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Which Coast is The Best Coast? A Comparison of KCON 2017 NY vs LA

By Kaitlin Cunanan | April 27, 2018 08:28 PM EDT

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In celebration of KCON USA 2018, we thought we'd take it back a bit and give a first-timer's review a comparision on which coast may have been the best coast on their own opinion from last year's All Things Hallyu festivities.

The East Coast vs. West Coast feud is a long-standing feud, so it makes sense that the debate continues into the two stops of KCON USA: KCON NY, held at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, and KCON LA, held at the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center in California. Here's a comparison of the two!

LINEUP / SCHEDULE

Just from a glance, the line-up is where KCON LA wins by a landslide. KCON NY's line-up included GFriend, KNK, SF9, Zion.T, NCT 127, Twice, UP10TION, and headliners CNBLUE and Highlight. Although the nine artist line-up was a new record for KCON NY, in numbers, it was topped by KCON LA's acts: Cosmic Girls, Girl's Day, SEVENTEEN, SF9, Super Junior's subunit D&E, Vixx, Astro, GOT7, Heize, KARD, NCT127, and Wanna One. KCON LA also added Oh My Girl and Kim Tae Woo to their Sunday line-up as featured star guests for a total of fourteen artists!

KCON LA also lasted three days, compared to KCON NY's two, although both conventions only include two days of concerts. The extra day, extending KCON LA from Friday to Sunday, allows for more time to explore the convention's activities, get freebies, and makes Friday night's Klub KCon feel less like a 'prologue' to the excitement of KCON and more like another fun event to end the day with a bang. (It's what she deserves!)

CONVENTION

As someone who frequents the convention scene (New York Comic Con, Katsucon, etc!) KCON LA was a convention in all the best ways: overwhelming and exciting, with so much to see and so many freebies! In comparison, KCON NY felt more akin to a flea market than an actual convention.

KCON LA's convention, held in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, was home to many different 'zones': a Sponsor Zone right in front of the entrance where you could get freebies like tote bags and electric fans, a Beauty Block where you could sample and purchase various Korean skin care and makeup products; a Korea Zone that hosted booths selling goods from every aspect of Korean culture (makeup, skincare, fashion and more miscellaneous items like toothbrushes!); a KCon Game Zone, a Marketplace in the back where you could buy merch like albums, hats, accessories, and plushies; and the CJ Cultureplex at the heart of it all, filled with even more sponsors holding freebies to collect. Off to the side were two stages: one, where you could learn KPOP dances and another, where you could watch various performances from guests like JunCurryAhn and Smyang Piano. On the second floor of the West Hall were rooms for panels, workshops, and noraebang. In addition to the convention programming, KCON LA also included a KCON Food Street in association with the Ktown Night Market with over thirty food, beverage, and dessert stands.

KCON NY, held outdoors, had two 'zones'. Zone A hosted a stage for dance workshops, long tents where you could taste Korean food and dance along to K-pop, large tents that hosted panels and workshops, and a small 'Beauty Block' where you could score deals on face masks and Korean skincare. The Sponsor Zone was a street set-up with sponsored tents full of freebies, with the Convention Stage at the end of it. Beyond the Convention Stage and across the street was Zone B: the KCON Market, where tents hosted a mixture of vendors selling K-pop albums and fan-made art, food stands serving Korean street food, and a large, air-conditioned tent home to the Amazon Mobile eSports Zone.

Overall, the KCON LA convention showed the advantages of being inside an actual (air-conditioned!) convention center and expressed its seniority of six years, compared to KCON NY's three. KCON LA housed wayyyy more sponsors, more activities, and thus more excitement and fun for attendees.

However, there were several areas where KCON NY's convention portion triumphed over its LA counterpart: namely, their gaming zone and the placement of their convention stage and panels. KCON NY's Amazon Mobile eSports Zone was a behemoth of areas to try out new games, a booth to purchase merch from eSports teams like Immortals and Counter Logic Gaming, and it even hosted the Mobile Masters Invitational that garnered over 20,000 concurrent viewers on streaming platforms. In comparison, KCON LA's Game Zone included a crane game and several rhythm game machines. It was pretty disappointing on KCON LA's part, especially when eSports is such a large part of Korean culture that's normally overlooked.

KCON NY's Convention Stage was placed in between their populous Zone A and Zone B; the location was guaranteed a lot of traffic from attendees, and thus it was really easy for performers to catch the attention of passer-bys and gain a larger audience. In comparison, KCON LA's Convention Stage was tucked in the back corner of the convention center. It wasn't exactly hidden, but you wouldn't exactly chance upon performances that you weren't already interested in.

Similarly, while KCON NY's panel tents were in their convention complex and easy to just stumble into, KCON LA's separate floor for panels made it difficult for attendees busy with collecting freebies or going to fan engagements to just stop by and catch some panelists.

