It’s been long overdue for Europe to have its own K-pop Festival, and KPOP.FLEX arrived to change that. Taking place on May 14 and 15 at the Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany, the event sold over 65,000 tickets across 84 countries. Featuring a stellar line-up, with names ranging from EXO’s Kai to super rookies IVE, the festival aims to become a recurrent point of connection for fans in the continent.
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Aside from performances, it also features Korea Festival, a fan fest arranged by the Korean Tourism Organisation with food stalls and special presentations of Korean music and cultural assets.
Love Diving with IVE
With less than a year of activity, girl group IVE have quickly risen to be ones to watch. It makes sense, then, that they were chosen to open both days of the festival. On Day 1, which also marked IVE’s first-ever overseas performance, they captivated the audience with their catchy and luxurious “chaebol crush” concept. First, the audience plunged into their latest single ‘Love Dive’, followed by B-side ‘Royal’ and debut hit ‘Eleven’. Important to note that Yujin’s mic was on this day.
ENHYPEN’s Knife-Sharp Performance
Another group that just experienced the first taste of an overseas performance was ENHYPEN. The boyband, who debuted in late 2020, prepared a powerful OT7 version of Mix & Max’s ‘Bleeding Darkness’ for the intro, showcasing their impossibly coordinated moves. The performance was followed by last year’s ‘Drunk-Dazed’ and ‘Fever’, which then led to a special section where Sunoo and Jungwon put forward their best aegyo.
Heeseung later sang a snippet of Justin Bieber’s ‘Off My Face’, and the whole group melted the audience with their viral TikTok hit ‘Polaroid Love.’ They also tried to teach the public some moves for ‘Tamed-Dashed’, which, together with their latest single ‘Blessed-Cursed’, closed their set for the night.
Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go
If you thought the Frozen craze was gone, think again. KPOP.FLEX brought back the 2013 Disney movie’s omnipresent soundtrack ‘Let It Go’ for a rendition featuring MAMAMOO’s Solar and AB6IX’s Daehwi. Dressed in white, their crystalline voices echoed through the stadium while we wondered “Is this really happening?”
VCRs Featuring the Whole K-pop Industry, Basically
Beyond the acts performing today, KPOP.FLEX also prepared a VCR that featured messages from acts like Stray Kids, TXT’s Yeonjun, Kwon Eun-bi and more. Even model and actress Jung Ho-yeon, best known for her role on Netflix’s Squid Game, recorded a special message to greet the audience at the beginning of the event. It was a special touch that maybe hints on what’s to come for the next editions? We can dream.
AB6IX’s Search for the Stadium
AB6IX graced the stage with elegance and all-white outfits, performing hits such as ‘Close’, ‘Breathe’, ‘Cherry’ and the entrancing ‘Do You Remember?’. But before all that, they recorded a sweet mini-vlog of their flight to Frankfurt. Among the scenes, the moment where Woong and Donghyun search for the Deutsche Bank Park stadium from up above was both funny and endearing. Idols, they’re just like us.
Neither Man, Nor Woman, Just (G)I-DLE
Proving that they are some of the top performers in the game, girl group (G)I-DLE set KPOP.FLEX aflame with their rock-infused ‘Tomboy’, followed by debut single ‘LATATA’, 2020’s ‘Oh My God’, and finishing with ‘I Never Die’ knockout ‘My Bag.’ Not only do they have attitude and charisma to spare, but also versatility – they tapped onto their soft side to perform a cover of Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ earlier on too.
Veteran queens MAMAMOO blessed the night with their heavenly vocals – as expected – but also with a display of their lasting friendship. While the group hasn’t disbanded, leader Solar has previously mentioned that a comeback with all members is “not going to be immediate”, so any and all reunions by the quartet are extra precious. On the setlist, they opted for recent hits ‘Aya’, ‘gogobebe’, ‘HIP’ and ‘Mumumumuch’.
