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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Golden Child: Gol-Cha! 1st Mini Album Review

Woollim has been gearing up all year to debut their latest group, Golden Child, on August 28th, 2017. From the release of the W Project to the variety show WoollimPick to the various V live videos, I have fallen hard for Golden Child and can't wait to begin this exciting new journey stanning them^^ While Infinite dismissed my frugality, Golden Child has pushed me over the edge as I have bought 3 copies of their debut album.

Once again I'll go off-topic to talk about Ktown4u's cancellation policy. I had previously talked about this back in December 2016 here, but it has changed. I had originally pre-ordered 1 copy of this album from Ktown4u with unregistered small packet shipping for $18.04 USD. When you make your order and submit it, they give you a warning saying if you cancel your order on your own terms, you will be refunded in mileage (store credit). I ignored this warning and continued anyways. Somehow I was convinced instead to buy 3 copies in order to support OT11 (and collect more photocards). Because the shipping cost would be different, I figured it'd be better to cancel the original order and reorder, instead of going through customer service. So I used the 1:1 service, sent an order (shipping) inquiry email to cancel my order, and within a few hours got a response saying my order was cancelled. However, I didn't receive any mileage reimbursement, so I submitted another 1:1 service email to them. Within half a day they gave me 20,530 mileage points which equals $18.04 USD. They also said that the exchange rate is 1,137 mileage points equates to $1 USD.

My package shipped in the earlier hours of August 29th (PDT) and arrived on September 8th, taking only 10 days! My albums were packaged in the typical orange waterproof envelope lined with bubble wrap. Inside the envelope, my 3 albums and folded posters were wrapped in several more layers of bubble wrap. All my albums arrived in great condition, with only the corners of the middle album slightly dented.
Golden Child's debut album, titled Gol-Cha!, is a mini album containing 6 tracks. One album comes with 2 of 11 random photocards and 1 of 11 random frame cards. First press also includes 1 of 3 random posters.
I'll talk about the posters first, just so I can identify the 2 different photoshoots which I'll continue to discuss throughout this post. All posters are matte and are the same size as Infinite's and Lovelyz's usual poster dimensions, 77cm by 53cm, or 2.53' by 1.74'. This is the only poster image that is also included in the photobook. I refer to this photoshoot as the colorful/Gucci photoshoot, because the outfits are more colorful than the other one, and a lot of their clothing here is Gucci.
This poster is very similar to the album cover, however it is slightly different and not included in the photobook. I call this photoshoot the pink photoshoot.
This is the third poster, which is also not included in the photobook. I really like this image - it gives off a more mature and serious side than the others. I also really like the angle of the shot. Before Golden Child debuted, my friend noticed that the members are usually standing in this order: Daeyeol - Jangjun - Jibeom - Donghyun - Y - Bomin - Jaehyun - Joochan - Seungmin - Tag - Jaeseok. This was apparent during the group shot from filming the "SEA" music video on Jeju Island, and during their Guerrilla Concert, and now in all 3 of these posters. They were also in this formation during their Music Core fan meeting on September 2nd.
The album is really high quality and sturdy, and the album cover is so beautiful. The dimensions of this album are 6.5" x 6.375" x 0.75".
The back cover is just as beautiful. And I'm happy that Woollim got the members' names and order correctly, unlike with Infinite's debut album.
Opening up the album, the CD is secured on the left in a hard cardboard casing with a foam middle, and the photobook is on the right.

The tracklist is as follows: Gol-Cha!, 담다디 (DamDaDi), 나랑 해 (You and Me), 내 눈을 의심해 (I Suspect My Eyes), 네가 너무 좋아 (I Love You So Much), and SEA. There is no hidden track. All the songs are legit amazing as I've been playing the album on repeat since its release on iTunes.
The photobook contains 118 pages of gorgeous perfection. I really like how artistic this photo is, but sadly there are no other photos similar to this in the photobook.
The first 64 pages are from the colorful/Gucci photoshoot. Most of these photos are individual shots, however there are subgroup photos as well. The song credits and lyrics are also dispersed among this first section.
This photo of Seungmin and Jibeom is really adorable.
Also the way Y and Jaeseok are looking at each other is so adorable.
The remaining pages are from the pink photoshoot. The first photo is a group photo similar to the album cover and poster.
All other photos from the pink photoshoot are individual shots.
And here is a gorgeous photo of Y and such an adorable photo of Donghyun.
6 pages at the end are dedicated to the members' "Thanks To" messages. Each member wrote so much!
The last two pages are the album credits and one last adorable group photo.

