LAMEASS PRE-GAME ► CONCERT ► SETLIST ANALYSIS ► SAPPY THOUGHTS
► FINAL THOUGHTS
Well damn, it's all over.
For the next few days, I'm in denial. Disbelief. Shock.
There was absolutely no way I saw them live. My world was much too much the same to have seen them. It didn't make sense that I could experience something so magical on the inside that nothing in the physical world changed to reflect it. I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to attend the concert, but the feeling was also a bit empty, a bit disconcerting, like finding a four-leaf clover but having nothing special happen to me. Did I miss something?
Although EXO had a great time and we, the fans, had a great time with them, I can't help but feel like they were a bit restrained. It almost feels like they were unsure of how to deal with us. At least when I compare it with footage of other Asian concerts, in Korea and otherwise, their interactions with us were very cut and dry. They stuck to their script and squeaked by with the minimum. During the ments and even in performances, they stayed near their marks and rarely strayed out to the stage peripherals. And apart from their required speaking lines, the members were very quiet. Nothing outrageous happened that day. I get it. They're exhausted. After all, we are the last stop of their North American tour.
Language was an enormous barrier, especially when no one in group could speak it. They weren't as relaxed or natural with us as I know they're capable of. Maybe it was an apprehension of the cultural difference that prevented them from letting their guards down. Sometimes it felt like they thought they were shooting arrows into the dark when they tried to communicate with us and that they hoped at best that they would get some sort of reaction from us, regardless of if it was the proper one. In hindsight, I don't they were able to connect with us on any level beyond the most basic and pre-orchestrated, and thus, no noteworthy ad-libs.
At least in the US, fans and artists share a more professional relationship at concerts. There are no such things as LED fan signs, fan chants, or fs noonas here. It's much less saccharine and we treat the musicians as adults, not as our children. We applaud great performances and honor them as artists, but it's nowhere close to the degree of unconditional love that I feel occurs in Asia where fan support includes treating artists as humans--as a musician and beyond. This holistic treatment of an artist would be considered creepy is less respected than the silo-ed slice that occurs in the States (limiting the scope of support only on their music), and thus the former does not come naturally to us.
Even though most of the concertgoers are well aware of the Korean traditions for EXO concerts, the turf is still American and the influence is omnipresent. We are not accustomed such constant and personal interactions and I can't help but feel that we disappointed them with our seemingly cold response. Just because our welcome was not as warm or enormous, it doesn't mean we love them any less. We just express it differently.
It also certainly didn't help that MMT stirred up so much shit in everyone with their sordid organization skills, so that many entered the concert with already a dark cloud over our heads. Combining that with our desperation after waiting for so many years as fans, weeks for concert day, and hours outside in lines, it culminated in rumors and truths of fainting, shoving, and pushing, especially within the pit. EXO exercised caution and stayed within their bounds because they wanted to control for the unexpected. Any serious injury would be a huge black mark on them. Better to be safe (literally) than sorry.
And because we are truly overoceans, it's a rarity for them or any Korean artist to come here. But we are so inexplicably happy they've come, our nine little passions, that we fight with that same intensity to see them as close as possible because there is no guarantee that we will ever get the chance again. They are nugus in the US and they would have so much more commercial success performing in parts of Asia where they are gods compared to flying halfway across the world only to be stuffed into tiny venues with still empty seats just to appeal to not even 0.003 bps of the general population. Their arrival, stay, and departure will not make any news anywhere. Not even a blip on the radar.
Apart from faulting EXO, I must say that the crowd was surprisingly mellow. There was much less cat-fighting than I had expected, in fact, there was none around me. (I could have survived just fine without all that soju. Though I would've liquored up anyway tbh.) People were generally civil and polite with others around them. But that also translated into a lackluster audience response. The first two-thirds of the concert felt like we were all fair-weather fans and who attended only because they happened to be in town and we had some extra change left in our pockets. We finally started waking up from our coma at around Let Out the Beast, and we began to open up and get louder from there on. But I think we acted with restraint, just like EXO, though ours was not calculated--just a lot of people decided not to be present that day. There was never a time when the noise was completely ear deafening, never a time where I could feel all of us at 100% and know that it was the climax of the concert. There were three times when we were very loud, but it felt at around 90% for me. We got close a few times, but never actually tipped over.
