Let Us Shine: Stanning BTS and Dancing in the Rain
Recently I had the awesome opportunity to be a guest on my amazing friend Lindsay’s podcast, “I’ll Be There for You.” The focus of this particular podcast is to invite indivduals to speak about something in pop culture that helped them through a hard time. It was no question that I would talk about boy bands. I stanned N’Sync before stanning was a word. Years later, I had a One Direction era. A big one. And while that didn’t necessarily go the way I thought it would (I had way too much optimism in that “short hiatus” talk), I have no regrets.
Fast forward to November 2017. The American Music Awards are airing soon and I’m seeing ads about the “biggest K-pop boy band” performing. Naturally, I had to see what that was about. I watched in awe as 7 guys did incredible choreography and sang an amazingly catchy song…all live. I was impressed, confused, and interested. So I quickly fell down the rabbit hole. I learned their names, their personalities, their roles. I watched the music videos, listened to the albums, watched the Run episodes and random tv and award show appearances, and read so many lyric translations. And before I knew it, I was hooked.
I talk about the journey into BTS in the podcast so won’t go too far into that here but needless to say, I’m so, so glad I found this group. From the start, I was so drawn to the idea of a group of 7 very different and remarkably talented guys who were the underdogs. They came from the small company, they sang and rapped about things that could be considered taboo while I found them relatable. They’ve learned from their mistakes, have grown into true artists, and stayed unbelievably humble along the way. Every day, I am proud to be a fan.
Concerts have always been a major part of my life, as can be evidenced by the list I’ve been keeping since 9th grade of every artist I’ve ever seen live. BTS is #120 and I’ve seen them 4 times in 8 months, all here in Chicago. I don’t have any ARMY friends here. I’m so lucky that one of my great friends, who happens to live out of town, asked me about BTS soon after I became a fan and got hooked right there with me. The concerts provided us opportunities to reunite and hang out all while having the most amazing weekends.
The two shows from the Love Yourself tour in October were awesome. I was so struck by the diversity of the crowd and the way the fans turned the evening concert into a full day event. It was so amazing to see the dancing I love so much be performed live, along with absolutely amazing vocals and rapping of songs I’ve grown so attached to. And the antics and silly moments were unforgettable. But this past weekend at Soldier Field…I don’t know how anything can beat that.
As you probably know, the first of the Love Yourself: Speak Yourself shows here in Chicago was absolutely freezing. The rain stopped before the show began but in true Chicago fashion, despite it being mid-May, it was COLD. But it was amazing. To see “Not Today” performed live was a dream come true for me as that song was my anthem when I was in the hospital about 15 months ago for a heart procedure. To hear Make It Right and Mikrokosmos in the encore was an emotional rollercoaster that I couldn’t really prepare myself for. It was amazing and worth not being able to feel my toes.
And then there was Sunday. The rain didn’t let up, the wind was blowing, and I was nervous. I convinced myself they’d go easier on the dancing to avoid any slipping and maybe they’d just really have a hard time in the rain. As Namjoon said, in their 6 years of performing, this had never happened before! But holy crap was I wrong, these guys gave it their ALL. Despite Jungkook not flying during Euphoria (which was absolutely the right and perfect choice), they performed to their absolute best ability and put on the best concert I’ve seen since I went to my first concert 20 years ago.
Everything was perfect. It feels like a dream. And my friend and I were so, so lucky to have seats really close to the side of the main stage so at some point, each boy came over to wave to our section and for the first time, I could see their faces and features not through a screen. That part still doesn’t feel real. I have appreciated and loved this band for a year and a half and to finally really see them meant so much. It’s honestly hard to put into words.
It rained the whole show. The whole damn show. And it was magical. The fireworks, the ARMY bombs and phones lighting the sky, all while hearing the songs that remind me to love myself, to stand up for myself, and to be proud of how far I’ve come….the only word to describe it really is that it was beautiful. Hearing the boys thank us and say how it was a night they’d never forget meant so much. It felt like 60,000 fans and 7 boys from Korea all experienced something so special together, something that we all will remember forever.
It’s been two days and I’m still processing it. I took photos and filmed videos but also told myself to put the phone down and take it all in. I looked around this massive stadium that serves as a cultural landmark in the city I’ve lived in my whole life and I felt so accepted and understood. I got emotional as we all sang “You’ve got me” and “I’ve got you” because even though we all are strangers, we are all in this fandom experience together. Many of us have had experiences where we’ve had to defend our love of this band and this music. Others like myself have had to say that age doesn’t mean you can’t be a fan. We all have our own stories to tell and our own lives we are living but we have this major thing in common. We’ve been positively impacted by the music and the people of BTS.
The pop-up store has since closed and I am no longer seeing ARMYs on the street in BTS and BT21 gear. But there is still so much more to come and to enjoy with this band and I cannot wait to be a witness to it. Whether it’s watching the upcoming appearances on my tv, following the concerts on twitter, or watching Youtube videos on my phone on my commute to work, I cannot wait for what’s to come. I cannot wait to continue to find reasons to love this band and to be a part of this fandom. Thank you BTS, for encouraging me to speak myself and love myself, and for giving me the most incredible concert experience on Sunday night. I purple you.