Fans of South Korean alternative rockers Hyukoh were lucky to see that their faves were paying them a second visit. The band brought their “24: How To Find True Love and Happiness Tour” to KL on the 20th of February, which garnered quite the crowd despite being on a weekday.
The event was organised by U-mobile and Upfront Arena, who executed the event rather justly. Fans were brimming with excitement, chattering away about how they were only minutes from seeing their faves performing live. The venue filled up rather quickly once doors opened, soon it turned into a waiting game for the lights to dim.
The opening act was of a local flavour, serving up Lost Spaces as an appetiser to the crowd. The four-piece unit had a rather chill yet cool vibe to them as they played their first song. With an interesting choice of incorporating jarring noises such as telephone rings into songs, they echo the sound of Phum Viphurit. It worked effortlessly, the crowd quickly got tipsy from the dreamy atmosphere.
However what was most memorable about Lost Spaces was how they kept on throwing curveballs at us with their choices of songs; all which seem even more different than the one before it. From the quirky yet stylish “35mm” which had a futuristic feel to it, to launching the crowd with 80s synth pop – serving us what a funky Owl City would sound like. Never letting up once, Lost Spaces mixed the likes of lofi, funk, chill hop with a whole lotta synthesisers. However, it’s in their lack of settling for one genre which makes them especially unique – and will definitely be their trademark sound.
Then the moment of truth arrived.
Subtle and incredibly eerie; the crowd first noticed that Hyukoh was about to come on when the generic trap beats that was playing earlier to fill in the silence were replaced with a recording. What was it of, however, was a little hard to tell as it was playing in reverse. Starting off softly, no one could quite tell at first but it slowly grew louder and louder until everyone was aware of the garbled noises pouring out of the speakers. The lights started to dim, as this new age EDM was playing; resulting in a chaotic mashup with the vocals playing in reverse. Despite the almost demonic energy to it–there was an air of majesty from it all, as if a holy ritual was about to begin.
Slowly, the coloured lights illuminated the stage and from the shadows emerged four familiar figures. The crowd went wild at the sight of the members, as they took their positions and picked up their instruments. The hellish remix track had finally come to its dramatic end, and what replaced it was the intro of “Skyworld”, the second track of the band’s latest EP. Then all was silent for a moment as everyone held their breath; what would Hyukoh open with?
The answer came in the form of the iconic beginning chords of Wiing Wiing, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Almost immediately, fans started singing along the lyrics in Korean
passionately as Oh Hyuk himself crooned. Being one of the first singles the band had released, it was a moment for the OG fans who had been there from the start. They then set the mood with “Graduation”, the Jawaiian-esque psychedelic trip which was complete with a light show to complement the experience. With the effect of the lights and the overall vibe of the song, it felt as if one was being transported into another dimension.
Quickly following along, the band played the cheerful “Panda Bear”, the upbeat “2002 World Cup” and the cult favourite, “Wanli”. The stage was lit an eerie red as Hyuk chanted the lyrics in Mandarin over and over again, the crowd repeating with him as they bobbed their head to the guitar riffs. “Citizen Kane” was another one for fans of Hyukoh’s more gritter, alternative sound; many chanting along to the addictive line of “Hong Kong taxi driver!”.
The band then slowed things down, getting the crowd to go silent before playing calmer jams such as “Goodbye Seoul” and “Ohio”. Even though we had reached the milder part of the setlist, Hyukoh played some of their softer yet cheerful songs like “Gang Gang Schiele” before returning to the somber “Gondry”.
With the moody mood set, it was only appropriate to ring in the banger of the night; “Tomboy”. The reaction was immediate; cries of joy, echoes of rushed singing and a scramble for phones to be used as torchlights. Out of all the crowd singalongs, it was definitely the loudest for this one. The melancholy felt was ineffable yet successfully tugs at your heart strings, stirring up that hurt you never thought you had.
After that the band announced a line that brought boos from the crowd; “That was our last song of the night.” Turns out they had a trick up their sleeve, and began playing “LOVE YA!” to an extremely grateful crowd. There was even heartfelt mentions from Hyuk himself, hoping that much like the name of the EP, fans will too find the true meaning of love and happiness. After that, the band cleared off backstage whilst the venue was practically quaking with shouts of “ENCORE!” from fans who refused to believe that this was the end. Where were the hits of the night?
All answers came in the form on a well received encore; performing the smooth “Tokyo Inn”, the classic “Comes and Goes” and wrapping up the night with “Settle Down”. Saving the best for last, HYUKOH went out with a bang.
Perhaps what was especially unique about HYUKOH is how emotionally honest their performances are. They bare their souls on the stage, pouring out everything they’ve got into a sea of strangers. Perhaps that’s why their music is always so emotionally charged in one way or another. If not their stylish indie rock sound, they opt for more slower, steadier tracks. Giving almost a romantic environment, especially during their slow songs, you feel yourself slowly melting along with the dreamy vibe of the music.
Hyukoh isn’t just a band; they’re an experience. Much like atmosphere, it’s something one has to be there in order to fully appreciate. There’s no saying how far this band could go, with their one of a kind sound and general oddity, but one thing is for sure; they’re here for a long time to come.
Review by Leyasheena Panicker