My DBSK Journey/JYJ Fan Encounter


Nov 21 2010, 10h20

Sun 14 Nov – JYJ - The Beginning - New Album Showcase in Las Vegas

Warning: the following rant/essay is more than 3,000 words long and contains excessive amounts of fangirling... but it also details the greatest moment of my life! I don’t think I truly captured how I feel with just these words, but I tried.

As you might or might not know, I've been a 동방신기 fan for quite a long time. On and off for about seven years, really. I credit these guys for getting me into the Kpop scene (and Korean entertainment as a whole, actually) and shaping my musical tastes into what it is today. When I first heard my first 동방신기 song, '믿어요,' I was absolutely smitten. Perhaps they were a reminder of my childhood growing up with boybands before they became 'uncool.' Perhaps it was their sweet vocals that captured my attention or maybe it was their looks that made me do a double take. It was a lot of things, actually. They certainly weren't the first Kpop act I listened to (that honor belongs to 이정현, if I remember correctly) and they certainly never reached favorite Kpop artist status with me (that honor belongs to Fly to the Sky). But I do need to say that they could have easily been my favorite group if their music weren't such a mixed bag because there's simply no argument to be made when it comes to talent. Out all the groups I've ever listened to, I feel the most sentimental and emotional over 동방신기 though. Not even Fly to the Sky affected me in the same way when I saw them in concert when they came to town. It's quite bizarre and I can't explain why.

I think I slowly stopped keeping up with 동방신기 right before their fourth album was released as I busied myself with discovering Korean music beyond mainstream pop acts. I don't think I ever stopped loving them though. In the back of my mind, I couldn't help thinking that all these new, young, fresh Kpop acts that have cropped up in more recent years don't even come close to holding a candle to 동방신기 in terms of singing, dancing, and overall presence. They set the standard pretty darn high. The autotuning and lack of depth and emotion in mainstream Kpop these days was enough to turn me away from the scene almost altogether in recent years. Autotune seriously makes me want to punch something when it’s all I hear. Groups like 동방신기, Fly to the Sky, G.O.D., 테이크, and 신화 never required autotune to sound good. It’s silly, but I got bitter. It’s almost as if I stopped listening to mainstream Kpop because the new groups didn’t measure up to what I was used to. At some point, time stopped for me and I started to consider myself an old-school Kpop fan. That... and I missed the days when you could be a successful SOLO artist. Imagine that.

And then trouble started to brew... I hardly even want to go into the stressful SME lawsuit period of their lives. It was almost painful to keep up with the whole ordeal. As an American, with different attitudes about authority and fairness, it was painful to hear people throw accusations of greediness, bigheadness, and whatnot on the three who initiated the lawsuit. If something is wrong, you SPEAK UP. You fight for what’s right. I really hate the saying “you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you....” It’s true UNLESS that hand is not only not feeding you but screwing you over in a very big way. It’s sad that the five guys had to split the way they did in the midst of the nightmare... but it happened and there’s not much their fans could have done. The reality is that time cannot be rewound. I tried to avoid thinking about and getting emotionally involved in the whole issue. It made listening to their songs all the more painful. It’s selfish of me but it would have been a complete energy suck. All I could do was hope for the best (AKTF).

So after not keeping up with 동방신기 for such a long time, I completely surprised myself by feeling what I felt when JYJ announced a tour stop in Hawaii. I didn’t consider myself a huge fan anymore... so why the heck was I feeling so hopeful, so anxious, and so excited? But... since my sister was off at college on the mainland, I had no one to go with. I even pleaded on Facebook for someone to go with me. Cause let’s face it, going to a concert alone is really lame. It’s the kind of experience that has to be shared with another person. Alas, none of my close friends care much for Kpop. I surprised myself with how desperate I started to feel... so when my sister told me she would be flying in from Oregon with a mutual friend to Las Vegas to see them on the 14th... I took a huge leap of faith and decided to go along for the company. It’s a good thing she told me what she was up to because their Hawaii stop was eventually canceled at the last minute... and she thought she’d be reprimanded for her crazy plan. Quite the opposite, actually. I couldn't have been more excited. Yes, I paid more than $700 (flight and lodging) to follow the boys to Vegas. Between booking our flights and lodging, securing our concert tickets, making sure that I didn’t have to go to work on the Friday before and the Monday after the weekend, and getting to Vegas... it all happened within like two weeks because of shitty planning on their management’s part. How shitty was it? I had to book my flight days before concert tickets even became available. There were like three seats left on the plane when I purchased my tickets because it was such a last minute decision. It was scary because tour stops were being canceled left and right too... so I didn’t even feel confident that I’d even see JYJ when I got to Vegas. Like I said, I took a huge leap of faith! After more than a year of barely keeping up with 동방신기, my actions felt a little bizarre. It was like I was possessed.