Now I'll go one and talk about the frame cards and photocards~
For my first album, I received Jibeom's frame card and Tag's and Jangjun's photocards tucked in page 71.
For my second album, I received Y's frame card and Tag's and Jangjun's photocards again tucked in page 59.
For my third album, I received Jaeseok's frame card and Daeyeol's and Jaehyun's photocards tucked in page 69.
Here are all the cards I received.
As stated before, each album comes with 1 of 11 random frame cards. These cards are really cool - they're made of transparencies and look like you're about to shoot a video of the member. All of the frame card images are from the colorful/Gucci photoshoot.
Here is the backside of the frame cards.
Each album comes with 2 of 11 random photocards. All of the photocards are from the baseball photoshoot. The photocards have a matte finish.
The backside has the member's printed autographs and messages. All of their autographs are really adorable!

I'm so happy that Golden Child has finally debuted and I wish only the best for them as they begin their musical career!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

G-Dragon's 2017 World Tour Act III: MOTTE in Seattle Concert Experience

G-Dragon is currently in the middle of his grand scale 2017 world tour entitled "Act III: MOTTE", and I'm ecstatic to provide my experience of his Seattle stop! As you probably know, the tour began on June 10th in Seoul and a month into the tour, GD is starting his 8-stop North American leg in Seattle on Tuesday, July 11th.

I admit that I only know a couple of GD and Big Bang songs, however it truly is an honor to be able to see G-Dragon live in my own city. It is still not common for Korean artists to perform in Seattle, with only a few (Kanto / Beenzino / Verbal Jint and CL) performing at the very intimate venue The Show Box in recent years. GD is really stepping it up by performing at Seattle's basketball stadium Key Arena that houses 17,000+ seats (at maximum configuration). I'm so excited to experience a Kpop concert in my city and to support Korean artists to continue coming to Seattle!
A week before the concert, I started noticing GD's concert posters plastered around the city, even in residential neighborhoods. I love how the city is getting spirited for the event!

I'll break down this post into various sections to fully outline my experience of attending a Kpop concert at Seattle's Key Arena. I hope my details can be used as a reference for future performances here.

Ticketing
General ticket sales began on Friday, May 5th at noon PDT via www.ticketmaster.com. There are 2 types of tickets: VIP Soundcheck Package and standard seating. For VIP, there are Gold, Silver, and Bronze packages (for Seattle, only Gold ($600USD) and Silver ($400USD). VIP sounded very enticing with access to the pre-show soundcheck rehearsal, commemorative laminate and gift pack, and more. Gold also includes a post-show send off for G-Dragon. It would have been so cool to experience all of this, however that's a lot of money to fork out. All VIP tickets are general admission standing. 

Ticketing was rather chaotic as expected. The website chooses the "best available seat" based on your search criteria and holds that seat for you for several minutes. It was hard deciding whether to buy the ticket chosen for you or opt for another seat. I sadly did that several times, and after about 15 minutes, ended up with Section 115 Row 14 Seat 4.

At The Venue
I arrived at Seattle Center (the area surrounding Key Arena) at around 4:30PM. The doors had already opened for VIP (this is referring to those with the VIP Soundcheck Package, not the fandom) at 4PM for those lined up at the East Entry. There were separate lines with large banners to distinguish VIP type. Across the entrance a few yards away was a separate line for general admission standing. For those with seated tickets, they could wait anywhere, however I chose West Entry as that didn't conflict with any pit tickets where waiting in line was important.

