K-pop act Draws swarms of fans twice during pop-up appearance in LA

Eighteen-year-old Matilda Oberman was one of the first people in a line of hundreds outside a storefront on Melrose Avenue on Saturday morning. She came with a pack of K-pop-obsessed friends and family for a chance to meet Twice, the South Korean pop group and one of the most popular young acts on the planet.

To claim her prime spot in line, where fans hoped to score a rack of exclusive merchandise and get selfies with the group, Oberman had to camp out on the sidewalk starting on a cold Friday morning.

“It was so cold last night, we were freezing to sleep on the sidewalk,” said Oberman, unfazed by the trials she endured being there. A kind mom gave her crew pizza, and “people gave us hand warmers and everyone from the store staff was so nice to take care of us.”

Fan details

Fans double up on their light stick and backpack as they await the group’s “Ready to Be” pop-up experience.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

Fans show off their wares as they line up.

Fans show off their wares as they line up.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

The line to see the nine-member group of women stretched several residential blocks, prompting one passing Uber driver to slow down to ask who they were all there to see. (​​​​He got his answer very loudly.) The all-night enthusiasm was a clear sign that K-pop, which is now entering its third wave of American popularity, has new stadium-sized heroes.

Since forming in 2015, the group – now in their mid-20s, led by singer Jihyo along with singers, rappers and dancers Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu – has been steadily rising. . . Their lively music, with R&B, synth-pop and hip-hop, is clearly catchy and genre-bending, as evidenced by their upcoming mini-album “Ready to Be,” out this week.

But it is their marathon live shows – recent series at Bank of California Stadium that poured more than three hours – where they shine for fans. On a June date at the SoFi Stadium the Once (the name of the group for their fans) is ready to do battle with Ticketmaster anew.

“They have so much energy and they don’t lip-sync, which is rare in K-pop,” Oberman said. “They love their live performances.”

“I’ll be fighting for a barricade ticket to see them at SoFi,” said 17-year-old Luis Guerra, who arrived at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to score a good spot in line. He felt “really, really emotional,” he said of the opportunity to meet the women of Twice.

“I love their work ethic,” said 29-year-old Mariana Vasquez, who left Downey late that morning. The distant place near the end of the line did not impress her. “You can tell they really love writing your music,” she said, and she was happy to wait to tell them.

Two fans

Fans show home sign.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

Fans walk in BOTH times

After much anticipation, fans enter the “Ready to Be” pop-up experience twice.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

As global supergroup BTS enters a long-awaited hiatus for its members to perform their mandatory military service in South Korea, mega-labels HYBE and SM Entertainment jockey for ownership stakes in a war of attrition become more hostile, titled “Biggest Active Band in K-pop” to much recognition.

It’s arguably Blackpink, who will be the first K-pop act to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April. But more than 27 million Instagram followers, 15 million YouTube subscribers and 11 million Spotify followers are ready to make a strong case for Twoce, who in June will join BTS as the only K-pop groups to head to SoFi Stadium, last year’s home. Super Bowl.

It’s a long way from KCON, the South Korean pop culture festival where they made their LA debut in 2016, and a big swing for a group that isn’t quite on the radar of US pop fans who know BTS or Blackpink. (The two English singles, “The Feels” and “Moonlight Sunrise,” hit the Hot 100 twice in the ’80s). Their rise has not been easy – the members have had to recover from debilitating injuries, odd stalkers and the meticulous perfection that is often expected of female acts in K-pop.

Surprised fans of TWICE

The first 70 fans react to enter the pop-up on a surprise appearance Twice.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

Twice pop up fan experience

Two times members greet their fans from the second floor.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

Upstairs at the Fairfax event, before the doors opened, the nine women of Two Hour knew their SoFi date was a pivotal moment in their careers. If all goes as planned, they’ll enter a new class of global super-reality, something they don’t do lightly.

“We will be performing in one of the biggest stadiums in the world,” said Nayeon (group members spoke through a translator). “We are very grateful to LA for this. But we are also very proud of ourselves.”

“Being able to go from KCON to now, I think we were only able to do that because of these fans,” Jihyo said, looking out at the mass gathered below.

While Twopink isn’t quite as overt as Blackpink, a song like “Moonlight Sunrise,” with its fast-paced R&B runs and stacks of harmonies, shows that the group’s members are aspiring musicians in their own right. They are full of English music and Japanese lyrics. (They have dozens of Japanese singles like “Doughnut,” a fan favorite, and said they hope to incorporate them into the U.S. setlist.)

Chaeyoung, the group’s tattooed lead rapper (a rarity for women in the clean-cut genre), was excited about the new rock direction they’re taking on “Ready to Be.” “Every time we come up with a new album, we try to have a new genre and a new challenge,” she said.

The strength of those challenges has doubled over the past three years. In 2020, Jeongyeon had to take time off to recover from a herniated disc in her neck that required surgery – right before a highly anticipated live tour. Both Nayeon and Mina had to flee from stalkers, who tracked down their family homes and even bought plane tickets to try to get to them by flight. The fear became so intense that Mina had to withdraw from the tour.

Fans take photos at the Twice

Fans take photos at the two-hour “Ready To Be” pop-up experience.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

Fans leave messages for K Pop band TWICE

Fans leave messages for two hours after their time at the pitch.

(Roger Kisby / For The Times)

While male K-pop groups such as BTS have more room to be honest about their mental health concerns with the prospect of superstardom, female groups such as Twice have only just begun to feel that they are in there to talk about their need for rest and privacy.

“Over time, we realized that when we had that little time to relax, you get a lot of positivity from taking that risk,” Jeongyeon said. “I think the artists and the company now know that it’s good and positive for us to rest.”

In the long, fast-moving line downstairs, fans were willing to stop him for hours to bring down posters and photos and say twice how much they appreciated them. After SoFi, if they needed to take a break again, 19-year-old superstar Melany Figueroa would have their back.

“They deserve time to get back to normal,” Figueroa said. “They deserve anything to be happy.”

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