SEOUL—It was freezing cold at the Olympic Stadium here, but there were BTS x Fila blankets left on each seat to keep us warm. It was Oct. 27, day 2 of the BTS World Tour “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself [The Final].”
“Kim Nam-joon, Kim Seok-jin, Min Yoon-gi, Jung Ho-seok, Park Ji-min, Kim Tae-hyung, Jeon Jung-kook, BTS!” chanted the thousands of fans gathered to watch the septet on the final leg of their tour. I was one of the many purple lights (BTS light sticks, aka “Army bomb”; BTS fans are called the Army) that lit up the stadium and turned the venue into a purple sea—a dream for any Army to be a part of.
At this point, almost everybody knows who BTS are. They are inarguably the biggest boy band in the world.
As I sat there waving my Army bomb, I couldn’t believe I was one of the lucky few who made it in.
The journey to “The Final” started last July.
As soon as the dates for the concert were announced, I headed to our HR office to file my leave. These were the last three dates and I just had to get tickets. I had palpitations in anticipation of the ticketing, aka “the hunger games.”
What’s the big deal about ticketing? Everything.
BTS’ concert earlier this year at Wembley Stadium, the largest concert stage in the United Kingdom, sold out in 90 minutes. The Stade de France sold out in less than six hours. New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium tweeted 2.5 hours after ticket sales began that they were sold out. California’s Rose Bowl Stadium sold out quickly as well. Tickets are all purchased online and I’m competing with the rest of the world.
With Philippine internet speed, I needed a miracle.
Big Hit, the agency handling BTS, had worked out a lottery system which would give fans a fair chance to get tickets. This was offered to official BTS fan club members.
Once the membership is secured, this is tied to two mobile apps which are used for purchasing merchandise (Weply) and for getting updates from BTS (Weverse). Those who don’t win the lottery have to go through general ticketing.
I marked my calendar and waited for the draw. Not that I needed reminding because, like any other fan who signed up for the lottery, I was counting down to 2 p.m. of Aug. 14 when results would be announced.
My hands started to get cold from nervousness. I called my sister to check on her status. Negative. No tickets for her. My two other Army friends didn’t get any tickets either. I finally checked and felt numb when I saw I got in.
It was so surreal it took awhile for it to sink in. I was screaming and doing little tap dances in my mind, but then, I was headed to a meeting and had to play cool.
Not everyone got tickets but many had booked Seoul-bound flights during the week of the concert. Even without a ticket, my sister was excited to go to the concert grounds just to buy merchandise and meet fellow Armys.
The whole week in Seoul was like one big BTS fiesta! Even iconic landmarks celebrated along with us and lit up the N Seoul Tower and Lotte World Tower in purple to commemorate the BTS and Unicef “Love Myself” campaign, which raised over $2.21 million in two years for the #Endviolence campaign.
Everywhere you went, you heard BTS or saw Armys walking around. Armys were easily identifiable because they proudly wore their BT21 merchandise, BTS photocards tucked under their clear phonecases or BTS Puma shoes.
I had Shooky of BT21 hanging from my bag, a Taehyung photocard and my BTS Pumas.
Convenience stores close to the venue stocked up on batteries (for Army bombs) and BTS-themed coffee drinks with BTS members’ images on the bottle. Some even played BTS songs and had a banner in purple to draw us in.
Concert day was like Disneyland. There were dance classes, a La-Z-Boy chilling station, activity areas, food park and photocard vendo machines!
I didn’t get to try it all but was happy I didn’t just spend the day lining up to get into the venue area. Cue Jungkook singing “Euphoria.”
Doors finally opened. I looked around and was amazed at the diversity of the crowd and how wide the age range was: a woman in her 50s happily wearing a BT21 character headband, a teenager dressed as a pink bunny, mother-daughter pairs and solo fanboys.
Someone tapped me on my shoulder and offered me a gift. It was a Jin photocard with some local snacks. People often prepare small treats with BTS souvenirs at these events and share them with seatmates.
As the first song played, flames lit up the front of the stage. I didn’t know where to look. Pops of confetti, drones flying above the stadium synchronized to the songs, Army bomb light show, fireworks like it was New Year, and of course, the boys scattered across the stages on different sides of the stadium.
It seemed like too much to take in. Too much, but at the same time, it made me feel like I wanted more.
It was an unforgettable experience, which still makes me smile each time I look back.
I’m a professional in my 30s and am far from the stereotype girl-or boy-band-crazy teenager. When people find out I’m a fan, I often get asked why I like BTS so much.
When I’m stressed at work, I watch their videos on YouTube. When I’m freaking out because of turbulence on the plane, I listen to “Crystal Snow” or “Mono.” When I reach that 15-minute mark on the treadmill and want to jump off, I play “Fire.”
These seven guys are so relatable. They work hard and write songs that are not only catchy but also have special messages. While their songs are in Korean, there are many Army translators who share the English translations and even explain the nuances or wordplay they use.
Instead of explaining why I like them, I’d like to share lines from (Kim Nam-joon) RM’s United Nations speech: “Yesterday’s me is still me. Today I am who I am with all of my faults and my mistakes. Tomorrow I might be a tiny bit wiser and that would be me, too. These faults and mistakes are what I am, making the brightest stars in the constellation of my life. I have come to love myself for who I am, for who I was, and for who I hope to become.”
On the plane ride home, I heard someone behind me screaming, “Oh oh ohhhhh the boy with loooove.” It was a 6-year-old girl with a purple headset singing one of BTS’ latest songs. I looked at her and joined her in the chorus.
Our age gap didn’t feel so wide as we missed hitting the notes together.