Language was without a doubt an issue for us too, but the fan chants were really all over the place (not like I contributed at all to righting it) and it felt like this was the first time we ever heard of EXO's songs. Every time they called out to us for a response, we replied so weakly, like half of us didn't know what was going on and the other half of us were asleep. I'm positive the majority of us were much more obsessive about them than we let on. Maybe it's from our habit of always containing our thoughts on them within ourselves because of their irrelevance here in the US. Suddenly, we have to vocalize it and no one's taught us how to do that yet.
But honestly, I'm disappointed in NY because the above was not completely a US thing. I heard how loud the crowds were in LA and Chicago. We couldn't compare to them at all, and it's surprising given the high concentration of Asians in the area (not that all fans must be Asian...). We really should do better for the next time that's not ever coming.
For all the shitting I've taken on MMT, I do sincerely appreciate them for arranging this because this is absolutely a product of their hard work. Their organization and communication, however, could be greatly improved to put it nicely. Before things were fully confirmed within the team, hurried responses would be given, only to be reversed later on. One group of concert goers would see the first (now incorrect) answer, but not everyone from this group also sees the second correct answer. (Most of their messages are through Twitter). So now, there exists two different versions of the truth floating around. And the confusion and frustration associated is only heightened because we are so passionately in love with these "hypothetical" people that we hinge on every bit of news. And any change feels like knives to our backs. It most greatly impacts those who travel from outside where one policy change can greatly affect their travel arrangements. With NY having heard and learned from all the fiascoes before, there's no doubt we went there expecting to be told the day of that everything we knew was a lie. We hoped for the best and expected the worse. I think we ended up with pretty good.
It was really fucking embarrassing though to have to be reminded so constantly to step back from the stage. I completely understand it was required from a security perspective but it honestly did nothing but interrupt the concert and make us more resentful. Whenever the lights dimmed as it transitioned between stages or the members walked out onto the stage for a ment with mics in hand, I would prepare myself for another announcement to take steps back and the resulting awkward fake shuffling and staring contest. Since none of the pit ever responded, a part of me feared that the concert would be delayed until we cooperated or be cut short altogether. It reminds me so much of my primary school days where teachers would shush students in the cafeteria and ask us to keep our voices down. It would be quiet for the five seconds while they were yelling at us, and as soon as they stopped, we would continue talking again, if not louder than before, before they came back to shut us up again. There are no winners in this situation, and it leaves both parties with such a bitter aftertaste.
I also felt really terrible for the seated concertgoers because they didn't do anything wrong but had to sit through the scolding nonetheless. They are roped into the same group as us pit people when EXO forms their impression of New York. I'm disappointed that we didn't behave any better, but I don't think we would have stood out against other locations only because this pushing and shoving is so commonplace. But just because everyone does it, doesn't make it right. Good behavior would have made such a deeper impact on EXO than any loud fan cheer could have ever been.
We are insane and uncontrollable because we love you so passionately. That's easy. Everyone feels that way. But one notch higher. We honor and respect your concerns because we love you so passionately. Even if it is hard for us, we will do it for you. That's difficult. But then again, who am I to lecture because during the heat of the moment, I transformed into an ignorant hormonal high schooler, just like everyone else, and did everything I just warned against.
Onto lighter matters, the most popular members, measured by cheer noise during the last extended ment (#4) were:
Sehun...Chanyeol Kai...Xumin Suho...Chen Baekhyun Lay...DO
(I may be slightly biased though because I always feel like Baekhyun is under-appreciated by everyone. The roof might have to blow off the arena before I am satisfied with applause for him.)
