Date: 25th November 2012
It has been a dream of mine to attend an SM Town concert. For those who don’t know, SM Town concerts are a collective of all artists under SM Entertainment, performing in one night and for over 3 hours! Now considering you are seeing SNSD, TVXQ, Super Junior, SHINee, f(x), BoA, Kang Ta and now EXO all in one night, you can see why it’s an epic concert!
Being an ardent K-pop fan, I got to know of an SM Town happening in Thailand back in August itself. I just needed a confirmation and when it was formally announced, I couldn’t let go of this opportunity. The date worked perfectly for me as the 24th of November was the Yee Peng Lanna event in Chiang Mai. An event I’ll blog about later, but long story short, I now had two big reasons to visit Thailand a fourth time!
But unfortunately, my ordeal wasn’t as satisfying as the concert ended up being. First I had to get tickets. I was hoping Thai Ticket Major would be the usual website from where I could get tickets, but no. Instead, SM had partnered with mobile and cable operator True Corporation and the booking website to go to was webooking.com. They announced the date and time when tickets would go on sale and I waited for the day to come.
11am Thailand time, 9:30am in India, was when the tickets would go on sale online. I woke up at 9am on a Sunday and kept hitting refresh until I could see the ‘Buy Tickets’ button come up. At 9:29am it did. I knew I wanted one 5000 baht ticket in the A2 section. But when I clicked on the section and chose my ‘seat,’ (A2 & A3 were standing sections) I couldn’t buy it until the entire seat layout loaded. Yup, seat layout for a freakin’ standing section! And by now the servers were showing signs that it was getting hammered by traffic from K-pop fans just like me desperately trying to buy tickets. When I finally got the ‘Buy ticket’ button to pop-up, it then told me the seat had been taken! This same thing happened to me thrice! And when I tried a fourth time, all the ‘seats’ showed red. As in fully booked. Grrrh!
Frustrated and upset, I decided to try for a seat in the A6 section. And I got one there. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I at least got something. But when I came back home after 4 hours and went to webooking.com just to check if the entire concert was sold-out, I was surprised to see it hadn’t. And guess what… when I clicked on the A2 section, 5-6% of the seats now appeared in white – as in, available and open for purchase! I was like: “Awww man, now what?”.
I then decided to go ahead an book a seat in the 5000 baht section. I figured, I could easily find a buyer for the A6 ticket I had – right? I wasn’t happy that I spent 9500 baht (Rs. 17,195/US$309) when I am still technically without a full-time job. But what to do. A Sone’s got to do what Sone has to do to see his favourite idols.
Sadly, my ordeal didn’t end there.
Upon landing in Bangkok, I wanted to collect the physical tickets so that I could easily sell the 4500 baht ticket I didn’t want. But when I went to the big True branch in Sukhumvit, they told me to check with another branch. I took the MRT to the Central Rama 9 branch. There I waited but was finally told by the staff to go to the Central Rama 3 branch. I took the MRT and a taxi to the branch with the webooking.com counter where after being charged a 20 baht service fee, I was told “no have ticket, come tomorrow”.
I told them I couldn’t do that because I needed to leave for Phuket that night and that I would collect it at the venue. I was very frustrated sitting in the taxi back. As if the 9500 baht wasn’t enough over-spending, I spent in excess of 200 baht going around for nothing! Waste of time and made my experience in Bangkok even worse.
Anyway, on the day of the concert, I chose to stay near Victory Monument because I read I could get buses to SCG Stadium (the concert venue) easily. After much directional pointing by locals, I found a long queue of young fans holding K-pop merchandise, so I knew they were all going for SM town.
Fortunately a girl in front of me spoke decent enough English and told me that this line was for a van taxis to Muang Thong Thani. She told me not to worry and just follow her. I sighed relief knowing I had a local who could help me 🙂
The venue was over 15kms from the Victory Monument area and took nearly 30 minutes to reach. Traffic was piling up so I was a bit glad I chose to leave early. Of course, that and the fact I had to collect my tickets and then sell the 4500 baht ticket before I could go in!
There were thousands of K-pop fans, stalls selling all sorts of K-pop merchandise and a big festive atmosphere all around. I held a piece of paper stating I had one extra ticket for sale. Once I got my tickets, I was approached by a few fans and touts. I just wanted to get my 4500 baht back but most were offering less. I didn’t want to sell to the touts because they were obviously going to sell it for profit. But seeing the thousands thronging inside the venue, I was getting restless. I finally gave up and sold it to a tout for 4000 baht. I was just desperate to get in and find a good spot.
Still, I didn’t regret spending 5k baht to be here.
Girls Generation fans were (not surprisingly) out in huge numbers. Pink was easy to spot and fan-groups were handing out pamphlets with instructions for fan-events.
Just then, cheers grew loud as fans spotted a cheery Luna on the right side of the stage. Five girls all dressed in red then took to the stage to a loud cheer from the entire stadium.
The girls performed their hit single “Pinocchio (Danger)” before running off the stage. It wouldn’t be the their only performance.
After that duet ended, I look at the main stage and I see a doll-like girl hop on stage. My inner-fanboy just couldn’t control itself and I just let out a big shout…
Seriously, Jessica’s beauty is no joke! Porcelain skin, curvy body and a beautiful glowing face. Jessica is so damn gorgeous! Sorry, gor-Jess!
Then played a bunch of teasers (and anyone who followed EXO’s debut knew how many there were!) which brought about ear-splitting screams from the girls around me.
SNSD’s power vocalist screamed through… actually no, she was lip-syncing to “Devil’s Cry”. I mean, it was her voice in the recording and I know she can sing the hell out of anything, but the way she was covering her mouth and holding the mic, it was fairly apparent Taeyeon was playing pretend. I quite liked the rock song though.
