WILD KPOP (NMIXX, The Boyz, INFINITE), Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, October 14th 2023 – K-Pop Live Review

When first I heard about JK Entertainment’s WILD KPOP music festival, I was keen. The line-up consisted of artists – NMIXX, The Boyz and INFINITE, each artist getting a decent number of spins on my playlist.

One of my first loves of K-Pop was actually INFINITE! So, the opportunity to see them in my own country up in Sydney didn’t deter me. Making the trip interstate to attend, I was curious on how the festival would go down. Granted, in my humble opinion, three artists don’t exactly make a ‘festival’ per se. But this is how the event was labelled and I gave in to my curiosity. I also didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to not only see INFINITE live, but three talented artists in total that are currently making unique moves in K-Pop.

Now, I can only comment on the concert portion of the event as this is what I experienced and had attended in a review capacity. When I arrived, there were three very sweet The Boyz fans that were giving away phone/bag charms that they had handmade and had been stylised like charm bracelets. The detail into these little trinkets was amazing, with words spelling out the names and initials of the group and its members. I managed to get a blue charm which I’ve cherished ever since attending the event and I am very grateful for receiving. Thank-you to the fans who gifted me this little fan support gift! It’s so cute and thoughtful!

But let’s cut to the chase, the artists were great. Strangely, the opening artist was INFINITE. Now this is strange because they are the most senior group of the line-up. Usually and respectfully, the older generation K-Pop group would perform last. Not only because they’ve been around much longer, but because they’d also expectedly have a longer set due to their bigger catalogue. However, the group only sang 6 songs consisting of ‘Be Mine’ *insert song choreography hand gestures here*, ‘Paradise’, ‘Love Letter’, Nothing’s Over’, their latest bop ‘New Emotions’, and the classic banger ‘Man In Love’.

With Sungkyu, Dongwoo, Woohyun, Sungyeol and Sungjong taking the stage in matching white suits (unfortunately L could not attend due to scheduling commitments), I was ecstatic to witness INFNITE perform live, especially the song ‘Be Mine’ *I’m still making awkward hand gestures to this song* and new tune ‘New Emotions’. Their charisma, chemistry with each other and their stage presence was second to none. There is a reason that INFINITE is so beloved and have been consistently conquering the K-Pop industry for years. It’s because they’re just so insanely talented. They’re also kings of fan service, never hesitating to take the opportunity to interact with fans in the crowd. But the best part was that it all felt genuine, real, and everything was surprisingly very wholesome. Honestly, their professionalism really impressed me.

For consistency, WILD KPOP generally had around the same amount of songs for each group’s set. NMIXX did 6 songs which included ‘O.O’ with its iconic choreography, ‘TANK’, ‘DICE’, ‘My Gosh’, ‘Party O’Clock’ and instant favourite ‘Love Me Like This’. The Boyz only did 5 songs which had ‘Maverick’, ‘Roar’, their latest single ‘Lip Gloss’, ‘D.D.D’ and ‘Thrill Ride’ in their set.

Much like INFINITE, the performances from The Boyz and NMIXX were extremely thorough and entertaining. Australian-Korean K-Pop NMIXX member, Lily even got her special chance to shine and acknowledge her home country with her parents, other family and friends all attending and wearing cute little pink singlet-vests that had Lily’s face, her name and the words ‘SLAY’ on them. Initially from Marysville in Victoria, every beloved member of this 28-strong Lily support group made the effort to make the trip up to Sydney. Because all of them were wearing these pink vests, it was very easy for Lily to happily spot her loved ones in the Qudos Bank Arena venue. This really made for the sweetest moment of the night.

Haewon, Lily, Sullyoon, BAE, Jiwoo and Kyujin also all wore really cute red, white, and black outfits that were similar but still unique in their own way, displaying their different personalities and styles. I noticed that on each outfit there was an embroidered flag of Australia on them, so even that little touch and gesture felt quite sweet for Australian fans. Their performances were incredible and flawless but the one that stood out for me was ‘O.O’ with its difficult choreography and fiery pyrotechnics that were perfectly timed during appropriate moments of the song. After seeing this song live, I’m certain that these girls can really do anything. Their stage presence was pleasant but also powerful. Unfortunately, NMIXX’s set felt like it ended as quickly as it began, and I really didn’t want them to leave.

