The venue was packed, the line up of ticket buyers wrapped well around the building, and fans were ready to see K-pop at South by Southwest again (this was the second year for K-pop Night Out). And for the cost of a $20 ticket they had the chance to see seven Korean musicians/bands rock the stage. And man, were fans in for a treat because the line up was a cool fusion of different genres showcasing some of the fabulous variety of music that you can find in Korea, idol pop included.

Oh, and there was a surprise guest in the audience. Lady Gaga – yep, THE Lady Gaga – stopped by to check out Jay Park and HyunA’s performance. The crowd buzzed, cell phones went up and camaras started clicking. It was cool seeing a celebrity acting like a fan. But back to the music.


First up was Jambinai, one of the more unusual Korean bands, Jambinai combines traditional Korean instruments with guitars and drums creating a unique rock fusion sound. They were the perfect opening act, as not only are they fabulous but they highlight the diversity you can find in the Korean music scene. Check them out if you have a chance!


It's always interesting to see established bands play smaller clubs and with Nell it was no exception. They are one of the groups that bridge the gap between a rock/alternative vibe and more mainstream K-pop. This could be seen in the amount of K-pop fans that had come to see them. Even with the technical difficulties they had at the beginning of their set, they had a solid showing, getting better with each song. Not as good as I’ve seen before, but solid.

Hollow Jan

While not originally on the bill, Hollow Jan stepped in to fill the slot left open when Kiha and the Faces weren't able to make it. Hollow Jan may not have been known by that many of those in the crowd, at least not those around me, but it wasn't long before they had many rocking along with them. It was hard not to feel the emotions of the songs even for those who couldn't understand the words. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hollow Jan, they’re a screamo band and a pretty good one.

Crying Nut

As always, they had an energetic and fun-filled set. A long-time fan favourite by those who listen to Korean punk rock or rock music (including me), Crying Nut are simply amazing live and their performance at K-pop Night Out was no exception. They not only play great music but they look like they’re really enjoying themselves onstage, so much so that it's impossible not to rock out with them. Catch them live if you get the chance.


With the most club-like vibe and the least crowd interaction, Idiotape simply came on stage and started to play. But if you thought that their set would therefore be boring, you’d be wrong. The crowd immediately responded by dancing and bopping away to the music which culminated with a superb remix of the Beastie Boys' Sabotage. If you have a chance to see them in a club setting, don't miss it.

Jay Park

And now it was time for the K-pop! Jay Park burst on stage with a cute smile and tons of charisma and the audience went nuts. It was obvious that he was definitely a fan favourite and he certainly didn't disappoint. From his music to the slow strip of clothes, Jay Park was all about giving the fans what they wanted. He owned the stage, even when he was joined on stage by two dancers and Loco, a labelmate on Jay Park's new label, all eyes were on Jay Park.


The final act of the evening, HyunA was accompanied by four backup dancers. Unfortunately, she had the shortest set of the night, lasting only 15-20 minutes, and the least engaging. That being said, many in the audience loved her. HyunA didn't appear as confident onstage as the others but was cute with her interactions with the crowd. Catchy songs (if you could excuse the obvious lip-synching) and a sweet smile captivated many.

To sum up K-pop Night Out

All in all, it was a fabulous night of music. And with the non-idol bands coming on first, I think many in the audience were able to discover new music; I know those around me did as I watched many type band names into their phones after quizzing me on them. One of the coolest things for me, other than watching fans find new music, was how friendly everyone was. There was always time in between the sets to chat and make friends which was cool. But of course, the evening was all about the music – and most of the musicians brought their “A” game. If you get a chance to see one of these bands, go! You won't regret it.

Cindy Zimmer, ATK Magazine