I remember the first time I was able to do the BTS fan chant…
I was driving home from work one day, months after getting into the band. I put on the playlist I had made and like any other day, I tried getting the fan chant right. It was a live performance video that had ARMY screaming in the background.
I always had to think about it, and I always got it wrong. I would mumble incoherently if I couldn’t hear their names properly. I never thought to look them up back then. No, for some reason it was almost like I had to earn that privilege.
That day as I was driving home from work, it was different. I was able to scream along with the ARMY in my speakers and at first I didn’t even realize it. Jimin had already started singing “Go Go” as I sucked in a breath and noticed I wasn’t silently cursing myself for getting it wrong again.
I hit the restart button and played it again. I didn’t mess up. I didn’t even have to think about it.
I turned the music off entirely and belted out all seven of the members names in the proper order and I wont lie to you. I won’t try to hide anything from you as I write this.
I began to cry.
It was around the middle of November in 2017 when I got into BTS. For a long time before that, my cousin had been trying to get me to listen to them. I never got around to it though. It was one of those “I’ll do it eventually” things that we tend to forget about. Sitting in a Korean BBQ restaurant near my apartment, I saw them on the television for the first time. It was “Blood Sweat and Tears”. Jin walking up to the painting with his light pink hair. RM reading from the book that inspired him to write the song, pointing things out to Jungkook. At that time though, I didn’t know who was who.
Now? Like many ARMY if you asked me which member it was just from their laugh, I could probably tell you. I could tell you if I was staring at Suga’s boxy smile or the freckle on V’s nose. The dimples on RM’s face or Jimin’s eyes when he smiles. I don’t want to say that they have taken over me, because I am able to function outside of them. However, BTS has become part of my daily routine. Their music, social media, keeping up to date on the latest news. Keeping them in my life has become as habitual as brushing my teeth or feeding my three cats. They are always with me and because of that, I will never be alone. Because of that, I want to share with you my first BTS concert experience.
Just like I remember when I was able to do the fan chant for the first time, I also remember when the Love Yourself tour was announced. How I cried at work and my coworkers had no idea what to do with me. How I prayed to anyone who would listen that I’d somehow be able to get the tickets I wanted when the day finally came. I remember that several hours before tickets went on sale for the Prudential Center, I had my BTS blanket draped over the cat tower next to my table. I wore my BTS sweatshirt to bed the night before and was still wearing it as I was biting my nails waiting in anticipation. I had a BTS mix going on my Television, trying to control my breathing as the website counted down the minutes.
Many ARMY have experienced the terrifying feeling that had been coursing through my veins that day. BTS aren’t from America. There’s no saying if they’ll ever be back. It’s always a fear that we have every time a tour ends. Will there ever be another one? Is this the only chance I’ll have to see them? The idea of not getting tickets was fueled by thoughts like these. It was the first tour they announced since I had gotten into them. There was always the chance that it would be the last. Fan-Meet events? High Touch events? Any sort of interaction with them outside of a stadium? Those were out of my reach. This is the only chance I have. I know many of you reading this understand that crippling fear.
Every single time I clicked on a GA ticket and the loading screen appeared, I held my breath. Every time it updated and said “we’re sorry,” I tried to fight back my determination getting beaten down into the ground. I counted to three before clicking on another ticket as if it would help to have a method to the madness I was caught in. And words will never be able to explain to you the feeling of confusion and sheer joy that coursed through me when instead of the “we’re sorry” screen, I was redirected to a method of payment. Confusion because I had gotten into the habit of disappointment, and joy from the fact that I had broken out of that habit with the knowledge that I was going to see BTS at the Prudential Center for their Love Yourself Tour in September.
The most I can say about the time that passed between buying the tickets and finally traveling to see them? Is that my coworkers were getting tired of me talking about nothing else. My boyfriend in the midst of it all became a member of ARMY himself because of how much love and passion I have for the band. Friends helped me create an outfit that looked nearly identical to the outfit V wore in the Idol music video. The months I thought would pass by slowly, but really it all flashed by too quickly. Including the concert itself.
