some pictures from my weekend dancing for the dream concert, feat. long rehearsals, surprisingly unglamorous cafeteria food, scotch-tape heels, chillaxing with famous peeps, and a stadium of 45,000
i promise i’ll shut up about this, but first i have to just…i think this is the important part; the part we don’t see and the part we don’t own and what goes on to give us the razzle dazzle that makes fans and fandom possible in the first place. SO much goes on in the lives of all these real people so we can have a bunch of gifs and fancams and feelings. so here is my mini essay about being not quite impossibly glam, aka the misconceptions of everyone, aka 48 hours of idol life
Aside from the outlandish stage costumes and the moments spent in front of tens of thousands of screaming people, a sea of undulating lightsticks, and huge crane-mounted cameras, everything is…startlingly normal.
You start the day tired, and stay that way. Sleep genuinely is as scarce as we all somewhere at the back of our minds know it is. Between rehearsals, transport time, meetings, makeup, etc, I got three hours Friday and Saturday, and I was doing better than a lot of the people there. Exo and Kara didn’t START their rehearsals until almost 11pm on Friday, and sure enough, there we all were very bright and very early Saturday morning in hoodies and huge glasses and murderous expressions. With no makeup, no costumes, no cameras, no fans, and no sleep, no one seems famous at all (a very large number of idols, especially the girls, are borderline unrecognizable without makeup). People have breakouts and bags under their eyes and baseball caps, XXL sweatshirts and frizz. Even the exceptions to this rule (Shinee and Lee Sungjong looked like they walked in ripped tees and bedhead straight out of a Vogue shoot, damn them) still were just wandering, chatting, real people hanging out like everyone else.
And there’s a lot of hanging out: you’re bored, a lot. You will be bored out of your mind. The most surprising thing was just how boring it is. Everything is very hurry-up-and-wait: no sleeping go go we have to be at the next rehearsal quick get backstage in the next 15 minutes run run run !!! ….okay now stand here twiddling your thumbs in the sweltering heat for 40 minutes waiting for the stage to free up~ A lot of the groups were there when we showed up at 8am - and once you’re dropped at your venue, you pretty much don’t leave.
Both at KBS HQ and the concert, the dressing rooms are not that big. At all. So between rushing to and from run-through, press call, and performance, you’re sitting in a small box with a couch for 8-12 hours except to nibble mediocre food, go to the bathroom, and wander a couple security-approved hallways.
Speaking of: security is not that good. You will probably have at least three girls try to either charm or break their way into your box-with-a-couch - this happened right in front of me to both Shinee and Infinite, and nobody even looked up from their phones
(Sungjong texts like lightning). I doubt this was new or rare.
Unless you are very famous, the food is…also not that good. Backup dancers, staff, coordis, and rookies (this includes Exo and Boyfriend level) all ate what was basically school lunch in a depressingly-lit hotel convention room with ugly carpet. If you are famous and male, you can order delivery (pizza, chinese food, and fried chicken deliverymen all made appearances in certain people’s rooms). Otherwise you will be just another staff member waiting for fake-cheese microwave burritos at 10pm.
…which isn’t all bad! If during the ten hours of lead-up people looked bored and stressed, after we got through maybe half the stages there was a fun kind of sleepover vibe of people emerging from their little boxes to share corndogs (idol food, man) and watch each other’s sets and hang out.
The people are fascinating because I’ve been watching and listening to them for a long time but (obviously) only from the other side. No cameras, and (supposedly) no fans, and people were different. Some of it I’m sure was exhaustion, but grumpy stormcloud ladies stalked up the stairs and became sexy bubbly divas. People looked like miserable murderous hell and ran into walls and came out 35 yards later grinning and throwing hearts and nailing high notes.
tl;dr it seems obvious but two huge things:
1. most of these people are unfathomably professional. this is a job and they work hard
2. we as fans have virtually zero idea what’s really going on with these people at any point in time
There is also a lot more choreographed into most performances - as in, watching both rehearsal and then concert stage you see people literally plan and practice in an empty stadium exactly where they’re throwing hearts and which corner they’re winking at and which seat will get a wave. Some people freestyled, but not as much.
The flip side is a surprising amount of fanservice-y things happening when basically there was no one to be fanservice-y for. I guess there were staff and things, but I’d chalk it up more to just a normal amount of the ever-tactile Korean mode of social interactions that seemed surprising in this context. BTOB backhug-cuddling against the snack bar counter would deeeeefinitely be super gay in the states, and on a stage I’d say they were coached into doing fanservice, but we were in a no-camera zone no fans could reach or see and they were like that for a good while (idk if any BTOB fans will see this, but yo: cuddly band). Same jive with woohyun and key holding hands through their entire morning conversations, minho pulling onew’s hood over his head and giving him the super-crushing bear hug treatment (you know, the kind where you sway side to side while your victim tries to nuzzle his way out), Sistar napping draped all over each other, etc etc etc.
Knowing that everything we normally see is performative makes me totally cynical about virtually all idol interactions - I mean, I still think a LOT of that stuff is coached/fake/for fancameras, but there’s also real spontaneous affection. A lot of bandmates genuinely get along really well. How heartwarming~ ~
That said, the end stage was quite weird, because everyone was very chummy when backstage there was almost no inter-band interaction. People travelled in pairs or packs, but only with their same band (and/or handlers, coordis, backup dancers, etc). The exception is Shinee, who seemed to have run of the place and buddies everywhere (***Key).
Anyway, that became really long and idk who’s gonna actually read any of it, but I guess I just wanted to send this little paper airplane out into the fandom world: SO MANY people work SO HARD to bring you all those gifs and posters and tv perfs, real living thinking feeling human beings both in front of the camera and behind it - swarms and swarms from coordis, makeup noonas, light and sound technicians, caterers, roadies, and construction guys, to lunch ladies, handlers, cameramen, and security guards, down to the people who spent hours setting up and taking down thousands of plastic lawn chairs for the field seats. We take for granted the sliverslice we see: oppa loves you but he’s also on the clock, and so are a hundred other people ; let’s all send out a little thank you to the chair-stackers :)