[RECAP] Epik High Shines at the Shrine Expo Hall in LA

Cr. Isné Bobo Nüyent

After the terrifically disastrous, but show-stopping events at KAMP LA last year, veteran hip-hop group Epik High returned to Los Angeles on April 11 at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles for their All Time High North American Tour. K-Pop’s meme-filled dad, Tablo, K-Pop’s maknae, Mithra Jin, and K-Pop’s omnipresent uncle, DJ Tukutz, brought laughter, excitement, and a lot of water on Tuesday night, making sure people remembered why Epik High was well, epic.  

Epik High is a bit of an anomaly in the Korean pop genre, and the members take great pride in coloring outside of the boundaries. Writer Jae-Ha Kim wrote a splendid write-up on how editors treat K-Pop and legends like Epik High, rightfully asserting that Epik High isn’t a boy band. If anything, Epik High was far from it and their concert at the was easily one of their best.

Fifteen minutes before the show begins, the trio teased an episode of The Tablo Podcast with their manager, Eddie Nam on the big LCD screen. Sprinkled with every single meme in the universe, Tablo reminisced about their times in Los Angeles, while poking fun at Eddie’s hometown. The group was on theme as Tablo mentioned from promoting their new EP, Strawberry with only memes. As the audience laughed through the intro and the screen turned black with the words, “THE SHOW WILL START SOON,” which made everyone sigh and yell, “TEASE!” with smiles on their faces.

Eventually, the show began with the flood of bright pink lights and the jazzy-infused “Strawberry.” The members walked on stage, DJ Tukutz behind his DJ table as members Mithra Jin and Tablo seamlessly went into “On My Way,” with Jackson Wang’s vocals lingering in the background. The audience immediately sang along to Wang’s verses, echoing back the ends of Mithra Jin’s and Tablo’s lines every now and then like a punctuation point. 

Cr. Isné Bobo Nüyent

The screen turned pink and blue with clouds and doves as “Fly” came on and energized the crowd. A few audience members rapped passionately along while others waved and jumped to the beat of the music. Mithra Jin and Tablo crossed each other several times as they glided through the stage with a kind of effortlessness only veterans would have. Several times, both of them would gaze into the audience with a knowing smile because the audience knew the lyrics word for word, stanza by stanza.

Through huffs and puffs, the trio slowed down and began their dramatic introductions, starting with Mithra Jin, DJ Tukutz, and then Tablo, with the latter introducing his fellow members in the most dramatic way possible with title screens reminiscent of Marvel title sequences. 

Soon after, Tablo introduced the audience to “Map the Soul” and “Acceptance Speech,” with the audience cheering along with Tablo’s command. He then went into a ment, prepping the crowd with their notorious water shows by nodding to a fan named “Tristan” who worked at TikTok, and asked for the audience to clap for his service on the social platform. 

“You’re going to regret this,” Tablo quipped. “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the people around you…they did not know they’re going to stand next to you,” he continued, foreshadowing what was a staple at Epik High shows. 

He then continued about how the trio was the first Korean artist to chart on Billboard and things were lining up for them, being asked to sign for American labels and so forth. Just as things were starting to come together, he mentioned how the Stanford University scandal, “Tajinyo”, happened and stopped everything in its tracks in 2010. Audience members chanted, “We love you!” in support. 

Tablo, after a split moment of silence of appreciation, roared back that despite everything, “We are still here! I can’t change the past, but I will never let anyone change our future anymore. Because I am a legend and I’m here to stay!”

Cr. Isné Bobo Nüyent

Rosario’s” flamenco-inspired guitar intro began as CL’s voice crooned before it hit with Tablo’s piercing and precise raps and Mithra Jin’s smooth verses afterward. The audience sang along with CL’s choruses and grooved along with the Spanish beat, feeling empowered by the song. The performance then slid into “Burj Khalifa” from their album Shoebox, and wrapped up the segment with “No Thanxxx.” 

As the members took their water break, Tablo mentioned that despite their struggles, they were still able to find their “partners-in-crime,” aka their plethora of legendary collaborators. Without explicitly mentioning their names, he brought up BTSRM and BIGBANG’s Taeyang called him to make music. 

Asking the audience to fill in “their big shoes,” he started with his verse in “All Day,” a track from RM’s album Indigo released last December. The audience roared back the entire verse and chorus, particularly the line, “They got you by the balls and your socioeconomics / That’s big facts.” 

Soon after, Tablo began his English remix of “Eyes, Nose, Lips,” the cutting and more somber version of the original song as a part of a cover project. As Tablo tearfully rapped, “You wish me well / I wish you hell” with a clear punch to the gut, several audience members also sang along to Taeyang’s adlibs at the end before the lights turned off at the lyrics, “Good night.”

He then asked for the lighting crew to turn on the lights and for the audience to turn on their phone flashlights as well to wave along during “Rain Song,” dedicating it to the turbulent rainy weather L.A. was experiencing for the past few months. The group then seamlessly went into “One” as Tablo and Mithra Jin ran into each other mid-song, Tablo leaping onto Mithra Jin’s body and clinging on like a child. As Tablo cracked up and held on to dear life, Mithra Jin still delivered his lines flawlessly. It was when the water shows began.

As the chorus started, the audience sang along and stuck their index fingers up in the air at the “ONE” lyrics. DJ Tukutz came down from his position to do NewJeans’ very viral “OMG” choreography as everyone screamed and mimicked him. 

Tablo ended the last ment with some inspiring words, encouraging people to continue going through life despite any adversity that would come their way. The ensemble-filled cypher, “Born Hater” started right after, stopping in between verses to splash the audience with water. However, in a weirdly kind way, Bobo, their long-time tour photographer came out to take a photo as a sign of courtesy before the members began throwing water. 

As the audience grew wet, there was a point in which Tablo’s chain fell from his shirt with chants from the audience to “Throw it” into the crowd. However, the frontman threw it back to Mithra Jin, much to the audience’s dismay. 

After Mithra Jin’s verse, the audience was given a chance to get a rolled-up autographed t-shirt from the tour. With DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin laughing uproariously, Tablo showed the audience how to write “LA” in Korean, only to end up writing it in English anyways as the audience reacted in utter confusion that turned into laughter as well. The group kept the energy at its peak with “Don’t Hate Me,” a punk-rock inspired song from their album 99, to a jumping and ecstatic crowd. DJ Tukutz broke into dance again, attempting to spin on his head a few times and doing a b-boy headstand. 

After a little intermission and with the crowd chanting “Encore!” for their return to the stage, the members came out again in their tour shirts, as the audience sang to Hwasa’s chorus from “Catch” with Mithra Jin and Tablo doing their respective verses. The concert wrapped up for the night with the high-energy tracks “Kill This Love” and “New Beautiful,” as the audience happily sang along. The two rappers went down towards the barricade and leaned against the crowd while Tablo took people’s phones and filmed a little video for them. 

Cr. Isné Bobo Nüyent

The members beamed with genuine happiness by the end of the night. The group had been through quite a lot in their twenty-year-long career, and to see them selling out shows while being surrounded by endless waves of idol groups stretching to four generations was heartening to say the least. 

The show closed out and the audience members left the venue, and it was clear that the group had renewed interest among Korean music fans. Epik High wasn’t going anywhere. Despite planning to stop their career with their final album in 2022, their Coachella appearance got them inspired again. 

One can only hope that they’ll continue to be inspired in the years to come, as their legendary status was clearly showcased and cemented in Korean music history at the Shrine.

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