[Concert Review] Falling Back in Love with Epik High in New York City

I wasn’t going to attend this show.

When “99” was released, I liked it on the surface, but after  Map The Soul” and Fever’s End, I couldn’t stomach 99’s pop leanings. I was peeved about the change for years, so when Shoebox cameout last year, I dismissed it without a second thought. After falling in love with rappers like Hwaji, Verbal Jint and Paloalto, my mind couldn’t square the circle of Epik High.

epik high stand

I knew what I had become; the fan who abandoned one’s musical heroes after they “sold out.” I was wrong, and I knew it on some scale, but it was easier to remain bitter than to see what signing to YG Entertainment would mean for Epik High. More money, more resources, wider audiences and the ability to continue in their careers as a trio never figured into my bullshit thinking.

When Chris, my Editor in Chief at Korean Indie, started expressing his affection for the band, I knew I had to correct my thinking towards the trio. He was right, I was wrong, but I didn’t get around to changing that. The incentive just wasn’t there.

Tablo 1Tablo 2

What led me to last night’s show at New York City’s Best Buy Theatre was a confluence of events around me that I couldn’t ignore. From Chris and Emily, a fellow KI contributor, raving about the California shows on social media, the release of Epik High’s “The Best of Epik High ~Show Must Go On~” and Lizzie’s offer to cover the show for Beyond Hallyu earlier this week was a perfect storm to erase my wrongheadedness.

Would my stance have changed without this? Of course, but I couldn’t tell you when that would be if this past week hadn’t happened. The result? Hello, my name is Xtian, and I am a born again Epik High fan, and it feels awesome.

The first part of my conversion was the fact that Epik High didn’t have an opening act. I know Masta Wu will open on Saturday, but he only teased his act with a few seconds of “이리와봐.” Opening acts are meant to warm up a crowd and introduce a smaller act to a new group of potential listeners, but by not having Masta Wu perform an opening set, we immediately jumped into the show proper ten minutes after the lights went down.

Mithra 1 Mithra 2

The show itself was excellent. Epik High performed from their hits, beginning with “막을 올리며,” “Fly,” and “비켜,” then going on to include some tracks off Shoebox (Burj Khalifa, Ears, Nose, Lips and Happen Ending), but most of the show came off the hits collection. The production wasn’t tweaked or remixed from their original productions, except for DJ Tukutz spinning in Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot for a bit into Fly, and that was alright; as an intro show as big as this tour is, alterations would have been out of place. The crowd and I ate it up, singing along at the top of our lungs and jumping like mad, just having a great time.

What cinched the deal for me, however, was the circus aspect of the show. Epik High, between songs, had fantastically awkward banter and personas that played so well that the concert felt like a variety program than just a regular musical performance. Silly segments ike DJ Tukutz dancing in appropriate (GD and Taeyang’s “Good Boy”) and inappropriate moments (performing on Tablo’s Airbag), as well as rattling off an odd series of NYC-related nouns that must have come from a travel book made him the loveable goof to Tablo’s holier-than-thou master of ceremonies and Mithra’s aloof Korean mystic.

DJ Tukutz 1 DJ Tukutz 2

The interludes (Q&A, their love letter to North America and Tablo’s international message of gratitude) made for a cohesive whole. The show flowed well throughout its two-hour runtime, exploring everything that was Epik High. And it makes sense; Epik High is at the top of their game right now and this show reflects the talent and success they have and created. One of the best shows, full stop.

Where does that leave me, then? Like an idiot for doubting them. Stupid for waiting to re-examine my false pretense. Grateful for the chance to have done so.

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Contributing writer for KoreanIndie.com and fan of BeyondHallyu.com. Gary forever.