Caught Live: MIK Festival, London 2022
Tucked away inside London’s Southwark Park, MIK Festival finally went ahead across July 30th and July 31st, consequently making history as Europe’s first ever outdoor K-pop festival and yet another representation of the Korean music industry’s year-on-year global expansion.
Split into a ‘K-Pop Day’ (July 30th) and ‘Hip-Hop Day’ (July 31st), MIK Festival have plans to become an annual event and if their inaugural event is anything to go by – MIK Festival will be a welcomed gem.
MIK Festival 2022 – Facilities
Very thoughtfully, branded MIK Festival direction signs were helpfully posted throughout the walking route from Canada Water station, which made it incredibly easy to reach the festival site.
In terms of overall facilities, MIK Festival had prepared lots of enjoyable and affordable options. The site was adequately equipped with various Korean food options (tteokbokki, kimbap, Shin Ramyun cups and Korean fried chicken) as well as Asian themed choices (egg or chicken fried rice or noodles) alongside typical festival food like cheeseburgers and fries; the food was surprisingly not too extortionately priced, as is the usual case with festival food. A very cute pink ice cream truck was also on site – perfect for the hot weather. Drinks were certainly on the more expensive side, with a cup of soda (poured from a bottle) going for £4.90; these were however served in reusable / collectible MIK branded cups, and it seemed like an efficient way to reduce potential littering and waste from festival goers. Boba Time were also onsite serving a truly refreshing Four Seasons Fruit Tea, as well as milk bubble teas. There were several benches available for seating options, as well as ample space on the grassy areas.
A dedicated raised platform for accessible viewing had been prepared with an easy-access ramp installed; the platform appeared to be placed in a position which looked as though it allowed for good viewing of the overall stage.
MIK Festival had prepared two extremely fun ‘photo ops’ for festival goers; one large ‘MIK’ logo to pose with, and an archway with a small branded stage / step plinth. A smart selection of MIK Festival merch was available on both days, most notably a handheld electronic fan which was priced very reasonably at £5. There were two watering stations located in the park, each with three taps to fill up bottles or cups; the lines for the stations on the hip-hop day were particularly long – practically running across the entire park at one point – and so next time it would definitely go down well with festival goers to have another station or two in order to decrease the waiting times.
MIK Festival 2022 – Line-up and Stage
K-Pop Day – July 30th:
- Cherry Bullet
- Golden Child
- Chung Ha
- Red Velvet
K-Hip Hop Day – July 31st:
- Epik High
- Lee Hi
- Jay Park
For the K-pop day, five female artists were on the original line-up: Billlie, Cherry Bullet, Chung Ha, Viviz and headliners Red Velvet – a legitimately star-studded affair, offering a perfect balance of rookie groups and established superstars. However, Billlie could sadly not take part as members Suhyeon and Siyoon were still testing positive for COVID-19 the day before the concert was due to take place.
While it was extremely refreshing that the line-up for the K-pop day was evenly balanced, the hip-hop day was unfortunately not: out of eight artists, rapper Jessi and R&B vocalist Lee Hi were the only women performing that day – against six male artists. There are tons of women doing big things in Korean hip-hop and it would have been incredible to see a few more women take the stage on that day: the likes of Yoonmirae (aka the Queen of K-Hip Hop), Moonbyul of MAMAMOO, SAAY, Suran, BIBI, SINCE, Hoody or Mirani are just some who would have made for interesting additions and, most importantly, helped increase the representation of women on the hip-hop day. This is without a doubt something we need to see happen if this same format is followed again for subsequent festival line-ups.
The stage design was highly impressive and, quite honestly, breathtaking to lay eyes on. Composed of multiple circular rings containing an abundance of stage lights and LCD screens, a main circular screen was embedded at the back of the stage for video visualizers to be displayed on. On either side of the stage, two extremely large screens had been installed to allow for accessible viewing of the performances throughout the park and two large MIK logos were positioned underneath each screen for an added effect. Further complemented by an extended catwalk runway, the futuristic design of the stage was the perfect aesthetic choice for a K-pop festival, feeling like an incredible, ‘state of the art’ piece of equipment lifted directly from a K-pop music video set.
