Despite snags, Viral Fest Asia 2017 promotes talent from across continent


Staging an outdoor festival during rainy season – with guests flying in from across an entire continent – is a logistical conundrum inevitably fraught with difficulty.  Staging one that also extols the virtues of technology, and how fledgling artists can bypass record labels to build considerable online audiences, raises the stakes even more for a self-professed “digital music festival.”

Such obstacles faced the second edition of Viral Fest Asia, moving from last year’s debut in Bali to its sophomore effort in Bangkok from June 2-3 at SHOW DC.  The growing pains were evident.  For starters, the hour-by-hour performance schedule could only be found on a dedicated mobile app, completely disconnected from the event’s social media networks, website and promotional handouts.  Some artist biographies were non-existent across all platforms, resulting in a missed opportunity to promote some up-and-coming Asian talent.

Then there was that pesky word in the title of the event.  A lineup of artists from Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries can only go so far with stars that have gone viral in their respective domestic markets, but may not be well-known outside of them.  This meant having to pad the lineup with more established acts such as EXILE THE SECOND, Flower, AKB48 (in this case, just six members of Team 8), and – ironically, given what happened on the event’s second day – Rain.  (Regarding the Korean superstar, who also officially opened his After the Rain brunch spot on Saturday at SHOW DC, a bit of spin was necessary for the man who twice topped the TIME Magazine 100 [most influential people] poll.  His official bio stated that his latest single, “The Best Present,” received “6 million views in his YouTube Channel.”  Compare that to Psy, who performed at SHOW DC for an unrelated event in April and is the textbook definition of a Korean artist gone viral, for, well, every one of his music videos starting from “Gangnam Style.”  Just last week, YouTube awarded him a Diamond Creator Award for passing 10 million subscribers on his channel.)

Preceded by a technology-focused, executive-filled forum aimed at a completely different target audience, the two-day Viral Fest Asia featured artists in consecutive sets lasting no longer than 20 minutes apiece.  It was a noble attempt to introduce as many talented Asian artists as possible to new audiences, even if it was a bit quizzical for some of the bigger stars to stand onstage for equal or shorter periods of time than their less experienced colleagues.  For the most part, it worked, although Saturday saw much larger crowds than Friday.  Popular YouTubers such as Bie the Ska from Thailand and Saint from Taiwan took equal pride of place alongside the aforementioned acts that have already conquered Asia.

But it was on the more well-attended day that Mother Nature chose to interfere with the outdoor event.  The six-woman J-pop group Flower decided to gamely brave their dance routines at the foot of the runway in the pouring rain at the end of a mere two-song set, seemingly by design rather than circumstance.  Inexplicably, the lights on the runway were turned off, and as the artists turned and walked back to the main stage, two members failed to realize that the platform had narrowed.  They fell off the elevated stage to a chorus of gasps and screams.

This halted the concert for more than an hour as thunder struck and the grounds surrounding the stage began to flood.  The show later went on as scheduled, with the exception of popular Filipino dancer siblings Ranz, 20, and Niana, 11, whose performance was canceled, a “decision [that] was made with consideration of their ages,” stated the organizers on the official Viral Fest Asia Facebook page.  (It should be noted that all but three performers in AKB48’s full 47-member Team 8 roster are under the age of 21.  Their six-woman lineup went onstage as scheduled.)

The developments overshadowed some otherwise stellar performances by a cheerful Suran, a South Korean R&B singer who just released her first mini album a day before Viral Fest Asia; she performed three of her five songs on the EP.  Rain overcame a slippery stage, showing some of his signature dance moves in a 20-minute set.  Popular Thai rock band Slot Machine, who are preparing for their largest concert yet at Impact Arena in Bangkok on Aug. 26, used the water to their advantage, kicking up drops with their heels during guitar riffs.

Photos and Videos: Viral Fest Asia 2017
all photos and videos by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine

Flower (Japan)

Slot Machine (สล็อต แมชชีน) (Thailand)

Suran (수란) (South Korea)

Burin Boonsuvit (Thailand)

Hugo (Thailand)