I had never been to a concert quite like this before. My excitement was on a whole other level from any other. We had planned on doing a drive by to see what the line looked like. If one had already accumulated, my friend and I would get out and camp overnight. We planned on leaving the day before the concert in the early morning and thought that would be plenty of time to be near the beginning of the line. Haha, ha. Were we in for a surprise.
As I said before, BTS aren’t from America. They come around once a year if we’re lucky. Fans are willing to do a lot in order to see them, and that includes camping out for days at a time.
When we were nearing New Jersey, I remember looking on the Prudential Center Tour fan page and seeing a post from someone asking what the line looked like. Someone responding to them saying it was in the 300 + range and growing quickly. Tents were already littering the sidewalks in an organized fashion. My goal had been to get front row. It’s why we left so early the day before and planned on camping out. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one with that thought in mind as I found out later on that people had been camping out for days beforehand.
I was both upset and excited about it. “Wow, BTS fans are really amazing for doing this for them.” Was the main thought going through my head as my boyfriend finally turned a corner and I saw it for the first time. The mass of people all gathered on the sidewalks. The headbands for BT21 characters fans wore to show off their favorite member. All ARMY talking and laughing and being together in front of this stadium that BTS would be performing in.
My boyfriend had to drop us off in the middle of the street so he could find parking while we got in line. I had completely forgotten that I had gone out of my way to make myself look like V from the Idol music video. Fans started calling after me and complimenting me as I walked by. Some of them struck up conversations with me while others took my picture. I couldn’t stop crying. My friend had to lead me through most of the crowds until we found a spot along a metal fence where we would be spending the next twenty four hours. Through the rain and cold. Without a tent, because we didn’t know it was supposed to rain. My boyfriend went out to try and find one, but all the nearby stores were sold out. As people walked by us to get their own spots in line, they stopped to say hi and ask about my outfit. I felt famous, almost. No one ever really paid any attention to me. I’m a pretty quiet person. My friend who tagged along with me couldn’t stop smiling at me. He was happy that I was happy.
We ended up making what we called a “tarp tent” that we shared with two ARMY that were in line with us. One of them I became friends with and some of her pictures are used in this article (jenicew101). We wrapped tarps around a pop-up structure and hoped it would keep us dry. There were only a few set-backs with it throughout the night. But even with the comfort of being dry, I only slept maybe three hours that night. I was too excited every time I heard other ARMY put on a Youtube video in their tent of a BTS song. Hearing ARMY try to memorize the words to all the solo songs. Talking about their favorite members and getting into friendly arguments about why each member was worth every ounce of love they had to offer.
We woke up early the next morning. My boyfriend had a hotel for us to get washed up and ready. He picked us up quickly and we prepared for the long day ahead of us. The stadium made us clear out all tents by 10am. From that point on, we had to wait in a line to be given a bracelet with a number on it. Someone had come around at midnight the night before to write numbers on our hands in sharpie to know where we should be in line so that no one could cut those who had camped out. We had gotten numbers in the low 500’s. I was worried at first that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the stage. My heart was racing at the thought of not being able to see.
After we were given our bracelets, we were told to leave and come back a couple of hours before doors would open. We were able to get some sleep before having to go back. Everyone was giddy with excitement. Security tried making the line as neat and orderly as they could, so it took a while for anyone to get anywhere.
We were near the side of the building that was all glass, and we saw people with seated tickets start getting let into the stadium. Lots of fans running and being told to slow down. Holding hands and jumping with excitements as they made their way in. I couldn’t control my emotions. I was shaking all over. I couldn’t even talk to anyone around me anymore. My friend had to hold my hand the whole time and rub my back to keep me calm. BTS was inside of this building that I was about to enter. They were getting ready to be on stage for us. There was a chance they were sneaking peeks out of the windows to see what the line looked like. They were in there somewhere, and soon I was about to be, too.
