HallyuPopFest, the first and the biggest indoor K-pop festival in the UK, was mainly aimed at fans of K-pop music. TEG MJR, the worldwide producers, venue operators, and entertainment industry innovators, also ambitiously hoped to create an event that would be a great introduction to the universe of Korean pop for those unfamiliar with the genre.
Taking place over the weekend (July 9th and 10th) at the prestigious Wembley Arena, a few thousand fans gathered at the venue. Over two days, the audience experienced K-pop like they have never seen before in London. There were 14 acts presented in total, with seven artists performing on each day. Saturday saw talents such as Sam Kim, P1Harmony, ONEUS, Everglow, Astro, Hwasa of Mamamoo, and Chen of EXO. Sunday’s guests were as exciting as those performing on Saturday night: Paul Kim, Weeekly, Cravity, CIX, Kep1er, SF9, and Kai of EXO, whose performance closed the HallyuPopFest. It was a weekend to remember.
Judging by the promotion this event was subject to by its promoters, PR company, and fans on social media, the festival was quite successful. Although prices for VIP tickets were very expensive, that didn’t discourage fans from purchasing the tickets. General admission was also pricey, however, most of the audience wasn’t disheartened by it either.
After attending the red-carpet event, VIPs were escorted to do the Hi-Wave event with their favourite idols. And on both days, and prior to the evening concerts, the festival introduced two artists who got to showcase their work… But let’s talk about Saturday first.
The doors opened and a few thousand K-pop fans flooded into the arena. The first artist presenting his talent was Sam Kim, a producer and singer-songwriter known for hits such as Who Are You (Goblin OST), Summer Rain (Our Beloved Summer OST), and Sun and Moon. Although Sam was the first artist to come on stage, he truly knew how to entertain everyone. Accompanied by Simon Petrén, a producer and songwriter, and Sam’s acoustic guitar, the artists played Sam’s favourite songs, including These Walls and Touch My Body. The singer certainly attracted many with his voice, smile and sweet personality. Being an opening act of any kind brings its own risks, but Sam pulled it off on all levels. While one wished he sang more songs during his showcase and the evening concert, HallyuPopFest came up with challenges for each artist to attempt instead. It was fun to watch some idols, but at times, it became boring. Even though the audience enjoyed it, some might think that the time spent on those challenges should have been spent on the artists’ performances.
P1Harmony was the next act to follow. To the deafening screams of their fans, the group appeared on stage and showed what they were made of. With strong choreography and fancy outfits, the idols performed hits such as Siren, BOP and the high-powered Follow Me, which made the audience jump up and down. One thing that many were irritated by was a lack of proper translation or no translation at all. Most of P1Harmony’s conversations on stage weren’t translated, and the promoters should have known better – not every K-pop fan speaks Korean. But putting this issue aside, P1Harmony delivered and entertained the audience for sure.
One thing has to be mentioned as well, the staging for each artist was excellent on both Saturday and Sunday. The visuals, digital art, and lighting was top-notch. And this was even more visible when Sam Kim showed up again for his evening concert and performed Make Up and Love Me Like That. That said, when ONEUS appeared to demonstrate their skills, we were left speechless. What a show it was! Singing live and dancing at the same time truly impressed us. With their charismatic performance, one now understands why they are so appreciated by those who are not even into K-pop. Their high-energy song, Bring It On, swept us off our feet. The group also performed Luna, Life is Beautiful, Black Mirror, and No Diggity. It was easy to appreciate their vocal artistry as, in general, not many idols take on the task of singing live while dancing. This is not a criticism towards anyone who lip-syncs while dancing, not at all. However, when you see artists who do choose to sing live and dance simultaneously, they definitely deserve triple applause.
Everglow shined with their bright personalities and gorgeous outfits. They kicked off their short performance with Adios, followed by Bon Bom Chocolat and Pirate. Even though the group debuted just before the pandemic hit the world, the girls managed to stay afloat and build a healthy career for themselves. After completing their HallyuPopFest challenges, Everglow also sang Dun Dun and ended their show with Ladida. The girls should be so proud of their performance! The fifth act that entered the arena’s stage was ASTRO, well, rather its first unit – JinJin&Rocky – who performed Just Breath, a funky and catchy dance song. Moonbin and Sanha sang Bad Idea before the quartet joined their forces for Candy Sugar Pop.
