Usually I don’t post anything negative, ugly, or controversial on this blog. I don’t partake in drama, and I generally don’t like to attack someone when they’re already being pummeled by everyone else.
But in this case, I have to join in on the pummeling because it’s been over a week since I saw my beautiful Bangtan Boys in San Francisco for the Highlight Tour and I am still LIVID! TGM Events, the production company which ran the tour, and the so-called Highlight Tour starring BTS were huge disappointments and I am thoroughly disgusted with so many things about the entire event.
Yes, I may have met BTS. Yes, I may have seen my amazing boys perform live and in person. Yes, I may have even had fun with friends and BTS themselves, but this was all despite TGM and their shoddy “business” practices, and not because of it.
Even though, TGM brought my boys to me, I have a hard time saying I was happy or even satisfied with TGM after last week’s mess disguised as an event. Of course, I am extremely happy I saw my boys, and those seven amazing boys made the travel and expense well worth it, but I am NOT happy with the way the event was run.
The Highlight Tour was a mess, even more than a first event from a production company should have been. There were too many problems to chalk up to growing pains. Too many mistakes to just overlook. Too much unorganized chaos to laugh off as first-time jitters. And, most importantly, too much mistreatment of the boys to let go without speaking up about it.
So, here’s a run-down of some of the disaster in San Francisco:
The weekend before the event, attendees were told via social media that the San Francisco Fire Department would not let us line up all day at the venue. This meant we would be getting assigned seats and seating would no longer be first-come-first-serve. Fine. I waited all weekend to receive my seating assignments by email…and nothing. I didn’t get an email.
Instead, the day before the event, we were told to check in at another location (a distance from the venue) on the day of the event and we would get our seat numbers then, along with our wristbands. No mention of receiving the actual t-shirts we purchased as our entrance tickets.
So, on the day of the event, I went to the Holiday Inn and waited. And waited. TGM didn’t have enough people checking people in, first of all. And second, TGM lost many of the seat assignments. What I expected to take maybe 30 minutes took over 2 hours. Two hours to check in. It felt like KCon 2014 all over again.
The “Night of Fashion”
The Night of Fashion was irrelevant. Nothing was done to promote Community 54 (the brand BTS is a supposed ambassador for) other than the boys wearing the company’s clothes during fan engagements (and I only recognized the brand because I had been on Community 54’s website before). There was no fashion show or any mention of fashion before, during, or after the performances.
It was a missed opportunity not to have a table selling merch the boys were actually wearing. It would have been fun, for instance, to purchase the Nirvana-inspired t-shirt Jungkook was wearing. Instead, the only true mention of Community 54 or “A Night of Fashion” was on the t-shirt we purchased as our “ticket” for entrance.
Speaking of that t-shirt, BTS are nowhere to be found on it. Their name is not on the shirt. How do you have BTS as your star artist, and then not put their name on your t-shirt?
Oh, and speaking of merchandise, a few days before the tour started, TGM offered “official” Highlight Tour merch for purchase. There were totes, t-shirts, pins, and stickers available–really cute designs dedicated to each individual boy. I hurriedly ordered, and paid for, my Jungkook pins and stickers so I’d have them at the venue waiting for me.
Well, there was no merchandise there, or anywhere. And now I really doubt I will ever get my order.
Entrance into the Venue
The venue started letting people line up outside of the entrance at 4:30. I got there just a few minutes later and began to wait. Luckily, I wasn’t too far behind in line. Around 5:00, the line started moving. As I got closer to the door, I prepared myself for bag check–opening my bags and getting rid of water bottles and such.
I walked up to the threshold of the entrance…and nothing. No bag check. NO ONE checked my bag. Or anyone else’s. I even asked security, “Aren’t you going to check my bag?” and the guy just shrugged. They cared more about physically removing people without the correct-colored wristband, than they did about letting weapons or other nefarious items in.
And after the fiasco of New York’s TRB and the rumored threats to BTS members there, you would think TGM would be overly cautious trying to protect the boys. But nope!
