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Now. New. Next - A Recap of the Inaugural Year of We Bridge Music Festival & Expo

By Kya Brogdon | 26 April, 2023

Mandalay Bay Convention Center & Michelob ULTRA Arena - Las Vegas, Nevada (April 21st - April 23rd, 2023)

On behalf of The News Stan(d) and Fan To Band, we wish to express our sorrows and condolences to the family, friends, and fans of ASTRO’s Moonbin, who passed recently. May he rest in peace, and shine brightly as a star in the sky.

we bridge festival
Image by Kya Brogdon

Taking place in Las Vegas this year, the We Bridge Music Festival & Expo set out to complete its goal to connect creative expressions for one collective experience and celebrate the Asian artists, cultures, and leaders that are fueling them. Personally, I think this mission was an absolute success. The festival is a multi-sensory, live event that immerses attendees into a curated world that bridges what is now, new, and next in Asian music, media, art, and fashion. Over the course of three Expo days and two nights of concerts, We Bridge connected fans and artists to each other in a way I haven’t seen done very often at festivals before.


we bridge festival
SAMBYPEN by Peter Byun / IPE


Immediately walking to the We Bridge Festival, you are keyed into the fact that this is an wxpo made for fans. Greeted with lifesize cutouts of each artist in the lineup, fans stood and took photos with their favorite group or soloist while music pumped through the convention room. The next thing you see is some featured artists like N5BRA and SAMBYPEN sketching and painting pieces of mural-sized art. Throughout the day, it amazed me to walk past these artists to see their progress and how the final image took shape. This is definitely something I haven’t seen at any other festival or convention that I’ve been to before, and it was incredible to see these massive art pieces come to life over a span of a few hours.

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KANGDANIEL by Peter Byun / IPE

The GRAMMY Museum hosted the event’s main stage, which featured Q&A sessions with most of the artists from the lineup. Starting off the day was soloist (and former member of temporary group Wanna One) KANGDANIEL. When asked about his creative process, he shared with fans how he likes to dive deeply into each and every concept and put little bits of himself in each music video and song. He also spoke about how important it is for him to become friends with those he collaborates with in his music since he feels like a friendship leads to a better collaboration. In his free time, he likes to play video games, particularly Apex Legends.

Another artist that held a Q&A session is the five-member boy group CIX - one of my favorite artists on this festival lineup. I saw them over a month ago at their show in Phoenix, which you can read about here, and they were just as excited to be in Las Vegas. They smiled and waved constantly to the crowd and told us about how their main inspiration for their music is their fans, FIX. This was met with intense cheering from said fans which easily took at least two minutes to quiet down enough that the next question could be asked. As always, FIX’s energy is impeccable. When asked about their next plans for their music, the members revealed that they are currently preparing a new album and teased that they think FIX will like this even more than their past releases. After their Q&A finished, the members came back on stage for a performance of “458” on the GRAMMY Museum stage, giving the crowd a taste of what they can expect at the concert later that evening.

CIX we bridge festival
CIX by Peter Byun / IPE

After spending some time at the GRAMMY Museum stage, I made my way over to the Expo’s market, which featured various food and drink samples as well as a booth by KPOP NATION_ATL - a pop-up store that I always visit whenever I’m in LA or when they come to Phoenix. The line, as expected, wrapped through the convention center as people took advantage of the well-stocked tables of various albums and other merch available. Amongst the music playing over the speakers, you could hear the exciting chatter of those opening new albums and see their pulls, trading with others in order to get the cards they want, and taking photos to show off the newest additions to their collections.


The concert portion of We Bridge takes place in the Michelob ULTRA Arena, located down the hall from the Expo room. While it's smaller compared to most venues, it was the perfect choice for this kind of festival. The intimacy allowed for every seat to have a nice view of the stage, which was enhanced by the usage of the screens floating above the venue and on the stage behind the artists.

Day One’s lineup featured CIX, ONEUS, Dreamcatcher, KANGDANIEL, Jessi, and the night’s headliners, MONSTA X. Each artist performed 5-6 songs for their set. Yuri Park MC'd both nights of concerts, shared fun facts about each act, and ensured the crowd remained energetic throughout the night.