My friend had Silver VIP and was standing at the East Entry along with the other VIP ticket holders. The security guards let me join my friend despite me having a seated ticket (especially since you need a VIP ticket to enter anyways). She told me that after they let VIP in (gold first, then silver), they collected their VIP goodies and were able to buy merchandise, then went back outside the East Entry to wait again for Soundcheck. It wasn't so organized because once my friend went back outside, there was no distinct line for Soundcheck.
My friend showed me the special VIP goodies she got. It included a red book bag that specifically stated Act III: MOTTE in US/CANADA, along with a black velvet pouch containing 2 red metal clips with Act III: MOTTE, and other goods. I plan to get pictures of these eventually. She also received a VIP Soundcheck badge and lanyard. Pictured above is the backside.
The front side of the badge is holographic!
Looking at the badge one way shows a blackened image.
Looking at the badge another way shows VIP on the red poster background with inverse colors for the text.

Waiting to Enter the Stadium
Officially the doors were supposed to open at 6PM for all ticket holders, so I walked around to the West Entry by 6:05PM. Pictured above is my place in line, and within minutes the line doubled. The security guards gave a debrief (have your ticket available, have your bag opened, be prepared to be wanded, don't have drinks) and the line started moving at 6:15PM. The guards told us to fill the area in front of the doors rather than keeping a single-file line, so I ended up on the last few steps of the entrance. One guard later on informed us that the doors will open at 7PM instead, due to the soundcheck being longer than intended, however I'm not sure how accurate this statement is. At 6:52PM, there was a loud and heavy bass. It occurred again at 7:01PM.

Finally at 7:13PM the doors opened. Though we were in a massive blob to get in, it split into several lines for security check. Guards used metal detector wands and checked bags. I made it inside the building at 7:21PM.

Venue Observations
The entire time I was around the venue, from 4:30PM until after 7PM, there were no fansites in sight. I was sad to see this part of the Kpop concert experience lacking. There was one group who had planned a special project of passing out small red plastic bags to every fan, which we would put over our lightsticks and create a red ocean after GD performed "Crayon". My VIP friend said that this group had passed out these bags earlier, but I hadn't seen them since. It wasn't until I was lining up for merchandise that they came around again to pass out more bags.

While waiting in line at West Entry, I did notice across the street a sketchy minivan with unofficial posters plastered over its windows. They were selling unofficial Big Bang goods, but clearly they weren't a fansite.

The doors also had signs saying no re-entry.

Last observation, the audience was very mixed, containing mostly teens and young adults, about half Asian, and maybe 10% male. It looked like older married couples attended too, as well as young friend groups.

Buying Merchandise
There were two merchandise stalls inside the stadium, located right after entering from the West Entry and East Entry. I went to the stall near West Entry, and it was split into two lines. I got in line at 7:21PM and finished buying at 7:52PM, lasting about 30 minutes. As imagined, it was very chaotic and the cashiers were constantly going to the backroom to bring out more boxes of goods, especially boxes full of lightsticks as practically everyone in line bought at least one. They accepted both cash and card, however I recommend using card so that the line can move faster and hopefully the goods you want won't run out.

Each lightstick purchase is supposed to come with a pair of batteries. However the lady paying in the line next to me had gotten the last pair of batteries, and somehow this stall didn't receive the same number of pairs of batteries as they had lightsticks. At the same time, there were two ladies in front of me that were paying in cash, greatly slowing down our line. When it came to my turn, I purchased the lightstick without batteries. I will show an unboxing of this lightstick in a future post.
I was pleasantly surprised at the great selection of merchandise that the tour brought to their North American leg. While this isn't the entire collection that was sold in Seoul or at other Asian stops, this is still quite impressive.
They displayed all the merchandise on the back wall, with smaller items also displayed in the glass cases. This is what the Seattle stop had to offer in USD:
  • Long sleeve tee - $55
  • T-shirt (4 types) - $45
  • Towel - $35
  • Baseball cap - $45
  • Bandana - $25
  • Tote - $15 (?)
  • Bear - $20 (? it was already sold out)
  • Pins - $7 or $10
  • Necklace - $10
  • Luggage tag - $7 or $10
  • Lightstick V4 white - $35
  • Water bottle - (?)
Ear plugs were also sold for $2.
In the display case, you can see the luggage tag, necklace, cap, bandana, towel, and water bottle.

The Concert
I was worried that my seat would be quite far away and quite angled from the stage, however it was a really great view! The best part is that because this is stadium seating, each row is significantly higher than the previous so no one can block your view. Above is my seat along with my non-lit lightstick.

