JYJ in NYC

I find it difficult to even find a place to begin here, to enumerate in words what Friday, November 12th, 2010 meant to me -- as a person, as a music lover, as a fan of JYJ and as a Cassiopeian. All in all -- why is Nikki in China now? Who do I *squee* with?

(Yoochun, Jaejoong and Junsu)

To spare you the long-winded exposition, if you don't know about DBSK/TVXQ/JYJ/HoMin/the lawsuit situation from previous posts, I'm guessing this post more won't do you much good. There's no real use rehashing the painful reason why the Godly Five are separated (always keep the faith!), so I'd rather be skant on the negative and talk about what a truly positive experience this was -- literally rising from ashes so to speak.

JYJ, the sub-unit of literally one of the most successful pop groups in modern Asia, has officially embarked on a "cross-over" via three live dates in the United States, in support of their English album, The Beginning, which features production by Kanye West (no, he wasn't there) and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins (nope, him neither). New York City was the first date of the "tour", also featuring Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but it marks one of the first time artist's of their stature and background have performed on the East Coast. A few more dates were originally planned, including a show in Hawaii, but they were all "mysteriously" cancelled not long after they were announced. Tickets themselves were only put up on release last week. To say the tour was a bit haphazard and slapped together would be putting it mildly (meanwhile, the three members themselves, all of which recently got Twitter accounts, were hard at work posting various pictures of their cats while fans were literally gouging their eyes out when forced to deal with the vagueries and miscommunication -- myself included). 

Just as the hype started to build to a deafening pitch, as JYJ themselves landed in New York Tuesday night in order to cope with the ridiculous jetlag, things began to spliter around them, as rumors and news began to filter out that the whole tour (including the New York gig) would be cancelled. Reasons varied, but the majority of it either filtered back to mistakes on the part of their latest management team (#3 Officially for those of you who are keeping track). Like the majority of the fans who were hit with the news on Thursday (literally, the day before the show), I was quick to shrug it off as rumor mongering, until it was confirmed true.

Read on for more. Prepare. It's a long one.
The group -- for some reason or another -- were effectively denied their work visas to gain commercial monies through their appearances in the United States. The management was quick to assert that they don't know why this happened, considering everything was handled correctly. However, rumor mills are buzzing that visas were not applied for until last week, when they usually take about a month or longer to process. I really don't know who or what to believe other than the main finger is pointed at the assertion that, per U.S. protocol, an international performer must be performing under a given name for a year or longer before being granted a work visa. In the case of JYJ, they have only officially come out as such in April of 2010 (one month after TVXQ's Japanese activities were put on "hiatus"), so they would not be fulfilling the requirement.

Here's where it gets fishy, because the other two members of TVXQ, Yunho and my beloved Changmin, both appeared essentially as "solo" artists and as a duet in Los Angeles for SM Town a few months back. There was no issue with the visas then when essentially it was the same problem. Many are saying it was because SM applied for Yunho and Changmin's work visas under their "international" names of U-Know and Max (respectively), of which they had been using for longer than year. If this was the case, why couldn't JYJ do the same, as Xiah Junsu, Hero Jaejoong and Micky Yoochun? Junsu released a solo single as "Xiah Junsu" after the lawsuit fallout and Yoochun is regularly referred to as Micky both by himself and by the media. 

Whatever the reason, the visas were denied. Because of this, the group would not be able to collect any money for their American showcases. Rather than cancel them all and scrap the whole deal (essentially returning to Korea with their tail between their legs), they decided to go on with the show, opening them up for free (the only loophole to continue them), and absorbing the costs themselves rather than dissapoint themselves and their American fanbase.

The results were absolutely cataclysmic. Check out this highlight sizzle reel by AllKPop.com:


I'll be honest, walking in to this, I had no idea what to expect. I had bought my ticket last week, but the prices themselves were outrageous. Like Lady GaGa at Madison Square Garden outrageous. For a group that was essentially only know in America by a Billboard Magazine article and a underground of tenacious TVXQ fans known as Cassiopeians. All of the money was refunded to all ticket holders, automatically, and whatever seats remained were up for grabs. The seating was general admission, first come first serve. Fans came as early as the night before, waiting in line in the relative cold in the middle of Midtown Manhattan in the hopes of being as close to the boys as possible. 

(It bares mentioning that the boys themselves were performing at the Hammerstein Ballroom, were staying at the New Yorker hotel, and photographed themselves eating at the Tick Tock Dinner. All of these places are NEXT DOOR to each other. I guess they don't get to get out much? Grin.)