The leader then walked down the steps to join her eight sisters and SNSD was finally on stage as one!
Now, I could list a thousand reasons why I love the girls of SNSD so much, but one of the big reasons is because they make me laugh. And tonight they did. Here are the usual funny ones attempting to speak Thai:
The girls would return.
Just like the girls of SNSD, the boys of Super Junior are known for their ability to entertain a crowd. And that’s exactly what they did when they attempted to speak Thai! 😀
SuJu performed the Korean version of their Chinese hit “Perfection” and “A-Cha” before handing the stage back to SNSD who performed “Mr. Taxi” in Korean as well.
And I recorded the whole thing:
Looking around, a lot of fans were taking their final “I was there!” self-shots. Despite the rain and all the hassles I went through to get here, all I kept thinking was: “Wow, what-a-show!”
50 performances, 32 idols, 4 hours of K-pop insanity, killer stage setup, water fountains, pyrotechnics… jeez, this is one heck of a show to produce! It’s no wonder the tickets are expensive. Although Thai fans told me SM Town 2011 was cheaper, there was no 12-member EXO last year. I spent all-in-all 5500 baht (I lost 500 baht upon selling my other ticket I didn’t need) plus flights and hotel accommodation. A lot of money for a guy who is still looking for a decent job. But you know what… it was worth it!
It was an experience I’ll never forget. Face it, SM Town or for that matter, any major K-pop artist isn’t coming to India anytime soon. K-pop has yet to reach the levels of acceptance as “Gangnam Style” has. Fuck, now to most Indians, “Gangnam Style” is Korean music. Not exactly what long-time fans of K-pop have been listening to for years! I consider myself quite fortunate to be among the few from India to have attended to an SM Town concert.
But for all the crap I went through for the tickets before the concert, my ordeal for the night wasn’t over. It only dawned on me after the concert: “Wait, now how I do I get back to my hotel?” I regretted not asking that important question to the girl who helped me get to the venue. And I forgot to ask for her number.
It was past 10pm and traffic was bad as thousands were trying to leave the area post-rain. I looked around for buses or vans going back to the city but couldn’t find any. I asked around so many times but it was getting quite frustrating as no one spoke good enough English to give me some proper advice on where to go. Just as I was thinking of asking random passersby for a ride back to the city or to any metro station, one girl waiting for her ride suggested I could try for buses near Impact Arena.
And so I walked. Past the Novotel hotel and the many exhibition halls, which were all hosting various events. All I kept thinking was how and why is there a lack of proper public transportation when there are so many events going on in one area?
Anyway, I found the spot for van taxis dropping people off at Mo Chit BTS (the last/first station on the main skytrain line). It was long snake-like queue, but I had no choice. I waited.
And by the time I reached my room after picking up dinner from the only 24-hour McDonalds outlet near Victory Monument, it was 12am. I was tired as hell. But satisfied.
Will I do this again? Probably not in Bangkok. But I will not hesitate to attend another SM Town though. Sure it’s expensive, and although I hope they don’t increase ticket prices again next year, you really do get your money’s worth of entertainment. For me it was either go for SM Town in Singapore or Bangkok. I chose Bangkok because I love Thailand, and I had other events that gave me enough reason to justify this trip from India. That and the fact everything costs more in Singapore! Tickets, flights, hotels, etc.
That said, I probably wouldn’t want to attend another SM Town in Bangkok if it’s going to be held in SCG Stadium. Heck, Psy was having a free concert there on November 28th and I still didn’t go because of the worry about getting back. (I still saw him at another event though :))
Looking back, I had no regrets. For those lucky enough to get a SM Town in your city, just go for it! You won’t regret it, it’s really that good a show. Plus, I don’t think I can say I’m satisfied until the day I finally see the SNSD members up close and I get to interview them for my website (that is a dream of mine). I’m now back in India still dreaming of living or working in Bangkok or Singapore for a while so that I don’t have to keep flying to these places everytime I want to see my K-pop idols. But until that dream comes true, I guess I have no choice but to spend the money. SM Town III was one of the best concerts I have attended. It was far better than the K-pop Nation concert in Macau where I spent pretty much the same amount but for lousier seats!
Any disappointments? I would have liked it if SNSD performed in front of me – but they never came as nine on to the stage closest to where I was standing. I would have liked to have seen BoA perform “The Shadow”… but these are things I shouldn’t be complaining about as each fan will have their disappointments. Every act put on a great show. Only on very few songs did the artists lip-sync, otherwise they were busting their asses off performing to their best in the heat and the rain!
As much as I went as a Sone, the one group that honestly blew me away was TVXQ. Man… are they awesome or what! Just two of them (and their awesome back-up dancers who deserve just as much praise) were giving it their all – vocals and dancing! I can now see why Lee Soo Man was so butt-hurt when JYJ split away from DBSK. If just two of them were this good, imagine what all five of them on stage were like!
As for the above photos, please note that they were taken on the Google Nexus 4 phone – which I borrowed from my friend for this night just so I could take decent shots. I didn’t want to risk bringing my expensive DSLR and lenses as I knew they wouldn’t be allowed. (But as always, some managed to sneak them in). I didn’t click or record every performance, like when TaeTiSeo performed “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” with Exo. But then again, recording the entire concert was never my intention. In some ways I’m glad I didn’t watch too many clips of past SM Town concerts this year.
As for videos, I actually recorded over 50 clips, but they’re all of no use. Anything with music (which is most of the recordings) is nothing but “Brrrr, brrrrm, brrrm..”. A pain to listen to and not worth uploading :-/ I’ll see if I can salvage whatever I can.
So yeah, that’s it. Nearly 4000 words and 78 photos. That was my first SM Town concert! 😉