TGM didn’t care enough about my boys to have security search our bags, or use a handheld metal detector, or do anything at all by way of threat or danger prevention. How dare they risk my boys like that?!
After not being searched, I entered through the venue doors and into the lobby, expecting to be led to a special area for autograph signing. To my surprise, as soon as I walk in, I see V’s beautiful face not 20 feet away from me. I am already in the autograph line and V is looking down the line at us. That’s how haphazard the autograph line was. And it got worse from there.
Autograph signing was insanely fast. Security kept talking, interrupting and pulling us along, physically touching us to move the line along. Because I was scolded (a grown woman scolded for trying to say “hi” to the group I paid all this money to see), I missed out on interaction with three of the seven boys. I missed Jimin completely. I saw his distressed little face, his worried eyes staring back at me as I was reprimanded by security.
In my next post, I will elaborate on the autograph signing, but let’s just say, reading this sentence will take longer than the actual time I had with the boys during the autograph session.
After autographs, both the VIP and Autograph purchasers, were hurried outside behind the venue, to stand out in the cold in the courtyard…and wait. For an hour we waited in the cold. I guess this was our very own VIP section (that’s sarcasm).
Ideally, we should have gone directly from autograph signing into the venue to find our seats. That’s how VIP should have been treated. And if autograph purchasers got to go in early too, well bonus to them. Instead, we all stood in the cold and entered the venue mere minutes before General Admission got to go in.
Now, this is where it gets even crazier. Luckily, I found my seat with ease, and there was a t-shirt waiting for me on my seat back (correct size too. A miracle). So I sat and waited for the performances. Good thing I did because not 10 minutes later, a horde of fans came running into the venue. A stampede of girls looking for any empty seat up front.
I was puzzled when empty seats in front of me were suddenly filled with girls who wore wristbands other than the gold-colored VIP one I wore. The seated VIP people asked security what was happening and they told us that TGM decided to make everything open seating, which meant they no longer chose to honor the seat assignments they had given VIPs and others who had waited in that ridiculously long line during check in earlier in the day.
Completely unacceptable. How dare TGM give away VIP seats, that VIP paid extra for, to general admission? And then not let VIP sit in their assigned seats when they protested? And then send VIP to the back, and in some cases, to the balcony?! What kind of nonsense?!
If TGM wanted to make it open seating, they should have first informed VIP of what they planned to do. They could have told us over the PA system that they so loved to use to tell us not to use cameras (over and over again). They could have easily said, “We will be letting GA in for open seating in ten minutes, so please take your seats. You are also welcome to find a closer seat to the stage (since you are VIP and you’re supposed to be closer to the stage than other attendees).” Really, how hard would that have been?!
Or TGM could have told people they are not allowed to get seats from the first 10 rows or so. That would have given all VIP a chance to sit in seats closer to the stage–a privilege they paid for.
Instead, girls with VIP wristbands were told to basically suck it up and “go find a seat somewhere else.” So many girls were crying and upset, and it was painful to witness.
I knew going into this event that it would not be a concert. It would be shorter, more like a fan sign or a showcase. But it wasn’t specifically called anything, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought there might be fan interaction, maybe question and answer time, maybe games or some kind of talking to the audience.
Instead, we got an opening act named Consio. And I’m not going to bash him at all, because he did his thing. I was just already irritated and so I couldn’t enjoy him. It wasn’t his fault. He was entertaining and his music was good. And I’ll definitely check it out on iTunes or something. But I just was not feeling it at Highlight. The fiasco with VIPs losing their seats had me steamed throughout his entire performance. He sang five songs and then left the stage.
Then it was time for BTS. After being told yet again that cameras were forbidden, the lights came down and those amazing boys I waited all day to see finally hit the stage.
They started with “N.O” which was probably not the best idea. All it did was tease me into thinking this performance was going to be another TRB, since “N.O” was the opening song to that fantastic 23-song concert.
