Photo by Audrey Reynolds
As I stared at my reflection in the airport bathroom, trying to apply moisturizer to help soothe my sunburnt skin, my adrenaline was still high. I had just experienced the most eventful day of my life. My phone had pinged for the fifth time in the last hour — it was my mother checking up on me again. The screen lit up and taunted me, it was only 3:05 a.m. and I had two more hours until my flight arrived. My phone had finally cooled down after overheating repeatedly from the warmth of my palms over the last 24 hours.
My favorite group is BTS and my favorite member is rapper Suga. While he’s known for being part of the most successful K-pop group of all time, he’s also received praise for his solo work under the moniker Agust D. A superfan’s job is a full-time commitment — when I realized that I had traded days of my life for long-lasting memories at concerts, I also realized that I want my future job to look like this.
I came across Suga’s music in 2017. BTS’s popularity was skyrocketing, but his solo music stood out to me the most. I’ve gained inspiration through his personal anecdotes about the toxic music industry and mental health, which spoke volumes to my own values. An example of this can be seen on his song “AMYGDALA,” which is named after the part of the brain that helps process unpleasant memories and trigger responses. “AMYGDALA” is an emotional track that references what he has experienced growing up. Throughout the song, he’s begging his amygdala to forget his past troubling memories. He looks back on his parents’ medical conditions and his own shoulder injury from an accident. After reflecting on his past experiences, he’s still able to move forward, rapping:
What didn’t kill me only made me stronger
And I begin to bloom like a lotus flower once again
“AMYGDALA” is part of D-DAY, an album that has taken me on an emotional roller coaster. When I heard that he was going on tour, I knew that I needed to hear this album live.
I like to joke with my friends that his first tour stop on Long Island was meant solely for us. The ticketing experience was so stressful that it caused me to pick up extra shifts at work and even open my first credit card. While trying to secure tickets, I had four separate devices on my desk, each with a different Ticketmaster account open and ready to join the queue. Once the ticketing process opened, the 2000+ queue number was displayed on all four of my screens and the number didn’t budge for about 10 minutes. The website crashed due to the overwhelming demand, as the venues were much smaller in comparison to the previous stadium tours BTS had done.
Once the website was back online, it was finally time to pick out tickets. I added the first ticket that popped up on the list, nervous that my opportunity to see him live would disappear. Each floor VIP ticket was around $600 and seated tickets ranged from various lower prices. My shaking hands struggled to put the credit card details in, but, luckily, after the second attempt, they were mine. Out of his 25 shows, I was able to secure tickets to four different dates: two VIP tickets at UBS Arena, one seated ticket at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, and one seated ticket at the Oakland Arena in California.
People camped for about three days outside UBS Arena ahead of the first show since there were no assigned spots for floor seats. My sweatshirt did a horrible job of protecting me from the cold weather that accompanied my friends and I outside of the venue at four in the morning. The lack of sleep was starting to irritate me as the line continued to grow throughout the morning of the first show. As it became closer to the time to check in for VIP, my ears rang from the arguments that started to form over spots in line. Fans who had camped for days quarreled with ones who had only arrived the morning of as they tried to figure out which of the two lines to honor.
This caused the two lines to jumble together into one out of panic, which led to my spot in line to go from 80 to 462. Fans and security worked together to navigate the line throughout the check-in process, which took about two hours. While this situation was frustrating, it didn’t matter to me — I was finally able to see Suga live. The first concert was extremely energetic and the crowd at some moments felt like a mosh pit because of all the jumping and pushing. Besides having to pull myself out of the crowd for the second show, experiencing these shows with my friends was very memorable.
The encounters I had throughout my own mini tour will stick with me for the rest of my life. From sleeping on a random Airbnb couch in between the first two shows to looking at my friends in shock when the set list was being revealed throughout the first night, each show brought new, unforgettable memories, especially at the Prudential Center show when I forgot to bring an umbrella and was soaked by the time I entered the arena.