As for me personally, my love for Baekhyun just skyrockets after this concert. He was already at another level before compared to everyone else, but now he's in another dimension, another world--just so far gone, it's physically impossible to catch up to him any more. I didn't know it was possible to love him any more, but he's proven me wrong again, as he does every time I think I've hit my Baek-love capacity. I won't ever forget the way he gazes at us, with so much sincerity, humility, and love. He was already perfect in my imagination, but Baek in reality is a million times better.
I already love Kai so much, but seeing him in person is a completely different experience and it propels him so far past my original feelings for him I can't even recall what it used to be. The aura surrounding him when he performs is unforgettable. You feel it even when you're cramped between bodies of strangers. It makes you forget where you are and under the lights, coated with a gloss of sweat, his body moves so effortlessly and with so much emotion and purpose, he takes your breath away. Even when I see photos of him now, I can't forget how I felt then. He is such a stunning individual. I still can't fully comprehend his being.
I also gained a new found respect for Suho. Because he wasn't flashy like some of the others I fawn over, I admit I never really gave much thought to him. What he does can not be showcased as a three-minute piece, and his efforts to organize and lead the group can be easily overlooked. But witnessing this in person, the hard work and energy he puts into all his songs and directing the ments is really touching. Bless you, Suho. He really deserves so much more recognition.
For everyone else, my love for them grew leaps and bounds, which is a bit concerning because I only have a certain amount of emotional love I'm capable of and Baek by himself is already stretching me very thin. I have only positive impressions of every one of them. I feel so much compassion towards them now, even if some of their marketed personalities don't particularly appeal to me. I saw the sweat and the emotions in their eyes. They are not storybook characters. They are humans. They have feelings, and they work so hard for us. How can you not be moved?
This was a clever marketing ploy, SM, for you have most definitely sucked me into EXO for the long haul. Congrats. Here, take all my money. This is my bank account number and password. Call me if you have any issues.
My three favorite performances were:
1) Run (because the confetti/streamers moment I can't stop talking about)
2) Sing for You (singing together was such a beautiful moment)
3) Love Me Right (this was their last hit song before wrapping up the concert and we gave it our all in our send-off; also Baekhyun was sparkling, dazzling in this)
If and when there's a next time, I will be bringing 10-inch platform shoes, not using my phone while I'm waiting in the line pre-concert to conserve battery, emptying out ALL the memory in my phone, and actually making a fucking sign for Baekhyun why the fuck am I being lazy with showing my love for him publicly when I'd go get him the moon in a heartbeat when I'm sitting behind my computer.
These minor regrets aside, this may actually have been one, if not, THE happiest moment of my life. Sure, there have been many more significant events, but this was the purest sense of happiness for me. I went to the concert because I wanted to and I didn't do it for anyone but me. I owned the whole thing. The feelings and emotions I experienced are completely from within me. I wasn't happy because my friends or family were happy. I was happy because I was happy and that was enough. There have always been some strings attached to these other happy events I attend, some implications behind these moments to make them "happy". But this one was different because it was so selfish and liberating and therapeutic. I finally get to run free from inhibition for three hours of my life.
It took me so long to write this because I didn't have the courage. The courage to recognize that the concert was over and it was a part of the past now.
I wanted to continue living in the bubble of the concert by watching the videos and photos on repeat, hoping that eventually, the shock would thaw away and I'd finally be hit with the satisfying full force of realization and fulfillment, something I had been waiting for since the day I purchased the ticket. (I was in varying degrees of disbelief throughout the concert and never felt its true gravity at any point in time.) Apart from hiding in this bubble, it would help me not only capture all the details for this post, but also find out what actually happened and what they said since I couldn't see nor hear much in the pit and was really only focusing on Baek.
