The inaugural NOW PLAYING JAPAN LIVE Vol. 1 event took place March 19 at Tokyo Zepp DiverCity, featuring many acts representing current and future music trends in Japan.
Sponsored by Billboard Japan and Space Shower TV with the support of six major streaming services — Apple Music, AWA, Google Play Music, KKBOX, LINE MUSIC and Recochoku Best — the NOW PLAYING JAPAN project aims to create new music trends together with listeners.
Actor Yudai Chiba was the host for the evening, his first time hosting a major music event. The popular young star known for his love of music appeared to be a bit nervous at times, but charmed the crowd with his disarming smile and friendly demeanor.
First up was BiSH, the “punk band with no instruments.” The sextet dressed in all black opened their set with the furious “GiANT KiLLERS,” immediately hyping up the audience with their aggressive energy. The girls blasted through their six-song set, keeping the crowd engaged with their charged performance, encouraging audience members to sing along to such numbers as “AM I FRENZY” and “SMACK baby SMACK.” By the time they wrapped up with “BiSH: Hoshi Ga Kagayaku Yoru Ni,” the group had visibly wowed the crowd and definitely gained a few more fans.
Up next was Miracle Vell Magic, the winner of the STARTERS MATCH in which up-and-coming artists competed to become the most-streamed artist on the aforementioned streaming services. The multitalented solo artist hailed as the next-generation girls’ icon opened her set with “Ways to Be Wicked,” displaying a commanding stage presence with four male backup dancers, probably a surprise for those familiar with the charming pop numbers that had boosted her to this stage. But she changed into a fittingly girly outfit with a red top and frilly pink skirt for her next song “G-I-R-L” and spoke to the crowd about her love for all things Disney before closing her set with “Viva La Bloom.”
Then THE ORAL CIGARETTES dragged the entire venue into their dark, twisted brand of rock, opening their set with “Kantan Na Koto.” The four-member alternative band drove the crowd into a frenzy with such numbers as “Catch Me” and “Kyoran Hey Kids!!” For their closing number, they chose “BLACK MEMORY,” the theme song of the movie Ajin: Demi-Human, in which the host Chiba had appeared last year. Frontman Takuya Yamanaka shouted, “Hey Chiba! What do you think?” and hopped off the stage into the crowd, triggering waves of crowd surfers rolling over the heads of the moshing audience.
Headlining the event were Japanese hip-hop pioneers KICK THE CAN CREW. The trio consisting of Kreva, MCU and Little were greeted with massive cheers when the intro to their song “Sen Percent” from last year ushered them onstage. KICK THE CAN CREW had disbanded in 2004 but reunited last year coinciding with the 20th anniversary of their debut, and despite their hiatus as a group, the veteran members showed impeccable teamwork throughout their anticipated six-song set.
The experienced MCs ran from one end of the stage to the other, constantly maintaining eye contact with audience members to deliver their verses. Treating the crowd to a string of hits such as “Marche,” “sayonara, sayonara” and “Unbalance,” by the end of the evening, they had won over the entire venue with their positive pop-rap sound.