Concert Recap: Amoeba Culture Tour 2015

Left to right: Choiza, Gaeko, Zion.T, and Crush
Left to right: Choiza, Gaeko, Zion.T, and Crush

Two years ago, a friend of mine showed me a music video. I had never heard the song or the name of its contributing artists, but I immediately found the video creative and the song engaging. What stood out to me most was the unique voice of the vocalist in the sunglasses. I would find out that he went by the name Zion.T.

That was my introduction to Amoeba Culture, and the first step toward attending the March 28 New York stop of the Amoeba Culture Tour 2015. I had already been planning to visit New York City this spring to see my close friends who live in the area, so this concert came along at a perfect time. I went to the broadcast of a K-pop chart show, Music Bank, during my weeklong visit to Seoul in 2014, but in my three years of being a fan of Korean music, I had never been to a concert. Why not take advantage of the chance to see these artists whose reputation for live performance skill preceded them, and who don’t play shows in US very often? How could I not jump at the chance to hear Zion.T, owner of one of my favorite singing voices, in person?

Zion.T was the foremost draw for me personally, but the rest of the lineup was enticing since it was composed of the hip hop label’s other most prominent artists; the box-wearing producer Primary; the singer/rapper Crush, who debuted  last year; and Amoeba’s co-founders, Choiza and Gaeko , together known as Dynamic Duo. I still don’t know all of their catalogues forwards and backwards, but I’d become familiar enough with many of their recent songs to know that their smooth music style suited my tastes well.

I already knew the music was great, and this show confirmed that the talent behind it is great too. This concert was so much fun, and it was more than worth the approximately $80 I spent on my general admission ticket. Terminal 5, the mostly standing venue located in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York, was packed with excited fans, and the pre-show anticipation was palpable. A few minutes after 8 p.m., the show started with a set by DJ Friz. I admittedly had not heard of him before that moment, but his mixes were entertaining, and he stayed on to oversee much of the music throughout the show.

Friz’s time led into Crush’s set. The young artist’s face was full of confidence that wavered between impressive and off-putting. He seemed very comfortable having the spotlight to himself, and his vocals were full of feeling. He sang and rapped through many of his solo songs, including “Sometimes” and “Hug Me,” two tracks that were very popular with the crowd; the concertgoer behind me made his love for the song evident, which pleasantly surprised me since I think of Crush being more appealing to young women.

Overall, Crush was fun to watch and listen to. There is only one thing that left me highly displeased. He didn’t sing “Sofa.”

It is a well-known track (and my favorite Crush solo song) but he did not sing it. I do not know the reasoning behind its exclusion, but not performing it was huge loss. I’m confident that the crowd would have loved it, and it would have been the ideal lead-in to the next part of the show.

Crush’s solo songs were followed by two duets with Zion.T. They recently released a single together, but I was happiest to see them perform 2013’s “Two Melodies.” This song had been the first time I had heard of Crush and his voice, and now it marked the first time I ever saw Zion.T in person.

After the duets came Zion.T performing “Babay.” Despite featuring on the studio version, Gaeko did not join him for this stage.

“Babay” was succeeded by a favorite of mine, “Yanghwa BRDG (Yanghwa Bridge).” Zion.T’s voice combined with the sentimental lyrics to form a worthwhile emotional cocktail. This time, I was the (over)enthusiastic audience member.

Primary made an appearance sometime after that, doing one song just with Zion.T, then the previously referenced “? (Q Mark)” with Zion.T and Choiza. I still cannot believe that I got to witness a live performance of my first Amoeba song firsthand. It was everything I could have wished for.

Gaeko joined the ensemble to perform another personal favorite, “See Through,” from Primary’s 2012 LP, Primary and the Messengers.

The rest of the show can be summarized in three words: Dynamic Duo domination. They electrified the crowd and took us on a short but exhilarating journey through tracks like “Lee Daeho,” “Baaam,” and “Guilty.” Choiza and Gaeko easily moved between finessed and fierce, and they elicited crowd participation and fervor throughout. Their labelmates were all fantastic in their own right, but the level of zeal during their section of the show made it clear to even the most unknowing observer that the best had been saved for last.

Or almost last.

All of the artists returned to the stage for a big, club-like, confetti-filled encore performance of DD’s “Friday Night.” Despite it not being a Friday, and the techno sound not aligning with my usual preferences, it ensured that the audience left feeling upbeat.

I cannot speak for the previous night’s Atlanta stop, but if my New York experience is any indication, the Amoeba Culture Tour 2015 was an overall success. Even though it was only two hours long and I did not get to hear “Sofa” live, I am so glad I went, and my friends and I definitely got our money’s worth.