Credit
Article. Jiyeon Lee
Design. PHEPA KIM(@bon_tokati)
Visual Director. Yurim Jeon

They came out like walking pairs of legs. Their torsos were just there for show. 8FEETTALL X TOGETHER. In-your-face facial features. Fresh, thrilling countenance. These are some of the first-hand reviews left by fans, for fans after TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s in-person “fanlive” event, MOA X TOGETHER, which was held on March 5 and 6. Prior to the pandemic, this kind of review was commonplace after every in-person event. But once the pandemic hit, it became impossible for fans to see their favorite artists perform in person. Groups like TOMORROW X TOGETHER, who only debuted around a year before COVID-19, had just a small window in which to see their fans and were left wondering when their next reunion might be. The wait was nearly two years long, but TOMORROW X TOGETHER and their fandom, MOA, were finally able to meet in real life again at the fanlive event.

SOOBIN had been excited but also worried about performing for his fans in person. “Other than the one promotional tour we did in the US, this was basically the first time we got to see so many MOA in one place,” he said. “I was excited for it, but I was also worried that I might feel awkward and shy because I haven’t seen the fans in so long.” For groups like TOMORROW X TOGETHER, the pandemic has been a time of waiting and sometimes uncertainty. Because they could not see their fans in person, “We did performances without MOA so many times,” HUENINGKAI said. “So sometimes I even doubted whether I could really call myself a singer. I could still sense them continuously supporting us from afar, but I still felt sad since it’s better to see that/them in person, but we couldn’t.” And it is not just a psychological issue: With the pandemic still not completely over, all the organizers faced their own unique challenges while preparing for the event. There were many variables to consider, such as the sudden suspension of vaccine passes while the event was still being organized. Eum Hye Jeong, a lead professional with the HYBE 360 Concert Production Studio, directed the concert held at the event, saying it “was the first time in about two and a half years seeing a concert full of people like that for me, too,” adding, “I was so happy when we could fill all the seats thanks to changes to the social distancing rules.” HYBE 360 overseas business manager Kim Mi Ri said the artists appeared to have felt shy at the previous event. “With TOMORROW X TOGETHER getting their start at the same time COVID-19 did, they didn’t have much chance to do in-person concerts, and when they did SHINE X TOGETHER, last year’s fanlive event, they looked a little shy when they saw their fans,” she said. “I hoped the most recent in-person concert would help them get over that.”

 

“The fanlive was when artists and fans were finally going to meet,” Kim said, “so the production team and the planning team both kept saying we should be focusing on them meeting together.” The idea behind last year’s fanlive event was a boy leaving to seek out the stars, but the latest event brought the group down to earth and highlighted them as friends of MOA. The set list, too, reflected the meet-and-connect direction the performance took on. “Concerts are usually focused around an approach that emphasizes the performer’s artistic side on stage,” Eum said. “While concerts are about showing your focus on the performance and dedication to your craft, the most important part of the fanlives is maintaining a connection with the fans. Even when we make the set list, we consider the fandom’s preferences to choose the songs they like the most and ones we think they will like.” And, of course, the members themselves have a big say in the make-up of the set list.

“We usually put on a performance to go along with a particular album, so for the fanlive I thought it would be nice to do all the performances our fans would like,” YEONJUN said, explaining how the set list was decided. TAEHYUN, meanwhile, said the members “all talked to each other about putting on performances the fans haven’t seen as much of, so we decided to perform songs we had only done on stage once, like ‘20cm,’ and even those songs we never performed for fans in person even once. It was fun because it felt like the fanlive had this whole story of its own, different from our concert.” The members’ ideas led to the latest set list including songs like “20cm” and “Dear Sputnik” that would be performed offline for the first time. TAEHYUN said he “actually really wanted to give MOA a performance” of “Dear Sputnik” “because I think there’s so much that can’t be properly conveyed through a performance online. What you hear in real life versus over the air is completely different, too. For example, it feels like the sensitivity of the texture is missing when you experience it online compared to everything you can hear and see in real life. In some ways it covers up any problems, but at the same time it hides what makes it good. I look at that as a loss for TOMORROW X TOGETHER,” he said, adding, “I went for something that would be easier to pick up on in terms of sound and visuals. I worked really hard on that since it was something I could finally do this time.”

