SXSW Music: Jay Park

When Jay Park came onstage wearing a black hoodie, I knew trouble was near.

It was midnight in the Elysium and all throughout the club, everyone was abuzz, even Lady Gaga. We all had come to watch this Seattle-born Korean star rule the stage as part of the K-Pop Night Out Showcase, and for K-pop fans, Santa came early to SXSW again.

And yet, in a moment of either complete lack of foresight, or perhaps a canny stagecraft tool, the dude was planning to do his set in a head-to-toe black long-sleeved dress. After about four sets from other top-notch Korean bands, the slowly warming weather and waves of body heat from the masses of humanity had turned the blackened Elysium into the world’s largest (and most cramped) sauna. This made Jay’s fashion logic questionable, to put it mildly.

In the back of my head, voices whispered to me. They said: “That shirt is going to come off any minute. You know it and we know it. And when it does, all these screaming women will bumrush the stage, the show will come to a halt, and Jay’s going to escape out the back as we all get tear gassed.”

The voices had a point, especially as I watched Jay dazzle the audience more with every passing minute with a mix of hip-hop and R&B, coming right out spitting rapid fire bars in English, but taking moments to get romantic with songs like “Joah” and jam out with the club-made anthem “I Like 2 Party.” He bantered with the audience, shook more hands than a politician and segued into B-boy dancing moves, and the energy never stopped for a second.

As predicted, though, Park slowly started shedding clothing, and the screams increased accordingly, but the screamers showed restraint even when Park finally ditched his shirt. Phew.

What was really striking, though, was when Park brought out his label AOMG’s newest signing (did I mention he totally owns a label?), rapper Loco, and let him premiere his new single. Even with the short amount of time Park had to play, he made some for Loco in an awesome moment of selflessness.

I came mildly informed of Jay Park and I left a convert. This guy has the goods to get famous everywhere.