Third in my de-facto series of pointlessly long write-ups of my experiences at AOA events in Japan, for people who may not have the chance to experience it themselves.
The blood is still returning to my fingers from writing up the RUNWAY release event just last weekend, and here’s another concert already. What kind of schedule are these people on?
TL;DR: AOA held a big concert near Tokyo. But their backup bands hogged the stage for like 4 hours. Pictures here.
Why creepy? In December? Not a clue. America does its scary ghost thing in October, Japan does it in August, I don’t know about Korea. FNC probably just made it up.
Disclaimer: Since during the concert I was busy waving my hands in the air like I just didn’t care, I neglected to take detailed notes on exactly who performed what, and when. I’ll just give you the highlights as I remember them. Order may vary, and there’s the additional underlying problem that my knowledge is often limited to “The CNBLUE guy,” “The Other CNBLUE guy,” and the like. The Blu-ray will probably be out in May—we can all get the full play-by-play from that.
I paid for my “Kingdom Seat” ticket (¥21,016 including tax, available to fan-club members only) via the Ace of Elvis Japan fan club at the beginning of September, and finally got the ticket in the mail 2 weeks prior to the concert. There were also non-Kingdom seats available for a bit less.
The way it’s set up is that they just take all the orders and assign everybody’s seats randomly, so there’s no use ordering at precisely 12:01 AM the first day or anything like that. Put another way, as long as they’re both members of one fan club or another, the laziest last-minute person might get better seats than the sharpest, on-the-ball fan who orders immediately. So like it or hate it, everybody’s at the same level here.
Included with my ticket was an extra ticket for a post-concert event called the “Creepy 夜会” (which can be clumsily translated to “Creepy Nighttime Meeting”). I’ll just call it the after-event. This was a drawing from among the people who’d ordered the Kingdom Seats, and somehow I won. Or they thought having a foreigner there would be exotic and gave it to me. Either way, yay! Good thing I’d already planned on staying the night after the concert, because now I’d never make the train home to Osaka.
I chose the second day’s concert mostly arbitrarily because somehow that’s the best? I dunno.
Sunday, December 11, 12:18 PM: Arrive at Kaihin-Makuhari Station
A Shinkansen ride east to Tokyo, followed by a half-hour express to Kaihin-Makuhari Station. Clear blue sky, kind of chilly.
Goods are scheduled to go on sale at 1 PM, venue doors open at 3, concert should begin at 4 PM. I’m nice and early.
It’s too early to check into my hotel, so dragging my belongings behind me I go to check out the venue.
The International Exhibition Hall
is one of three? main areas in Makuhari Messe, a convention center east of Tokyo, not so far from Tokyo Disneyland. It’s a big, open, rectangular building that can be subdivided into three parts, Halls 9, 10, and 11. FNC Kingdom rents the entire thing out for 2+ days and converts Halls 9 & 10 into a single open performance area, with Hall 11 being divided off to act as the place to sell their goods.
When I arrive there are scattered groups of 2-3 people sitting here and there, but nothing approaching a crowd, 2 hours before entry. I should have been suspicious…
Over by the end of Hall 9 there are floor-to-ceiling windows, behind which assorted staff members are eating lunch and wondering why this guy with a suitcase is standing there looking at them.
I’m only partially focused on them. The real reason I’m standing there is that through the walls I can clearly hear the deep bass of what sounds like CNBLUE practicing. My fuzzy mental map informs me that the concert stage is at the near end of Hall 9, right there behind that window. That’s kind of neat, but I’m not going to groove to the entire concert right out here, so I wander on. (If it’d been AOA practicing I like to think that I’d have pulled a blinky light out of nowhere and waved it around until they escorted me away.)
Outdoor stairs lead up to the main entrance level, and through the windows of the empty entrance hall I can see some FNC Kingdom posters, and rows of creepy-themed paper bags they’ll apparently be passing out. Inside I can also see a group of staff members getting some kind of briefing.
Oddly, I clearly hear a brief clip of Good Luck
on the wind. But it’s CNBLUE who’s practicing right now…where is this coming from? This was the second clue that I ignored.
Wandering down the steps I walk past the vehicle entrance where there are a couple of bored guards without traffic to direct, and from the nearest (closed) shutter now I can really hear CNBLUE practicing. Oddly, CNBLUE fans are not in evidence to sneak a listen to their favorite band. Again, if it’d been AOA I’d have loitered there and pretended to check my email for as long as required.
