Have you ever been to a K-pop concert? You’ve definitely heard of some fans camping or spending a pretty penny on merch. But why? What makes a K-pop group or concert worth endless lines and money?
Take a look at the 5-member group PIXY: nearly finished with their 21-show tour, the girls performed at a sold-out show in Boston earlier this week. Members Dia, Lola, Sua, Dajeong, and Rinji (under ALLART Entertainment) released their fourth EP, “Chosen Karma,” on March 10th — a sassy and slightly jazzy addition to their already unique discography. Celebrating the release with their 1st ever-American tour, the girls showed us just what to expect from K-pop and PIXY.
Karma Is A B
Those unfamiliar with K-pop can expect a soundcheck and maybe a meet-and-greet session as extra perks to a show. At PIXY’s concert, fans arrived at the venue, Sonia at the Middle East, as early as 3 hours prior to the show to experience early entry, a group photo session, fansign, and soundcheck. In Boston (or Cambridge, more accurately), that meant standing in on-and-off rain and cold temperatures.
I could hear excited chatter and music playing before I even arrived at the scene. Winxys (PIXY’s fandom name) came dressed to impress: from sparkly makeup to outfits inspired by the KARMA music video and light sticks ready.
The festivities opened with a fansign, where fans could chat with the members and get items signed. It was heartwarming to see the girls recognize long-time and regular fans while signing albums, photocards, posters, and even a Squishmallow. Staff quickly transformed the area to accommodate group photos. Fans posed with PIXY members, completing hearts or copying each other’s poses. PIXY’s laughter and excited greetings filled the venue, followed by fans’ compliments and adoration. PIXY’s effort to speak English with their American fans was especially notable and appreciated even as a non-fan.
Soundcheck followed quickly after, as more fans entered the venue. In their casual street style, the girls took to the stage and performed their songs “Insomnia,” “Whisper,” and “Natural.” The members showed off their live singing skills and chatted intimately with fans. Amid the swaying arms and cheers, I became more excited for the main event.
Tired yet? Winxys and I still had more than two hours of fun to go!
“WE’RE THE PIXY!”
One of the things that sets K-pop acts apart from the rest of the music industry is their dancing. Almost every song from the album — from the title track to the B-sides — has choreography, save for the ballads. PIXY has gone viral a few times on Twitter and TikTok with their elaborate and challenging choreography; I was excited to witness them in real life and see what the hype was all about.
As the audience stood waiting in the dark with anticipation, they were shocked to see a creepy puppet (featured in PIXY’s “KARMA” music video) hanging down the middle of the stage. I overheard a parent chaperoning their WINXY kid whisper, “That’s one way to start a show.” The girls followed soon after, one by one, like models, getting in position for their opening number: “Villain.”
PIXY transformed from the sweet girls taking a few moments to pose for my camera to insanely charismatic idols in the blink of an eye. Most of PIXY’s songs are strong, and a little dark, and even the ever-smiling Dajeong looked fierce and fit the girl-crush concept perfectly. Despite the small stage, the girls did not hold back for a moment, and I watched in awe as they created beautiful formations and sang live the whole show. Main dancer Rinji, who joined the group last October, especially caught my eye with her sharp skills and strong stage presence. Sadly, main rapper Lola had to sit to the side due to a knee injury, yet she commanded attention with her smile and hard-hitting rap.
Fans sang along and moved their lightsticks to the beat of each song. Typically fans in South Korea adhere to “fan chants”— parts of a song where fans are instructed to join in or cheer, or the sweet spot during a dance break where fans chant all the members’ names. However, in America, fans tend to sing along and cheer for the whole song. Winxys did not disappoint, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Korean lyrics being sung right back to the members.
My favorite part of the show, besides the unreleased “Trick or Treat”, was Dajeong’s solo. The members came together to flip a coin (just like their song!) to decide who would perform a solo that night. After a dramatic drumroll and fans’ roaring approval, the 19-year-old re-introduced herself and performed “Love On Top” by Beyoncé. The cover was short but full of energy, ending with the big heart from Dajeong. Fans sang along to the familiar tune and shouted endless praises throughout.
The show ended with two fan-dedicated songs: a common practice in K-pop. I made sure to look up the lyrics before the show so I could really enjoy the finale. I felt the girls’ sincerity during “Still with me (To.Winxy)”: a song about someone who, despite being “far, far away,” is still with them even in the dark or frustrating times. Released in 2021, just a year after PIXY debuted and the height of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, I thought the song was a lovely addition to the show. The touching performance was followed by “Greetings,” a more recent release from last year. This fan song felt more like a direct conversation to fans, where PIXY tells fans that they missed them and hoped to see them soon.
“I hope that today brings happiness and comfort to you like a wonderful gift.” (Sua)
But wait… there’s more! Many fans started to clear the venue buzzing about the array of performances they just witnessed, while many stayed. I watched again as staff magically adjusted the scene from concert to hi-touch and selfie events. Fans lined up to greet the members again, and this time raved about how well they did. I was sure PIXY had to be exhausted, and I knew they’d be on their way to the next city tonight. However, they still called to fans lovingly and intently listened to fans, responding with just as much affection and dedication. It was fascinating to watch American fans recite rehearsed Korean, with PIXY cheering them on in return while taking selfies on fans’ phones or high-fiving.
A tired but true sentiment: I witnessed music transcend barriers that night, this time as an on-looker instead of a fan. After an exciting 5 hours, though, I confidently walked away as a fan. I would definitely recommend PIXY to fans of complex choreography, dark and fairytale-like concepts, and strong vocals.
Check out the photo galleries of the concert and fan engagement in Boston and Columbus below!
PIXY in Boston, MA