On Friday, April 21, 2023, Infinite Prospects Entertainment launched its inaugural event, WeBRIDGE: Now. New. Next., at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The exhibition and music festival focuses on the growing interest and influence of Asian culture across various scopes of the arts and entertainment and centering the culture through celebration. The views and opinions expressed are those of our individual attendees and not necessarily shared by Kcrush America Magazine.
Choosing to host this experience at Mandalay Bay is a statement of intention on its own. As one of the largest resorts in Las Vegas, the resort is an exclamation of intentional growth for WeBRIDGE. It’s befitting of the various hosts’s ambitions but the Mandalay Mile was still relatively quiet as early as 11:00 a.m. on Day 1 of the event.
For those not acclimated to the area, entering most general areas in Mandalay Bay meant that a long trek with a handful of signs to confirm you’re heading in the right direction awaited you. That aside, the registration area had friendly team members at check in and the process was relatively swift.
Logistically, setting the check-in area in a space that wasn’t behind the main entrance to the exhibit floor would create more anticipation for arriving, versus seeing a little bit of what’s in store before your ticket is in hand. By Day 2, the crowd was noticeably larger and filled with many fans of ENHYPEN in attendance, but all three days saw manageable foot traffic and never felt too crowded or overwhelming.
The expansive floor was divided into several experiences, covering various aspects of Asian influence. From Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to those visiting on a visa from various areas of South Korea, the intention to center the creativity of this community was clear and exciting to see. The exhibition floor was divided into seven areas, providing engaging activities for all types of fans. These were:
- Bg1n (“Begin”), an interactive path at the entrance of the exhibit where life-size cutouts of all the idols scheduled to perform were available
- Boot1k (Merch shop), a space to shop event attire and other Asian-founded merchandise lines
- L4b (“Dance Lab”), a zone where attendees could learn some of the hottest K-pop choreography
- G4mRz (“Gamers”), an arcade lounge with various rhythm and dance games
- RE (“Gallery”), an immersive zone where visual artists created new works of art before attendee’s eyes
- m4Rkt (“Market”), a space to sample new treats for foodies, and
- GRAMMY Museum® Stage, a place to observe artist interviews, panels, and experience hi-touches with select artists
Art & Fashion
The two artistic exhibitions were immediately visible as the gal.RE (gallery) area was one of the largest and most immersive. A line of “smart merchandise” – that’s patented technology with NFC chips embedded in the design/garment for unique features – was available in collaboration with some of the artists onsite, such as SAMBYPEN and Mawz. Likewise, you could watch these artists, including N5bra, create large murals all weekend of their work. This, along with a dedicated D-I-Y arts & crafts stations with all the things needed to decorate free, customizable posters to celebrate the idols performing all weekend were truly memorable compared to other large U.S. events.
Clothiers were available with characters stylized for the expo, such as Los Angeles-based favorites KORELIMITED (a.k.a. KORE) prominently displayed unisex items and exclusives from their collaboration with E-sports team T1 Entertainment. They remained the busiest fashion spot on the floor, as many guests were overheard speaking about their familiarity with the line at other U.S. events.
Food & Fun
No entertainment and culture festival is complete without a foodie moment. The market had sample sizes of most items but might have underestimated the interest attendees would have for food within the exhibition area. Given that dining within the casino area could be pricey, there’s no shock that most of the exhibitors ran out of food before the exhibit closed! Filipino, Japanese, and Korean treats competed for fan’s taste buds from companies like Four4Corner and Boba x Ice Cream.
There were also two prominent album and lightstick retailers, on opposite ends of the exhibit floor, which could not have been a smarter way to handle potential crowds. Mixed within these areas was an arcade where I left my lungs on the Dance Dance Revolution floor, a space to learn parts of choreography, and plenty of comfortable space to chat with newfound friends.
GRAMMY Museum® Stage
The GRAMMY Museum hosted exciting interviews with most every act in attendance as well as hi-touch engagements and panels. On Day 1, the stage immediately requested a moment of silence in honor of the recently departed, ASTRO’s Moonbin. The somber moment set a considerate tone for the idol interviews, as questions about stress management and wellness were asked for most panels. All acts participated in various capacities but it allowed fans to see their faves before the concert, front and center. The first-ever lineup included KANGDANIEL, ONEUS, DREAMCATCHER, Jessi, MONSTA X, CIX, VIVIZ, BE’O, BamBam, and ENHYPEN.
When artist engagements, performances and hi-touches weren’t taking place, thought provoking panels featured conversations between various tastemakers who discussed the cultural impact of not only South Korea but of Asia on entertainment.
There are areas of opportunity for this event but the potential is high. With an estimated 15,000 reported in attendance over the course of the weekend, WeBRIDGE will hopefully be able to return with experiences that place a well-deserved spotlight on the diversity of Asia. I’d personally like to see if they could bring The Last Rockstars, Atarashii Gakko! or Lay Zhang could be future options. Time will tell if it can endure but I’m excited that we were there at the beginning!
Ashley is a content creator, educator, and public speaker. As an authority on the Hallyu phenomenon, she has collaborated on projects and events with various domestic and international companies and brands as a music historian. As the host of An Album a Day, she leads an English-language podcast promoting commentary on South Korean pop music. Learn more about her at https://meetashley.carrd.co/
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