Extra: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid filming!
It’s turning 1 PM, and the goods are supposed to go on sale, somewhere, so I try to follow the confusing signs. Instead I wind up stumbling upon the shooting of a scene from the current Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid
Yes, the hot-pink masked hero with the googly eyes. They’re apparently on location at Makuhari, shooting action scenes. As a certain other
Kamen Rider is also there, I suspect they’re filming a scene from an upcoming movie rather than the TV series. We shall see.
No, seriously, we shall see: I watch Ex-Aid every Sunday.
This is entertainingly unexpected, but maybe it’s for a different after-report.
1:20 PM: Goods
Finally I see somebody with concert goods, and trace their route back to find out where I should go.
I’m aware I should have come here immediately when I first arrived an hour ago, except how the hell was I supposed to know that you get to Hall 11 by going away
from the main building then up this one pedestrian bridge and down this other stairway that leads you back into the parking lot, but not that
other stairway that leads you out to the street, and anyway it was a pain to get there. But I finally found it.
People are flowing in and out, many dragging suitcases like me (nobody can check in anywhere yet).
As I mentioned, Hall 11 isn’t used for the concert. Instead half of it is apparently used for absolutely nothing. Cordoned off, but empty.
Half of the remaining space is for the goods tables and the ensuing line, and the other half has banners of the various FNC acts that people are taking pictures of/with, and generally soaking in the “event”-ness. Speakers are blasting music, rotating through the FNC groups. (This is probably partially designed to stop people from very clearly hearing the groups themselves practicing, right behind that wall…)
There are about 200 people already lined up for goods, so I immediately line up, and then don’t move for 10 minutes. Occasionally AOA songs play: Oh, this is where Good Luck was coming from. If I’d followed up on that anomaly, I’d have gotten here earlier.
Announcements inform us that there’s a limit of 5 items available for purchase per person; if you want more, line up again. So I make my Christmas list and wait. Then suddenly like a dam bursting, 100 people drain out into the actual goods area and we surge forward just to stop again just short of the line-exit. Apparently they corral us and release us to the tables in bunches. I wait in line for about 15-20 minutes in total.
When I get to the table, almost EVERYTHING AOA-related is sold out! Literally the single AOA item left is a towel with a hood that has devil horns and comes with an AOA patch that you can attach with its safety pin. What? I don’t know why I’d even want this, but I buy it. It’s either a good thing that the AOA stuff is selling out because it’s popular, or sad that they aren’t preparing much of it to begin with. So much for 5 items.
Pro tip! Even if you’re seeing the 2nd day’s concert, go on day 1 and buy your stuff then, and stay the night somewhere—you don’t need a ticket to enter the goods zone.
Nearby there’s also a table selling CDs (separate from the rest of the goods). I could have bought two copies of RUNWAY and gotten a spiffy clear-folder as a bonus, except I kind of already have 10 copies. (I should make a mobile.)
I brought money, but there’s nothing for me to buy…
This area also has registration booths for each of the fan clubs. Seeing as you need to be a fan-club member to even purchase the Kingdom Seat tickets, I don’t know what sort of business they’re doing. But still it’s good to see them showing the AOE flag.
1:50 PM: Register for the After-Event
Now to figure out what to do for the Creepy Nighttime Meeting event.
There was a news post on the official AOA Japan site about how you have to do some registration thing in the goods area in Hall 11 in order to be let into the after-event, because the ticket they sent isn’t what actually gets you in. Important point: keep up on the website news! Showing up later with just my ticket would have sucked.
But the signs in the hall are as confusing as the signs outside. They seem to point toward the goods area, but that doesn’t look right. Somebody, just draw a map!
I can see that there’s an after-event table inside the goods area, so after buying my towel that’s where I go first. But it turns out to be just a bonus drawing for people who didn’t
have after-event tickets yet. So that’s not it. They direct me to another table.
Here we are. This table has lines for FTISLAND, CNBLUE, and AOA. Apparently nobody else has after-events? Even though you’d think it’s the groups with milder popularity that’d be the ones that would really want to connect with their fans.
