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The K-Pop Party held by Carriageworks in celebration of the Chinese New Year brought two fantastic pop acts to Sydney – Boyfriend and JJCC! Fans who had been queuing up outside quickly filled the venue and fell straight into the party vibes thanks to the DJ playing some of our favourite K-Pop hits. SBS PopAsia hosts Jamaica dela Cruz and Andy Trieu took to the stage and helped everyone mentally prepare themselves for the fantastic night that was to come. At their suggestion, every fan in the audience took a deep breath and called out as loud as they could – “J-J-C-C!”

The boys came and lit up the building with torches with which they performed an unforgettable introduction before really bringing up the heat – the roof is on fire! Their raps are on fire! This song is on ‘Fire’! Large screens play scenes from the music video in the background as the energy in the room is turned up another notch with a stunning performance of ‘One Way’. Not even a ten hour plane ride could stop JJCC from giving their absolute best, including the notoriously difficult push-up dance move! The boys were able to take a quick breather with the slightly slower paced, though equally catchy, ‘Trauma’. We were given a fantastic opportunity to see new member Zica‘s vocals through this song, as he took on a fair portion of the chorus (originally sang by Yoojin of The SeeYa). There was a lot to love about this song as it had the boys harmonising their raps – something that we don’t often see!

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Our PopAsia hosts returned to the stage and JJCC officially introduced themselves to their welcoming audience. Our representative Australian Prince Mak mentioned that although the group arrived in Sydney the day before, he hadn’t actually had a chance to see his family yet until right at that moment; and just like that, everyone in the audience witnessed the four year reunion of Prince Mak with his family – including his grandmother who came in a wheelchair to support her grandson! Cries of sympathy and cheers of encouragement filled the room as Prince Mak repeated how thankful he was that they were invited to this event and he was able to return home after such a long time away.

Jamaica and Andy presented the group with something else our fellow Aussie has often said he’s missed – meat pies! Simba shouted in English that Prince Mak should get ten seconds to try to finish the meat pie, and fans and members alike danced around in excitement as the countdown began! It was a strong fight, but unfortunately, our friend failed his mission and the meat pie was passed around to Simba and fellow members who were eager to steal a bite. JJCC were then given an opportunity to show off some of their best Australian slang (“G’day, mate! Good on ya! This arvo!”) and before we knew it, colourful umbrellas had appeared on stage and the group were ready for their next song!

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‘On A Flower Bed’ was next up and fans swayed their arms along to the sweet lyrics. The lovely track was followed by a round of covers, beginning with a hit by Justin Bieber. (Prince Mak: “It just happens that the group we’re here with is Boyfriend… the next song is Boyfriend by Justin Bieber!”) Sancheong usually raps in JJCC’s songs, though this cover had him wowing fans with his fantastic singing skills and English pronunciation. The beautiful harmonies in ‘Boyfriend’ were followed by a cover of ‘Where Is The Love’, in which it was vocalist Eddy‘s turn to give us a pleasant surprise with his powerful rap verse! Fans were ecstatic to see the appearance of the one- the only- the real Eddy-nem! Vocals, rap, martial arts, cooking, dancing… the man is a quadruple threat! Fans sang and waved along to the wonderful cover, and it soon became no secret where all the love was that night: in Carriageworks at the K-Pop Party!

Our two MCs returned to the stage to challenge JJCC to a game of charades with fans – Australian animal edition! The group were split into three teams, and three fans from the audience joined each team on stage to guess the animal JJCC were imitating. I pride myself on being the best at charades out of anyone that I know, but even I had to admit that the boys took the game to a whole new level! A kangaroo imitation which had Yul-kangaroo carrying around Simba-joey almost became the most accurate imitation I’d ever seen, though the position of ‘best imitation’ in my personal list was quickly stolen by a koala imitation of Prince-koala, Eddy-koala and Zica-tree in a charade you’d have to see to believe!

The night took an emotional turn for the second time as Prince Mak’s mother was brought on stage! Lots of family love and warm hugs filled the room before the lights dimmed and the members crowded around Mrs Mak for a personal serenade of ‘Be Good’. Mrs Mak then left the stage so that her son and his groupmates could continue the show with their latest track ‘Insomnia’! Did you know that the members directed and edited the entire music video themselves? No wonder it’s E.co‘s favourite music video!

A final talk segment lead to the members gratefully taking some fan-made signs spelling out their names! It all started with a giant ‘MAK’ sign for our (suddenly shy and quite possibly blushing) Australian friend, before his fellow JJCC members decided they couldn’t lose and started finding beautiful signs dedicated to themselves. The talk segment had JJCC answering questions submitted by fans. We learned the members’ favourite ice cream flavour (meat pie isn’t an ice cream flavour, Prince!), where Simba would like to live if he could choose from anywhere in the world (SYDNEY!), and what career path they would have taken if they hadn’t become idols. Simba is well-known to be the ‘road manager’ of the group, and Eddy said that Simba is actually the best driver he knows! It comes to little surprise when Simba pipes up with a huge grin, “I would be a taxi driver!”

