Entertainment

‘BTS Army’ invades Hamilton for K-pop band’s three sold-out shows

Shantell Androschuk is a 40-year-old former teacher who lives on a 10-acre farm with her four children, six horses, two donkeys, six dogs and six cats near the central Alberta hamlet of Evansburg, population 795.

She is also a K-pop fanatic.

As a matter of fact, she loves Korean pop music so much, she plans to move her family to Seoul next year and take up a job teaching English.

Androschuk and her 13-year-old daughter Cheridynn will be among the thousands of K-pop fans flocking to Hamilton this week for three sold-out concerts — Thursday, Saturday and Sunday — at FirstOntario Centre by the South Korean boyband sensation called BTS.

“The reason I support my kids being hardcore with K-pop is because it’s a higher standard,” says Androschuk, who has tickets to Sunday’s show. “It’s not vulgar, it’s not riddled with curse words. The celebrities themselves have to maintain a certain standard of morality. I love that.

“They’re also a bunch of fun, good-looking people doing fun songs.”

BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, are a seven-member band formed in 2013 in Seoul by K-pop talent company Big Hit Entertainment.

The group broke into the American charts in 2017 with “Love Yourself: Her.” Since then, videos like “DNA” and “Mic Drop” have scored hundreds of millions of hits on YouTube.

The three Hamilton shows are the only Canadian dates on BTS’s first North American tour and they’re drawing fans — they call themselves the “BTS Army” — from across the continent, many spending thousands of dollars each on tickets, flights, hotels, meals and merchandise. Tourism Hamilton confirmed that all of the city’s hotel rooms are booked solid.

Androschuk and her daughter are staying four nights at the Sheraton in downtown Hamilton, paying premium rates.

“Every Airbnb was booked, even in the neighbouring towns,” Androschuk said.

Kristine Rosendahl and her 17-year-old daughter Bianca are coming to Hamilton from their home in West Palm Beach, Fla. Kristine said she used three computers to score tickets online when they went on sale in May.

Tickets sold out for the U.S. dates in minutes, but because Hamilton has three shows, its tickets, about 12,000 for each, were on the market for a little more than an hour.

“The next thing I know, we are not going to see them in Chicago or Texas or New Jersey, but rather in your beautiful city,” said Kristine, who bought the tickets as a birthday present for Bianca.

Bianca says she’s looking forward to meeting other members of the BTS Army when she arrives in Hamilton on Thursday.

“BTS promotes love and compassion for everyone,” said Bianca in an interview from her Florida home. “They want us all to enjoy BTS and embrace ourselves, love ourselves, appreciate those around us and be kind to everyone. BTS Army is one of the most kind and family-oriented fandoms out there.”

The Rosendahls were lucky. They were able to purchase the tickets at the official price, which ranged from $80 to $325. Many fans had to resort to resale sites like StubHub for tickets.

StubHub communications manager Cameron Papp says the three BTS shows are the hottest tickets in Canada, more so than Elton John, Paul McCartney and Drake.

Over the past few months, average BTS resale prices on StubHub have been $258 — with Elton John tickets going for an average of $255, McCartney averaging $243 and Drake at $160. As of Tuesday, there were still be about 600 BTS tickets available on StubHub.

Although StubHub would not reveal the total number of Hamilton BTS tickets sold on its site, Papp said only 39 per cent were purchased in Ontario, with 42 per cent going to American buyers, another two per cent sold in South Korea and one per cent in Japan.

The BTS concerts represent the biggest series of shows put on at FirstOntario Centre since Garth Brooks performed five there in March 2016, selling more than 54,000 tickets in one day.

In true boy band tradition, each member of the group — V, J-Hope, RM, Jin, Jungkook, Jimin and Suga — has his own distinct personality and gets his own solo showcase during their highly choreographed shows.

Most of the songs are sung in the Korean language with just enough English added to entice the American market.

“There’s English in almost every song, just not much of it,” Androschuk explains. “You can turn on the closed captioning on YouTube, then when you watch the videos it will show you what the song is about.”

Graham Rockingham is the Hamilton Spectator’s music editor. Email: [email protected]