SLEEPLESS IN SAN DIEGO

SLEEPLESS IN SAN DIEGO

Feature photo courtesy of @blobyblo

A biased but absolutely true experience of an Epik High concert 

CASEY HUANG

I have never really discovered a group like Epik High. To be fair, I haven’t even been a fan for a long time. A group that rose to be one of the most popular iconic hip hop groups in Korea, they debuted in 2001 and have released eleven albums since 2003. As someone who is always late to everything, I only really listened to their music in 2018 when my friend Carolyn told me to. I instantly fell in love with the variety of styles their music offered and the meaningful lyrics.* Since then, I’ve been addicted to their unique sound. So when they announced they were coming to San Diego for their “sleepless in ________” tour, I knew that I had to see them. 

It took a lot of searching to find someone who would go to the concert with me. Not many of my friends listened to Korean music at that time in San Diego, and even when I resorted to Instagram (a tactic I had used many times before) to see if anyone by chance liked them, no responses came through. Fifty-five dollars is no small price to pay for a ticket for someone you don’t listen to, so I felt uncomfortable asking someone to simply go with me. But one morning at work, when I was complaining to my friend Kelly about how I couldn’t find someone to go to the concert with me, she immediately answered, “Oh, I’ll go with you. I love going to concerts.” After some back and forth between the two of us (me asking her are you sure about twenty times), I bought the tickets. 

The concert was on April 23rd, 2019 —a Tuesday. We were late to the concert by an hour, missing the opener but skipping the line. The venue was The Observatory in San Diego, a place where I’d had one too many good nights in during my four years in the city. It is a large space, probably able to hold 1,100 people, and by the time we got there most of the area was occupied. We stood facing the center of the stage but close to the back of the crowd, something I would regret later when they came out and interacted with those in the front (a reminder for why it’s good to go early to concerts even though you wait for an excruciating amount of time for the headliner to actually come out). 

To be fair, we still waited a good amount of time. It was probably an hour later when Tablo,Mithra,and DJ Tukutz came out stepped out, in all black glory, onto the stage. I can’t remember what song they opened with, probably because I was so excited that they were here at all that I didn’t even really register it. 

They played some of my favorites from their older albums: “Here Come the Regrets,” “One,” “Burj Khalifa,” “Kill This Love.” I honestly don’t think I’ve seen a crowd so hyped up at The Observatory before, and it was all thanks to Epik High’s energy. It was the perfect combination of soothing tunes and energetic songs—they had us on our feet with the beat of “High Technology” and “NO THANXXX,” but swaying to the calmness of songs like “In Seoul” and “Home is Far Away.” Tablo introduced the song with a note that many of us can relate to— that we are far from home, homesick and missing friends and family. He asked the crowd how many of us were far from home, and asked one where she was from. She was from San Diego. And so they performed the song.

Tablo, being the only one fluent in English, spoke the most during the concert. Halfway through the concert, he looked at Mithra and said, “Mithra says San Diego is his favorite city. He said, wow, I can really see myself living here.” And after a pause and some cheers from the audience, he casually continued: “But also, he has said this about every city we have been in. But San Diego, you are still special.” Rough, but I’ll take it. It is moments like these that really elevate the concert—the way they speak to the fans, the way they tell us about their experience and vocalize their appreciation. 

 It is moments like these that really elevate the concert—the way they speak to the fans, the way they tell us about their experience and vocalize their appreciation. 

Towards the end of the concert, they came into the crowd, high fiving and shaking hands with those in the front row. They even threw their merchandise into the crowd, and a good amount at that. More regrets for not being in the right places to have caught a t-shirt. Kelly kept suggesting we move forward, but the crowd was packed and there was no way we would have made it to the front anyway. As they ended the concert, they speculated on what song to end on, mentioning my favorite off the album, Lovedrunk, before saying “Nah, we can’t do that one. Too slow.” So they ended on “Fan,” and came back with an encore of “Born Hater” and “Don’t Hate Me.” A pretty great end if you ask me. 

After the concert, we walked back to the car and I asked Kelly if she enjoyed the concert. She said yes, which relieved me on some level. We listened to the set list the whole way home (ten minutes). I was even happier when I found out that she continued to listen to them months after the we went. So we drove home, happy until we realized we had to wake up at 6am the next morning for work.

I’m sure that I loved the concert not just because I love Epik High’s music, but because of the way they interacted with the audience honestly. So easy-going, so inviting, so engaging. I was so excited and in awe the whole time, and I left feeling energized. Still a bit disappointed I didn’t catch any of the merchandise they threw into the crowd, but the concert definitely left a lasting impression on me.  

Did I listen to the concert set list for the next 2 weeks on repeat? Yes. 

Do I still listen to “Lovedrunk” and imagine them performing it at the concert? Yes.

*Disclaimer: I do not speak Korean. Any of the genius I understand of Epik High’s lyrics is the product of sifting through their English lyrics (and getting my mind blown by how smart they are). 


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