Given I had to work on Friday, I wasn't able to stand out at all hours for the best seats possible. I got to the line at 4PM, to find it halfway down the block (already), but happily found myself in admist a mixture of friendly, adorable, chatty, jittery fans who were not only pleasant and talkative, but geniunely funny and interesting in themselves. 

I made so many new friends and penpals (the overwhelming amount were so beyond confused that I was 23 and not a junior in high school like so many of them were, which I find mildly comforting...kind of), met people who traveled from as far as Korea itself, people of all ethnicities, people who couldn't speak English or Korean. The vast majority were Asian of some decent but the glut of Ameri-Cassies certainly didn't dissapoint in terms of our melting pot definition in this country (and a lot of fanboys, I'm proud to say!). We passed the time shrieking over nothing, chanting, giggling over how cute they are, getting emotional over the impact of today, and regularly checking Twitter for updates.

More and more people would stare at the line of excited fans on their way past us on the sidewalk and would ask what we were waiting in line for. "JYJ!" we'd all scream. They'd continue to look confused. While walking to the line myself, I passed a group of people across the street who were staring in shock at the group haze of fans with red adornment. No lie -- exact exchange:

Person #1: Do you know what they're all waiting for?
Person #2: Some concert at the Ballroom.
Person #1: Who?
Person #3: Kanye West.
Person #2: No, it's a Korean thing. It's a Korean festival.
Person #1: They all look really young though.
Person #2: I think it's the North Korean President. I think he's here visiting for some summit.

Me: (giggling to herself as she runs to the end of the line)

We were initially supposed to be let in around 6:30PM, but didn't end up getting in till 8PM (when the show was scheduled to start initially). To say we all stood shoulder to shoulder would be an extreme understatement. We were so smushed together, if we hadn't gotten to know each other first, we would have very fast. The surreal part was after just a few hours together, as the sea of people began to at times violently ebb and flow in an attempt to be let inside the venue, myself and many of the girls I'd befriended immediately began linking arms so we could stick together.We were constantly told to stop pushing, step back, step forward, step to the wall, step here, step there, all the while gasping for breath in the chilly night air, already heavy with emotion due to the roller coaster that is the TVXQ! fandom. We joked to each other that if security tried to start something, they'd be supremely underestimating the power of these fangirls, especially when we banded together as we had. "Even if they arrested us," we joked, "they'd take us away screaming 'ALWAYS KEEP THE FAITH' and 'OT5!'" It's both funny because it would probably be true, and scary at the same time.

At 8PM, I finally crossed the threshold into the building. We later learned that almost 3000 people were turned away because the building was at capacity of 3,400 people.

The two hosts who MC-ed the event and worked as a makeshift go-between translater for JYJ came out and thanked us for coming. They did the obligatory split-up-the-crowd gag and made us all scream J-Y-J in tandem. Then, the lights went out, and all hell broke loose. The roar was so loud, it was giving me flashbacks to when I was many of these girls ages and crying over seeing *NSYNC in person. But the comparison isn't really fair, because while then (or even indeed now with the Justin Biebers and whatnot) the screams and excitement is because of the now, the screams that filled the Hammerstein Ballroom on Friday were because of the now, the future and most painfully for the past. I think I can venture a claim that virtually no one in the Hammerstein Ballroom that night was there because they weren't a TVXQ fan first and foremost, a group who never got the chance to play in New York (yet!). 


The show opened with my favorite cut from The Beginning, "Empty" -- a Darkchild production -- before seguing into the synthy, slinky "Be The One". The lights cut out and a video was shown of their production process for the album as the stage was cleared  and mic stands were set up. They performed the ballad "Be My Girl", before stools were set up and the group was brought back out to have a Q&A with the fans and the host. Mostly generic questions were asked, and the results were slightly awkward at times. Junsu and Jaejoong rarely spoke English at all, and used the female host as a translator, while Yoochun (who lived in Virginia for several years prior to returning to Korea to join TVXQ) attempted to conversate in English the whole time (and for the most part did quite well). Still, the Q&A was the undoubtable highlight, if only for:
  • They all introduced themselves in English. Junsu, ever the cutie pie, giggled and said, "Hello. My name is Junsu Kim," in a kind of solemnity. Jaejoong simply stated, "Hi guys, I'm Jaejoong," while Yoochun took advantage of his knowledge of the language and slang by stating, "Hey...{swagger grin}". 
  • When asked if they all have girlfriends, they all said no, but Jaejoong kind of hid his face when he said it. Hmmm.
  • When asked about what he likes best about his members, Junsu said he loves Yoochun's "wide forehead." Cassiopeia the world over both laughed and cried.
  • When asked about what he likes best about New York, Yoochun said solemnly after sighing, "There's a lot of taxies in New York." At first I thought he said "taxes" which amused me to no end, but he meant "taxies". He then stated, "I love taxies!" before breaking into the cutuest, most dorky grin giggle you'd ever see. We all smiled back.
  • It was very clear the female MC had a serious crush on Micky and had no problem displaying it. ;)