There was one screen on each side of the stage showing GD's music video reel until just before 9PM when the concert began.

Everything has become a happy blur, so I'll just list the things I remember (I video recorded the entire concert, but it's a lot to rewatch and take screencaps...):
  • GD performed song after song after song, with only 3 talking segments. I was so surprised that he spoke English so well! He was very fluent and all of his speeches were very natural.
  • He spoke a lot about his latest album, his new stage in life, and how worried he was on how fans would perceive all of this.
  • The concert was broken into 3 acts, transitioning from G-Dragon to Kwon Ji Yong. The VCRs even showed this, displaying a medical transition. There was also one VCR documentary asking CL, Taeyang, Jung Hyung Don, Psy, and more, the following: 1) Who is GD to you, and 2) Who is Kwon Ji Yong to you.
  • Though I was in the seated area, during the last half hour everyone was standing. In the latter half of the concert, the audience kept chanting Kwon Ji Yong.
  • During GD's performance which is usually performed as a duet with CL, it was cool that they incorporated a VCR of CL.
  • Sitting at the side of the stage, it was hard to see GD during many stages. There were many props where he was in a box, or on a royal thrown on top of stairs, and only those in the center could see him. There were also huge curtains covering majority of the stage at times. For one stage, people were even hanging from the ceiling.
  • I was disappointed that for many songs, GD took many pauses and let his pre-recorded tracks play instead. However I do understand that it's tough to rap a straight 2 hours.
  • After he performed Crayon and they played a VCR, about half of the audience with lightsticks created the Red Ocean.
  • The concert ended before 11PM. While usually I would try and see the artist leave the venue, I didn't this time as only Gold VIP were able to attend the sendoff party.
GD looked like he had a lot of fun on stage. Here he's sitting on a box in front of the stage, watching his background dancers.
At other times GD had a very simple stage.

Ending Thoughts
Leaving the concert, I had these thoughts:
  • I thought that I'd never be able to use my Big Bang lightstick, but then during GD's concert there was the announcement that Taeyang will be having a world tour this year with a stop in Vancouver...
  • This concert was so different from any of the Infinite concerts I experienced. The VCRs, themes, and ments all felt like a live documentary, all very raw and real.
  • I didn't really know any of GD's songs, but now I'm obsessed with "Crooked" and especially "Untitled". It's amazing the variety of genres GD has covered, and I hope he continues with songs like "Untitled" to showcase his talented voice.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

[IFNT COLL] Infinite Other Albums

In this post, I'll show my other albums within my Infinite collection. These albums are outliers that don't belong in my other Infinite album posts, so I decided to group them all here. If you haven't already, please check out the introduction to My Infinite Collection here. Below, I'll break down this "other albums" collection and include my unboxing review of each item using ∞.

LPs
Paradise  (#09320 out of #10000)
Be Back  (#03784 out of #10000)
It feels so special to play Kpop albums on a record player, like combining two different generations together. I wish I enjoyed playing LPs more often, so that I could expand my Kpop LP collection^^ But of course, my two Infinite LPs will always be most special~

Live Albums
One Great Step Returns Live
Infinite Effect Advance Live
Photocard: L (out of 7)
I know that I had already included IEA Live in my DVD collection, but I felt that it belongs equally in this collection as well. I'm really happy for Infinite to have released live albums - it's really cool listening to Infinite's performances versus their studio recordings.

Instrumental Albums
The Origin
Coin: Silver (out of 3)
The packaging of this album is absolutely beautiful. It's very minimalist yet so elegant with the color scheme and embedded coin. I really like how the tracks are split up into "White", "Black", and "Gold" to match the genre. Maybe a few more releases down the line, Woollim will be able to release another instrumental album. 

All of these albums are really special. It may seem like Woollim's just trying to release random things to make more money, but I like that these albums are all really well designed, enhance Infinite's album collection, and they make me appreciate music so much more. I have come to really cherish LPs and have started listening to my dad's LPs from back in the day, I love having live tracks to listen to, and I love (occasionally) listening to the instrumentals. I can't wait to see what other of these special albums Woollim has planned in the future!