I show my invitation card, my AOE member’s card (the first time it’s been useful for anything, ever), and my driver’s license to the nice lady there. (And she made a big point of comparing my photo with my face…seriously, how many other western AOA fans have you seen here today? I saw zero.)
Then they find my name and check it off of their list, highlight my name on my card (so none of those other foreigners clamoring to get into the AOA section of the after-event of this particular concert can use my card), and attach a hot-pink wristband made of tape to my arm, with “A-14” magic marker-ed on it. Guess what “A” is for. The number is from my invitation card, so just like the reserved concert seats, the numbers for this are pre-assigned as well.
This level of checking means that it’s quite difficult to sell or buy an after-event ticket—it’s locked to you by both membership card and photo ID. The people who attend really are the fan club members who won the tickets.
She then warns me that if the flimsy tape wristband gets messed up they won’t replace it, so I spend the entire concert being super careful not to tear it. Then later back at my hotel room, I found I had to resort to sharp implements to finally remove the damn thing from my wrist. No delicacy required—link two of these together and you’ve got hot-pink handcuffs.
Back at the table, I’m advised that after the concert ends we AOA after-event people are to come back here to Hall 11 and line up by the FTISLAND banner over there. Of course.
2:00 PM: Hotel
With my new horny towel in hand and sporting my hot-pink wristband I walk over to check in to my nearby hotel, drop off my suitcase and clear all the junk out of the bag I’m taking into the concert. I attach my AOE “bag tag” (that’s what that thing is called?) and new AOA patch to the bag: gotta show your colors. I was already wearing this summer’s AOA t-shirt under my unseasonably light jacket—I’m anticipating the concert to be pretty warm.
3:00: Line Up & Enter the Lobby
Back at the venue, there’s a sign directing us to split up into Kingdom Seat and non-Kingdom seat lines. Since more than half of the seating consists of Kingdom Seats, this is a big line. And our seats are all reserved, so why are we lining up again? But we do.
The outer doors open at 3:10. As we enter, the lobby is already filled with that concert smoke that makes their lights look cool. It’s already a little warm in here.
They rip our tickets (with OCD-level care—you do not tear off Chanmi’s feet!) then hand us assorted things: a bag of fliers, a light to strap to our wrists, and a Creepy Nights themed paper bag containing a Creepy Nights themed towel.
The bag of fliers contains a full-page ad for AOE, but oddly no fliers for the other fan clubs. The flier listing all the goods I can’t buy because they’re all sold out just sits there mocking me.
Then we stand in the lobby waiting to be let onto the floor. A lucky few have grabbed the handful of tables and chairs while the rest of us just stand there.
3:25 PM: Finally Reach the Floor
When the inner doors open we walk down one level to the main floor. Enough concert smoke here to make it creepy all by itself. It’s even warmer here—I soon stuff my jacket into my bag.
The stage has three large displays, and is made up in creepy fashion with bas-relief sculptures and banners and such, like you’re in a horror-movie castle. They’re playing video ads for the various fan clubs and sold-out goods as we wait.
People are milling around all over the place, in no hurry to get stuck in their seats any sooner than necessary.
The concert area fills Halls 9 and 10 of the International Conference Center
The main stage is at the far end of Hall 9, and has has a thin “Hanamichi”-type path that projects out about 30 rows, ending in a T-shaped secondary stage in the middle of Hall 9, that spans about 50 seats across. Aside from performers who are tied down, like drummers, people generally perform part of their acts at the main stage, and part out closer to the rest of the audience. There are a lot of people waaaay out there in the outfield of Hall 10, so you really need the secondary stage.
There are open areas all around the stage perimeter for cameras to move about. There’s a camera crane near the front, a camera tower on the left (but not on the right?), and camera crews wheeling their equipment around to chase the performers, with assistants chasing them to wrangle the cables. Also a control/mixing area in the far back where there aren’t any chairs.
As far as I can tell there are no seating charts available anywhere, just signs at the corners of each block telling you which row you’re at, and the numbers on the backs of the seats themselves. I wander about, trying and utterly failing to assemble an accurate map of the entire layout. A rough sketch’ll have to do.
The seats are rows of folding seats, in blocks of 10 across, numbered 1 through 134, and rows going back to 77. The blocks split when they approach the hanamichi and secondary stage, then pick up again on the other side.
