Korus, an annual three-day free festival held in the Washington, DC area, has made a name for itself over the last decade with U.S. K-pop fans and the Korean community. Organized by the 501(c) non-profit Korean American Association of Washington Metropolitan Area (KAAW) and the Korean Embassy, known as Korus House, the Korus Festival showcases acts and talent from the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, along with artists from around the country and around the world, celebrates the wonders of Korean music, dance, martial arts, history and culture and promotes all things Korean in awe-inspiring fashion.
From spectacular cultural presentations, killer performances from well-known and highly popular artists such as Pumashock, DTMG, DANakaDAN, Kero One, and Shin-B and local favorites like Double the Fire, Cara Kim, Anna Mateo, SANTAJACA, Rocka, and Chip Han, to authentic Korean street food fair, interactive games for the kids (hosted by the Korean Cultural Center), K-pop merchandise, and a plethora of Korean vendors, this year’s festival had it all.
On the first day of the festival, we were formally introduced to the always smiling, ever charismatic, and super cheerful emcee for the entire event, Amos Yi. Known as FamousAmos on YouTube, and a popular favorite among K-pop enthusiasts, Amos Yi has made a name for himself in the K-pop community with his humerus videos blogs, his affinity for the ukulele, and (to put it in the words of one of his die-hard fans from the festival) “a smile that you can see from a mile away”. After secluding ourselves from the hustle and bustle of back stage, we sat down with Amos to discuss his thoughts on K-pop, this year’s festival, and how it felt to be the emcee for such a great event.
Q: How does it feel to be the emcee for this year’s Korus Festival?
AY: “This is actually my second time at Korus, even though I am a native of the DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The first time I came here was nine years ago when I was still a boy. And, I remember that when I was with my group of friends (then), I said “Guys, one day I’m going to be the host.” and they were like “No, no. You’re too shy.” Nine years later, the second time coming here, and I am the official host. It’s an amazing feeling when you follow the path to live out your dream and you find yourself realizing it. It’s such a rewarding experience and I feel honored to be able to do this.”
Q: Since you’re relatively new to K-pop, do you have any favorite groups?
AY: “I like BTS, VIXX, EXO, and my bias is Jay Park.”
Q: What about the ladies? Who’s your favorite girl group?
AY: ‘Definitely SPICA. They have amazing voices.”
Q: How do you feel about the growing popularity of K-pop?
AY: “Being new to K-pop, I never really thought it was this big, until I actually became a part of the movement. In Korea, I was like “Wow”. Every concert I attended, over half the attendees were foreigners (non-Koreans). I was completely shocked. Then I started getting into it and I could totally see why it’s so huge with the hair, make-up, music, and dancing. I love it. I love K-pop and the kind of people it attracts!”
With the final first day of performances from Washington Line Dance, the highly talented Trot singer Romina Follinus, and a bumping set from DJ Creation under KORUS’ proverbial belt, the festival reopened Saturday morning to an enthusiastic crowd under clear blue skies. With the smells and sounds of Korea floating through the air, attendees happily muddled their way through the ever increasing crowds, sampling delicious and delectable authentic Korean food, experiencing cultural and interesting organizational booths, watching the little ones play in the festival’s Kid Zone, snapping shots in the photo booths, and shopping to their hearts’ content at the K-pop merchandise booths.
As midday rolled around, the first of the day’s performances began. With a wide variety of acts to choose from through out the early afternoon, such as the entertaining Elder’s Karaoke Singing contest, KCPC’s performance, the KORUS Showcase, and the stage-encompassing Myung Won Kwon Calligraphy Performance, attendees got to experience many nuances of both Korean and Korean- American culture.
The highlight of the early afternoon performances was the rousing cultural presentation by the JUB Cultural Center. Based out of Centreville, VA, the JUBCC is an all-inclusive center in which participants from every age group are taught everything from traditional dance and music to contemporary dance and hip-hop. To showcase its skills, the group performs at various cultural events throughout the year. This year’s performance at KORUS began with a tradition dance of young maidens and a following performance from the cultural center’s youngest members. For the finale, the group performed an inspiring and captivating traditional drum accompaniment to the cheers of onlookers.
Following the opening ceremonies held around five, the first leg of the festival’s headliners began to take the stage for the EMO Showcase. Up first was the K-pop-inspired duo group Double The Fire. Consisting of members Todd Wheeler and Shervonne Brown, the group, known for their mantra of “Kpop is Life”, performed not only 어름들 (Melted) by Akdong Musician, the acoustic version of 2NE1‘s Come back home, and CL‘s Mental Breakdown, but also pumped up the crowd with a stirring and sassy version of Troublemaker‘s There’s No Tomorrow (NOW) – official choreography included.
