On January 25, the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood welcomed its first show of the year as hundreds of fans filed into the venue for Korean American rapper pH-1’s sold-out L.A. show. It’s hard to believe that this 2023 About Damn Time tour was the rapper’s first-ever Stateside tour. Seoul-born and Long Island-raised, pH-1 was a dental assistant turned web developer in the U.S. until Jay Park stumbled upon his music in 2016. This prompted pH-1 (a moniker of his English name Harry Park and Korean name Park Junwon) to move back to Seoul and became one of the founding members of Jay Park’s and Cha Cha Malone’s record label, H1GHR MUSIC. Since then, he’s won over the crowd with his personable lyrics and catchy hooks that birthed his large domestic and international following.
Fresh off of his own headline tour, Korean American rapper Ted Park came in hot and opened up the show with an energetic 20-minute set. He is a former H1GHR MUSIC rapper-turned-independent artist who has performed at several L.A. events such as the LA Clippers NBA Halftime Show, KTOWN Night Market, and more. With surprise DJ Cha Cha Malone on the beats, Ted hyped up the crowd with fan favorites “Adore You, Dior You, “I Can’t Find,” and “Dance Like Jay Park.” He also teased a few unreleased tracks and even slowed things down with his recent heartfelt release, “Butterfly,” a song that goes out to those who have ever lost a loved one.
Before anyone could relax, pH-1 burst onto the stage and sent the crowd into a frenzy with “Meet and Greet,” “Malibu,” and “Pack It Up.” The entire room erupted into a mixture of screams and chants as the rapper paced up and down the stage, effortlessly delivering his rap verses. A handful of fans on the barricade proudly showed off their fanmade signs that put clever spins to his lyrics such as “I’m a homebody for everyone but you!” and “Harry hotter than July in California.” During a pause between songs, he introduced his fans to the tour’s official chant – “When I say ‘I’M HERE!’ you all say ‘ABOUT DAMN TIME’!” The tour was a long time coming, and he couldn’t be happier. Before continuing on with the show, pH-1 gifted a fan a signed CD of his newest release, But Now Leave Me Alone, a kind gesture that has become somewhat of a tradition at his shows.
pH-1 ripped through a diverse setlist filled with bangers and fan favorites. He lead the fan chants into the following songs from time to time, but it was blatantly clear that he didn’t have to do much as he crafts lyrics that are both addictive and easy to follow. The audience proudly carried the chorus during the relatable track, “Homebody,” and shouted the lyrics to the grungy, hip-hop release, “Mr. Bad.” By the time he moved into the poppy melodic tracks “Cupid” and “365&7,” everyone understood the assignment – hands went up in the air and pumped along to the beat as they all sang along. Some fans even prepared cute heart-shaped signs with photos of pH-1’s toy poodle, Holly.
A special guest appearance by neo-funk songstress UMI added to the night’s excitement. The crowd erupted into screams as the singer joined pH-1 onstage for their collaboration track, “Juliette.” Their performance showcased their chemistry as both vibed together onstage and ended it with a hearty hug. The concert then deviated from pH-1’s set for UMI’s own solo stage. After serenading the audience with “Midnight Blues,” UMI arranged for an impromptu group grounding exercise to ease everyone’s spirits. “I think it would be beautiful if we took a few breaths together.” Leading the audience in peaceful breathwork, UMI soothed the audience down before surprising them with the opening synths of “Love Affair.” For her last performance, she closed out with her breakout hit, “Remember Me.” The entire 10-minute set was filled with positive vibes, affirmations, and good intentions that left the audience feeling at peace and rejuvenated.
The calmness continued as pH-1’s returned onstage, perched on a stool under a spotlight. He eased listeners back to his stage with his more raw and personal songs from his But for Now Leave Me Alone album such as “Break The Glass” and “Shrink Told Me.” He quickly followed suit and serenaded the audience with both his singing and soft rap verses in “DVD” and “Like Me” that instantly put everyone in their feels.
Looking out into the packed theatre, pH-1 said what had to be said, “From Korea, out of all the rappers, who can sell out these venues but me?” His statement was met with gasps and cheers that quickly morphed into screams as he turned up the heat with back-to-back bangers, “Olaf” and “Achoo.” Dousing the audience in water mid-performance to amp them up, the energy in the room only amplified during “The Purge.” Filled with aggressive beats, untethered sounds, and passionate verses, the song sent everyone into a hyped frenzy and pH-1 couldn’t help but jump off the stage and onto the barricade to turn up with his fans up close and personal.
As the show came to an end, pH-1 and his fans became one as they sang together during, “IFFY IFFY.” The vibes were infectious and pH-1 couldn’t help but crack a smile as he held out the microphone to the crowd and let them finish the chorus. Mid-performance, he signaled for a fan to throw their disposable camera towards him and proceeded to take a selfie with the audience as a memorable keepsake. The concert closed with a wild and frenzied performance of one of pH-1’s most popular tracks, “IFFY IFFY” and “OSCAR.”
After years of waiting, fans who were lucky to attend the sold-out show were definitely not disappointed. From Ted Park’s energetic opening performance, pH-1’s impressive talents, and UMI’s special guest appearance, the concert proved to be an unforgettable experience for both pH-1 and his audience. It’s “about damn time” that pH-1 held a concert in L.A., and it damn well better not be his last.