Mini Note #5: Enhypen would be a hit at Bamboozle

Mini Note #5: Enhypen would be a hit at Bamboozle
Enhypen performing in Dallas

This is one of several mini notes, more intimate, random musings.

The first music festival I ever went to, I left before the headliners played. It was 2008, and I was too cool (and dumb) for Panic! At The Disco's Pretty.Odd album. Instead, my friends and I decided to leave before their 9:30 Bamboozle headlining set, trying to avoid the traffic hell to get out of the Meadowlands parking lot.

What idiots we were; I eventually grew to really enjoy that album. I also didn't, in my teenagehood, understand that headlining a music festival meant that P!ATD wouldn't only be playing their songs from the latest album. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was a monumental, industry shaking album, and I have regrets.

But, regrets aside for never getting to see P!ATD live, going to Bamboozle was a formative day for me. I got to see both of my then-favorite bands perform, The Hush Sound and Cobra Starship, and learned how not to lose a shoe in a pit at 1pm. I also learned about the kindness of strangers at concerts, when someone found my friend's lost phone and met us halfway across the giant venue grounds rather.

For the record, I have never lost a shoe or phone at a concert since. And, please all things holy, I never will again.

Looking back at the setlist from that day, it was a real win for my high school music-loving self: I owned albums by over half the bands in attendance. These were artists I spent my life listening to.

It was also, hilariously enough, the beginning of the end of this love affair. It was just about the same moment that I first started listening to K-pop: Bamboozle 2008 took place on May 4, and the first K-pop song I recall encountering was Wonder Girls' "So Hot," out on May 22, 2008.

I'm not the only person to experience this alt scene emo and pop-punk to to K-pop pipeline, but I'm probably the only person who was at Enhypen's show in Dallas last week watching Jay play his guitar and thinking about how well Enhypen would fit into a Bamboozle lineup.

There are a lot of K-pop groups out there that play with different facets of rock, punk, and emo pop, but Enhypen have always seemed to incorporate a alt-rockish sense into many of their songs in a way that felt more subtle and more natural than some others. It's never really been the focal point of them fooor singles, but as my favorite K-pop reviewer, Nick of the Bias List, once noted, "rock + ENHYPEN = a good fit." (Funnily enough, he wrote this in the review for my favorite Enhypen song, the not-very-rockish "Go Big or Go Home," but was talking about the song "Attention, Please." )

The epiphany re me thinking "oh, Enhypen could be really fun at a music festival like Bamboozle" wasn't an intellectual "ah-ha" but an emotional one; the thought hit me suddenly, and I keep dissecting why in the world I had it. I'd wager it partly has to do with how I saw them: I have only ever seen Enhypen perform live at sizable venues before, but the Samsung Galaxy Fanmade concert was held in a small theater in Dallas after the end of their recent encore arena tour. Seeing them so close, in a slightly more relaxed environment? It elevated everything to a new level, where it felt a bit grungy and more anxious and more passionate and altogether more real than the grandiose concerts we're typically treated to. (And they are a treat!)

The members kept commenting that they, a pandemic-debuting group, had never played at such a venue before in front of fans. But it suited them immensely well, just as arenas do, and I think that versatility and ease on stages of varied sizes is one sign of "rock band-style stage presence" or whatever we want to call it during an era when rock bands aren't really such major music power players anymore, and alt rock mostly currently thrives on nostalgia.

Which may be why I had this thought: Enhypen is a K-pop dance group at the end of the day. It's not a rock band as much as it may be inspired by them. But during the heyday of Bamboozle (and Warped tour, though I never attended), neither were the rock bands. Genre-blending may be a stylistic trademark of K-pop, but just looking at the Bamboozle lineup it kind of makes sense that another such music scene full of musical variety would capture teen-me's attention, and why over a decade later in a small venue in Texas I was getting thrown back to wandering around that parking lot having the time of my life.

Enhypen's sound touches on the fiercely whimsical alternative scene that pulled at my soul before I got into K-pop, and in that moment of watching them in Dallas it all made sense. I know that I could say the same thing about many K-pop acts, but in that moment, focused on this one group, I got flashbacks those feelings and I haven't stopped thinking about them ever since. What makes them different? The answer, simply, is that I feel that they are. And that's what makes any artist, any band, resonate with each of us as individuals: we connect to them and how they connect to our own lives and experiences.

I just call it stage