There is no denial that these aforementioned artists delivered beautifully, however, when Hwasa of Mamamoo, a queen of everything, appeared on stage, the crowd went absolutely crazy over her, including us. The singer smashed the stage with her superb choreography, vocals, charisma, and beauty. Hwasa is like a magnet, she attracts with her personality, charm, and talent. She began her show with Twit, followed by I am B and Maria, one of her biggest hits to date. Hwasa’s dancers were incredible and really complemented her performance. The artist also sang Bless U, and concluded her show with Nobody Else, another well-polished song. There is no doubt that the audience had a great time listening to Hwasa’s kaleidoscopic performance.
The act that closed the Saturday event was the one and only Chen of EXO. While we are massive admirers of the singer’s talent, we all thought he should have performed before Hwasa as finishing a huge K-pop event with ballads might not have been the best idea. Chen performed 6 songs, including our two favourites, Beautiful Goodbye and Best Luck. The singer brought the show to an end with Everytime, an OST track from a very popular TV Drama, Descendant of the Sun. Undoubtedly, Chen delivered a mind-blowing vocal performance.
Meanwhile, the vibe was different on Sunday, maybe because everyone was excited to see Kai of EXO. Paul Kim and Weeekly had their showcases ahead of the main evening concert. After that, Paul Kim kicked off the show with his incredible performance. Dressed in a pastel blue suit, the singer-songwriter used his great command of English to communicate with the audience. He sang Coffee with Me, one of his first songs which was released back in 2014. With his flawless vocals and pleasant stage presence, Paul grooved with the London audience for the first time in his career. Afterwards, the singer sang two more songs: One More Time from his latest EP, Star, and Me After You, a song that was released in 2018. The artist captured the audience with his amazing voice and enchanting personality. Weeekly was the next group to perform, and they were as charismatic as Everglow.
Weeekly gave their all; they performed 5 songs, including Hello and After School, and they ended their show with Venpara. The fans cheered and danced along to their music as much as they danced to the next act that appeared on stage, Cravity.
Cravity delighted the audience with songs such as Adrenaline, Veni Vidi Vici, Bad Habits, Mammoth, and Jumper. The boy group has often shown that they are capable of performing well. Always full of energy and with an impressive stage appearance, it was a pleasure to watch them. The same goes for CIX and Kep1er. While CIX entranced the crowd with Jungle, Movie Star, Everything, Bad Dream, Cinema, and 20, Kep1er performed 5 songs, including Wa Da Da, Mvsk, and Up!. Both groups kept their fans entertained throughout their performances. CIX are very talented young men, but they have to show more confidence in their skills – we feel that they can give us more, performance-wise, than they have already given. Kep1er were also capable of delivering an engaging show, considering that was their first overseas performance.
The last two acts were SF9 and Kai of EXO. With only 6 members (Rowoon is currently concentrating on his acting career, while Youngbin and Inseong are serving in the military), SF9 presented an exciting performance! In spite of experiencing some issues with the sound and wardrobe, that didn’t stop them from bringing an immense energy to the stage. Have you all heard Zuho performing a cappella? This is what we call being professional. The group performed Good Guy, Tear Drop, Now or Never, Stop it Now, Play Hard, and finished with Love Again, an incredible song. With choreography and mostly heart-pumping tracks dominating the concert, the crowd screamed so much that some in the attendance must have regretted not bringing earplugs along for the ride. With their unique approach to pop, SF9 is a force to be reckoned with.
HallyuPopFest came to an end with an outstanding performance from Kai. Known for his visuals and exceptional choreography, the crowd was fully satisfied with his show. Despite the wardrobe malfunction during the show, Kai managed to quickly change and smoothly return to finish his performance. The artist began his performance with Peaches, followed by Vanilla, and Reason. His sleek dancing swayed the fans off their feet, and he concluded the HallyuPopFest with an enticing song, Mmmh.
HallyuPopFest, although pricey, gathered huge crowds. The line-up was great and there was something for everyone. It is worth mentioning that the red-carpet event that took place a few hours before both concerts was presented by a charming and energetic Nathan Von Cho, a fantastic violinist. We do hope that HallyuPopFest returns next year with a bigger line-up. Until next time!
Written by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts, and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.