Monday, January 2, 2017

[IFNT COLL] Infinite Korean Albums

I am finally showing my Korean albums for My Infinite Collection series! Please check out my introduction post here. I will first show all of my Korean Infinite albums together, then I'll break them up first by those without photocards, and then I'll show my albums with photocards and order them by release. I will also link my unboxing review of each item with a ∞.

My Albums without Photocards
First Invasion (Mini Album)
Evolution (Mini Album)
Inspirit (Single)
Infinitize (Mini Album)
Over The Top (Full Length Album)
Missing: Over The Top - Gold edition


I became an Inspirit well after these albums were initially released, so I don't have first press of these. The first press of First Invasion comes with a special sticker, Evolution has a promotional poster that is really hard to find now, first press Inspirit of course has the super rare member photocards, and the first press of Infinitize comes with a random member audio track, none of which I have. As for Over The Top, there is only first press or the new gold edition. I had bought one copy of OTT new but weirdly enough they sent me two without the exterior slip and with a "Used" stamp. Because of this, my collection still feels like it's missing OTT.

My Albums with Photocards


Paradise (Repackaged Album)
Photocard: Dongwoo, Sungyeol, Sungjong (out of 7)
It's interesting how this album may come with 0, 1, or 2 photocards. Mine only came with Sungjong's, then I started collecting more but never finished. I really do like this set of photocards though - it looks so timeless and classy.

New Challenge (Mini Album)
Photocard: Woohyun, L, Sungjong (out of 7)
 New Challenge is really significant to me because it is the first comeback I experienced as an Inspirit (though tbh, I was still just a Myungsoo stan back then and was slowly getting to know OT7). I was still new on pre-ordering back then, so I had foolishly missed first press which includes one hidden track out of 6 instrumental tracks from the album. My album came with Sungjong's photocard, but I couldn't resist collecting more. I spend about $14 on Myungsoo's photocard which seems expensive to me, but the happiness I've received from it <3

Destiny (Single)
Photocard: Woohyun, Sungyeol, L, Sungjong (out of 7)
 I keep coming up with reasons for trying to collect all photocards from one release. For Destiny, I was thinking that because the photocards were shot in the US (Universal Studios in LA), I had to get them all. My album came with Sungyeol's and I stopped after collection 4 total.

Season 2 (Full Length Album)
Photocard: Sungkyu (out of 14)
Missing: Gold edition
 Season 2 definitely has one of my most favorite photoshoots (disregarding the black-and-white cow outfits). I love how "Last Romeo" fits absolutely perfectly with the album concept and the lace suits.

Be Back (Repackaged Album)
Photocard: Dongwoo, Woohyun, Sungjong (out of 7)
 Be Back also has a special place in my heart because this album was released while I was studying in Seoul. I had bought 4 albums there (1 initially that came with Woohyun, then 3 to enter a fansign that came with Sungkyu, Dongwoo, and Sungjong). Despite its special place in my heart, I decided not to collect all 7 photocards, because the 3 that I have now are even more special since I got them with my albums in Seoul.

Reality (Mini Album)
 Limited edition
 Normal edition
Photocard: Sungkyu, Hoya, L (out of 7)
Date Card: Sungkyu, Dongwoo (x2), Woohyun, Hoya, Sungyeol (x2), L, Sungjong (out of 7)
I am so thankful for my Inspirit friend who gifted me with the normal version of both Reality and Infinite Only, and for so many photocards and date cards from these releases. I love that Woollim continues their release pattern and album packaging, keeping the mini albums the same.

Infinite Only (Mini Album)
Limited
Normal (with Hoya Special Pages)
Special Pages: Hoya, Sungyeol, L (out of 8)
Photocard: Sungkyu (2/2), Dongwoo (2/2), Hoya (2/2), Sungyeol (2/2), Sungjong (2/2) with duplicates of b&w SK, DW, SY (out of 14)
This is my most complete set of photocards, 10 out of 14! Because I have 3 duplicates (black and white versions of Sungkyu, Dongwoo, and Sungyeol), I would love to trade for either version of Woohyun or Myungsoo^^

I really hope Infinite will release more Korean OT7 albums throughout the near future! If they're sticking to their release pattern, we should be expecting their next release to be a single...