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The VIP Experience - Stray Kids "Maniac" Encore in LA

By Kya Brogdon | 5 April, 2023

BMO Stadium - Los Angeles, CA. (March 31, 2023)

Stray Kids concert vip experience
Stray Kids by BMO Stadium

After traveling across multiple countries, Stray Kids has made their way back to the United States to close out their Maniac tour with two sold-out shows at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles. I was able to see them the last time they were in the area at The Kia Forum, and then again at KCON 2022 - but for the encore stage, I just knew I had to go all out. Fortunately, the stars were in my favor, and my friends and I landed VIP soundcheck tickets to the first of the two shows.

After what seemed like years of waiting and somehow also just mere minutes, suddenly we were getting ready and anxiously awaiting our arrival to the venue in order to check in for our VIP access and get our lanyards - something I had only dreamily wished of being able to do at the other concerts I’ve been to in the past. To kill time, we walked around the venue collecting freebies and taking photos. The stadium even had two separate photo stations set up with the tour’s promotional poster for fans to take pictures in front of.

And then, it was finally time to go into the venue and prepare for soundcheck. After queuing, we were let into the venue where we started the journey down to the floor towards the stage. From our tickets’ section and row number, I pictured a further back view, and I was prepared to be dodging and weaving between people when the show started (which did eventually end up happening, but not as much as I thought I was going to). But when we arrived at our seats, I was shocked by just how close the stage, especially the extended part, was to where we were sitting. I literally was so in awe— I just sat down and stared at the stage from my seat for a good minute or two before finally pulling out my phone to snap a photo and commemorate the moment.

While it was a bit unfortunate that there was no recording allowed during soundcheck, it brought a new feeling going to a concert, even if it was just for that brief twenty minutes. Growing up in the digital age, I can’t really remember a concert I’ve gone to where people weren’t recording at least bits and pieces of their favorite songs throughout the night - until this soundcheck experience. I don’t think I’ll ever turn into someone who doesn’t record anything during a show, but I can definitely see the appeal. The whole atmosphere felt extremely intimate and comfortable without the usage of phones and with the smaller number of people that had VIP tickets. Since this part of the tour was at an outdoor stadium and soundcheck was at 4:30 pm, it was light outside when it started, giving this brief part of the show such a different vibe than the stage lights and darkness that you usually see at shows.

The members were dressed casually in hoodies and sweats - something very different than the elaborate stage outfits I’m used to at shows - and came out with bright smiles and laughter as they were met with cheers from the audience. Because the soundcheck setlist varies throughout the tour, I had no idea what songs we were going to be able to hear. For Day 1 of the encore, we ended up with “Maniac,” “Superboard,” and “Miroh” for the soundcheck setlist, and it was the perfect way to hype up the crowd after a long wait in the cloudy LA weather. When the crowd heard the opening notes to “Superboard” - a song from their most recent album Maxident which hadn’t been released the last time they were in California - the cheers were so loud I think people in the next town could hear. After their soundcheck set finished, we were able to exchange our “VIP tokens” for our VIP gift bags - a little drawstring bag, mouse pad, and a wireless speaker all branded with their logo and tour name.

Stray Kids VIP Experience
By Kya Brogdon

When soundcheck ended, we had about two hours before the actual show started. My friends and I took this time to grab food and take photos of ourselves in front of the stage to show off how good our seats were. During this time, the rest of the crowd began to filter into the stadium, and I took some time to look around at all of the outfits people put together. One of my favorite things about K-pop shows is how much effort people put into their outfit choices - whether it be dressing casually in streetwear, more intentionally with tech wear, or even going as far as recreating iconic outfits from album photos or music videos. It’s so cool to see what everyone chooses and how they execute their vision. Seeing all of the Stays (Stray Kids’ fandom name) walking around the venue in their outfits representing different eras or concepts Stray Kids has done and trying to guess who someone’s bias was based on their outfit and merch was so fun, we hardly even noticed the two hours passing. As the sun began to go down and we ticked closer to the show time, we were able to watch a beautiful blue and purple sunset fill the sky in the open-air stadium. I’ve never been to an open-roof venue like BMO Stadium, and I was not disappointed with the visuals and atmosphere that this setting brought to the already-emotional aspect of seeing one of your favorite groups live.

And then, finally, the pre-show music turned down and the lights faded as cheers rippled throughout the venue. Everyone’s lightsticks were as bright as stars as the group took the stage to open the show with “Maniac”. Right off the bat, their energy blew the roof off of the building (that is, if BMO Stadium had a roof), and the screams and shouts were deafening even through my earplugs. Along with “Superboard,” the group also added their newest title track “Case 143” and switched out some past tracks for new ones like “Freeze” and “FAM (Korean Ver).” Even though I saw them last summer for their tour and again in August at KCON, with these setlist changes and the grandeur of the venue, it felt like a whole new experience. Since I was on the floor, there were definitely times throughout the show that I had a harder time seeing them perform than I would have liked - but thanks to the big screens on either side of the main stage I was always able to look that way and watch what was happening when my personal view wasn’t the best.

Lee Felix by Kya Brogdon Hwang Hyunjin by Kya Brogdon

The show’s standout moment for me was the solo stages, where the group’s separate units perform while giving time for the others to change. For this show, it was member Han “HAN” Jisung’s turn to do the solo stage. Hyped up by his fellow unit members - Seo Changbin, Hwang Hyunjin, and Lee Felix - HAN taught the crowd the melody part to his iconic solo song “Wish You Back.” The minute I heard it, I immediately had tears in my eyes. “Wish You Back” is one of my favorite HAN songs (although “Close” takes the cake, that song is a masterpiece), and I had never dreamed that I would be fortunate enough to hear it live. It was truly something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and from now on that song will hold even more of a special meaning to me.

As the show drew to a close, the members had their final talking moments before the encore songs. One theme was abundantly clear throughout each of the 8 members' turns talking - they were absolutely astounded at the fact that they got to perform at a stadium-style venue. They constantly thanked not only their fans, but the staff both from their company and from the venue themselves. It truly was a humbling moment, you could see it in their eyes how touched they were that they made it this far, and that they wanted to prove themselves to not only their fans, but to the world. At the end, leader Bang Chan promised that they would be back soon with an even better performance (I’m not really sure how that’s possible, but Stray Kids never disappoints) and then they launched into the encore of “Star Lost” and “Haven” to save us and the members from more tears.

Regardless of the bit of struggle I had with seeing at some points, being able to see the boys so close and feed off of the energy of not only them but the rest of the crowd was so invigorating, and getting absolutely covered in confetti was a major highlight of my night. It’s going to be so hard to go back to non-floor seats after this. I’m so incredibly happy I was able to catch Stray Kids at the end of their tour, and for having them be my first ever VIP experience.

Congrats on such a strong and successful year of touring boys. Until next time, thank you for making Stays stay.


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