Immediately in front of the camera tower there’s a raised wheelchair platform that gets you up to the right height when everybody’s standing up. A bit far back, but still good job there.
Since it’s a dividable convention center there are pillars in the middle between the two halls, resulting in corresponding gaps in the seating in their shadows. This leads to some odd seat placement as you go back in Hall 10—I notice a pair of isolated islands of loneliness, where six people are positioned out on their own in a vast sea of emptiness. Sitting there must have seriously sucked.
There’s also a large open area in the back of Hall 10 with no seats—only FNC knows whether it’s by design (being too far back for a good show), or because that’s just how many tickets they sold.
Essentially, “Kingdom Seat” means “Hall 9,” or “In front of the pillars.” “Regular Seat” means “Hall 10,” or “Behind the pillars.” (Fun note: last year the Kingdom Seats were called “VIP Seats,” leading to complaints online that “VIP” probably shouldn’t equal “every single seat in Hall 9.” Probably for the best that they renamed them this time.)
Let’s be blunt: The International Exhibition Hall is not a concert hall. This building is designed to hold trade-show booths, or maybe an auto show. An airplane would have fit, looking right at home. And the Hall has all the acoustic calibration you’d expect of the finest aircraft hangars.
And it’s flat, so if you sit down, and somebody in front of you stands up, that’s it, you’re screwed.
It’s preposterous as a concert hall, and I’m kind of mystified as to why they’re still using it three years in a row. Surely they’ve had to have realized that it’s mediocre as a venue. I mean, pillars? Maybe it’s the convenience of having all that flat space making it easy for them to film.
Or maybe it’s just super cheap!
This is of course made up by the quality of the performance, about which I have no complaints. This was a great concert, in a strange venue.
I discover that I’ve somehow been given an excellent seat in row 40, only 3 rows back from the left wing of the secondary stage. With the slight disadvantage that if I sit down I suddenly can’t see the main stage anymore since the secondary stage is in my face. (The displays I can watch on Blu-ray later.) So I have to stand up, meaning everybody behind me has to stand up too. This is happening to people all over the floor. Did I mention flat?
In an astonishing stroke of additional luck that I’m still wondering about, the two seats in front of me remain empty for the entire concert, and the two seats in front of them
, are empty up until halfway through. The people just never show up, or show up super late. That’s an 80,000 yen block of randomly-selected seating right there, empty. So my view is unnervingly unobstructed.
The female-male ratio is easily 90% F / 10% M, maybe 95/5. The power of FTISLAND, and CNBLUE, and N.Flying, and basically everybody who’s a guy (and thus not AOA) and packs in the female fans, is clearly evident. If this is representative of these events, then I can see why boy groups find it financially easier to break even than girl groups.
There are a relative handful of guys scattered around the floor, most wearing some AOA something. (Though I did see one outlier guy in a CNBLUE shirt.) AOA is the only female on-stage presence in the entire concert. Even Juniel has emigrated to another Kingdom since last time.
I’d estimate that the core fan affiliations are 40% FTISLAND, 40% CNBLUE, 10% AOA, and 10% combined Other. With a fair amount of overlap for everybody’s secondary affiliations, so it’s not like N.Flying is without fans or anything. Its just that the FNC Kingdom is essentially “The FTISLAND and CNBLUE concert, with special guests: Other People!” Whereas for me it’s “The medium-sized AOA concert, with a reeeally long opening act! And a pretty long closing act…” It’s lonely being Red (see the Wrist-Lights section, below).
At this point I realize that, as an AOE member, my chances for winning the after-event ticket for my group had been astronomically higher than any Boice or Primadonnas’. We’re drastically outnumbered, which winds up working out strongly in our favor in any sort of drawing! So maybe it was only mild luck that I won.
Although I don’t scan every single one of the zillion attendees, I see no “foreign” faces all night, other than my own. And I only saw that guy in the bathroom.
Being a non-cheap concert, the average attendee age is visibly higher than either the summer’s AOA concert or last week’s RUNWAY event. I think I have Granny Boice herself sitting behind me, talking about her boys’ feud with those no-good Island kids. I hope she’s able to see after I stand up…maybe I should have offered her the empty seat in front of me.
I also saw no cosplay whatsoever. What would an FTISLAND cosplay look like anyway? A puppy suit?