And then more freakin’ drama. JYJ’s working VISAs are denied. So it looks it the whole thing’s gonna be called off right? Actually, no. They’re allowed to perform as long as they don’t profit from the tour. What the three guys do next pretty much sucks all the wind out of me. They tell their fans that the show will go on. The three stops in NY, LV, and LA will go on. So not only are they not making any money off of the tour, they’re pretty much paying for the entire cost of holding the showcases themselves. Their commitment was their way of showing their fans how much they cared about them and how much they appreciated them. When I look at pictures of stars and watch them perform, they appear as untouchable idols/celebrities in my mind. They don’t really seem human or of this world. Their world is not a part of my reality. There’s a huge sense of detachment. So for JYJ to reach out to their fans and return the love they receive in this unthinkable way was something I could never imagine. If anyone needs proof that JYJ is not in the business for the money, this is it right here. They do what they do because they are passionate about their work and they love their fans. It’s hard to not feel touched.

I’m happy to say that all the stress was worth it. We originally bought balcony seats for the showcase, but since we paid for our seats before the whole VISA-rejection-hence-refunds issue was announced, we got bumped up to row M... which is pretty darn close if you ask me. The turnout was nowhere near as large as NY’s but I think most people on the west coast opted to go to the later LA show. Las Vegas is more of a vacation destination than an Asian community with a lot of Kpop fans. If I had to guess, I’d say most of the audience there had to fly in from somewhere to see the show. But if you think about the shoddy logistical setup during the two weeks before the showcase, it would be a miracle that anyone would even bother to show up if it were any other artist(s) performing. That tells you something about their fans’ devotion. They truly have the best fans in the world.

The showcase was wild. I don’t even how to describe the experience. Words are simply words. It was definitely the loudest I’ve ever screamed at a concert and I’m not a screamer. I know that I was singing along to all of the songs, but I can’t be completely sure because I couldn’t hear myself at all. The song lineup was as follows: Empty, Be the One, Be My Girl, 찾았다 (from Yoochun’s drama, 성균관 스캔들 which is now one of my all-time favorite Kdramas... and NOT because Yoochun is in it... but that’s an entirely different story), Ayy Girl, and a remixed version of Empty to close the show. ‘Empty’ is probably the strongest track off their new English record, 'The Beginning' but since I’m a sucker for slow jams, I’d have to say ‘Be My Girl’ is my personal favorite. ‘Ayy Girl (ft. Kanye West & Malik Yusef)’ is the main track but I was never really fond of it (to be honest, I couldn’t stand it at first) but it has since grown on me after hearing it live. Honestly, listening to audio versions of the songs simply don’t do the trio justice. Hearing them live and watching them live was much more thrilling and satisfying. And while I love all three for different reasons, I’d have to say Junsu’s performance killed me. Most people recognize Yunho for his dance skills, but Junsu has a different style that I prefer and will always be my bias when it comes to dancing... so seeing him do his thing right in front of my eyes was unbelievable. And yes, they all look better in person (they glowed), if that’s possible.

Around the showcase midpoint, the MCs conducted a mini interview with the guys. The funniest moment was when they answered the question, “What are the best/most memorable gifts you’ve ever received from your fans?” Junsu said something about drawings... but Jaejoong’s answer was “UNDERWEAR.” He actually said panties... but you get the idea. He was really shy about it too. Hilarious. Yoochun, being the total sweetheart that he is, said, “His fans’ love.” Is that not the sweetest thing ever? I seriously love him. They also mentioned that they would be making a music video for ‘Empty’ pretty soon. Since it’s a fan favorite, the crowd went wild.

Everyone was high on adrenaline throughout the show. Even the couple of Korean women seated directly behind us yelling for us to sit down could hardly dampen the mood. NO ONE was sitting down. Seriously, if you need to sit down, you should not be attending a JYJ event. Like, what the hell are you even doing here? The showcase was rather short as it was never intended to be a full-length concert but a short showcase of ‘The Beginning.’ I do wish that they performed their solos off the album (‘Still in Love’ by Jaejoong, ‘I Can Soar’ by Junsu, and ‘I Love You (ft. Flowsik)’ by Yoochun), but who am I to complain? The whole frickin’ showcase was free!

The best moment of my life was yet to come though.