When the line started moving, it moved fast. We had to round a corner in order to get to the door where they were scanning tickets and escorting people to the metal detectors. I almost broke my friends hand when we walked in, I was holding it so tightly. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears as I handed my ticket over and they scanned it. As I went through the metal detector and once I was in the clear, my friend grabbed my hand again and we made our way as quickly as we could through the crowds of people to GA.
My friend was leading the way as he could think a bit more clearly than me. When I walked into the giant stadium and saw all the empty space, I almost fell over.
When I noticed that there was still space in front of the barricade near the main stage, I couldn’t even see straight. My friend lead me to the front row spot against the barricade on the left side. I had cried many times in the last two days, but not like this. My hands touched the barricade, I looked up at the stage less than fifty feet in front of me and completely broke down.
I fell to the ground in tears to the point where others around me came over and asked if I was okay. When they found out that it was because I couldn’t believe I was there, they all understood and smiled at me. We were right in the corner where the main stage becomes the aisle that BTS would walk down to get to the extended stage. That part of the stage was less than twenty feet from the barricade. I couldn’t believe it. I was there. Right there. Right in the front. Camping out had paid off. Being a high number didn’t matter as much as I thought it would. There was a chance BTS would see me from the stage when they looked out at us. This was all real and happening and I couldn’t think clearly because of it and I know all of this is a run-on but in order to understand how my brain was working then, it has to be.
Through all of this, I want to share with you one of the most incredible feelings I experienced, and it was before BTS even came out.
They were playing music videos as we waited for the concert to start. ARMY sang along with the fan chants for each song. When a new song played and I heard the beginning of the official fan chant, I sucked in a breath.
I wasn’t listening to this from the speakers in my car. This wasn’t my Ipod. This was real life. Fans chanting all around me the names of all of the BTS members. I was part of it. I was living it. I screamed along with them, my voice getting lost in the sea of ARMY and echoing throughout the stadium. It’s a feeling I will always be able to recall. A memory that will never fade. Any time I hear that fan chant now on TV or in videos, I know what it was like to be a part of it. I hope with every fiber of my being that every ARMY is able to experience that some day, if they haven’t already.
We were able to tell when the concert was about to start due to a change in volume of the music that was playing. It got incredibly loud for the last two or three music videos they played for us. And the songs were all ones that would be done by BTS that night. I was worried the volume would stay that loud for the whole night, and thankfully it didn’t. I could feel the bass in my throat and chest. It was terrifying.
After, a short video played of BTS that had never been seen before outside of the concerts. Fans began going crazy as each member showed up on the big screen in the video. Once it blacked out and the entire arena was encased in darkness, flames erupted from the front of the stage and the music to “Idol” began playing. The BTS logo that was in the center of the stage began opening and lights flashed quickly. My friend who was with me got a video of my reaction before BTS showed up on stage. It’s on my Instagram if anyone wants to see it (winterr_echo).
Fireworks went off, and BTS came up on a platform from under the stage. There they were. Right in front of me as the fan chant was louder than ever. But I couldn’t do it with the other ARMY that time. I was screaming hysterically. Gripping the barricade so hard that my hands were sore for a few days after the show.
Words could never fully describe how I felt that night. Nothing can ever compare to the feeling of seeing your idols right in front of you. Sharing the same space, breathing the same air. Enjoying the same scene, singing the same words at the same time. Watching as each member takes turns throughout the night to stop and just look out at all of the ARMY in the crowd. Hoping to be lucky enough to be one of the fans that they lock eyes with briefly.
Two of the members did notice my outfit. It’s why I wanted front row so badly. It’s why I dressed up like I did. Hoping and praying that maybe V would notice me. That any of them would recognize the outfit from the music video and smile.