Boy, that “Put your hands in the air” thing the young-uns do these days is murder on the deltoids. Back in my day we concert-goers just held up our fire-hazard lighters and smoked our illegal joints and maybe threw blunt-trauma-hazard frisbees. Our hands were our own business.
The wrist-lights can be switched between red, yellow, and blue. And in my case, switched between left and right wrists between groups, because, ow.
Most bands have their designated color: Yellow for FTISLAND (or Hongi solo), blue for CNBLUE, guessed that one? (or either of The CNBLUE Guys’ solos), and red for AOA. Probably not coincidentally, these are also the colors used in the sold-out t-shirts and such.
N.Flying is also red, but people somehow still managed to tell them apart from AOA. The new ex-NEOZ groups seem to have no defined colors, so people just do whatever they wanted with their colors for them.
(In my hotel room 6 hours after concert-start, the battery on the light is already dead. Exquisite product-death calibration, not an electron wasted.)
A side note: I saw the synchronized-color wristbands in last years FNC Kingdom Blu-ray, and concocted in my mind an elaborate technologically elegant system whereby the lights are remotely controlled by a central wireless system to get everybody in sync…but no it’s just a little button you click until you don’t stand out like an idiot with a yellow light in a sea of blue. My system was much more awesome.
Given the above demographics, each of the 8 women’s restrooms on the concert floor (4 ladies’ rooms and 4 converted men’s rooms) have a Line From Hell leading into it, in the way only ladies’ rooms can. (One must presume that the urinals in the men’s rooms were simply ignored by all but the most desperate, though I admit I did not check.)
The single functioning men’s room is upstairs, next to a 9th overflowing ladies’ room with its own staggeringly long line, around which I lightly skip, whistling a happy tune on my way in. Where to my horror I find I have to wait seconds on end. Nine, maybe even ten seconds! The humanity!
4:18 PM-8:53: The Concert
A final announcement that they’ll be filming this concert (in case you missed the camera tower), and there’s a solid chance that your face will be visible on the Blu-ray release. So, basically, deal with it.
That out of the way…
2016 FNC Kingdom in Japan —Creepy Nights— begins!
Immediate spoiler: the concert lasted 4 and 1/2 hours, without an official intermission. Yikes. There are 2 or 3 mini-breaks of a minute or less between sets, but these are all of the (unspoken) “They’ll be out in just a second, hold on!” type, where the lights just haven’t come on yet. There were no scheduled breaks at all.
And you wondered why people were mobbing the restrooms?
On the screens a creepy Vampira type woman in a creepy castle speaking a creepy unknown language (but subtitled in Japanese) schemes to use her creepy powers to mind-control the FNC bands into fighting each other, in order to… to… escape her castle? Where she’s trapped, or something? And in the meantime she’ll introduce each group, who never seem to get around to doing her nefarious bidding.
I guess her creepy castle has satellite or broadband so she’s up to date on the latest K-Pop news.
After the end of the entire concert when everybody’s packing their bags she even shows up one more time with like, “Curses! Their awesome FNC-ness somehow gave them the power to resist….but you haven’t heard the last of me…bwa ha ha ha!” Everybody has to turn around and is like, oh is that still going?
Intro (Turn your wrist lights on!)
It starts with a dual piano number, by one guy in white, on a white piano, and one guy in black, on a black piano, playing duelin’ creepy music, Phantom of the Opera style. Was one of them The CNBLUE Guy? My memory…
Then groups of hooded figures glide ominously onto the extended stage, then doff their hoods and OMG it’s X group!! And then (squealing) It’s Y group!!
At one point there’s this group of rather…shortish…ominously-hooded figures who move kinda differently, and no-one is shocked to discover that this is AOA.
This is all done to a creepy overture that has several tiny clips of AOA lyrics creepily mixed in. Maybe other bands’ lyrics too, but I’m not familiar enough with all of them to know.
SF9 (Lights chaotic)
The new dance group
SF9 starts the show, and jeez are some of the people behind me up on that! I barely managed to research their new name before coming here, and they already have rabid fans. Much screaming was had.
Choa Solo (Lights to red!)
Then Choa appears at the secondary stage, and sings a lovely cover of Alicia Keys; “If I Ain’t Got You.” She got some screams of “Choa 언니이이!!”
Hongi Solo (Lights to yellow!)
