As K-Pop continues to make headlines in the United States, Arizona as etched itself as a major hub for K-Pop tours this year, and eight-member group, Stray Kids is one of the first to experience it firsthand. Presented by SubKulture Entertainment, the Stray Kids World Tour ‘District 9 : Unlock’ brought members Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N to the Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, AZ on February 9 as one of eight select cities on the U.S. leg of their world tour.
Hailing from JYP Entertainment, Stray Kids made their debut through the 2017 Mnet survival show ‘Stray Kids’ where they showcased their versatility in being a group that not only sings, raps, and dances, but also produces their own tracks. Stray Kids has self-produced and written over 43 over their own tracks and has acquired over ten rookie awards since their debut.
Stray Kids started the concert out with one of their biggest hits, a remix of “District 9.” Keeping the energy high, Stray Kids performed the songs “Victory Song,” “Question,” “ROCK” and “Side Effects.” After their heart pounding set, Stray Kids took their time to introduce themselves to the audience. This being their first time in the city, the members were ecstatic. “We have a lot prepared for you Stays, so please look forward to tonight!” said Felix.
The group prides itself in paving its own unmatched identity and sharing stories through their music that can resonate with people from all around the globe. Avid Stay fans Melina and Maria Morales waited in line since 8AM to be able to see Stray Kids up close and personal.
“Stray Kids is my favorite group. They really inspire me. The message they are trying to get across speaks to me. Stray Kids always say to follow your dreams.”– Melina Morales
Hollie McElory brought her six year old daughter, Ezreleah, all the way from New Mexico to check out the concert. Ms. McElory stated that she enjoyed the songs “Side Effects” and “Insomnia” the most, because it reminded her that everyone goes through hardships and it helped her get through the things she dealt with. “I like that they write all the songs themselves and they can relate to us and what we are going through.”
Stray Kids performed songs, “Get Cool,” “Awkward Silence,” followed by “Levanter.” “Levanter,” a song about learning to move on and facing reality, was a beautifully choreographed performance with the members all in white button-down shirts. Stray Kids moved on with the song “3rd Eye,” taking the concert in a more mellow direction. The soothing ballad captivated the audience with the members’ smooth vocals and precise choreography. STAYS were treated with special unit stages throughout the show. “Wow” was performed by DANCERACHA, a performance unit consisting of Felix, Lee Know and Hyunjin. “My Universe” was performed by the vocal line members I.N, Seungmin and Changbin. “We Go” was performed by 3RACHA, the rap line members of the group – Bang Chan, Changbin and Han. Stray Kids continued the show by performing “Double Knot,” “Boxer,” and a remix of their hit song “Hellevator.” During “Hellevator,” the audience sang along to the acapella opening rendition before jumping out of their seats and dancing along to the bass-heavy remix.
One thing that really stuck out was the amount of audience participation throughout this concert. An interactive VCR segment had fans showcasing their dance moves as they followed along to some of Stray Kids’ choreography. The game started off with the song “Get Cool” and then fans played along to the song “Miroh.” Everyone in the audience was dancing and singing along to ‘unlock’ the next phase of the concert.
Another fan engagement worth noting was a secret fan banner event. The entire audience was given specially printed and designed support banners that said “STAY Together! You and I, I’m By Your Side” and instructed fans to hold them up during the song, “Grow Up.” The project was put together by Stays in AZ, a Stray Kids fanbase that pooled funds together through online donations to bring the project to life. Each donation tier had different perks like stickers, pins, prints of souvenir tickets and even bracelets. All together, the group raised $700 for this project. June Williams, a Stays in AZ team member, had been to other concerts previously and she noticed that all other concerts have these types of projects.
“Stray Kids are my favorite band. I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this, because they are here in Arizona!’ I want it to be done the way I envisioned it in my mind. I have so many friends down here that we can pull together and make something really cool!”– June Williams
When “Grow Up” began, the members were visibly taken aback by the surprise project and were touched by all the support banners.
Following the fan banner event, Stays sang happy birthday to I.N. I.N was caught by surprise and was even a little embarrassed when his group members decided to join in. Bang Chan also led Stays in a chant of “Stray Kids Everywhere, All Around The World”. Hyunjin told the audience that he thought that they were “super cute” and that he saw them from backstage during the interactive VCR segment, “I saw all of you guys! You guys were super cute. Thank you!” Closing off the show with “YAYAYA” and “Miroh,” the boys thanked everyone for coming and delivered a stellar final performance accompanied by the eager cheers of their beloved fans.
Tamera Johnson, an Arizona resident, said that she really loves that more and more K-Pop concerts have been coming to Arizona. “I love it. Any band that they’ve got that comes here we will go to. I also have three blind sons and I will be bringing them to the concerts, because I know they love the music, too.” Ms.Johnson said that her favorite Stray Kids song is “Miroh” and it makes her feel like a teenager again. “I’m 56 and my daughter got me into K-Pop two years ago. I love the beat and music, it really energizes you. You forget your age. You forget everything around you and you just become one with the music.”
Stray Kids not only made an impact on their Stays, but also on the Arizona K-Pop music scene, bringing people together from many different places for one exhilarating night. This solidifies the fact that Arizona is a new go-to spot for bigger and bigger K-Pop acts. Stray Kids and Stays have made an impact on the Arizona K-Pop community in a way I don’t think they thought was possible. They brought people together and will continue to do so because after all — Stays, You Make Stray Kids Stay.
Written and Photographed by: Kayla C.