FAN ENGAGEMENTS

At the heart of it, both KCON NY and KCON LA accomplish what fan engagements are for: fun events where fans can see and interact with their idols. Both stops started off with a fan-submitted Q&A for the idols. While KCON NY's fan engagements followed with a game of charades, KCON LA used a large, plush dice, with each number corresponding to a different activity the idol would need to complete: aegyo, a part-switch, singing their favorite k-pop song, and doing a sexy dance among them. So much blessed fan-service.

CONCERT

The most notable difference between KCON NY and KCON LA's concert is the stage set-up: KCON NY featured an S-type stage, one main stage with two outer platforms to perform on, while KCON LA used a square platform placed in the middle of the arena. Both set-ups have their benefits and their drawbacks.

At KCON NY, performers would come out onto the main stage, perform a song, introduce themselves, and then continue to the outer 'arms' of the stage for their subsequent songs. During the finale of the concert, all the the night's acts would gather at the outermost 'arm' to say goodbyes (and give fans plenty of fanservice; even taking fans' phones for a quick selfie!) before returning to the main stage and saying goodbye once again. To the majority of concert viewers, visibility wasn't an issue - however, the same can't be said for the highest paying members in the Diamond and Platinum pit, who had close-up views of the backsides of their idols for a good portion of songs.

That same problem was even more severe at KCON LA, which featured a 360º stage. Because of the large amount of performances, each act performed around three songs. The majority of groups split up their time by performing two songs towards the Diamond, Platinum, and P1 ticket holders and another facing the P2 ticket holders on the other side. Several groups, like K.A.R.D, GOT7, Wanna One, and WJSN made the most of it by adapting choreography to change the side they perform to  mid-song. Seventeen, in particular, took advantage of their large size by spreading out their thirteen members along the entire edge of the stage during their performances of Rock and Very Nice. While the majority of attendees were able to easily see performers from their seats and on the broadcasting screens, the issue lies, once again, with those in the pit. For those up against the barrier surrounding the stage, it was impossible to crane your head to look up at the screens above; therefore for songs performed on the opposite side and in the middle of the stage (ex. VIXX's Shangri-La and SEVENTEEN's Swimming Fool) many were left blind, and disappointed.

Special stages between KCON NY and KCON LA differed as well, although each featured two special stages per day. Both shows paid homage to senior groups with SF9 performing a boy group medley and Twice performing a JYP girl group medley at KCON NY, and SF9 and Cosmic Girls collaborating on a Sorry Sorry stage and Astro and Kim Tae Woo collaborating on a g.o.d medley at KCON LA. At KCON NY, the rest of the special stages celebrated New York with 'Broadway'-style performances by GFriend's Yuju and Highlight's Dongwoon, and UP10TION. On the other hand, KCON LA took advantage of their wildly popular boy-group appearances: GOT7 and SEVENTEEN who doubled as the show's closers. On Saturday, SEVENTEEN performed in their respective Performance, Vocal, and Hip-hop units, and on Sunday, two members of GOT7, JB and Jinyoung, took the stage as JJ Project. The 'fan-service' portion of the concert came in the form of 'Fortune Wheel' at KCON NY and 'Pinata Time' at KCON LA, both leading to cute, heart-warming moments

The drawbacks of KCON LA having such an extensive line-up manifested in having to shorten the stage times of all performers in comparison to KCON NY. At KCON NY, NCT 127 was able to perform five songs: their three title tracks, Firetruck, Limitless, and Cherry Bomb, and their hit B-sides Good Thing and 0 Mile. At KCON LA, the returning performers only performed the three title tracks, although they did add in a hard-hitting new intro dance. But nonetheless, KCON LA's concert was a time where quality and quantity did overlap - and KCON NY's concert was just as exciting. However, KCON LA later faced some criticism, as they invited performances regarded as the 'Kings of K-Pop', or Super Junior's D&E sub-unit and g.o.d's Kim Tae Woo, and shined the spotlight more heavily on popular acts of recent times (SEVENTEEN, GOT7, Wanna One) rather than reigning veterans. KCON NY, on the other hand, headlined with their veteran performers Highlight and CNBLUE.

CONCLUSION

From the seemingly endless amount of sponsors, freebies, and events to the wide range of food choices to an unbelievably packed concert line-up, I'd have to say that KCON LA 2017 definitely triumped over its NY counterpart. However, it's also been established for twice as long as KCON NY has and uses this seniority to the fullest. KCON NY has shown a lot of growth in attendance and sponsors in its three years, and I'm excited to see how this East Coast vs. West Coast feud continues.

As Summer makes its way this year with KCON New York taking dates again at the Prudential Center on June 23 and 24 then at Staples Ceneter on August 10 to 12, it will only be a matter of time to see what exciting new things (and artists) will take place.

Tickets for the KCON New York will go on sale on May 11 at 3 p.m. ET while the convention tickets go up for sale on May 14 at 3 p.m.

For more information tickets, lineups and KCON visit www.kconusa.com.

Be sure to follow @KpopStarzLive for updates on KCON USA or live Hallyu event coverage!

Tagged :  KCON, LA, ny, concert

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