Next up was YouTube’s ever-charismatic, highly talented, and always charming, K-pop lover and singer Natalie White (aka PUMASHOCK). Dressed in a multicolored ensemble that seemed to make the very air around her cheerful, and flashing her infectious smile, Pumashock took to the stage and delivered phenomenal live performances of My Copycat by Orange Caramel, Uhee‘s Crayon Pop, and Miss Korea by Lee Hyori before ending her energetic set with a killer performance of her latest Pumashock original, Hook Line & Sinker.
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Rounding out the EMO Showcase, the DMV’s own and one of hellokpop’s favorite K-pop remix group’s, DTMG (Dave Tauler Music Group) took the stage to wow the crowd in full effect. With the stage set, everyone in place, and the group’s lead singer Dave Tauler at the mic, DTMG showcased an incredible live two-song set: performing a Rock Remix of Blue by BIGBANG and a Neo-Soul mix of 2ne1‘s Lonely, that had the fans (and our staff) cheering.
Moments after the last notes of Lonely faded from the air, Pumashock walked up on stage to join DTMG in a performance of their widely popular collaborative remix of SHINEE‘s Dream Girl – proving once again that DTMG and Pumashock are a perfect fit in any situation. With the group rocking out, Dave Tauler and Pumashock sang their hearts out to an ecstatic crowd while the fans sang along and cheered with all their might. As Pumashock exited the stage, DTMG finished its exciting five star set with a live performance of its previously unreleased remix of Ailee‘s Heaven and left the crowd wanting for more with its rendition of PSY‘s mega hit, Gangnam style.
After DTMG’s crowd pleasing set, we sat down with KORUS festival’s always cool and highly talented hip-hop artist, dubbed “YouTube’s fastest female rapper”, SHIN-B, and had a casual chat about how she got into the genre and what it felt like to be a part of KORUS.
Q: How did you get into hip-hop and rapping?
SB: “Growing up, a lot of my close friends were guys and they were very into hip-hop and rap. They would freestyle like during lunchtime and one day they were like “Hey Shin, why don’t you try it out?” I did it, ended up falling in love with it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Q: What have you been up to lately?
SB: “Earlier I had a collaboration digital come out on iTunes with JD Relic, called Invincible. And then later, we came out with a follow up called Scream. So they’re available online. Now, I am gearing up for my solo digital single, called Firedrill, and getting ready to shoot the music video soon. So, it all should be done, hopefully, by the end of the year. I hope the fans look forward to it.”
Q: How do you feel about performing at this year’s Korus Festival?
SB: “I’ve never made the trek out to Virginia, so to see that things like this exist is very surreal to me. It just kind of shows how powerful the Korean community is and it’s very intriguing to me to see how other non-Koreans embrace the culture and the music. I’m very excited to be a part of it.”
Rounding out the night, in spectacular fashion, KORUS festival’s main headliners took the stage around nine. Up first was DANakaDan who has made a name for himself in YouTube circles for not only his alternative style of hip-hop but his recent documentary, documenting his life as a Korean American adoptee and his quest to find his biological family.
After performing a three-song set, including Stuntman, DANakaDAN gave way to the second headliner act of the night, Kero One. Known for his impressive style of hip-hop, and his accomplishments and collaborations with artist like Epik High, Stevie Wonder, Will.i.am, and Dynamic Duo, Kero One has been a favorite of the growing Korean hip-hop scene for well over a decade. Throwing down an impressive three-song set, Kero One wowed the audience and pumped them up for the night’s final act, SHIN-B – who performed Skullclub, Thirsty, and her newest track Firedrill.
“Thank you to everyone who supported our 12th Annual KORUS festival -including our president Linda Han, members of our head committees, steering committee, and all the volunteers. It would have been an impossible idea without your support. I strongly agree that we all made this festival more beautiful that we ever thought we could. With next year’s festival I hope we will have a better, and more developed, show for our attendees in the metropolitan area. Thank you to all our attendees and we hope that the community will continue to support us in our endeavors. We are looking forward to the 13th Annual KORUS festival and hoped to see everyone there.” – official message from Jimmy Lee, Director of KORUS.
While we at hellokpop weren’t able to enjoy the entirety of the festival, we feel greatly honored by KORUS and the Korean American Association of Washington Metropolitan Area (KAAW) for their invitation and hospitality. We would like to thank both organizations, the stage crews, volunteers, sponsors, and all the talented artists for their cooperation and support of our event staff and for sharing their precious time with us and give a special thanks to both Christian Oh and Amos Yi for treating our staff so wonderfully. We look forward to next year and we hope that the fans will continue to support KORUS festival and the KAAW in empowering and celebrating Korean culture and the Korean community at large.
For more information on KORUS’s line up, please follow the links below:
FamousAmos: Youtube, Twitter, Facebook
Double the Fire: Youtube, Facebook
PUMASHOCK: Youtube,Twitter, Facebook
DTMG: Youtube, Twitter, Facebook
DANakaDan: Youtube, Twitter, Facebook
Kero One: Youtube, Twitter, Facebook
SHIN-B: Website, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook
Additional Sources: KORUS
Lead staff/PR: [email protected]
Assistant: C. Nikki Lewis