I’ll elaborate further in another post devoted strictly to BTS, but for now I will say that they performed “N.O” and “Boy in Luv” flawlessly, then spoke (although I couldn’t hear and I was fourth row), then performed “Dope.” Then there was a quick break with a VCR that hyped up the crowd into thinking those first three songs were merely an appetizer to the main course.
After the VCR that asked “Are you ready?” as if the boys would come out and slay with a string of hits, they performed “I Need U.” Or maybe it was “I Need U” before the VCR and “Dope” after. I don’t remember. I’m old, it was fast, and I wasn’t allowed to record it for posterity.
Anyway, after this fourth and final song…they left the stage. Unceremoniously and without a proper “goodbye.” They just walked off.
The entire audience stood there, shell-shocked. I don’t blame the boys at all. They seemed like they had no idea what was going on either. We thought it was maybe a costume change, or they were going to come back out to do a fashion show for this “night of fashion” but they never came out again. The houselights turned on, and that was it.
So, to recap: the opening act performed 5 songs and the main act performed 4. It was all over in 50 minutes or so. And that was it. The sound system was sub-par, the lighting was awful, but the boys were the consummate professionals they always are.
But even from a distance away, I could tell the sparkle in their eyes wasn’t there. They performed, but it looked like they didn’t enjoy it. And that killed me.
Hi-touch was basically a non-event. It happened so quickly, I don’t even remember much of it. I do remember waiting for it though. And waiting. And waiting. Again, in that cold courtyard, or the “VIP section” as I like to call it.
After the performance, VIP and Group Photo purchasers were whisked away, out of the auditorium, and into the cold night air. We believed we would be the first to hi-touch with the boys after the performance, so we didn’t mind being out in the cold. But we waited almost an hour before we realized that hi-touch was already occurring inside.
Being closer to the entrance, I was able to see the boys through the windows, standing in the lobby. They stood in a line and slapped hands with hundreds of people, who had been rushed through the line like cattle.
Every once in a while, the boys who could see us would wave and smile through the windows. That is, until they were reprimanded for doing so. After being scolded, Jimin especially looked downtrodden, like a puppy who’d been kicked. He avoided looking out the window or even smiling at us after that.
We, the VIP and Group Photo purchasers, stood outside as general admission got their hi-touches. They got to see the boys before they were tired. Before they hadn’t already touched 500 hands before ours. And not just $70 and up purchasers got to touch them, but $50 purchasers did too. TGM didn’t distinguish non-hi-touch from hi-touch attendees, so they just let everyone do a hi-touch. Something the boys didn’t sign up for. TGM’s screw up made the boys work harder than they should have.
Ideally, TGM should have reversed everything if they wanted VIP to be last. They should have told $50 attendees to leave the premises prior to hi-touch starting. Then they should have let general admission leave the auditorium for their hi-touch, touching the boys as they left the venue. Then Group Photo purchasers, who would then be escorted to another line to begin line up for group photos. Then VIP. If TGM wanted VIP to be last, they should have left us in the auditorium, waiting in seats in the warmth. Much better than standing outside in the cold for an hour.
So, after an hour in the cold, we got to walk into the lobby and hi-touch the boys. By then, the boys looked done. They were so tired. It happened so quickly and I was unable to talk to them other than to say a feeble “hi.” And even that interaction was interrupted by security telling me “no stopping. Keep the line moving.” I couldn’t even enjoy my 5 seconds with the boys. And that’s five seconds total, not each.
I honestly do not remember 4 of the 7 boys. I don’t remember what order they were in, and I don’t remember what, if anything, I said to them.
I left the line miserable. I wasted a second opportunity with the boys. I knew I just had to make up for it at the group photo.
So, we waited outside again after hi-touch. As we were some of the very first VIPs in line for hi-touch, we came back out and around the courtyard to stand in the same position for group photo. That, again, made me one of the first in line.
I looked back at the hi-touch line from my spot in the newly-created group photo line and saw hundreds of people still waiting for hi-touch. I know TGM sold 300 VIP t-shirts (tickets) but I don’t know how many more for group photo, though it looked like a good 200.
