Voltes In Korea 2012, Day 1
For the past two years that me and my Voltes friends have gone to Korea, we’ve never been ‘zero’ on the celebrity sighting. This edition of Voltes in Korea is no exception. In fact, we’ve already exceeded the quota right on the first day.
We decided to try something new on this trip. Instead of staying at a hostel or hotel, we booked a homestay through airbnb.com. In this scheme, private apartment owners rent out their own homes to short- or long-term travelers. We later on learned from our host that homestay is the current thrust of the Korea Tourism Organization. Anyway, we particularly chose this place that we’re staying in now for one major reason: her ad copy at airbnb says that she can help book her guests to Korean music shows. The location might not be ideal for newbies in Seoul, though, because it’s nowhere near the usual tourist places, but if you wanna go Gangnam Style, this place is highly recommended.
Our host had difficulty booking KBS Music Bank tickets for all of us because we’re too many in the group (incidentally, I’ve read somewhere that among the music shows, KBS MuBank is the most difficult to gain access to if one is not a member of a local official fan club). She only managed to score four tickets (we are six in the group for Day 1; Pre’ will be joining us on Day 2). However, to make up for it, she managed to pull some strings and was able to give us all of us access to the rehearsals and pre-show recording. That’s not bad, right?
So on Friday, October 12, 2012, with little to no sleep at all since we arrived in Korea at 6am that same morning, and no decent meals for the entire day aside from bagels, jam, apples and brewed coffee, we spent practically the entire day being holed up inside the KBS Music Bank studios.
But it’s not as simple as that, oh no. We went to the KBS building with our host, and we just followed her wherever she went. That basically meant we were allowed entry to premises which were restricted to KBS personnel, and we entered the MuBank studios via the backstage. You could just imagine our difficulty in controlling ourselves from swooning when we started passing by the artists’ dressing rooms one by one. Sure, the doors were closed and we didn’t see anyone by the halls, but when you suddenly see names like K.Will, T-Ara, Ga In, etc being posted on each door marked as ‘dressing room’, wouldn’t you be excited? As we were walking, I whispered to my friends, “OMG, do you realize how taray this thing we’re experiencing right now???” It’s too bad that we were told beforehand that cameras will not be allowed. If not, we would’ve had the time of our lives documenting the entire thing.
So there we were, passing by the dressing rooms and that small room where individual artists’ backstage interviews were being recorded until we reached a double door being guarded by one of those security men in black suits. Our host talked to the guy, then we were ushered in… beside the KBS MuBank stage. You know, where the artists usually park their buns while waiting for their turn to perform. And the guys currently doing their rehearsals onstage were… TVXQ (Yunho and Changmin). O.M.G. I’m not exactly a fan even if I had a very short Dong Bang Shin Ki phase back in 2005, but this is freakin’ TVXQ. You don’t just shrug them off unless you don’t care about Kpop at all. We were led to our 4th row middle seats; with the studio being quite small (the SBS Inkigayo studios are bigger) and the stage being near the audience, we were one tumble away from TVXQ. I sat there thinking, am I really here, witnessing this??
Yunho and Changmin rehearsed and then recorded parts of their number several times, which meant we saw them perform their latest single Catch Me at least three times in full (including the actual live broadcast which was cut short and ended with a hilarious take from Changmin) and about a gazillion times in parts. We stared at them for almost an hour during rehearsals and pre-recording. Are you Cassies jealous, yet? It’s really just so bad that we can’t even dare attempt taking footage in secret because there were guards everywhere, ready to pounce on anyone who will attempt taking pictures or video of the recording. We were even asked to put our bags on the floor.
As for my personal review of TVXQ, well, I must say I was surprised that both of them look really good in person. Yunho is kinda expected, but Changmin is really a surprise. I also love their concept and choreography for Catch Me. Even the dancers’ costumes are connected to the choreography.
After TVXQ, it was Jewelry‘s turn to record their set. But before that, we had to witness TVXQ’s set being dismantled in less than 10 minutes, and then Jewelry‘s set was put up in similar record time. It was astonishing. As we watched, we were joking about how if it was done in the Philippines, one set alone will have to be put up the night before the show. This is actually one of the best parts of this experience for me: being given the opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes of a Korean music show.
