Prince Bandroom was packed with Giriboy fans, eagerly awaiting his arrival on stage. The enigmatic rapper and singer has grown a broad fanbase, with people from all ethnicities and ages filling out the crowd.
Beginning his music career in 2011 with the single ‘You Look So Good to Me’, Giriboy became a household name in his native South Korea after appearing on Season 4 of the popular competition program Show Me the Money. His appearance on the show, plus a brief stint on No Mercy (the competition program that spawned K-pop superstars Monsta X) as a collaborator led to charting positions on Korea’s Gaon Music Chart (now known as the Circle Music Chart) with the release of his album ‘Sexual Perceptions’.
In 2018, Giriboy launched his own music label, WEDAPLUGG Records with Just Music CEO Swings, and soon followed his acting debut in the 2022 K-drama, The Forbidden Marriage. Now, Giriboy brings his uniquely melodic rap-singing blend to Australia for the first time. The cheers as he stepped out on stage practically shook the room but as soon as his mouth opened the room fell silent with everyone intent on absorbing his artistry. In the tight space of Melbourne’s Prince Bandroom, Giriboy’s voice soared clear across the venue, reaching every corner.
The artist on stage is a far cry from the man who greeted his VIPs earlier in the evening. That man, Hong Si-Young was kind, awkward, introspective, and soft spoken. Between the group photos and the Q&A, where fans submitted questions that ranged from his favourite food to the items on his bucket list, before Giriboy gave his fans as many of high-fives as he could, he treated them with a gentle and quiet affection that was so endearing to witness. But as he performed, the playful smile Giriboy wore on his face gave those not fortunate enough to have been in the room earlier during the meet and greet, just a glimpse of his off-stage persona.
While most artists who don’t speak English have a translator on deck to translate the speaking portions of the show, Giriboy made the effort to speak for himself, switching between Korean and English with complete enthusiasm and some difficulty. The lack of an on-stage translator meant that the show felt completely natural, intimate, and lacked in the disjointed feeling common for fans of the genre. Whether you spoke the language or not, in those moments everybody understood what was being said.
Despite having limited English, Giriboy was able to communicate efficiently with the crowd, introducing himself and the song changes deftly, as well as interacting with audience members. A standout moment was when Giriboy described the story of his next song entirely in Korean before handing the mic off to a fan in the crowd for an English translation, all the while he animatedly pretended to be the one speaking which belied a playful personality under his shyness.
Following that moment, it was so easy to see why Giriboy is popular at home and abroad. When he sings and raps, he comes alive. Traveling across the stage as though he was weightless, Giriboy also energetically filled it as though there were more than just one of him.
Giriboy’s Groove Down Under Melbourne show was broken up with a support act, another atypical choice for a Korean artist. Brought over from New Zealand, electro-pop up-and-comer Prins gave the Prince Bandroom venue a rock fusion palate cleanser before the main act returned to the stage with a burst of energy, taking the tone of his show from mellow and poetic to intense and powerful, before bringing it back down again into a cool groove.
Contrary to what the venue size may have you believing, 9 full length albums and 11 EPs in his repertoire means that Giriboy has a lot of material to bring with him on his Australian tour leg. Over the course of the night, he traversed a majority of these albums, performing songs from the earliest days of his career through to his latest album, 2021’s ‘Avante’, with stand-outs songs of the night being ‘Divorce Papers (이혼서류)’ and ‘Let’s Not Love Each Other (우리서로 사랑하지말자)’.
With his versatile discography and the ability to skifully weave raw and husky vocals with impactful raps, Giriboy’s stage presence cannot be denied. As his star continues to rise across the world, he will no doubt find his name on the windows and walls of bigger venues when he next ventures onto our shores.
Giriboy: Groove Down Under in AU & NZ was proudly presented by Prime Entertainment and Nova Records NZ. Its Melbourne show was performed at Prince Bandroom on Friday October 6th 2023 and was the last leg of the Australian and New Zealand tour, having already visited Auckland and Sydney.
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Photography by Michael Nguyen.