Jimin was the first to notice. He kept smiling over at me throughout the night. I didn’t even notice at first. My friend hit my shoulder hard and turned me to face Jimin. He was laughing and putting a hand over his mouth before turning to look somewhere else. But for a few minutes, his eyes kept finding me and smiling. I wonder if he ended up telling V about me, because it wasn’t until the end of the concert that V walked over, scanning the crowd before his eyes found mine.
It’s all I wanted, and I knew that I was hoping for close to the impossible. I made a friend in the crowd who knew that all I wanted was for V to notice my outfit. When he came over and scanned our area, I waved frantically. I couldn’t tell if he had been looking at me or not. I was sure he was, but I needed to confirm it. I threw my arm up and gave him a Korean heart and he gave one right back to me before turning and giving the heart to the whole section. The girl standing next to me who I became friends with got a video of the moment and offered to send it to me when the concert was over. She screamed and hugged me and said that she couldn’t believe that he noticed.
The song that hit me the hardest from the show and that I will always go back to when I hear it now, is Magic Shop. It was the first song that the members started walking down the aisle toward the extended stage. Jimin stopped right in front of us, turned and sang to us. Suga walked by and held the mic out to us so he could hear us. All of them, so close that I could see the sweat on their faces.
They went back and forth between the main and extended stage all night. In the middle of the concert, they played a medley of some of their old songs, including Fire.
There were a lot of videos that I took that I never posted on any social media. My voice was gone before half of the show was over, and my screaming for the rest of the night was off key and terrible. I feel bad for anyone else in my section who took videos and got my voice in them.
I knew that after this concert, I would be going to the Citi Field concert within a week with my cousin. I didn’t cry throughout the Prudential show as much as I thought I would (only before, lol). But when my cousin and I got to the Citi Field show, I cried so much that I had a headache for a few days after. I took a video of V performing Singularity at Citi Field and my cousin had to hold me up the entire time because of how hysterical I was while I tried to film the last time I would get to see him perform that song in person. We had seated tickets, so there wasn’t any camping out or waiting in a huge line for hours on-end.
BTS have changed my life since getting into them. It’s something I want to write about in the Speak Yourself, Thank You BTS project we have going on, on this website. I don’t think that my cousin knew what she was doing when she got me into them. When she sat with me in a motel room one Thanksgiving in Vermont and tried to help me tell each member apart. Sitting up until midnight laughing at her as she tried to master the “Go Go” dance. She was really good, but she couldn’t stop making funny faces. I wish BTS could have seen her doing it.
She told me back then that she never got to see them in concert, and she hoped that one day she would be able to. It’s why instead of getting tickets to only one concert, I got tickets to two. I wanted to make her dream come true and try to thank her in whatever way I could for helping me onto a path of bettering myself. A path where I get to spend what parts of my life I can with BTS.
The experience of being around so many ARMY and making the friends that I have through these concerts is really something that I hope everyone gets to experience. There are thousands upon thousands of ARMY all over the world, and yet not very many at all where I’m from. Getting to be around so many was life changing for me. I hope to get the chance to go back this year and see them again. Not only BTS, but the new friends that I have made because of them.
As much as I want to say thank you to BTS, I also want to say thank you to ARMY as well. This fandom is so accepting and understanding of each other. We share more than just BTS in common, nine times out of ten.
If you have somehow managed to read this article until it’s end, I want to thank you for being patient. I’m sorry that this was so long. I didn’t realize how much I had to say. The Prudential Center was my first time seeing BTS and a place I will never forget because of that. The feeling of excitement at finally being able to see the seven guys I fell in love with. Citi Field was a place where I realized I might have to say goodbye to those seven guys forever. They could always be back, but then they also might not be. What if this is the last time I see their faces? Citi Field held more sadness near the end of the concert for me as I had to let go. Their final words to love myself rang through my ears as I silently promised them through tears while I left that I would do everything in my power to do so.
For more videos from my two concert experiences please visit my Instagram account Winterr_echo.