In terms of access to the stage, MIK Festival was divided into a premium ‘Gold Circle’ area for immediate viewing of the stage, with the General Access (GA) section seemingly not far behind this. The GA positioning was perhaps the only real flaw of the festival, as it felt extremely far away from the action on stage even if you were on the barricade, to the point where the majority of the artists during their sets were asking if “the people at the back” were okay – and pointing to the GA section. If you are not overly bothered about seeing the artists ‘up close and personal’ and want to watch from a comfortable distance to feel the overall vibe of the festival, GA is the perfect section for you. If you prefer to have a more immersive concert experience and dislike feeling as though you’re watching ‘moving dots’ and relying on the screens to see what’s happening on stage, you must definitely opt for the Gold Circle ticket.
MIK Festival 2022 – K-Pop Day
Cherry Bullet – MIK Festival Setlist:
- Really Really
- Aloha Oe
- Follow Me
- Love So Sweet
- Love In Space
As Billlie were no longer able to take part in MIK Festival, Cherry Bullet were first up for the girls after an opening performance from queer solo artist Holland (his “yeah, I’m fucking gay!” quote remains a crowning moment of the entire festival).
Beginning their set with their popular debut track “Q&A” felt like a smart choice, as the song was very well-received and immediately put Cherry Bullet in a good position to keep the crowd hyped for the remainder of the set. The girls then spent some time interacting with the audience and introducing themselves, before launching into the (perhaps too) sugary sweetness of 2019’s “Really Really” and summery vibes of (the controversial) 2020 single “Aloha Oe”.
After taking a crowd photo, Cherry Bullet got into position for 2021’s “Follow Me” – another ultra ‘aegyo’ performance with bright and colorful pastel screen visualizers. “Love So Sweet” felt like a highlight performance in the setlist, with the choreography and a particularly impressive vocal performance from Bora gaining a strong reception from the audience and proving that Cherry Bullet have multiple sides to their artistry.
Slightly slowing down the pace with the guitar-led dance pop of “Broken”, Cherry Bullet spent the last few moments of their set chatting with the crowd and expressing sincere gratitude for the warm reactions to their songs before their defining, closing moment: the ‘80s galaxy Europop banger “Love in Space”. Haeyoon and Bora delivered exceptional vocal performances, whereas the group in general totally nailed the choreography for “Love in Space” against a fitting backdrop of futuristic, synthwave themed visuals.
CHUNG HA – MIK Festival Setlist:
- Flying on Faith
- Gotta Go
- California Dream
- Don’t Believe In Love
- Why Don’t You Know
CHUNG HA received a roaring response from the crowd as soon as she stepped out, kicking things off with a bang by way of the slinky R&B-pop of “Snapping”. Seamlessly segueing into the energetic ‘80s vibes of “Sparkling”, the dynamic number was the perfect way for CHUNG HA to keep the vibes high with her crew of dancers.
Taking time to slow things down with “Flying on Faith”, one of the English tracks from Querencia, the performance gave CHUNG HA an opportunity to focus on serving vocal moments and audience interactions as she bounced down the stage’s catwalk.
Bringing the dance crew back out, CHUNG HA asked if we “knew Roller Coaster” and could sing it with her – partaking in an adorable call and response with the crowd before getting into position for “Gotta Go”. Hitting all of the song’s vocal belts and mastering the stage with intricate choreography, “Gotta Go” was a clear crowd-favorite and elicited the strongest response of the day so far. As promised, CHUNG HA then launched straight into “Roller Coaster”, nailing the choreography against a stunning backdrop of fast-paced, kaleidoscopic visuals.
Making her way down the catwalk for a performance of “California Dream”, this moment allowed CHUNG HA to further showcase her latest album Bare & Rare and the growth in production across her catalog. CHUNG HA then made the announcement that she would be exclusively debuting a brand new song called “Don’t Believe In Love” – “I’m very nervous, but let’s go” she shared before the track’s distorted vocal intro played out and slow-burning bass kicks took over. A mellow number, the audience were extremely respectful of this golden opportunity to hear a brand new unreleased song, taking the time to let the song sink in and carefully listening to each moment of the track.
Explaining that she felt honored to be at MIK Festival and would love to come back, CHUNG HA shared that the final song of her set would be her debut, “Why Don’t You Know?” – with the tropical vibes of the production feeling a perfect closing moment for CHUNG HA.
Some glaring omissions from CHUNG HA’s setlist were December 2021’s “Killing Me” – which was oddly used as her intro music, so it felt like a given for her actual setlist – “Stay Tonight” and not to mention her hit R3HAB collab “Dream of You”. However, it seems a choice was made to showcase deeper album cuts alongside the hits, and space was of course needed for the world-first performance of “Don’t Believe In Love”. Nevertheless, CHUNG HA served hits, vocals and looks and she gave a stunning performance all-round.