NCT Dream Bring the Heat and the Glitch
Believe it or not, “Jaemin, the definition of sensual” was an actual caption during NCT Dream’s section. Just like ENHYPEN, the boy group had special prompts to abide to, like showing their best “sensual”, “tough” and “cute” concepts – even though it all ended up being different versions of “cute”, complete with Jisung pulling a ring out of his pocket and proposing to more or less 44,000 people.
Even though members Mark and Haechan couldn’t be present that night, the remaining five dreamies did not disappoint. In fact, they made the best out of the situation, covering their teammates’ parts with ease in a blazing setlist that moved from ‘Hot Sauce’, to ‘Ridin’’, to ‘Hello Future’, and then to their latest single ‘Glitch Mode’.
Kai is Just Built Differently
It’s not like you can’t see how spellbinding Kai is through the screen, but seeing him move live is just… different. There is the flow of a performer who’s been doing this for over a decade, the warm personality of Kim Jong-in (his given name), the care and craft of an individual who gives his everything onstage. Closing the festival with majesty, the EXO member also said he chose the setlist himself: latest single ‘Peaches’, his favorite song ‘Vanilla’, the slow jam ‘To Be Honest’ and his solo debut ‘Mmmh’.
More to Come in 2023
At the end of the festival, it was also announced that KPOP.FLEX will return to Frankfurt next year on June 17th and 18th. While this year’s edition hasn’t even ended yet, the public’s loud cheers prove that Europe is more than ready for the next one.
The second day of KPOP.FLEX started at 3pm, much earlier than Day 1, and was also slightly shorter – boy group ONEUS had to pull off their scheduled performance at the last minute due to members Keonhee and Ravn testing positive for COVID-19. Featuring performances from IVE, AB6IX, Dreamcatcher, MAMAMOO, (G)I-DLE, MONSTA X and Kai, here are our highlights from the last day of the festival:
MAMAMOO Opening the Show
Before running straight to the airport, MAMAMOO kicked off Day 2 to a great start. Much of their setlist was the same, but swapping ‘Mumumumuch’ for 2015’s ‘Um Oh Ah Yeh’ was a refreshing surprise, as well as a perfect moment to interact with the audience and just enjoy this rare experience with overseas fans.
IVE’s Newfound Confidence
Changing their Day 1 school outfits to black, bejeweled ones, girl group IVE were visibly more confident today. With the pressure of opening the festival off their shoulders and a better familiarity to what a stadium audience feels like, they moved smoothly through their holy trifecta ‘Love Dive’, ‘Royal’ and ‘Eleven’.
Dreamcatcher Made the Audience Their Own
A definite standout of the afternoon, Dreamcatcher performed their latest singles ‘Maison’, ‘BEcause’ and ‘Scream’ with unrelenting energy. The charismatic septet knew exactly how to hype up an audience, and there was nothing more goosebump-inducing than a whole crowd jumping to the grandiosity of ‘Scream’. They also performed a special cover of BLACKPINK’s ‘Kill This Love’ later on, showing that people who don’t listen to Dreamcatcher are simply missing out on life.
Dance Lessons with AB6IX
AB6IX also changed their white outfits of Day 1 for black ones, and took part in a special section dedicated to teach fans some popular dance moves from NCT 127’s ‘Kick It’, BLACKPINK’s ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-du’ and BTS’ ‘Permission to Dance’. On the setlist, instead of ‘Breathe’ and ‘Cherry’, they brought on the bright, summery ‘1, 2, 3’ to fit with the breezy atmosphere of Sunday.
MONSTA X Keep Getting Better
One of the most awaited acts of Day 2, MONSTA X came forward with a video celebrating their seven-year anniversary, which happened on May 14th. It was a testament to the group’s longevity and first-class discography, which was then experienced first-hand.
On the setlist, latest single ‘Love’ was followed by the Germany-appropriate B-side ‘Autobahn’ and 2021’s intense ‘Gambler’, as well as the charming ‘사랑한다 (Saranghanda)’ to cool things off. Just like AB6IX, they also participated in a special section showing off their versatility, and nothing will top off Hyungwon’s (referred to as the homme fatal of MONSTA X) depiction of a “sensual guy” by covering IVE’s ‘Love Dive’ – without his jacket.