Hongi (from FTISLAND) sings two songs, one with some help from SF9 members, and easily entertains the crowd. He’s seriously a pro at this stuff, even if his Japanese randomly switches in and out of an Osaka accent...
CNBLUE (Lights to blue, but you knew that!)
The first anchor performance, basically a full hour long. They’re very good. The blue-themed half of the audience is going nuts for them, and many calories are expended on both sides.
The CNBLUE Guy (I really need to remember his name, but somehow it’s more entertaining to not look it up as I write this) ends up lying flat on his back, partway down the hanamichi, still singing. He’s also a solid professional at keeping the crowd entertained with his banter, when he’s not screaming at the top of his lungs.
AOA (Lights to red!)
On the extended stage:
- Like a Cat
- Heart Attack
- Good Luck
On the main stage:
- Give Me the Love (feat. Hongi of FTIsland—oh boy that got a reaction!)
- Wow War Tonight
…Don’t quote me on the precise order, but I think
that’s the full list.
I noticed that my ability to maintain the rhythm of waving my hand in the air becomes strangely compromised whenever AOA does “anything of any interest.” Especially during Miniskirt, I probably looked like somebody having a seizure trying to flag down a doctor. My sense of rhythm instantly returned to its former un-compromised state during all subsequent boy acts though…it’s a mystery.
Interestingly, the same people behind me who’d been screaming for SF9 are also doing their best to remember all the AOA member names to do the Good Luck fan chant. They sort of blur out in the middle, but at least they aren’t solely focusing on the cute boys. There are some definite girl-crushes happening.
During AOA’s set I see at least two of the blinky-heart sticks from the summer AOA concerts. But I’m kind of glad I didn’t bring mine, as it was already effortful enough to be the only one in my section to stand up and cheer AOA on, while the yellow- and blue-aligned women around me mostly just kicked back and enjoyed the show. Dammit y’all, I’m cheering on your groups, help me out with mine!
The CNBLUE Guy (Probably; Lights to blue!)
Both The CNBLUE Guy and The Other CNBLUE Guy (names…) sing some solo songs somewhere around here. And one of them does a number with two more of the SF9 guys. But I’m totally blanking on who and what and when.
Anyway both of them are very good, I’m just somehow blurring the two of them together in my mind. Go watch the Blu-ray.
Bonus: The MiB
Not an act, but: When the occasional person (only Hongi and The CNBLUE Guy have the clout to do this) would spontaneously leave the stage to go wander around on the main floor with the audience just because they felt like it, the Men in Black were there.
No sunglasses, but in sharp suits and ties, clearly not roadies or camera people, but Some Other Occupation, one or two men would swiftly yet calmly deploy to the site of the anomalous event. And just kind of be there, not calling attention to themselves, not in the camera’s eye, but on the ready for any eventuality.
AOA would have been utterly safe in this audience, as they’d have had to hunt around just to find the guys (hint: look for the red lights), but everybody non-female was in mortal danger. But don’t fear guys, the MiB got your backs.
N.Flying (Lights to red!)
N.Flying’s set is only about 3 songs—I expected a longer set from them, but with 2 new groups to introduce I guess they got squeezed. They deserve better, I like them a lot.
The Other CNBLUE Guy (Probably; Lights to blue!)
Jimin (Lights to red!)
Jimin then shows up with a pair of her solo raps. More girl-crushes in the audience.
- Puss, paired with a guy from SF9, and OMG SF9!!!! from behind me.
Honeyst (Lights chaotic)
The other newbie group
Honeyst plays 2 songs in Korean—they’re too new to have any Japanese songs yet.
The first one is their cover of Heart Attack, that you can find on YouTube I think. That makes two times we hear arguably the same song tonight, which is probably a rather rare occurrence during any concert…
They’re actually pretty solid—FNC debuts no band before its time!
FTISLAND (Lights to yellow!)
The final performance, and the second hour-long anchor set is FTISLAND, who are extremely good. I even already know parts of some of their songs, which is pretty respectable, going up against their regrettable handicap of not being AOA.
The yellow-themed other half of the audience is jumping all over the place for them. Wave them towels!
At one point one of the FTISLAND people asks Hongi why, even though in Korea he complains all year long about having to go do the FNC Kingdom, he then always participates anyway, even going the extra mile and guesting in other people’s acts. His answer: “Well…basically, because my contract says so.” Bonus points for honesty!