Opening the show with their iconic “458” and “Like It That Way”, CIX made sure that everyone was on their feet and ready to party the night away. They talked briefly about how excited they were to be in Las Vegas, and how they were already planning on returning to the city as soon as possible. I wasn’t surprised by their performances of “Cinema” and “Movie Star”, but I was not expecting them to perform “WIN” - an original soundtrack (OST) from an anime titled The God of High School. “WIN” has been one of my favorite CIX songs for a while, so when I heard the opening notes I was so excited. It was a perfect festival-style song. The chorus “All we do is just win / La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la / 'Cause we know that we'll win / La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” is easy to remember and catch on with for those who aren’t familiar with CIX or this song and also an incredible crowd pleaser for those who are FIX. Waving both official lightsticks and the light-up wristbands given out by the venue staff, everyone was having the best time as CIX owned the stage.

we bridge oneus
ONEUS by Peter Byun / IPE

Up next was ONEUS, a group that I have casually listened to in the past. However, after seeing their performance, I immediately fell down the rabbit hole of their content and music. They absolutely killed their set, I’m still humming “Same Scent” as I go about my day. The breathtaking choreography for all of the songs probably caused my jaw to drop from start to finish.

Their performance of "LIT" stood out due to the beautifully designed hand fans the boys used to accentuate some of the song's beats and moves. I was so mesmerized by the way the fans seemed to be an extension of their limbs, and it was easily my favorite performance of the night. ONEUS definitely has a new fan in me (and just in time for their comeback on May 8th!).

Dreamcatcher, a seven-member girl group with heavy roots in rock and EDM style songs, took the stage next. Though they are another group I casually know, the distinguishable lightsticks (that can be made into a staff) in the crowd said otherwise. Their fans were obviously a huge part of the festival attendance. The EDM influence was noticeable and a great crowd-pleaser. Not only was the crowd jumping along to the beat, but the members themselves were whipping their hair back and forth and bouncing around the stage like true rockstars. My favorite song they performed was “Silent Night.” The lighting design drenched the girls in purple and the fog machines shrouded them in smoke, which created such an intense atmosphere - when the song ended I felt like I was coming out of a daze. I’ll definitely be tuning in for any of their future releases.

we bridge dreamcatcher
Dreamcatcher by Peter Byun / IPE

Although some may find it hard to captivate a crowd this size as just one person, our first soloist of the festival, KANGDANIEL definitely did not have that problem as he took the stage with his song “Nirvana.” Afterward, he played around with the crowd, talking about his love for the band Nirvana and how they influenced this song. Before transitioning into the next track, he made a comment about how “Vegas knows how to party,” much to the delight of everyone in the crowd. Anyone who knows me knows that I play “PARANOIA” on a loop as soon as October hits (it’s the perfect Halloween song), and I have been hoping he would play it since I saw that he was on the lineup. As if he heard my wishes, the opening notes to “PARANOIA” rang throughout the venue with screams and cheers of excitement following. An easy crowd favorite as everyone sang along as we watched KANGDANIEL and his backup dancers give their all on stage. He finished his set just as strongly as he started, and I know that if there was anyone in the crowd who isn’t a DANITY, they are now.

we bridge jessi
Jessi by Peter Byun / IPE

Next up was the queen of stage presence herself, Jessi, who was welcomed with a roar of the crowd as the opening notes to “What Type of X” flooded through the arena. Everyone was on their feet, singing each and every word back to Jessi as she held out her mic to the crowd. Her fan interaction didn’t just stop there - in between every song Jessi took her time to talk to fans, reading signs and making jokes with the people in the crowd. At one point, she got off stage to go sign a fan’s self-made Jessi t-shirt (and had to go hunting for a Sharpie to do it), and she went off stage later on to hug a fan who said that Jessi was her inspiration. Her love and passion for her fans were palpable, and they gave the exact same energy back to her as she performed more hits like “Zoom” and “Cold Blooded.”

Finally, we arrived at Night One’s headliners. MONSTA X (minus members Shownu and Minhyuk, who are completing their military service) took the stage with one of their most iconic English songs, “You Problem.” Dancing with their mic stands against a colorful backdrop, everyone’s voices came together as we sang the chorus; “But that's a you problem / You know it's out my hands / You count on me to solve 'em / 'Cause you've been making plans about us / It's simple, get lost in the romance / And just dance, let's just dance.” Following this, they played one of my favorite boy group ballad songs, “Someone’s Someone.”