 

The set list was mostly made up of songs the fans wanted to see in person, such as TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s cover of “Sriracha,” which was the song the group had proven themselves with in order to debut. “The one I worked hardest on was ‘Sriracha,’” BEOMGYU said. “That was the first time we ever did it in full [for MOA], so I worked really hard on it. ‘Sriracha’ actually has a whole different meaning for us. We had such a hard time when we were getting ready for this song as trainees. Performing the song again after our debut and doing it for MOA makes me feel a lot less pressured about it. We made it through our debut, and now we’re singing this song again in front of MOA! It felt a lot different for us.” Kim also explained how they “tried to include different highlights for fans for each day by differentiating the two days’ set lists,” creating a separate list for each day and making the second day a global version of the first so that international fans could enjoy the fun just like the Korean fans. Consequently, they were able to put on performances like “Everlasting Shine” and “Ito,” neither of which had ever been performed offline since their releases in 2020.

 

A prime example was the performance of “Cat & Dog,” considered by fans to be, in their words, a legendary performance. It was designed to break away from the framework of the existing performance by including a cat owner role (the so-called butler) and various props. Each member wore something representative of their role, like a butler’s glasses, cat ears or dog ears. “We can’t wear cat ears, dog ears and butler costumes like that somewhere like a music show on TV,” SOOBIN said. “We figured MOA would love it if we did something at the fanlive that they like but that we couldn’t do anywhere else.” Eum said there was some backstory to how the butler role was cast. “When I pictured the visuals, I was certain YEONJUN could pull off a charismatic butler character,” she said. “I pictured HUENINGKAI as a polite butler who becomes flustered by how cute the cats and dogs are and doesn’t know what to do.”

Getting everything prepared was an involved process that reflected the state of mind of the fans who would meet the group in person. Because each had not seen the other for so long, the crew had individual cameras focused on each of the members so the fans wouldn’t miss a single move. They experimented with capturing the feeling of watching an online multi-view broadcast by using an LED screen divided into five views right in the venue itself. The thrust stage was designed in the shape of TOMORROW X TOGETHER Official Light Stick and purposely set at a low height, while the turntable (revolving stage) allowed fans to see the group from every angle. “It was fun to interact with MOA from the thrust stage,” HUENINGKAI said. “I was absolutely touched. I felt all choked up.” Fans who saw the members up close and personal wrote first-hand reviews of each member that once again made the rounds on social media in compiled form. There were also fans who made playlists that recreated the set list from the fanlive event. TOMORROW X TOGETHER seemed to have even taken away more from the event than MOA. “I think a part of me will linger on the stage even now that it’s over,” YEONJUN said. “The nostalgia is real,” TAEHYUN said in a Weverse comment. SOOBIN had more to say on what the fanlive event meant to him. “They say that the longer you’re physically apart, the further your hearts grow apart, too,” he said. “We’ve been apart from MOA for a long time. We had our own things to deal with, but MOA must have had a really hard time, and I think the fanlive was a good chance for us to catch up with each other.”
 

Q: What is MOA to TOMORROW X TOGETHER?

Even back when TOMORROW X TOGETHER existed as nothing more than text (.txt) on TXTuniverse, a community for fans before Weverse opened, in the days before TOMORROW X TOGETHER revealed themselves to the world, the group used to openly share how they felt about their then upcoming debut and the occasional fear and pressure they felt in their debut diary, as though speaking with friends. Likewise, the members spoke sincerely at the in-person fanlive event. “I had been looking at empty seats with no MOA while performing all that time that I almost actually lost interest in performing a little,” YEONJUN said from the stage, looking back at the difficulty he has faced during the pandemic as an artist. TAEHYUN, too, expressed how “it’s hard to express how grateful I am—for coming all the way here today, for watching us online, for holding your own special events for us. I’m experiencing emotions I never felt before in my life.” HUENINGKAI talked about how “we’re all spending this hard time together, and I just wanted to say thank you for getting through it all so well the way you have been,” and BEOMGYU reflected on what the event meant to him, saying, “To be honest, once COVID-19 started, I felt like I didn’t even know what we were performing for, but over the two days of this fanlive, I think I found out why I became a singer and wanted to perform this much.” SOOBIN asked MOA to “wait just a little longer, because we’ll have more opportunities to see you in more and bigger places,” and BEOMGYU, too, made a promise for the future: “There’s more days ahead for us to spend together, so let’s all put our sadness aside and go forward together into a brighter tomorrow.”

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