Just as Jewelry went on stage to rehearse the blocking for their number, a pretty, un-made up Korean woman made a beeline to the row ahead of us and sat directly in front of Lou. The woman is none other than former Jewelry member Park Jung Ah, who was surprisingly very pretty in person (as in I can’t stop looking at her). She was there to supervise Jewelry’s comeback stage. It was awesome to watch her throwing support at her juniors, watching their every move and then giving them her critique afterwards. Then, when the girls were recording their set, Park Jung Ah transferred to the row behind us and sang along with Jewelry. Therefore, we were treated to an unscheduled performance from Park Jung Ah, as well. I’ve always loved her voice, and hearing it live and up close was such a treat for me.
The funny thing was, another girl who’s fully made up also made a beeline to the row in front of us. I asked Charity if the girl is an entertainer, and she said probably not. The girl gave a courtesy greeting to Park Jung Ah, though. Later on, said girl appeared on stage and sang solo. It turns out, the girl was the singer Navi.
Incidentally, I should mention how we have observed that the girls in Jewelry seems to be very well-mannered and courteous. They even made it a point to go to the other side of the stage to greet the workers there.
After Jewelry were AOA, Brown Eyed Girls’ Ga-In, Secret, Mr. Mr. My friend Mac, who didn’t care about Kpop and was pretty much bored and hungry by that time (it’s almost 5pm and we only had breakfast in our stomachs), managed to sneak in a few photos. I think the guards were only strict for TVXQ. No one bothered to stop her even when she was taking pics openly.
And then there’s K.Will.
Can I just say that K.Will is simply awesome? During rehearsals, he is the only singer who did a mic test by actually singing a few bars of his song on the mic. Of course, he’s an awesome singer, and it seems he knows it. My admiration for him increased tenfold during the actual broadcast. You see, when the artist have pre-recorded their set, they are only required to show up on stage for the benefit of their fans who attended their live broadcast. However, the one that’s being shown on TV is the pre-recorded one. Some artists (Ga In, for example), would just perform half-heartedly knowing that it’s only for the studio audience’s benefit. But not K.Will. There was absolutely no difference between the taped performance and the one he did on stage for the studio audience. And that’s when I noticed that K.Will has impeccable sex appeal when performing. I think we all know that he’s not exactly handsome, but my golly, the guy knows how to work the stage. You gotta see it to believe it.
Other artists whom we saw that are worth mentioning are Lee Jang Woo and UEE (MuBank hosts – did UEE lose weight??), T-Ara (Eun Jung was surprisingly not very Cynthia Patag-like in person, and Ji Yeon was surprisingly… not so pretty in person), Orange Caramel (their costumes and concept are ridiculous, but at least they’re different; and UEE was so cute imitating them on the side), SPICA (whom I’ll only mention because Charity and I were trying to figure out which one of them is Junjin’s girlfriend), and the one that impressed everyone the most: Andy’s new proteges, 100%. These guys did not have a big fanbase – in fact they only have about five people rooting for them in the beginning – but after their first run-through and then after their performance at the live broadcast, they were greeted with thunderous applause. They’re simply soooooo good. Their movements are very precise, and they sing live! Even the Cassies were screaming for them when they passed by KBS’ main gate. I hope their career will go a long way.
So that’s my aftermath report for today. I could’ve told more, but I haven’t had much sleep since we left Manila and we have an early day tomorrow. It’s MBC Dramia day, where hopefully there’s a drama being filmed and it stars actors that we actually know.
Edited to add this important note: I’ve received several queries regarding this place mainly because of the ‘booking to Korean music shows’ thing. I realized that it might be too much of a pressure to our host – who is simply a wonderful host and her place is amazing, by the way – if all those whom I will directly or indirectly refer to her would be expecting to get access to MuBank by booking her place. Please do take note that, as mentioned in a previous paragraph, getting slots to KBS Music Bank is not easy. In fact it’s the most difficult one to book among the four major music shows (M-Countdown, KBS MuBank, MBC Music Core, SBS Inkigayo). Hope for the best, but please try not to expect anything. Song’s BNB is still highly recommended, even without the MuBank factor.