But then as soon as I pressed play, my throat would start knotting up and I'd overwhelmed with so much sadness that I couldn't get past ten seconds of anything before having to pause the video or close out of it altogether.
The video is a recording of the past. I am watching an EXO of the past. They're not here anymore. They're in a hotel and flying out the next day. I still can't believe I was with them for a brief second, standing before them so deliriously happily. But then they disappeared in a flash, and I feel so empty. I miss them so terribly much even when I saw them just hours ago, and I am so confused with all my feelings. It's like someone just carved out a part of my heart without telling me why.
Because how do you say goodbye to something so sweet knowing that you might never taste it again? It hurts so much to have and then lose than not ever knowing at all.
The pain twists deeper into me knowing that they're living and breathing because that means they are real. And being real means I can no longer dismiss my desires for them as imagination, which are all ultimately bounded by the definition of fantasy. I can no longer relegate them to a dark corner of my mind that is separate from my reality. And because they exist in this world, where supposedly anything is possible, I can be greedy. I want to see them again and again and again, until I can memorize all the creases and moles on their faces, and in the realm of earthly things, that is logically and physically possible. But that's not going to happen because they are thousands of miles away living their own lives, moving along just swimmingly without me, preparing to woo the next stadium of girls and boys. It doesn't matter that I want to see them again. They won't come.
It's a also a strange feeling to stand in a space with thousands of others bursting at their seams with unconditional, all-consuming love and knowing that the objects of our affections will never really understand how we feel. We're trying our best to express it through cheers and screams, but it comes nowhere close to conveying how deeply our feelings run, how some of us just want to fall to our knees and cry out of gratitude for them being a source of inspiration and pulling us through the dark moments of our lives. But all that comes out are rabid, shrill screams. Even when everyone in the audience has favorites and screams only for those select people, to EXO they hear it as one collective cheer, with love split equally amongst them all.
But that's not enough for me. I want to go beyond that. I don't want my love diluted into eighths. I want it all to go to Baekhyun. I want to personally thank him for all that he's done for me that he doesn't even know. He is such a blessing in my life and sometimes, the only reason for my smile each day. I'm so honored to be sharing the same world as him.
But when he looks out, it's just a sea of lights. There are no faces attached, and I am but one speck in that ocean. It will not grow dimmer or brighter because of my presence. And the person bearing that small light believes in him so passionately it's self-destructive but it changes nothing about how he views us, the fans.
It's like comparing my existence, which consumes all of me, to the world, to the universe. I don't really matter at all. Nothing changes because I am alive. And likewise, nothing changes with Baekhyun because I am alive and because I love him.
And it hurts so much inside because it's like telling me that what I feel doesn't matter. But it does matter. Because he matters. And even if the Baekhyun I've fallen in love with is from my imagination, I know what I feel is real.
I know I am suffering because I am selfish. Because I expected something personal in return. But he has already given me so much in the endless love he extends to all fans, always with the brightest smile and the warmest heart no matter the situation, and I shouldn't ever forget that.
Baekhyun is a pink cherry blossom. Baekhyun is the purest form of love. Baekhyun is the unrequited--loving completely and expecting nothing in return.
It took me two weeks to stop cycling through the five stages of grief every time I viewed concert video or photos, and to be okay with coming to terms with my own insignificance over and over again. I'm still trying to figure out if I regret going or not. Seeing the boys is, of course, no regret. It's just all the tears and soul-searching afterwards.
It was a surreal experience. I still don't think it's sunk in that I saw them in person, that I was in their presence. And at this point, more than a month later, I don't think it ever will. It all happened so quickly that it's hard to believe they were ever here at all. There was a bright flash and then they were gone and it was silent again.
To me, it was just a very splendid, very real dream. Like a hallucination during an extra long blink.
You are a dream. I hope I never meet you.
Word Count: 21515 (56 pgs in Word + 3 graphs in Excel) O_O
aaaaand that's my dissertation
Someone please hand me my PhD