The first ever Asia Pop Fest was held at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl last night and stating it as a runaway success would be an understatement. A varied and diverse lineup included Singapore singer-songwriter Charlie Lim, Singapore Chinese pop star Nathan Hartono, Japanese animated VOCALOID IA and K-Pop star Ailee

Held by the Arts Centre Melbourne and the City of Melbourne to mark the start of the calendar year for university students and welcome this year’s international students, a huge crowd turned out to witness Melbourne’s first ever Asian music festival. Free entry for all students and a small charge for the rest made Asia Pop Fest one of the most affordable music festivals in Australia. And boy did the artist lineup deliver as well!

Singapore artist Charlie Lim kicked off the live music festivities with a solo set. Fun fact – Charlie actually attended senior high school and university in Melbourne – so technically he can be considered a local artist as well. From acoustic guitar to solo on grand piano, Charlie Lim exudes deep emotions. As one of the best undiscovered talents from Singapore, the soulful yet restrained Charlie Lim had the crowd in the palm of his hands with “You Are My Everything”, as the crowd joined in a light stick wave. There was a cute moment too with Charlie adding in a cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” in his set. As a recently signed artist to Universal Music we can’t wait to see what is in store for Charlie Lim.

Singapore-Chinese music heart throb Nathan Hartono was the next artist to appear and he mixed his set with a combination of Chinese (Mandarin) and English songs. As the runner up to popular China music battle program Sing! China, this was the artist many Chinese students wanted to see. Nathan covered Singapore superstar Stephanie Sun’s song during the set that had many in the audience singing along. A local Melbourne band was formed just for his set tonight, which goes to show language is no barrier. The screams lifted when Nathan added bits of James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” into the set. Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” was also covered which added some nice Aussie flabour. Nathan tried his hand on Aussie accents (very cute) and he also spoke about his time on Sing! China. His charisma and good looks along with slick musicianship made Nathan a crowd favourite.

Japanese VOCALOID IA brought spectacular animation mixed with electronic J-Pop, anime and live dancers all in one set. If you haven’t seen a VOCALOID perform before you were in for a treat. You are basically watching an animated performer singing – in a very good way. IA rocked the house with a metal sound track reminiscent of BABYMETAL. IA is every anime fan’s dream performer – long pink hair, Japanese Lotita looks and high pitch frenetic lyrics. Her movement is very lifelike – mimicking the classic modern day Jpop artists. Bright, loud and fast – highly visualised with a hint of Harijuku. Would virtual artists like IA take off in Australia? Well we do have Gorillaz as a good guide to future success.

K-Pop diva Ailee was the headline performer and star of Asia Pop Fest. Originally from New Jersey, Ailee’s great strength apart from her powerful vocals is the way she can interact and converse with an English speaking audience. Ailee has spunk and knows how to work a stage. She was truely shocked with the reception she received from Asia Pop Fest. All in the crowd rose to their feet for Ailee’s first song “U&I” right up to the last song “I Will Show You”. Ailee was overwhelmed with the love given by the Melbourne crowd telling them that this turn out was double the size of her last concert in Perth. A nine song setlist of her classics and recent hits such as ‘Reminiscing’ and the huge hit from the dram Goblin ‘I Will Go To You Like The First Snow’ showed the emotional and mature Ailee of today. Highlight was the cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ which made hairs stand on the back of your neck – its that good.

We also got to see Ailee’s humour with these interactions with the audience “Can I come to your place for dinner tomorrow?” and “Got to see me some Kangaroos and Koalas tomorrow!”

Ailee’s powerhouse vocals was on song tonight at Asia Pop Fest and was a great bookend to an incredible day. She noted that the Melbourne crowd is the best she’s ever had and the next country will have a lot to live up to. I think this festival will be the benchmark and will be looked back on in years to come as the moment that Asian pop music made its mark in Melbourne.

Ailee Setlist
Mind Your Own Business
I Will Go to You Like The First Snow (OST from Goblin)
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston cover
No No No (with games with 5 boys from audience)
Don’t Touch Me
I Will Show You

Photos by Anthony Smith