I know many of the attendees were glad not to have to be outdoors in the sun like last year. Great move, Kcon!
As for the convention itself, I have to say Kcon is a very unique experience. Even though the focus is obviously Kpop and the concerts, there were a lot of things going on throughout the weekend. This year the event was three days with two concerts. Since there were no concerts the first day, it was a good day to roam the hall and do your shopping. The hall contained merchandise vendors, sponsor booths, fan club booths, a stage for contests and presentations, and some hangout areas where you could relax or play games (like giant Jenga). It felt strange to see companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola giving away free samples, but I guess they were some of the big sponsors for the event. McDonald’s had a DDR machine set up with Kpop song on it. Toyota was very creative and had a car set up with a TV in the trunk to play dance games and music playing inside the car with a camera so you could shoot lip-synch videos. People were lined up to play! Nongshim was giving away free ramen samples (I also won a whole case of spicy ramen in their raffle). The other very random thing I saw on Friday was a marching band that made their way around the exhibit hall. I don’t know what they were promoting, but I can say I’ve never seen anything like that at an anime convention.
Like last year, there were a few booths selling Kpop CDs, DVDs, and posters, a few other media related booths, and a bunch of random Korean company booths that no one seemed to care about (I felt bad for them but they were pretty random). This year there were also what I call “anime con booths” — the kind of stuff you usually see at anime conventions, like anime and game figures, plushes, anime tshirts, and accessories. Even though this section seemed out of place, the whole area was pretty busy and they looked like they were doing good business. There are, after all, a lot of people who got into Asian music through anime. I would have like to see more Kpop related merchandise, like tshirts or trinkets, or even just more variety in CDs, DVDs, and posters (it was mostly limited to the most popular groups, new releases, and whichever groups were present at Kcon). I know Korean fashion and beauty products are also popular, so it would be great to see more of those as well. The big thing that was missing this year were the food vendors. With the event being indoors, I’m guessing they didn’t have an area where they could put food booths. There were a few food trucks outside, but I missed having rows and rows of Korean food stands to choose from. I was looking forward to some spicy rice cakes and BBQ skewers. At least there were plenty of food options available in the area, but it just wasn’t the same. I’m curious to see how things will be next year.
On the stage inside the main hall there were dance performances, a dance contest (which was pretty awesome), a costume contest, a fashion show, and some guest appearances, among other things. When I walked by the stage on Sunday afternoon I saw a large crowd and thought, I wonder what’s going on? Then I looked at the stage… IS THAT THE TRY GUYS?? DANCING?? It sure was! Outside the main hall there were panel rooms with fan-run programming where you could learn and chat about a variety of topics related to Kpop and Korea. One thing I would love to see at Kcon is a viewing room where you could watch music videos, much like anime viewing rooms at anime conventions. It would be especially cool for newer fans to learn about different groups, or even familiarize themselves with the groups who would be performing in the concerts.
In my next post, I’ll talk more about the convention’s main attractions: the concerts and the music guests.