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Unfortunately, it’s time for their last song, and JJCC give us an energetic performance of ‘Where U At’ that has the audience throwing their arms into the air! Fortunately, it wasn’t their last last song, and they leave their fans with one last performance of the insanely catchy ‘Fire’. Everyone is jumping! What a finale! The boys give their goodbyes and wish everyone safe travels. Thanks for a brilliant show, JJCC! But it’s not over yet – there’s still another fun-packed hour of Boyfriend left!

After a short and much needed break (who else was already losing their voice?!) the wonderful Boyfriend took to the stage with a magical performance of ‘Witch’ – because our bodies go boom-bada-boom! The hit track was followed by another fan favourite, ‘I-Yah’. I’ve mentioned numerous times that this song has the fascinating ability to stay in your head long after hearing it (speaking from experience – at any given moment, you can almost guarantee that ‘I-Yah’ is playing in my mind) and the live version manages to succeed expectations! ‘Obsession’ follows and the members have already gotten everyone jumping to the beat. It soon becomes apparent that everyone is going to have an obsession with Boyfriend by the end of this concert. There is no escape!

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Although I was disappointed to not see ‘Love Style’, which was probably one of my favourite songs of 2012, Boyfriend were generous in showing us a number of their earlier hits – ‘Don’t Touch My Girl’ and ‘I’ll Be There’ brought all the Australian Best Friend on a trip to memory lane! After some sweet reminiscing, Jamaica and Andy returned to the stage to challenge Boyfriend to a drawing competition. The members had to choose which Australian animal they should draw. Koalas were suggested and crocodiles had almost become the final decision when Minwoo raised his microphone and cutely and quietly added, “I like kangaroos.” Awww! Go draw a kangaroo, Minwoo! I doubt there was a soul in the room who wouldn’t give the man the sun and stars on demand. A huge cheer from the crowd led to kangaroos being the final decision – let the art contest begin!

The winner was the younger of the Jo twins (Youngmin and Kwangmin), Kwangmin! Congratulations!

The bittersweet ‘You’ve Moved On’ was next up, and the members stood in a line and faced the fans as they sang together. This was soon followed by the next game: balloon popping! Once again, the group were split into teams of three and three fans were called on to the stage to participate. The Boyfriend members and their guest teammate had to place a balloon on their body and hug each other until the balloon popped. The team who popped the most balloons wins! Congratulations to the February 5th winning team: Amy, Hyunseong and Minwoo!

The final fan activity ends after a photo together and Boyfriend are back on the stage performing ‘Janus’! A few minutes later the group have everyone in the audience bounce b-b-b-b-bouncing with them through an energetic performance of ‘Bounce’. It’s now Boyfriend’s chance to answer some fan questions, and Jeongmin informs us that they have some new music coming soon! After being asked which animal the members would like to keep as a pet, Donghyun wandered towards the audience, looked around and pointed: “You! You, you! You!” These guys definitely know how to make their fans laugh! The next question has Kwangmin being selected as the craziest member, Minwoo as the sexiest member, and Donghyun as the cutest member. This was followed by a short solo dance time related to each of the three members’ designated adjectives.

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Minwoo then informs us that this next song is their last. It’s their debut track, ‘Boyfriend’! Fans love the blast from the past and sing along loudly. There’s something sweet about seeing groups perform their debut songs in that you’re able to see first-hand how much they have improved, matured and developed as artists over time. Emotions everywhere! Calls for an encore have the boys run back again to perform ‘On and On’, a song dedicated to their fans! Minwoo takes the opportunity to get right up close to some lucky Best Friends!

But that wasn’t the end! There’s one final song: a bright performance of ‘Good Night’. The lyrics feel strangely relatable?! “Goodbye. I don’t want to let you go, so I just keep saying goodbye.” It’s a beautiful and fun song that has the members running around the stage, pouring water over each other and the fans, and proudly wrapping themselves in the Australian flag! Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! It’s the perfect way to end the concert and the audience and Boyfriend throw hearts to each other right until the very last moment.

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There’s a phrase sometimes used in Korean when a person sounds exactly the same live as they do in their studio albums: “They ate the CD.” I have left the 2016 K-Pop Party with no doubt in my mind that both Boyfriend and JJCC have not only eaten their CDs, but copious amounts of meat pie. They brightly and consistently expressed their love for Australia and their Australian fans, and aren’t we happy to hear it! Let’s keep our fingers crossed that these two talented teams will make their way back to Australian shores again soon!

Photos by Johnny Au