With lightsticks and wristbands in the air, the audience swayed back and forth to the emotional lyrics, and sang their hearts out along with the members. To end the show on a high note, MONSTA X performed a hype track titled “ZONE,” rocking out on stage with intense energy. As they started to leave, much to the crowd’s dismay, the music picked back up again and the members ran back out to the extended section of the stage to just us one final vibrant performance to close out the first night of the festival.

we bridge monsta x
MONSTA X by Peter Byun / IPE



On the second day of the Expo, I started off my time by visiting a section I missed the day prior. After revisiting the murals to see how they had progressed, I made my way over to the arts and crafts section, which offered a station to make beaded candy bracelets with letter charms and smiley faces. This allowed fans to make bracelets of their own design with their favorite group or bias’s names on them. This is often a type of freebie you see given out at K-pop concerts, so having this offered at the festival fit perfectly for all of us K-pop fans. Next to the bracelets was a station where you could create a small poster for your favorite group. With supplied paper displaying a group name, fans could choose who they were there to see and decorate the paper as they wished. The GRAMMY Museum stage and the concert had these posters scattered around the center. It was entertaining to see how each person decorated their poster, and it’s a good souvenir that fans could take back after the festival finished.

we bridge bambam
BamBam by Peter Byun / IPE

GOT7 member and soloist, BamBam, arrived at the GRAMMY Museum stage for Day 2. After speaking about his journey to becoming a soloist, he turned the questions onto the fans by asking what he should do on his one free day he has in Las Vegas after the festival. While people contemplated suggestions, one fan shouted, “let's hang out,” causing laughter to erupt from the crowd and from BamBam himself, who answered, “Alright, I’ll buy you guys a beer.” This prompted him to go on about his own craft beer brand that is currently in production, and this announcement was met with many cheers of excitement from fans as he promised it would be ready sometime soon. He also teased that there’s a tour coming “soon but not too soon” and joked about naming it the “Skrrt Skrrt Tour” after his iconic saying. After a performance of “Sour & Sweet,” BamBam expressed his excitement for the night’s concert and asked us to cheer really loud for him when he comes out on stage.

Looking stunning in their dark blue suits, the members of ONEUS took the GRAMMY Museum stage next. They used their Q&A time to promote their upcoming comeback, “PYGMALION” with the title track “Erase Me.” Member Son “Xion” Dongju said that he thinks people who aren’t their fans already will become their fans soon after this comeback (if they aren’t already entranced by them after their stellar performance at Friday’s concert). For the fan portion of the Q&A, the boys showed off their favorite TikTok trends and discussed which of their own songs were their personal favorites. Two of them answered this upcoming title track, which led to a lot of murmurs and speculation through the crowd as to what this song is going to sound like. Ending their time on the stage with a performance of “Same Scent,” I left even more excited to see them perform again at Saturday’s show now that I knew a little bit more about them as a group.

we bridge festival

After ONEUS finished, I decided to kill time waiting for the next group by finishing my exploration of the Expo floor. I walked around the areas I had yet to go to, watching people play video games in the little arcade area and take photos of and with the various We Bridge signs and pop-ups throughout the space. I also visited the dance lab section, where they were currently teaching the audience the choreography of ONEUS’s “Same Scent.” One of my favorite parts of K-pop is the choreography that is associated with all of the songs, and I especially love how so many K-pop fans enjoy learning and performing the different songs. Having a place like this dance lab for people to learn different songs is a perfect activity for festivals like We Bridge.

Returning to the GRAMMY Museum stage, I was not at all surprised to see the size of the crowd waiting for an appearance by tonight’s headliners, ENHYPEN. For a cute surprise, fans created and passed out banners for everyone to hold up in order to wish member Jay a happy birthday since it was just a few days prior. When the boys made their way to the stage, the crowd was absolutely deafening. I think I’ve been to concerts with less noise— ENGENE’s do not come to play. After giving us teasers for their upcoming comeback on May 22nd, the members talked about which of their songs is their favorite to perform, and which album of theirs they like the best - with member Nishimura “Ni-Ki” Riki answering both questions with “the next album.” The crowd sang happy birthday to Jay, showing him the banners and cheering happy wishes in his direction. The cutest part of the Q&A was watching the members interact with each other, often devolving into little conversations between themselves and sharing inside jokes as someone else answered whatever question was asked. It is endearing moments like that where you really see how close these boys are to each other. With a performance of “Polaroid Love,” ENHYPEN left the GRAMMY Museum stage with the biggest audience of the entire Expo.


