"SXSW is a must for K-pop idols. They are used to big stadiums. It’s the intimacy with fans that makes it special."
Five member girl group f(x)—also known as Victoria, Luna, Krystal, Sulli and Amber—marked a major milestone in their career becoming the first K-pop act to appear at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. The girls, under SM Entertainment (home to Girls' Generation, TVXQ!, SHINee and more), were invited to headline an event sponsored by Korean Creative Content Agency (KOCCA).
Titled, “K-POP NIGHT OUT at SXSW," the girls earned the slot not only for their electro-pop goodies plus snagging various awards and recognition from all around the world. Accolades from just last year include a No. 2 single on the K-Pop Hot 100 with "Electric Shock" (below), their first Japanese single and the Best Dance Performance-Female award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards.
“We think we were invited because the kind music we do is rare," the girls said before taking the stage at Elysium Nightclub on March 13. "Not only in Korea but all over the world. The best thing about our group is that we are multinational and we can speak multiple languages."
The hype around their first SXSW showcase translated to Elysium. On the day of event, die-hard fans and curious industry folk lined up hours ahead of the show—easily packing in the 550-capacity venue.
Hours before f(x), a Korean rock band lineup of The Geeks, Yi Sung Yol, Guckkasten, No Brain, Jeong Cha Shik and Galaxy Express wowed industry participants and even ardent f(x) fans with their own 40-minute sets. The Geeks, a four-member hardcore band, started the night out hard with songs like, “Rock & Roll Part 2” and “I Still Believe.” Modern rocker Yi Sung Yol shook things up with his deep vocals seen in songs like “So,” and “We Are Dying.” Korean favorites Guckkasten fired up the stage with their hits, including “Violet Wand,” “Rafflesia” and “Faust.” The 17-year punk veterans No Brain showcased their supremacy with “You Have A Crush On Me” and “One Glass Of Soju.” Jeong Cha Shik, who won Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song award at the 2013 Korean Music Awards, flaunted his unique vocals and melodies. Galaxy Express, who has been invited to SXSW for three straight years and are in the midst of a U.S. tour, performed eight songs, including “Riding The Galaxy,” “Love Is” and “Jungle The Black.”
The K-pop darlings finally graced a smoke-filled stage around 1:30 a.m., in front of hundreds in anticipation as fans wildly waved their hands and screaming in unity.
During their short set, f(x) brought out fan favorites like, “Nu Abo,” “Pinocchio (Danger),” “Hot Summer” (below) and “Electric Shock.” Between songs, band member Amber (who received the loudest cheers throughout the night) had fans in frenzy when she expressed her excitement and interacted with fans in English, “You guys are crazy and I love it!” but also added in Korean phrase, "Saranghaeyo," which means "I love you."
Following the show, Billboard Korea caught up with f(x), who talked about their performance, who they were sad to miss performing at SXSW and what else 2013 has in store for them.
"We had a lot of fun and it was definitely a new experience," the group said. "We wish we could have stayed longer." Like many other K-pop megastars, f(x) was under a heavy schedule and only had a day in Texas with wall-to-wall commitments throughout the day.
“I wish I saw Justin Timberlake, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar and Icona Pop, because I love their music," added member Amber, a California native. "But it’s okay. We still had a lot of fun!"
After their successful SXSW showcase, one wonders if the quintet will attempt to crossover. "We don't have plans to officially debut in the U.S., but we will continue to promote our music globally," the group said. "We are working on our new album for now and we plan to release it sometime this year."
f(x)'s first SXSW performance was a refreshing and daring move for any K-pop idol to take as the girls were torn from their usual large-scale stage production and extravagant light and sound system.
“I think SXSW is a must for K-pop idols," Amber reflects. "It’s a must because it is such a different venue. K-pop idols are used to big stadiums. It’s the intimacy with fans that makes it special. It was a crowd of people that were curious about K-pop along with K-pop fans. SXSW definitely broadens horizons.”