Before and after the showcase, we hung out with a new friend we met, a fellow fan from California (the nicest person ever!) who actually followed the trio to NY, showed up for the LV show, and also planned to go to the LA show. Talk about dedication! While I’ve been a fan for about seven years, she’s only known them for about one year. She was kind enough to lend me her light stick for the show... but when I returned it to her, the whole plastic tube was gone, only the light and cord remained. Apparently, in my excitement, I shook it too hard during the show and destroyed the stick. T_T

Still drunk on excitement, my sister, our friend and I caught a cab to the Palms. We had (or rather our friend had) brilliantly deduced that JYJ would be staying at the Palms based on the view in the picture Junsu posted on his twitter upon arriving in Vegas. I’m not sure if he was asking to be stalked or if he was truly naïve enough to think that his fans wouldn’t be able to track him down. It was all just for fun... so we’d be able to say that we stalked the boys to their hotel. I seriously never thought that we’d actually see them in person. My only explanation for my uncharacteristic behavior is that when you’re in Vegas, you tend to do things you normally wouldn’t do.

We didn’t see them right away... we wandered around for quite a bit before our friend lead us to an elevator that opened into a long hallway with two conveyor belts going in opposite directions. The mood was light and the jazz music playing in the hallways created a romantic ambiance. We had no clue what we were doing and where we were going really.

And then I saw him.

I saw Jaejoong first while standing on one side of the hallway. I couldn’t believe it at first really. He was wearing a white tee with a blazer over it and had dark shades on and seriously glowed. I spotted him first because of his hair. The color was unmistakable. I seriously doubted myself at first. Was I going mad? To be imagining something so crazy? Maybe it was just someone who looked like his twin. It never occurred to me that we would actually spot them so I couldn’t believe it was true. And then I caught a glimpse of Yoochun walking toward us and my heart stopped. Junsu wasn’t with the two but their manager (or somebody) was right behind the two. I seriously froze and couldn’t say anything. At the closet point, I think we were literally five feet away from them as we crossed each other. Within freakin’ touching distance. The air around them felt different. It was so surreal. My greatest regret was not saying something... anything! Like... “Thank you for the amazing show!” Or something! Our friend did the most out of all us and actually went up to them to ask them... “Excuse me; are you Jaejoong and Yoochun from JYJ? Can we get a picture?” It was pretty much impossible to get a picture together because they were walking really fast with the annoying conveyor belts separating us. It was like a scene straight out from a movie. Apparently Yoochun had acknowledged our friend and smiled at her before they disappeared from our view. What she did was more than I ever could. My sister actually had her camera out but didn’t take anything due to shock. So we actually have no proof except in our hearts and minds that this event even took place. Not a single picture or autograph. Just a memory. To think, if we had only arrived a minute later, we could have caught them in the frickin’ elevator! It didn't even occur to me that maybe I should turn around at the end of the belt follow them. I just felt very disoriented. My poor heart was working in overdrive. We spent the rest of the day in a complete daze and asked ourselves, “What the fuck just happened?” Needless to say, I had a very hard time sleeping that night. To think that we pretty much had a private moment with JYJ is unimaginable. The hallway was completely empty besides the six of us (me, my sister, our friend, Jaejoong, Yoochun, and their manager). It was quiet. There were no fangirls surrounding them, no one chasing them down. Just six people in a hallway.

As if he had telepathic abilities, what I felt that night is summed up pretty well in a message Jaejoong posted on twitter:

(Jaejoong) There were times when I thought... Fans are just fans, but that's not true. I would see people having a hard time or feeling happy because of me, and when I looked back on myself, there were many times when I would have a hard time or would feel happy because of my fans. We have an existence like that of nature ~ There is no No.1. Though we each have names that were given to us... (4:24pm KST)

(Jaejoong) From a certain time, and from a certain point, if we think of something different, respect each other... and love each other, everything eventually... everyone will become brighter. Thank you so much! The end to a 25 year-old's diary entry. (4:26pm KST)

(Jaejoong) Hahaha. There were times when she thought of me as just another celebrity... To the person who wrote the same words as me after I finished writing. I know how you feel. It would have been a great misfortune if I had ended my career as a celebrity without ever knowing that such a bond could exist. (4:31pm KST)

I think everyone around me during that weekend mentioned and all JYJ fans can agree that there are certain celebrities or idols that you grow to admire or love, but that’s where it stops. With JYJ, it’s the first time we’ve ever felt our love being returned. They make incredible efforts to reach out and connect to their fans on a deeper level. So in a way, I think their celebrity/idol labels are completely inappropriate. The love truly goes both ways. And.... that's an incredible realization.


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