One interactive thing they have us do near the end is during the middle of their song Puppy, all of us are coached to suddenly freeze in place: performers and audience alike, striking some sort of pose while doing our best not to breathe, as the cameras maneuver around us in utter silence. That’ll probably make a weird part of the Blu-ray.
End Runway (Lights chaotic)
Finally there’s the end runway (no not RUNWAY) where random conglomerations of people from different groups march out to the secondary stage, effectively splitting/sharing the applause of all the fanbases. While parts of various songs from various groups play.
Chanmi and Mina are in the first group, and thereafter every time an AOA song starts playing, Chanmi automatically/unconsciously begins sort of dancing in place to that song. This is exceptionally distracting, essentially preventing me from paying much attention to anything else happening on stage.
I do notice that Jimin emerges by being carried out on a throne constructed of the shoulders of 3 boy-group members.
Finally The CNBLUE Guy and Hongi from FTISLAND emerge, in their respective band’s official t-shirts, but covering their faces with their band’s towels for some reason—then reveal themselves to be wearing the opposite band’s stuff, effectively dressing up as each other. People enjoy that, and the yellow Primadonnas and blue Boice share a green moment of detente.
Then after everyone is lined up on the secondary stage, they all climb down the stairs and walk a circuit of the whole stage, so they’re all walking on the main floor and waving at us from right over there. Throughout, the staff continually motion for the SF9 guys at the end of the line to hurry it up.
Finally they reach the far stairs to the main stage, climb up, line up, and give us a final bow. And the concert is over.
The concert ends at 8:53 PM (Oh, and this is when Vampira shows up that final time).
File out (Lights out!)
We all gradually wander off, mostly to the restrooms (Four and a half hours…). They’ve opened the side shutters to let people out directly into the street (the same shutters I’d heard CNBLUE practice through), but instead I choose to go upstairs (Four. And a half. Hours.).
Upstairs there’s someone calling out that the AOA after-meeting is to assemble by 9:00, and points me to the now-open second floor door down to Hall 11. Glad I didn’t waste my time taking the long way around downstairs.
9:00-9:30 PM: Creepy Nighttime Meeting
Back in Hall 11 for the after-concert special event!
First of all this consists of lining us up in numerical order at the former location of the FTISLAND banner (all the banners had been taken down during the concert). Nobody else is lining up in this hall, so the other groups’ after-events apparently assemble somewhere else.
There are 60 lucky winners, who get to…well, we don’t actually know what we get to do, it was only ever described as a “special extra thing.” Good enough for us! These lines are more of a 70M/30F gender mix, in stark contrast to everything else tonight. Probably 2/3 of all the guys in attendance were in these two lines.
At 9:10 we’re divided into 4 groups—as #14 I’m somehow at the end of group 1.
We’re marched into a nearby auxiliary room off of Hall 11, where we’re lined up 2-deep behind one or another of two facing rows of 7(!) empty chairs. I recognize that number from somewhere… Our group of 14 winds up forming the front row, where I’m now standing at the left end.
A photographer is getting us to squeeze together to fit in her frame, so apparently a photograph is going to be taken. Presumably with AOA—nobody’s explaining anything, we’re all just passively going along with the flow.
Sure enough, we’re now told AOA is on their way. We are warned to not touch them. Don’t touch the AOA. They have a video camera running, so aside from them getting it on tape, you’d also get pummeled by the other 59 Elvi who just missed their own chance to touch AOA.
While we wait, an energetic Elvis leads us in singing the Choa Song to pass the time.
Soon AOA files in! Look, it’s AOA, standing right here!
They line up and greet us, asking us if we’d enjoyed the concert. They each have a semi-prepared remark to make, and again it’s adorable watching them try to keep their Japanese straight.
Jimin is very short. And indeed has a rockin’ colorful tattoo on the inside of her upper left arm. Mina says, “Oh, hi!” in English to me, so apparently that’s a thing. Choa notices a toddler in the 2nd row of our group and commandeers her to hold in the photo.
They sit down in the chairs on our side (Mina on the end chair immediately to my right) and the staff takes 3 photos of us all. Actually 4, because the toddler was still working on the whole “Look at the camera” thing. Don’t worry kid, Choa’ll train you good.
