For the 2nd year in a row, J-Pop Summit Festival 2014 presented J-Pop Live at Union Square last Sunday, July 20 from 6:30 – 8:30pm. Following the successful turnout of last year’s Union Square Live concert with headliner Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, this year’s line-up included both new and familiar faces: singer and Harajuku model Una, human beatbox Daichi, special presentation from Merry Project initiative, idol girl group Tokyo Girls’ Style, ex-AKB48 singer and fashion icon Tomomi Itano, and famous rock vocalist and anime darling May’n. Watching all of them performed on the same stage at San Francisco downtown’s Union Square stage was such a rare experience. I certainly cannot imagine myself securing tickets to a concert of Tomomi or May’n in Japan, and here we were watching them performing….WHAT.
J-Pop Live at Union Square Performers
Anyway, naturally we took quite a few pictures of each acts from J-Pop Live at Union Square. For your convenience so you don’t get a blister on your thumb due to excessive scrolling, you can click on any of the 6 images below to see pictures of your chosen idol(s). Treat the six pictures below as anchor links that go to each performer’s group of photos, and you can click on the “Back to List of J-Pop Live at Union Square performers” link at the bottom of each photo groupings to go back to these anchor links. Have fun browsing pictures!
First off, let me say I LOVE Una’s sense of fashion. Mixing retro oversized polka-dot shirt and wide black pants with oversized colorful obi and neon wig was super cool. Those shoes were super fly as heck, as well. She’s a pretty girl honing her talents, and she can be really big in the future. Out of her three songs, I love her first one “Lonely Flower” the most. Regardless, the following “Juicy Juicy” and “Boom Boom Boom” showed off her skills in working the stage and warming up the audience.
Welcome back Daichi! It’s good to have him performing at Union Square two years in a row, and this super talented human beatbox certainly knows how to entertain the audience. He performed a mix of j-pop songs, including the always popular anime theme from Neon Genesis Evangelion “Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE”. He also did Pharell’s “Happy” after cracking a joke about him wearing a happi coat.
“Smile” Project by Merry Project
Koji Mizutani from Merry Project was next, sharing his “Smile” umbrella project to bring positive awareness to Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Instead of associating Fukushima with tragedy, he wants to spread a positive message of “One world, one peace, one smile.” With the help of about 30 volunteers recruited from audience members, Mizutani-san revealed smiling children’s faces printed on each umbrellas. You can learn more about Merry Project here.
Tokyo Girls’ Style
The sunflower props that VIP audience members were sporting from the beginning of the concert was clearly in preparation for welcoming Tokyo Girls’ Style (you might be familiar with the crowdfunding campaign for producing those sunflower props). From the moment Ayano Konishi, Miyu Yamabe, Hitomi Arai, Yuri Nakae, and Mei Shyoji walked to their respective positions on stage, the crowd went wild, screaming their devotions to these girls aged 16 – 18 years old. Although they’re young, their sound is more mature. They launched right away to “Himawari no Hoshikuzu (English version)” to the delight of their fans, followed by “Kodou no Himitsu”, “Limited Addiction”, “Onnaji Kimochi”, and an encore of “Himawari no Hoshikuzu (English version)”. Looking at the high level of enthusiasm the audience poured into dancing and singing to Tokyo Girls’ Style’s songs, the girls need to plan a US tour soon!
When Tomomi was about to come into view, the smog machine at the center of the stage woke up from its hibernation. Tomomi’s fans went wild…guys screaming “TOMOMI!!!!!” with hand-made signs made their presence known. And when she appeared, well…you could guess what happened. She’s an idol and she knows it. Very well. With her cute face, devilish smile, and killer boots, she performed “Crush”, “Dear J”, and “Girls Do”. Her fans (some came all the way from New York!) chanted “Swag! Swag! Swag!” trying to get her to do more songs, alas her appearance on stage was too short. She disappeared shortly afterwards, making her way backstage only to re-emerge again the next morning at Japantown before going back to Japan to begin her nationwide tour.
Some residue of disappointment over Tomomi’s too-brief presence lingered at the beginning of May’n appearance. Steve-san (the MC) said May’n was “only here to talk, not to sing” in order to promote her Dots and Lines tour, which kicked off at San Francisco’s Slims venue the day after. But after chatting briefly with Steve-san, it’s clear that May’n was there to give a taste of what she’s all about. This is May’n, for goodness sake! Anime lovers no doubt know her; she’s HUGE in Japan’s anime world and is sometimes referred to as “a goddess” by her devoted fans.
She’s internationally known for her work in anime series Macross Frontier as the singing voice of Sheryl Nome, the Diva of the Galaxy. And you know divas don’t sing simple songs…May’n sang technically demanding songs with ferocious attack and power that was balanced by her uncanny ability to emote while working the stage. This girl got skills. She sang “In The Air”, “Brain Diver”, and other songs that I did not pay 100% attention to just because I started to realize that I was seeing May’n live. My gosh.
Needless to say, the J-Pop Live at Union Square was a fantastic event. I hope J-Pop Summit Festival continues to bring it back year after year. However, having the concert done in the afternoon (like last year’s) was better IMO…I’d love to know the opinions of audience members who attended both years’ concerts. Regardless, seeing these famous Japanese artists up close was a rather surreal experience, and I hope to have more surreal experiences in the future. Thank you Una, Daichi, Koji Mizutani, Tokyo Girls’ Style, Tomomi Itano, and May’n for performing at San Francisco!
Thank you for reading; until next time,