The show in Oakland was the farthest one from my home on Long Island, but, since it was his last show of the tour, it was my last chance to show my support for an artist that has changed my life. On the day of the concert, I took the LIRR to JFK airport at midnight to board a questionably-cheap flight. I traveled for a total of seven hours to California, with a baby that kept smacking me in between crying sessions. In fact, I was on the verge of a crying session myself, when the in-flight entertainment kept powering down and the cold air made the plane feel like an ice box. When I finally stepped outside the airport, I immediately missed the frigid airplane. The California heat was unbearable — the scorching sun made my shoulders bright red.
Three hours later, my friend Jane, who came with me to the UBS Arena show, whom I had only hung out with for the second time ever, found me in a Jack in the Box restaurant, where I was eating stale french fries and sipping a flat soda. Nobody else was eating in the restaurant besides me, and the employees were starting to give me weird looks, presumably about the length of my stay. Since I forgot to pack sunscreen, Jane let me borrow the small facial stick they had. I heavily layered it onto my face and shoulders. When it was time to line up for the concert, I rushed across the street to the venue. I felt like a vampire — allergic to the sun and covering my already burnt body with a jacket.
The line to get into the venue looped throughout the parking lot and was filled with ecstatic fans who passed out freebies that consisted of bracelets, stickers of Suga, and shots of whisky. Still being under the legal age to drink at the time, I passed on the shot and was teased by the ongoing joke that I’m a “minor” by Jane. This high energy continued into the concert venue as people shouted lyrics at the top of their lungs, right up until Suga stepped off the stage.
Throughout the concert, the custom stage resulted in nine square hanging panels that were lifted to the ceiling one by one until there was nothing left besides his piano and other props from under the stage. By the end of the show, he was performing his final songs on the ground. He was in direct eyeline with the crowd and connected with each and every person. Since being partnered with Samsung, throughout the tour, Suga would take fans’ Samsung phones and record videos on them, teasing the concertgoers who had iPhones. His playful behavior with the crowd caused fans to make fake Samsung cases. Someone even brought a flip phone for him to pick from the crowd and take videos on. The experience felt personal, he walked around interacting with fans the whole night. He played songs that spanned his entire discography, many of which had never been performed live before. The realization hit me that this was worth every penny. My eyes overflowed with tears and fans shouted each lyric as loud as they could. Each song on the set list has a special place in my heart and I would do anything to hear it live again.
I may have traveled across the country, but this was only the beginning of my high-strung night. I walked out of the venue with nowhere to stay. I hadn’t booked a hotel and my flight was scheduled to leave at five in the morning the next day. I caught up with Jane outside the venue as we scarfed down overpriced hotdogs. We wandered the parking lot questioning if it was worth it for me to pay for an expensive $150 Uber back to San Francisco International Airport.
Since I am extremely cheap, for three hours, I traveled from Oakland to San Francisco through the subway system. I was overcharged by $10, and a man with a thick Irish accent yelled at me for not understanding the payment system.
By the time the train arrived at my destination, the airport was empty and the only noise that could be heard was my feet walking across the floor. Nothing was open, but an unforgettable Delta flight attendant found a small bit of empathy in her heart, as she emptied the snack cabinet at the gate to make sure that I wasn’t starving for the rest of the night.
This was the longest night of my life. Time moved extremely slow and my makeshift bed — a few airport seats — was so uncomfortable that I chose to sit on the cold, old carpet instead, with my skin full of goosebumps, until 5 a.m.
When I finally boarded the plane, I instantly fell asleep. I woke up as the plane was landing back at JFK. By the time I arrived home, the smell of lunch invaded my senses. I hadn’t had a proper meal since I left. My mother had her famous lasagna plated at the table and it was as if I just came back from a sleepover at a friend’s house nearby. We all sat around the table and talked about my eventful night and, afterwards, my mom called my other family members to tell them that I am truly crazy.
Since finding BTS in 2017, I have made so many memories and friend groups that I didn’t even hesitate at the chance to book that flight to California. Now, I can tell a fun story that keeps me waiting for the next time I can jump on a flight for a life-changing 24 hours, if that’s where life takes me.
I am only one story among many that reflects how dedicated a fan can be. Finding an artist that brings you joy allows you to find a community of other fans to share your love for the music. While some people may see this as a stressful experience, all these memories make me look back and want to do it all over again.