VIVIZ – MIK Festival Setlist:
- Love You Like
- Red Sun!
- Time for the moon night
- Love Love Love
- BOP BOP!
Directly after CHUNG HA, girl group trio VIVIZ were next up in one of their biggest performances since officially debuting this year. Getting the set going with their current title track “LOVEADE”, the soft and sweet summary sounds were perfectly balanced with the sexier R&B vibes of follow-up performance “Lemonade”.
After an endearing introduction to the crowd, Eunha then explained that they would now be “changing the mood for a ballad song” for “Love You Like” from their Beam of Prism mini. The laidback chemistry of the track gave the girls time to intimately connect with the audience, offering lots of waves and smiles to as many as possible.
Next on the setlist was “Red Sun!” which VIVIZ originally performed as part of their recent appearance on reality survival show Queendom2. The bouncy jazz-pop track seemed lost on the crowd, who unfortunately did not seem to know the number; nevertheless, VIVIZ still brought high energy and vocals to the performance without missing a step or hair flip in the choreography. Interestingly, VIVIZ then followed “Red Sun!” with the classic GFRIEND track “Time for the moon night”, immediately restoring the atmosphere with the orchestral-pop track; it was a thoughtful gesture, offering the best of both worlds to audiences who may have originally become fans of theirs from when they were in GFRIEND. On the flip side, it perhaps might have been a better opportunity to instead showcase additional VIVIZ highlights from their recent Summer Vibe mini, such as the summery dance-pop of “SIESTA” and sexy R&B grooves of “#FLASHBACK”.
Making a lasting impression through an extended talking segment where they each shared their top tourist desires for London (Umji receiving a barrel of laughs after sheepishly sharing her tongue-in-cheek comment that she wanted to “breathe in the fresh air of London”), the girls then got into position for the closing two performances. Offering slick, intricate choreography for the house-pop bop “Love Love Love”, the final performance of their viral hit “BOP BOP!” was by far their most anticipated performance and the most perfect way to end their set.
Red Velvet – MIK Festival Setlist:
- Feel My Rhythm
- Bad Boy (English Version)
- You Better Know
- Red Flavor
As the overall headliners for the MIK K-Pop Day, the pressure was certainly on for the finale act Red Velvet to deliver – and with just the opening acapella notes of “Feel My Rhythm”, the group immediately brought superstar vibes and had the crowd in a frenzy. “Psycho” received an equally excited response, with some of the loudest fan-chants heard that day. Demonstrating their collective group charms, the group (Joy was sadly not present) spoke completely in English to express their gratitude and get ready for “Bad Boy”, which they also performed fully in English. Keeping the atmosphere skyhigh with “Peek-a-Boo”, this was an excellent choice to continue the setlist of their huge hits.
After spending some time engaging with the audience and explaining that the next performance would be an exclusive live debut of “BAMBOLEO”, the chilled vibes of the track gave the girls the opportunity to spread out across the spacious stage and focus on particular sections of the crowd. Continuing to showcase album cuts, Red Velvet then walked down the catwalk to the colorful pop sounds of “Carpool” from 2019’s ‘The ReVe Festival’ Day 2, where they remained to belt out the electro-pop ballad “You Better Know” from 2017’s The Red Summer. Although this segment of the setlist surely pleased their hardcore fans, it felt slighlty disappointing that these were chosen over some of Red Velvet’s signature hits like “Russian Roulette”, “RBB (Really Bad Boy)”, “Dumb Dumb” or “Zimzalabim”.
Taking the time to interact with each other and the crowd, Red Velvet showed an abundance of gratitude to everybody for their cheers and support; “Thank you for making this unforgettable memory for us, we promise you that we’ll be back one day to London to see you all,” Wendy declared before explaining they had to say their goodbyes as they got into position for their 2021 empowerment title track “Queendom” – which was met with immediate screams. Closing out with a boisterous and extremely colorful performance of “Red Flavor”, the foursome continued to exude star power and major stage presence until the very last moment of their set.
MIK Festival – K-Hip Hop Day
Jessi – MIK Festival Setlist:
- Spirit Animal
- Cold Blooded
- What Type of X
- NUNU NANA
As the only rapper on the lineup who is a woman, Jessi immediately had the pressure on her to deliver and represent for women in Korean hip-hop. Strutting out to “Spirit Animal”, Jessi radiated confidence and boss energy from the get-go and proved she knew exactly how to work the stage.