After the Q&A, they returned to the stage to perform a song in Korean from Yoochun's television drama and the Kanye-assisted first single "Ayyy Girl", before thanking everyone for coming out and performing a remix of "Empty" and leaving admist a swirl of white confetti.
All in all, the showcase was an hour long. 

It was the fastest hour of my life.

{To FanGirl Out for a moment, as I feel I'm allowed: those of you who read this blog or especially read my Twitter are probably aware I'm a Changmin bias, and he is not involved in JYJ. I don't really have a relative second -- I just kind of adore them all and want to group hug them and squish their cheeks. But Junsu totally and completely won me over. His vocals were the most noticable. In my humble opinion, I found him the most attractive (the arms!). And God Lord can that boy dance. I was riveted. I could not tear my eyes away. In terms of the others, they are hardly no slouches. Jaejoong's arms in person are truly something to behold and I am still of the mentality that someone that beautiful and delicate should be a huge intimidation to women the world over, not as adorably endearing as he obviously is. Yoochun's English attempts were really sweet as well, and he certainly looks so much more fit without the longish hair he wore for his drama. Oh, and the zippered shirt that kept falling down (whether that was intentional or not) didn't hurt either. ;) }

I'm new to this fandom, but that doesn't mean I'm immune to the emotion. While the boys themselves seemed a bit stoic at times, it was obvious the moment was bittersweet and the fans reaction meant a lot to them in the wake of a year of so much adversity. During the soundtrack song, "Chattahtda", the crowd screamed out "Saranghae" ("I love you" in Korean) in time to the music, before chanting:

Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun, Kim Junsu, Shim Changmin, Jung Yunho, Saranghae Dong Bang Shin Ki!

I was up in the balcony and heard it and chanted along. Who's to say if the boys heard and understood, but I'm sure the odds are pretty darn good. :)

After meeting up with both friends from Twitter and friends from the line after the show, I headed home and opened up my Twitter account (@melismaticdiva) to find I had over 130 new followers due to some of my "live tweets" being re-tweeted by TVXQ fansite DBSKnights. I was completely innundated and overwhelmed with "thank you" tweets from all around the world -- from Peru, to Romania, to Japan, to the UK. Some messages were in Korean. Some were in Japanese. All expressed the same thing -- the love and friendship forged through this common bond that is DBSK. That is seriously an awesome thing, and something I've never ever experienced. It's something I'll never forget.

Thank you, Cassiopeia, for a wonderful time. I've made friends on Friday that I hope to continue to treasure for many years to come. But really, thank you to Junsu, Jaejoong and Yoochun -- for insisting on being relentless in the pursuit of your dream. I may not always agree with the situations at present. I may long for the chance to see the group together as five as they were meant to be. I may even have voiced my discontent for the The Beginning album (and that hasn't totally changed). The reality is love and respect is based on honesty, and I respect and love those three boys just as much as I respect and love the other two. I geniunely want them to succeed at whatever they attempt and applaud their official entrance into the West. 

As an American, I'm proud. As a Cassie, I'm proud. As a fan of music and talent period, I am proud. Congradulations, boys. We're all so very proud.

Feel free to embed the video above to use wherever you'd like, but please credit MelismaticBlog.com, as I did shoot it myself (and forgive the spelling errors -- I'm still without a voice and feel like I got run over by a truck). For the rest of my videos I shot, take a look at the playlist below:

3 comments

Rus (^_^) said...

Thank you for sharing this precious moment ^^
( ^ 3('_^)
Komapda~

nikki said...

*runs towards Mel and clings for dear life* I MISSED YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

You have to ship me some Jaejoong air now. ;D

Mel said...

Rus - No probs, bubbie! xoxo ::Cassie Hug::

Nikki - AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! ::clings:: We need to have a nice long conversation where you tell me all about China and I tell you all about how I feared I would be converted to a Junsu stan.

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