What Happens When Big Bang Comes to Hawaii?

August 18, 2016, 9:59 a.m.. I am at my computer, two tabs open, waiting. It is the day that Big Bang tickets go on sale. I am so ready.

Have I mentioned that Big Bang is what started it all for me? That’s another story in itself , but let’s just stick to the story at hand.

It hits 10:00 a.m. and I race to get tickets alongside hundreds of other fans. Somehow, under the good graces of the universe, I land an inner aisle seat in the fifth row. The fifth row.

Legit picture of my ticket. Not a lie, it felt like I have received the golden ticket.

Legit picture of my ticket. Not a lie, it felt like I have received the golden ticket.

Of course, after buying the tickets I act as if nothing happened in normal society, and eventually get caught up in a whirlwind of school and work - until the week of the event. It is only then that I begin to hear the murmurs of other fans.

Big Bang, basically like seeing KPOP royalty.

This event was sparking conversations with people I didn’t even know were interested in KPOP. I was being asked by members of my graduate program if I was going, just because they knew I had learned Korean. They asked me where I was sitting, and if it was worth it even if TOP, a member of the band, wasn’t going to come. (Spoiler alert, he did end up coming.) Everyone I knew that took Korean classes had their tickets prepared.

Only when I arrived did I understand what an important event this was to the Korean community. Big Bang really was like royalty, and anyone who was vaguely connected to Korean culture or language on the island was there, albeit mostly female. Koreaboos, college students wearing the most Korean makeup possible, teenage girls decked in Big Bang inspired outfits, moms of those teenage girls, or just perhaps mom-aged-looking women from the local Korean churches, boyfriends, and male fans dressed as their favorite member, they were all there waiting in line, excitedly chatting and clutching their light sticks.

A picture of the stage taken by Bonnie Fox, my friend who was sitting in a different section. 

A picture of the stage taken by Bonnie Fox, my friend who was sitting in a different section. 

Once inside the air buzzed with anticipation. When Big Bang finally came out, the crowd went wild and it was a blur of lights, music, singing, and laughter until the final confetti fell and the stage emptied. Fans lingered, taking pictures by the stage and bumping into friends they didn’t expect to be at the concert. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

What effect did the Big Bang concert have on the citizens of Hawaii?

Growing to incredible amounts of fame, Big Bang is perhaps one of the best known KPOP groups. With such recognition, a place with a strong Korean community such as Oahu was sure to bring out Korean American fans. What is interesting, however, is that all of the secret, and not-so-secret, fans of KPOP also made a mandatory appearance at the concert. The concert was an opportunity to show fan spirit that generally isn’t normal in American society. The girls dressed in hanboks (traditional Korean clothing) that they could never wear in public. The fans singing along to all the songs, even though they didn’t know Korean. Korean Americans, too, could be proud of their culture in selling out a whole concert hall.

Perhaps the thing I find most meaningful about it, however, is that it brought people together. It brought me closer to the Korean Ph.D student that I was intimidated to talk to. It allowed me to make jokes about the members of Big Bang with my classmates. At the concert I made friends with the girls I was sitting beside. I saw many people chatting with people from completely different social groups, able to bond over a shared interest.

This relationship building could have possibly not occurred if Big Bang hadn’t come to Hawaii. Those fans like me who don’t often show their interest in KPOP publicly would never have the opportunity to meet other secret fans. Moms wouldn’t have been able to bond with their daughters and sons over popular media. People were able to express themselves in ways that they possibly hadn’t before.

Sure, I had a great time at the concert. It was fun. It was loud. It was a 1080p quality performance. However, looking at the concert in a macro way, I can see that events like this really do have an impact on communities of people with shared interest. It brings them together. It creates solidarity and validity in their lives. It can even allow people to bond with one another.

It may have seemed shallow for me and the hundreds of others to be waiting to buy their tickets at 10:00 a.m., but looking beyond that, it really was buying tickets to bring happiness into our lives, validate our interests, and share that interest with others - all with a band from halfway around the world.

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Raquel “Rocky” Reinagel is a MA candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi; and Co-President of the Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA) at UHM.