For Saturday night’s concert, I sat on the opposite side of the venue from where I was for Friday, which gave me a nice view of the stage. The lineup consisted of BE’O, ONEUS, VIVIZ, BamBam, and the night’s headliners, ENHYPEN. Greeted once again by MC Yuri Park, the crowd was filled with fans ready to see their favorite artists.

we bridge be'o
BE’O by Peter Byun / IPE

The first act of the night was rapper/songwriter and Show Me The Money alum, BE’O. Immediately after stepping on stage, he garnered the crowd's attention by running to the end of the extended portion of the stage and dancing for that part of the crowd. He even reached down and grabbed a few phones from fans, singing into the camera and posing for photos before heading back to the main stage for his next song. He played his hit song “Counting Stars” and then spoke to the crowd about how thrilled he was to be at the festival. This was his first trip ever to the US, and he talked about how he was already excited to try and plan a tour of his own so he can come back and spend more time with his fans. At the end of his set, he played my personal favorite BE’O song, “LOVE me,” and got the crowd up and on their feet jumping to the beat and singing along to the chorus “Oh, please / Love me, love me, love me / I know, I'm stupid.” “LOVE me” is a perfect concert song and a great way for BE’O to cement his place in people’s minds as he finishes his time on stage.

Up next for the second night in a row was ONEUS, the only group to perform twice at the festival. While they performed the same setlist, after seeing them once and getting to know them at the Q&A I was able to hold a new appreciation for them and their music than I had before I knew them. The stand-out performance for that night was “LUNA.” I remember hearing about this song when it was released, but I never took the time to listen to it - something that I definitely regret now. Another performance done with their beautiful hand fans, the ONEUS members truly shine on stage even after having performed the night before and earlier that day at the GRAMMY Museum stage. (Come back to Phoenix, I promise I won’t miss your show this time!)

Next on stage was the trio girl group VIVIZ, who I’ve heard of on the K-pop side of Twitter and TikTok but haven’t really listened to on my own before. All of their songs were so fun and groovy, my favorites were “Love Love Love” and “BOP BOP!” Despite being a smaller group than most of the others at the festival, the girls owned the stage, showing off their stellar vocals and sharp dance moves. With the amount of cheers and screams they got from the crowd, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a VIVIZ U.S. tour in the near future. Thank you We Bridge for yet again introducing me to an extremely talented new group!

we bridge viviz
VIVIZ by Peter Byun / IPE

The last soloist to perform at the festival, BamBam brought incredible energy to the stage as he opened his set with “Pandora.” If you had asked him, he would’ve said that no one showed up at the festival to see him - literally, at one point he said “You guys might not know me” But if you took even half of a glance around the venue all you would see is green lights from the Ahgabong, GOT7’s lightstick, shining brightly as Ahgase’s show their support for BamBam’s solo career. As someone who has been a casual fan and listener of GOT7 for a while, it was touching to see just how many fans turned out to show BamBam their love. I know he would have taken everyone out to grab a beer if he could’ve. BamBam performed pretty evenly between the main stage and the extended portion, even bringing his backup dancers to the extended stage to help him with his performance of “TIPPY TOE.” He also performed his iconic song “riBBion,” one of my top favorite BamBam tracks, and the entire arena echoed with the crowd's voices singing the lyrics back to him.

With the final act of the night still yet to appear on stage, excited chatter filled the venue as we waited for Yuri Park to come back on stage and introduce a group that needs no introduction. When the lights faded and ENHYPEN’s name appeared on the screen, the screams thundered through the arena - I wouldn’t be surprised if people outside of the building could hear us. The energy did not waver even slightly as the opening notes to “FEVER” rang through the speakers, if anything the crowd somehow managed to get louder as the members took their places on stage. After their first song, leader Yang Jungwon made a special request that everyone turn their light sticks to a blue color in order to match the blue denim outfits all of the members were wearing on stage. It was funny to watch everyone cycle through the rainbow of colors and light settings the different light sticks have in order to comply with his request, but soon enough the venue was filled with a beautiful blue ocean for ENHYPEN.

Continuing on in their set list, the group performed crowd favorites like “TFW (That Feeling When” and “Future-Perfect (Pass The Mic),” but nothing could compare to the excitement that filled the arena when the intro to “Shout Out” began to play. It’s by far my favorite ENHYPEN song, and I was really disappointed when they didn’t perform it at KCON 2022 - so being able to hear it at We Bridge made my night. Nothing will beat singing your lungs out to the lines “We go and shout, shout, shout when we're together / Stay, stay, stay, you make it better (yeah) / My life without you is a misery” as confetti shoots through the air covering the crowd and the members themselves. Wrapping up the night with another performance of “Polaroid Love” for their encore, ENHYPEN made sure that night two of the concerts was an absolute success.

we bridge enhypen
ENHYPEN by Peter Byun / IPE

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the third and final day of the Expo, but I know that BE’O and Jessi were in good hands at the GRAMMY Museum stage and that anyone who was there had an amazing time seeing them answer fan questions and talk about their creative process.

Thank you to We Bridge and Miller PR for the opportunity to cover this event, congrats on a successful first year!


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