KPOP.FLEX, Europe’s first major K-pop festival, happened over the weekend in Frankfurt, Germany at the Deutsche Bank Park stadium. Marking a new beginning for these types of events on the continent, it was sought after like an oasis in the desert – the first day of the festival sold out 44.000 tickets in less than seven weeks, which prompted the addition of a second day.
With a carefully chosen line-up of nine acts for all tastes, it provided a good balance between girl groups and boyband, seniors and rookies. EXO’s Kai, MONSTA X, (G)I-DLE and Dreamcatcher celebrated their return to Germany after three years, while acts like AB6IX, MAMAMOO, NCT Dream, IVE and ENHYPEN visited the country for the first time – the latter two experiencing their first overseas performances ever. Unfortunately, ONEUS, who were scheduled to perform on day two, had to pull off at the last minute after members Keonhee and Ravn tested positive for COVID-19.
The event also included a fan fest called Korea Festival. Set up by the Korean Tourism Organisation, it aimed to bring Korean culture and cuisine to fans through food stalls and special performances happening on the grounds around the stadium. As it goes with many first-attempts in life, there were some mishaps on day one – the lack of shade on an especially warm afternoon, kilometric queues for all food stalls and the unavailability of water caused distress to many fans who waited for hours before the event began. However, these issues were mostly resolved by day two – which happened earlier, lasted less hours and was substantially less crowded.
The concert itself ran smoothly and streamlined on both days. Structure-wise, the biggest difference between them was that all artists joined the stage once again at the end of day one, while that didn’t happen on day two. And for the acts that performed on both days, any changes in the setlist or outfits added a welcome element of surprise for the audience, which benefits the experience overall.
Because it will be broadcasted on May 29th by SBS in South Korea and by digital platform Doors globally, KPOP.FLEX felt similar to Korean weekly music shows: MCs announce the upcoming artists, they perform a few songs and then leave. For KPOP.FLEX, each act performed three or four songs, some interacted with the public through special sections, and some took part in surprise stages and covers. It’s a format that works well for broadcasting, but for what feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some fans, it goes by far too quickly.
Still, seeing K-pop artists live will never not be worth it. Each one of them brought on their unique energy, as previously distilled in recaps for day one and day two. It also felt momentous to take part in remarkable milestones, such as MAMAMOO’s rare reunion, as well as IVE and ENHYPEN’s first time overseas. While Europe is not a continent that could be defined as “ignored” by K-pop companies, it is rarely a first-choice for such happenings, making the aftertaste of the experience all the sweeter.
One of KPOP.FLEX’s biggest strengths is that it endeavours to become a recurrent event. At the end of day one, it was revealed that the festival will return to Frankfurt next year on June 17th and 18th – as well as a brand-new London edition in 2023. As it becomes more common and more accessible to European fans, the sweet spot for an outstanding experience for both music labels and audiences will be found quite easily.