AOA’s job is to play musical chairs between us, so after our side’s photo they switch rows, and now Mina can’t sit next to Hyejeong this time, causing momentary consternation between the two of them (the member sitting in the chair next to Hyejeong studiously ignoring them). Hyejeong then tries to get Mina to sit on her lap, but she isn’t going for it. Choa suddenly turns around and tweaks the hair on the guy behind her, causing floating exclamation points to appear above many people’s heads.
So the pictures are taken, then AOA thanks us and files out, and after a bit to catch our breath we follow suit. Only to be blindsided by discovering all the members still standing right there lined up outside the door, with their hands up waving at us! Where we (okay, I) bumble around for a moment wondering if “hands up” means we’re supposed to high-five them or something (as seen in the RUNWAY after-concert DVD scenes that I’d just watched, so I didn't just make that up), but nope, no touching. I wasn’t gonna, honest.
Being at the end of the front row for photos, I wind up being the first one in line to walk out and unexpectedly see AOA there. So I’m kind of the de-facto group representative of “Duh, AOA is still here? What?” Hence the bumbling. Still blindsided, I complete my pass along the line-up before I’m even consciously aware of most of the members. Though Mina is again ready with an English “Thank you!”
Immediately after this a guy hands each of us an AOA-themed mystery device. I’ll get back to this.
This is the end of the after-event, and we wander off into the vast Hall 11, only to realize that AOA is still standing there busily not-high-fiveing the people behind us, so we slap our foreheads and double back to stare and wave at them some more.
Eventually they finish greeting everybody, then wave some more and disappear back through their door to hide in that room. Various Elvi continue to yell various things at AOA-who-is-no-longer-there in Japanese and Korean and whatever, until the exasperated event staff essentially just tell us to go away, go home, it’s over! So we file away, happily dazed. It’s 9:30 PM.
Then as we walk away, one by one, we wonder: Wait, they took a photo. Do I get a copy of that?
Apparently not tonight; nobody said a thing about it. As an AOE member they do know my contact information, and also the fact that I attended this specific event and stood in this specific position, so maybe they’ll email the photo to me? One can hope.
Okay, the mystery device. At first I think it’s the sold-out keychain, but it turns out to be a portable hook to dangle your handbag off the edge of a table. Not many of us male Elvis types are in the habit of carrying handbags, so I’m not going to lug the heavy little thing around on the off chance I feel a sudden urge to, er, dangle my bag…
The interesting thing is that they were not selling these. It’s not in the listing of concert goods, even though it has the official 2016 “Creepy Nights” AOA-version design. So it’s a…prototype? Anyway I guess that makes it a rare AOA item!
Well, obviously, this was fun!
Experiencing these bands actually perform live is very different from seeing them on screen. Now I can go back and watch Cheongdamdong 111 again and actually recognize all the non-AOA people.
The AOA-fans-vs-other-groups’-fans ratio was a bit shocking though. We’ve got to do some more recruiting, or something! There’s a lot of us—we saw that at the summer concerts—but there’s a preposterous number of them! Suddenly I somehow feel less silly for supporting AOA by buying 10 copies of RUNWAY. Who knows what unholy monetary things those Boice and Primadonnas are doing to support their groups??
The powenumber of Boice & Primadonnas is just insane. We Elvis have to support our girls!
To be honest, attending two concerts a little more than a week apart is tiring, just being in the audience; much respect for every AOA member’s ability to sustain a far more heavy schedule than that, and performing, no less!
In that same timeframe they did 4 full days of RUNWAY promotion in a row, plus travel, plus two full Kingdom concerts, so, wow. And they’re no doubt already working behind the scenes toward their next comeback in Korea too, so…seriously, wow.
It’s probably a good thing that the 3 “White Christmas with Angels” fan meetings scheduled for this week were postponed, or that’d have been 3 performances in 13 days, just for me as an attendee. 9 performances in 16 days, for them.
They might be able to handle that, but I would have exploded (if happily). And they can do it while smiling in apparent full sincerity even while people goon out around them. So again, much respect for their skills as professional performers.
Whenever the stars align and they’re ready to return to do their “Christmas Inexplicably in Spring 2017 with Angels” events, I’ll be ready.
If I neglected to write in sufficient detail about something (ha!) feel free to ask in the comments!
Now to go heal my bleeding hands…