How this Washington Heights venue is bringing K-pop culture and Black and Brown communities together

Photo by Amanda Moses

The iconic United Palace Theater is set to play host to its first K-Pop band, OnlyOneOf, as they embark on their world tour, “Things I Can’t Say Love,” fusing the worlds of K-pop and Latino culture in the Big Apple in the process and bringing a profound significance to fans who say they often miss out on the thing they love the most in their own backyard.

Music and heritage often go hand-in-hand, a way for people to pass their culture down through the generations and to share their history with strangers. So, when two unique traditions meet it becomes a momentous moment in time for those it represents. In 2021, renowned actor, writer, and philanthropist Lin-Manuel Miranda worked with executives of the United Place Theater—located at 4140 Broadway—to resurrect the 1930’s vaudeville movie house Now the Byzantine-Art Deco designed architecture shines at the center of Washington Heights, a predominately Latin community, providing a global stage.

The venue’s slogan, “The place where spirituality, art, entertainment and community unite,”  aptly encapsulates its latest guests: South Korean group OnlyOneOf.  For fans of the boy band, affectionately called lyOns, the group performing in Washington Heights creates a bridge between Asian and Hispanic communities.

Yemi Abayomi holds up OnlyOneOf’s latest albums in anticipation of their April concert at the United Palace.Photo by Amanda Moses

“By showcasing iconic South Korean groups like OnlyOneOf, the United Palace continues its legacy of providing uplifting and transformative cultural experiences for audiences from all backgrounds. This convergence of cultures not only enriches the local community but also fosters connections and understanding on a global scale,” CEO Mike Fitelson told amNewYork Metro. 

“As OnlyOneOf takes the stage at the United Palace, they not only showcase their innovative music style but also serve as ambassadors of Korean culture, bridging continents and bringing people together through the universal language of music. In this way, the United Palace’s commitment to multiculturalism reaffirms its role as a beacon of unity, beauty, and creativity in the heart of New York City,” Fitelson added. 

This sentiment rings true for Veronica Luz who resides in Inwood, and often passes by the neon lights of the United Palace Theater while riding the bus home. For the 25-year-old Dominican, the venue seems to be a sparklingly jewel that is designed to serve her. While many entertainment venues centered in Manhattan, leave the dense Latin community behind, the United Palace is made for her.

“It feels special in a way because there are always bands performing at venues like the Prudential Center or all the way in the tourist heart of Manhattan [Times Square,] so it’s special and different for them to choose a Latin community,” Luz said.

As a Dominican and K-Pop fan, having the two distinct communities bridged in her neighborhood is extremely significant for Luz and other lyOns like her, giving them cultural pride. Luz hopes that more artists and venues work to create a bridge between cultures like OnlyOneOf and the United Palace. 

Photo by Amanda Moses

“I hope that they can welcome the community more because the Hispanic community has a big part in K-Pop with our flavors, our culture, and our music, the rhythm, the dance,” Luz said.  

The world tour, presented by K-Pop promotion and production company Studio PAV, will take the South Korean group from Far East Asia to Latin America and then North America—hitting Vancouver, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Atlanta, San Juan, Orlando, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles—culminating in Southeast Asia and Europe in the summer.  

OnlyOneOf’s performance at the United Palace goes beyond ethnic representation for Jules Hawkins, 31, who shared that she is excited to see the band on April 21. She credits the group for their more mature aesthetic and their LGBTQ+ inclusion, which is something not many South Korean groups showcase openly. 

“They have LGBTQ undertones to them, especially with how they’re so open with each other in the music videos. It just feels like they’re playing alongside a really healthy space for LGBTQ people. Which is why I like them, why I was drawn to them,” Hawkins said. 

Photo by Amanda Moses

Yemi Abayomi agrees with Hawkins, that the band’s ability to maturely present music involving LGBTQ+ themes as well as the discussion of sex is what allows OnlyOneOf to be a step above the rest. Additionally, the band’s sincerity in both their music and as individuals is what makes Abayomi a proud lyOn. 

“I feel like K-pop has always been my bridge because I can understand and relate to the stories like many other Africans, Asians, and Hispanics,” Abayomi said.

OnlyOneOf is not the only K-Pop band performing at the United Palace this spring, CIX will make a stop at the iconic theater on May 12 for their 0 or 1 North American tour.