After awhile, TGM decided to stop the hi-touch line and start the group photos. Somehow my group got pushed back a little from our original spots in line but that didn’t bother us, since we knew we’d all be back in the lobby for our photo anyway.
We were told to line up in rows of three, in groups of 25 people.
We paid for an intimate photo with BTS, a group photo of 8 to 10 people. We paid for a photo in which we’d be able to possibly stand next to or near our bias. Seven boys, 8 to 10 people would have given us a great opportunity to interact with the boys.
But no. It was 25 people and Bangtan. Over 30 people in one photo. It felt more like an elementary-school class picture than it did a kpop group photo. I think Jungkook was on my side, but it was hard to tell with the rows of girls in front of me, as I was in the very back of the group.
Only quick eye contact from any of the boys before or after the group photo too. Jimin made it a point to say “bye” and “I love you” to us, and Suga and J-Hope waved, but they all looked angry, tired, and disgusted with the way things were going.
And the absolute kicker that I didn’t even notice until after I left the photo, the boys sat on the floor for each photo.
After signing hundreds of posters, after a strenuous performance, after standing up for a good hour or more glad-handing hundreds of people, these poor boys had to keep getting up and down from sitting on the floor…for each photo! The dirty floor!
Who has their stars, their main attraction, sitting on the floor of a lobby?! Wouldn’t chairs have been better?
And I couldn’t even protest because I was rushed out of the venue so quickly. Like literally shoved out the door of the venue.
So, this was everything I personally went through. I know other people had other issues, and other people had great experiences and no issues. But this was my own experience and the things I saw glaringly wrong with this event.
And I know things happened at the other stops. Houston with their plain, white paper as a substitute for autographed posters. Atlanta with the poor 100 fans who weren’t let into the oversold venue. Toronto with TGM not even showing up until the last minute and venue staff and fans having to basically run the show for TGM (though that was probably the reason Toronto ran as well as it did).
But for this first stop, San Francisco, I had hoped the boys would have enjoyed being back in America, and being back in California specifically. As a Cali girl, I always want my boys to enjoy themselves here.
But I could tell they didn’t. They looked tired, angry, upset, sad, disgusted and disappointed. And I was helpless. That’s what makes me most upset about it all. The boys were hurt. They weren’t treated like the princes they are. They were treated like performing circus animals. I swear that’s what it felt like. They were reprimand for being too slow with signing, for taking time interacting with fans, and for being playful and fun. Basically, they were scolded for being exactly what fans love about them.
And fans weren’t treated much better. Throughout the night and waiting in our various lines in the cold outdoors, security had threatened us with stopping the event. Numerous times we were told that if we didn’t line up quickly and walk in quickly and speak to the boys quickly and walk back out quickly, we would risk being kicked out or having the event cancelled.
I swear I felt like a prison inmate instead of a paying customer. I felt disrespected and unappreciated. I felt like TGM just wanted our money and didn’t care to plan an organized event. They didn’t care that it would be rough on the boys to do 1000 hi-touches. They didn’t care that some VIP were pushed out of their seats and told to sit in the back. They didn’t care that it would be a less-than-intimate experience to group 25 people together for one photo. They didn’t care about the quality of the group photo. They didn’t care that we drove or flew and spent money on hotels and took days off and saved for months to pay for these amazing experiences with our bias group, only to have every experience end in seconds.
TGM didn’t care. But they hurt way too many people. And those people will find a way to make sure that TGM starts to care. When TGM has to pay everyone back and they go out of business they will care. When they realize that they have been run out of the kpop industry they will care.
And I will just sit back and watch, satisfied that TGM is reaping what they have sown. Because I have never left an event so heartbroken, like I did after Highlight in San Francisco. And it wasn’t because I didn’t get the experiences I wanted. I left sadder than any other time because I was leaving my seven beautiful angels in the hands of TGM, and that was the saddest thing of all.