"I saw Stray Kids live!" Here's what you need to know about going to a K-Pop concert
Listening to their voices is the equivalent of a warm hug, hearing their songs makes you go to your happy place and watching their performances feels like coming home. I didn't name an artist or a group, but someone came to your mind, right?
For me, my comfort artist is Stray Kids, the eight-member K-Pop boy group behind the hits "God's Menu" and "Back Door." After enlisting the help of my mom and my brother, logging all of our separate devices into Ticketmaster and clicking the heck out of the "Best Price" column, I had secured tickets and the chance to see Stray Kids on their "Maniac" tour at Prudential Center in Newark!
From getting free fanmade photocards in the merch line to aggressively waving my lightstick to the beat of the encore songs, it was *totally* a night to remember. Here is the ultimate rundown of SKZ's incredible show and all the deets on going to a K-Pop concert.
Forget Pinterest—K-pop concerts are *the* place to scope out style inspo. You'll find fandom members embodying edgier concepts complete with belt chains and cargo pants à la EXO's "Monster," stans styled in sweet skirts for some serious I.O.I "Dream Girls" energy and others decked out head-to-toe in merch.
For our own outfits, my friend and I chose a color scheme of light blue and white—a palette Stray Kids have used in TikToks and live stages of their softer songs. While she layered a short-sleeve cardigan over a tank and shorts, I matched my blouse and sweater vest combo with a pleated skirt.
Frequent concert-goers often advise prioritizing comfort, as in swapping sky-high heels for sneakers. And while it's important to consider that you'll be dancing to the beat for a couple hours straight, you only get so few chances in a lifetime to dress up for your fave's in-person performance. This isn't to say that you should chill out in a cropped tee in the dead of winter (literally), but I would recommend that you wear what makes you feel the most confident in your own skin.
Lightsticks and hoodies and bucket hats, oh my! Behold, the ultra-cool apparel offerings in the Maniac era's representative green and purple.
Since merch distribution officially began five hours ahead of the concert, I arrived at the venue half an hour before. Despite arriving "early," packs of dedicated and passionate fans had already been lined up all morning, and it took two hours of shuffling in line until I had a lightstick in my hand.
This leads me to my next K-Pop concert tip: If you plan on participating in early merch distribution, block out ample time in your schedule. Whether you line up after breakfast or in the afternoon, you may have to play a loooong waiting game.
Freebies and fan projects
The tradeoff for standing in the merch line for so long was meeting other Stray Kids fans, who are affectionately dubbed "STAY." During those two hours under the sun, generous STAYs walked down the line handing out free goodies like fanmade photocards and beaded bracelets.
Devoted collectors may disagree, but receiving a homemade lomo card and getting to hug the STAY who created it beats buying official goods. If you're interested in meeting other fans, having a banner to hold up during the show and adding some pieces to your K-Pop collection, be on the lookout for people handing out freebies at your next concert.
After my friend and I found our seats and put our masks on, we made sure to snap some shots with the stage setup. I wanted to take at least one good photo of each member and capture my bias's ments (i.e. short speeches).
Even so, I really wanted to take in the moment so that I would remember what I saw with my own eyes, not through a screen. Because my memories are so vivid, I would *so* suggest deciding in advance what sections of the show to record.
When the lights went down and the volume of "Question" cranked over the speakers, the energy got the whole arena hyped up. Waving our lightsticks in unison, the screams were deafening as the eight members of Stray Kids launched into their powerful choreo for "Maniac."
The setlist for SKZ's show was unmatched. Besides the tracks from their latest EP, they took a journey through their whole discography, tracing all the way back to their debut through popular hits like intense "God's Menu" and b-side fan favorites such as dramatic "Red Lights."
But part of what makes the group's concerts on this tour so special were the surprise covers and performances of tracks released through their SKZ-PLAYER and SKZ-RECORD YouTube series. On Day 2 of their stop in Newark, Hyunjin serenaded STAYs with dreamy, self-written "Little Star" while Minho and Chan had the crowd on their feet with "Drive." Changbin and Han teamed up for a cover of Westlife's "My Love," and Seungmin showcased his stunning vocals with Justin Bieber's "Hold On."
Seeing Stray Kids in person was the highlight of my summer. My favorite thing about the concert was how comfortable the boys made me feel as both a STAY and as a person. Despite how many people were there, the boys did a really good job of making everyone feel special through their speeches about being a family and having each other. From tearing up as Minho, Felix and Chan sung "Hellevator" (IYKYK) to screaming lyrics in a language I can only understand through feeling (and subtitles, let's be honest), the concert experience was amazing.
If you have the chance to see your bias K-Pop artist IRL, go for it—you definitely won't regret it.
Who are you seeing in concert next? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag!
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Slider and header images: @straykidsindiaa