It may have been the festival’s UK debut, but HallyuPopFest was far from the audience’s first look into K-Pop.
When I heard that London was hosting a K-Pop festival, my ears perked up. When I heard that the group I’ve followed since their pre-debut days, ONEUS, was performing there, I quite literally offered my computer monitor my debit card. “Take my money. All of it.” It’s been a decade since I became a fan of K-Pop, the charms of SHINee working their magic. However, it’s been ten years with a lack of live music for me. It’s always been too far, or too expensive for me to justify, but HallyuPopFest was practically on my doorstep. I was going no matter what.
This festival my first time seeing K-Pop performances in person, sure. But HPF was also the first time that many of the artists had stepped foot in Europe. It was a joy to hear about their activities in the city and to see them meeting fans. During the live shows, you could tell that the crowd surprised some of the artists. I doubt they’re ever going to forget those moments. Both the artists and the fans, that is!
But, let’s take a deeper look into the event, shall we?
Note: I took most of the pictures in this post. Admittedly, their quality isn’t all that great, due to the amount of zoom. I had seats in a high tier – N5 at OVO Arena Wembley. My phone battery had drained and, on Day One, it didn’t manage past ONEUS. I took screenshots from HallyuPopFest’s YouTube for the acts that appeared after ONEUS because of this.
Day One of HallyuPopFest
Before each Evening Concert, each day had an Artist Showcase. This was where two acts were given extra time to let the crowd get to know them a little better.
On the first day, Sam Kim was the first to take the stage. Carrying his own acoustic guitar, he was joined on stage by Simon – a keyboardist. Not only did Sam Kim impress the crowd with his discography, performing songs such as These Walls and Where’s My Money? but he also impressed the crowd with his charming personality. taking part in challenges such as improvising a song about apples and serenading fans in the audience. Simon also won the crowd over by simply being Simon, it seemed!
HallyuPopFest wasted no time. Within minutes of Sam Kim finishing his Artist Showcase, P1HARMONY was coming onto the stage for theirs, their energetic discography – a contrast to Sam Kim’s – instantly changing the vibes in the arena. Performing hits such as Siren and BOP, it’s clear that this boy group’s songs provide exactly what they say on the tin! There was no time to rest for P1HARMONY, though, as the challenge for their showcase was a Random Dance challenge. Here, the members showed that their dancing talents areren’t just limited to their own choreography. They danced along to tracks by SF9, ITZY and aespa to name just a few.
The Artist Showcase acts also had a slot (albeit a shorter one) in the Evening Concert. That being said… It wasn’t long before, arguably, the more anticipated acts appeared on stage.
The Evening Concert
As a fan, I will admit that ONEUS’ set just seemed to fly by for me. However, it was clear that the entire arena had been swayed by ONEUS’ performances. Even Rhian Daly from NME said they were the most impressive act from Day One! For me, it was a dream come true seeing LUNA and the Road to Kingdom version of LIT performed live. I’ve always thought these tracks were beautiful and they’re stunning to see in person. Hearing the English version of Life is Beautiful was surprising, but I’m also glad they included it in their setlist. The more concepts they can show off the better, right? They are the newest Concept Kings of K-Pop for a reason, after all!
After ONEUS came EVERGLOW, a group who I had big expectations for. I’ve been jamming out to their title tracks since their debut, so I knew their songs would provide the right energy for the rest of the night. It’s safe to say though, that those big expectations were met… and somewhat exceeded. Opening with Adios, their impact on the UK crowd was infectious. It was clear by the fan chants that the crowd absolutely loved the girls on stage, a feeling returned by the members, who expressed their love to the fans as they left the stage.
Perhaps the most unexpected set of the night was ASTRO’s. Going into the festival, I was personally looking forward to hearing popular title tracks. What I didn’t expect was their sub-unit formation, causing just a little bit of confusion for the first third when only two members were on stage! Despite missing Eunwoo and MJ from the performances, the other four members of ASTRO still delivered great performances of Lockdown (performed by Rocky and Jinjin) and Bad Idea (performed by Moon Bin and Sanha) among other tracks before uniting on stage as a four-piece to perform Candy Sugar Pop.
Following on from her labelmates’ performance earlier in the night, Hwa Sa delivered one of the best performances of the festival. Full of energy, full of literal girl power, Hwa Sa absolutely dominated the stage in London. Her vocals in songs such as Bless U were amazing, and her dancing for performances such as Twit was seemingly flawless. I simply can’t imagine how it must have felt for her to hear so many people sing along to Maria – a song which has such an empowering meaning as it is. I was getting goosebumps as a member of the crowd myself!
Sadly, all things must come to an end… But not before EXO’s Chen closes the show! Okay, I’m going to admit something here: I’ve never really paid much attention to Chen’s solo career. I know, I know, it’s somewhat blasphemous. Chen’s performance was impressive. The singer, who humbly confessed to being nervous on the night, has absolutely incredible vocals and delivered an emotional, yet relaxing performance to wrap up the first day of the festival. Despite not being the biggest K-Drama consumer myself, I absolutely adore the song Everytime from the Descendants of the Sun soundtrack, and I may have had a couple of tears forming upon hearing this live. Chen, don’t worry – you have my attention now.
Click here to go to page 2 to find out what happened on the second day!