Last but not least, 11-member group The Boyz consisting of Sangyeon, Jacob, Younghoon, Hyunjae, Juyeon, Kevin, New, Q, Ju Haknyeon, Sunwoo and Eric were dynamos from start to finish with their cheeky, mesmerising and endearing stage presence. The venue immediately filled with cheers and screams from diehard fans the moment that the group appeared on stage. Each hardcore fan was readily equipped with their megaphone looking lightstick, and their voices combined to collectively crow in both joy and disbelief in response to The Boyz finally performing in Australia.

My favourite performance from The Boyz would be their latest hit ‘Lip Gloss’ which made for some really cute choreography. All interactions that the members made towards their attentive audience were hilariously fun to watch. Even though I wasn’t on the receiving end, it was adorable seeing The Boyz interact with their fans, whether it be reading signs that fans had made and laughing in response after reading them, or even jumping down from the stage to get up-close and personal with fans who were lucky enough to be at the barrier.

Admittedly, I hadn’t actively listened to the group as much previously, but I listen to them more now due to how likable The Boyz were at this event. They also genuinely looked like they were happy to be amongst Australian fans.

While the concert portion of the event was perfect and each group successfully commanded the stage during their turn, what I found severely irritating was the raffle portion in between each set. This consisted of an MC (whose name I can’t remember because she wasn’t engaging and was forgettable) that instructed each group to draw ticket numbers for patrons to win either a signed polaroid of a member of the group or a signed CD.

Previously during each set, the groups would throw signed t-shirts into the crowd and this gesture I had no problems with. But I really loathed it every time the raffle portion would come around, to the point that I began to dread it. This is because these moments took away the energy of the show. At first, I was excited about the possibility of winning, however this quickly turned into me (and many others around me) zoning out or groaning and impatiently waiting until the raffle was over.

Granted, if you won from this, that’s great. But for every other patron present, nobody likes the feeling of losing. At a concert everyone should feel like they’re winning and feel like that they’re a part of something special or living their best life. Not only did the raffle portion force the uncomfortable and depressing feeling of losing, but the momentum of the concert was stolen every time which only hindered the WILD KPOP experience.

From many K-Pop experiences that I have had, this kind of lottery is usually done pre-show and is announced beforehand, usually on social media by the promoter. My only conclusion to why this was done on stage, with the artists embarrassingly and frequently pulling ticket numbers of empty seats, was to drag out the event longer than it needed to be. I can’t fathom why anyone would think that this was a good idea.

On the technical side of things, I found it extremely puzzling why the camera work for the big screens would often zoom in on a member that wasn’t singing during the performances. In any retrospect, this is very poor and for those sitting further away from the stage, is also extremely frustrating.

What was even more appalling was the lack of merchandise. While there were t-shirts available, these were only readily available for patrons that preordered prior to the event. Meaning, they’ve already been bought and paid for, and not really available at all. This is something that I have never seen done before, is ridiculous, and I hope to never see this at an event ever again. You either supply merchandise to all your patrons to purchase on the day or you don’t.

Overall, while I did find myself enjoying WILD KPOP on the concert side of things, considering the short sets and the longer raffle portions that weren’t necessary to be done live on stage (among other things), this event was very flawed and disappointing. I am grateful that I attended to see INFINITE, The Boyz and NMIXX perform but I felt more drained and tired than I was satisfied. I can’t even imagine how exhausted and annoyed patrons on the floor were, let alone how painful their feet would have been through all of this. My only positive note is that I finally got to see these three talented groups live. Although, my greatest fear is that from this experience on their side, they may probably never come back.

K-Pop is such a niche market in Australia to the point that it’s insanely important to execute things properly and thoroughly for the community and genre to grow here. Unfortunately, when events aren’t run smoothly, it only hinders our progress. And once again, I can only comment on what I experienced.

While I appreciate the ambitious passion and courage that was intended for WILD KPOP, even though I did enjoy some portions of it, I am quite concerned that other groups and artists may be deterred by what happened here. Australia is still growing as a K-Pop destination and not many artists consider us a reasonable tour stop already. But let’s hope that I am wrong. All I know is, there is plenty of room for improvement and a lot to learn from this.

WILD KPOP was presented by JK Entertainment which took place in Sydney at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday the 14th of October. *Tickets were provided to only the concert portion of the event for the purpose of this review*.
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Photography supplied and is by Royce.

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