On August 20, Korean-Canadian beatboxer and singer KRNFX performed at KCON LA 2017. Read guest writer Cy’s review on KRNFX’s performance at the convention stage.
Though many would look at me in complete horror and confusion at my next statement, I stand by it wholeheartedly. The highlight of KCON LA 2017 for me was seeing KRNFX live. Don’t take this to mean that I wasn’t impressed by any other act. But I’ve been a fan of this man for some time, and being the pessimist that I am, I had no illusions that I’d be able to actually see him do what he does in a live setting. Then along comes KCON LA’s convention stage, and my entire worldview tilts.
As soon as he takes the stage, you can feel the essence of who Terry Im, of course most widely known by the eponymous KRNFX, is as an artist. There’s an immediate joy once he begins to set up his first vocal scheme. He quite literally swoops in, voice taking on the effect of a helicopter circling the LA Convention Center. He sets up the countdown to his performance, building, then setting a bomb to tick away the seconds until the explosion. And damn did he ever explode! The moment he lets his tongue loose, a cacophony of sounds, a wall of imaginative dips, clicks, and swirls that eventually leads to a chaotic bit of vocal electronica detonates and sets each member of the audience ablaze. We are standing there in utter amazement of his craft.
KRNFX is a generous performer. He invites every single person blessed to be in his presence to become a part of his show. Very much an advocate of call and response, he beckons us forth, commanding us (with that addictive smile of his) to join in, shouting out our familiarity with a popular Korean pop song–in this case his rendition of “Happy” by Cosmic Girls.
After the outpouring of energy for the shoutout to one of the many idol performers, one would understand if the atmosphere became a bit subdued. After all, most people are there for the idols, so any acknowledgment of their presence by any other artist gets a crowd hype as if the group itself were being introduced. However, KRNFX doesn’t give you a moment to rest. Any thoughts of waning energy may as well have been a horribly told joke. With KRNFX, there is no stopping. Another question of the crowd’s favorite artists yields a series of shouts when he mentions BTS. If anyone had thought they’d have room to sit or even breathe, after he asks that question, they may as well have just given up the delusion. He begins to build the foundations of a song: first the bassline, providing the backbone of the track, then the beat, a thump that settles deep in the chest, then we get the melody and before he can even put the final loop in place the crowd is in hysterics. The excitement reaches a resounding pitch that resonates throughout the marketplace when fans recognize the song for what it is: “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.” At that point he could’ve called himself Santa Claus and the audience would’ve believed every word.
Then–oh, then–he brings in vocal goddess Lydia Paek. At this point, I’m sure most people are simply screaming because BTS is getting the royal treatment from this talented duo. But my soul is ascending to another plane altogether. KRNFX and Lydia have worked together before, but ask me if I actually expected her to show up… I’ll wait…. At that point I’m not sure what can top this moment. Lydia’s voice is a blessing, a piece of magic that’s as clear and clean as fresh snow. Her smile is as effervescent as the beatmaster. Though she only stayed on long enough for the first verse and chorus, the damage is done. I’m completely overwhelmed and more in love with this moment than anything leading up to it (and perhaps a fewafter).
The show culminates in KRNFX giving us a bit of his own original work. It’s an absolute bomb of a song, musical dynamite that detonates and leaves the mind in shambles. Still reeling from the presence of the one and only Lydia Paek, my heart almost bursts out of my chest with the sheer intensity of what KRNFX offers. Honestly and truly, I’m transported, lifted from the ground and thrown into orbit.
Now, whatever you thought you knew about KRNFX, whatever you may have seen on YouTube, it’s completely irrelevant. You must, must see this man perform live. His talent truly must be seen to be believed. His focus, emotion, and raw energy permeate the audience. With just himself, a mic, and a looper, he manages to completely fill the stage. All of this is only amplified when he gives his second performance as the opening act of the first night’s concert. The audience, I’m sure, is in the same state of shock as I am–frozen with the first vocal effect, then completely out of their minds when he transitions to his first full song. Those who hadn’t seen him earlier that day are so overwhelmed, the stands don’t stop ringing with the resonant echoes of their screams until the next act.
I honestly believe this may be the best performance I’ve seen on any stage since MFBTY’s SXSW appearance back in March 2017. That’s how much of an effect this effects master had on me. So I’ll reiterate: the highlight of KCON LA 2017 was and remains KRNFX.
About the Writer: Cy is a digital journalist and blog writer specializing in reviews of music and film across a broad range of genres. Wherever there’s electricity, food and a good Wi-fi connection is where she makes her home. Find her on Twitter (@mindlesscy) and Instagram (@mindless_cy).