Taking a break after “Spirit Animal”, Jessi’s natural charisma shined no matter what she was saying or doing, from asking if anybody in the audience needed water, to thanking people for supporting her and telling everybody they were pretty, to wondering why she “wore pants” in the summer weather. Switching right back into baddie mode for “Drip”, Jessi’s signature raspy vocals dominated the atmosphere, while keeping the crowd entertained with hip rolls and twerk moments. Proving to be a natural crowd-pleaser, Jessi also dipped into the audience to take photos with fans and proceeded to keep the vibes high with the feisty “Cold Blooded”.
Declaring that “the energy is so good today” and sharing that it took her “eighteen years to get here… and I’m just getting started”, Jessi took it back to one of her first hits with 2017’s “Gucci” but brought new life to the song with her hyper adlibs, creating the perfect energy for the electro-rock electricity of “What Type of X”.
After wrapping up “What Type of X”, Jessi went on to call out previous performer Dok2 and his controversial “I don’t care who performs before me or after, I rap better than everybody” statement: “I strongly disagree, I think everyone tonight is the best” Jessi said, before announcing that she will soon be coming out with a beauty line called ‘Unnie Beauty’. As she then got ready for “NUNU NANA” Jessi shared that she initially didn’t want to drop the song, as she felt it was “too loud” but then explained it means “I’m that motherfucking bitch.”
As Jessi revealed afterwards that she had one song left, “ZOOM” – about being “extra as fuck” – what happened next was truly… wild. It started when Jessi grabbed a pink cowboy hat from somebody in the audience, which she proceeded to don for the rest of the set; she then turned the stage into a photoshoot, taking photos and stories posing in her newly acquired hat; she dipped in and out of the crowd for about ten minutes, taking selfies with a whole bunch of people in the front rows; she handed out water bottles and collected somebody’s bra which she then modeled like an accessory – in between anecdotes and commentary all while continuously explaining that “the show must go on” and she would soon be performing the (seemingly mythical) last song “ZOOM”.
“Epik High oppa I’m so sorry, I’ll be done… we’re gonna end this right here cos they’re about to kick me out” – and another few minutes later, Jessi finally launched into an energetic final performance of her viral hit “ZOOM” which was undeniably worth the (twenty minute) delay.
Lee Hi – MIK Festival Setlist:
- Red Lipstick
- Tip Toe
- 1, 2, 3, 4
Getting started with an acoustic guitar rendition of “Rose” from her 2013 debut album First Love, Lee Hi was instantly feeling like a totally different vibe from the eclecticness and high energy of previous performers, the legendary Epik High. She followed this up with the chill, loungey R&B “Savior”, working hard to get the crowd to join in and “sing with me.”
Lee Hi then took some time to engage with the crowd, endearingly sharing that she “can’t speak English but I’m trying for you guys.” She picked up the energy with the ‘80s R&B flavored “Bye”, getting everybody clapping along with her – which was then flawlessly segued into the sassy and funky upbeat vibes of “Red Lipstick” where Lee Hi gave tons of energy, asking the crowd to dance with her in keeping with the song’s “dance, dance, dance” hook.
Slowing the mood with “H.S.K.T.”, the sultry song was a perfect moment to highlight the uniqueness of her vocal tone, which she followed up with the Crush collab “Tip Toe”. Lee Hi then introduced her penultimate performance, which would be her huge hit “ONLY” – the sweeping R&B ballad was performed immaculately, with her poignant vocals reducing several in the crowd to tears.
“I already miss you guys, this is so lovely and I hope to see you soon” Lee Hi shared before launching into her last number – her debut track and first hit, the funky R&B doo-wop of “1,2,3,4” which she brought big energy to, parading on the catwalk and hitting all of the song’s big notes before walking off stage.
This is of course not Lee Hi’s fault – she did a phenomenal job at her debut London show – but it felt like she was given a strange slot in between Epik High and GRAY, and indeed on the hip-hop day in general; “today is hip-hop day right? I don’t have [many] hip-hop tracks” she herself even mentioned a few times. It felt like Lee Hi’s laid-back R&B soul music would have perhaps fared better on the previous day’s K-pop day line-up, taking into account the hip-hop day’s wider line-up of big name male rappers (and Jessi).