Hello Asia! Live Review: YouTube FanFest Sydney – Qantas Credit Union, Sydney (11.09.15)

The screams started at 4:30pm for the red carpet and didn’t stop until the end of the two and a half hour 2015 YouTube FanFest, as (mostly pre-teen) fans clamoured for their favourite YouTubers. If you’ve ever wondered what happens when you translate Internet personalities, whose domain is usually the computer screen, into real life, the result is an engaging, interactive experience that is good-natured fun for everybody.

Hosted by Australian YouTube duo, Michael Beveridge and Marty Smiley of ‘YouTube Hits’, there was plenty of (occasionally awkward) banter and even a plug for Google’s new Chromecast streaming device. Their interactions with each of the guests and audience was laidback, friendly and kept the show running smoothly. After an opening set by aspiring DJ Tyde Levi (who also happens to be Troye Sivan’s younger brother), the YouTube FanFest got under way with a bang when llSuperwomanll (Lilly Singh) hit the stage with her crew.

Flanked by rapper Humble The Poet and a whole host of back up dancers, Singh came out spitting rap and oozing panache as she gave fans (Team Super) a rendition of ‘Unicorn Island’. She then made a special rap for the Sydney crowd, originally titled ‘Tim Tams and Kangaroos’. If you’re wondering, yes, it was catchy. She then finished up with ‘#IVIVI’, so named after the Roman numerals of Toronto’s area code. Sign-bearing Team Supers were invited on stage to dance along.

Up next were Adelaide special effects geniuses Racka Racka (brothers Danny and Michael Philippou). Although YouTube and its personalities began with humble home video roots, Racka Racka’s works remind us of the veritable filmmaking and high-octane productions the platform now hosts. Fans were treated to an insightful, exclusive behind-the-scenes look of their epic ‘Marvel VS DC’ video. At only 22, it seems the pair can only go up (and more epic) from here.

Acapella artist Mike Tompkins made an appearance, in collaboration with choreographer extraordinaire Matt Steffanina, for a live performance and dance class. Having followed a largely talk-based segment, it was a smart move to keep up the pace of the concert. After teaching the audience a series of moves, Matt and Mike had the crowd on their feet dancing along to ‘St. Tropez’. Although the dance was fun, it was difficult for a solo acapella and beatboxing performer, whose videos would normally rely on heavy editing and compiled sampling, to be able to show off his full potential when limited to performing only certain parts of the song live.

Beauty guru and face of YouTube Australia Lauren Curtis then took us all back to beauty school, offering easy tips on how to get the best out of our foundation, brows and lashes. #onfleek. She also answered fan questions on how best to achieve a smoky eye look and more, proving that she was as personable and helpful as in her YouTube tutorials.

Singer Kurt Hugo Schneider came on stage to perform a sentimental ‘Where you are’. A sea of smartphone flashlights lit up the arena, as the audience waved their hands. He went on to collaborate with Australian singing sisters Jayesslee (Sonia and Janice Lee), who sang their own original song, ‘Failure in the sky’. It was feel-good, emotional and a reminder of the talent that inhabits the musical side of YouTube.

A highlight of the show was the Slanging Match gameshow segment, featuring Connor Franta and Jenna Marbles as contestants and Natalie Tran as diabolical gameshow host (“If you lose you’ll be deported.”). Tran put them through their paces of Australian terminology, with some amusing results and plenty of help from the screaming audience. All three were enjoying themselves and Tran’s appearance at this year’s FanFest was an excellent way to cap off a very successful nine years of good quality humour and content from her channel, communitychannel.

Rapper Timothy DeLaGhetto then hit the stage with fellow YouTuber and friend, Andrew Garcia. Garcia’s vocals and guitar paired perfectly with DeLaGhetto’s rhymes and a lucky fan was called out onto the stage to have an improvised song written about her. Although perhaps not boasting as huge a fanbase as some of the other guests there on the night, DeLaGhetto was charismatic and humorous, winning over the audience with his disarming authenticity (“This is the first time I’ve had back up dancers!”).

New Australian comedy trio (minus one member) Sketchshe then regaled us with an energetic and very fluoro lip sync of ‘Ice Ice Baby’. They even had their own car, linking back to their original claim to fame of in-the-car squad lip syncing marathons. Having already made an appearance on Ellen, it seems the girls’ star is on the rise!

The screams reached ear-splitting levels (“I LOVE YOU TROYE!”) as the long-awaited Troye Sivan finally came on stage. Fresh off the success of his latest EP, ‘Wild’, it’s no wonder the 20-year-old’s humble personality and elfin good looks have won him fans all over the world, and not least in his home country. Host Marty talked him through the process of making his album and there was a video compilation of figures key to the album’s making, in the style of golden age TV show ‘This Is Your Life’. It was an emotional insight into the guy behind the camera and the fans loved it.

Last but not least, to the delight of all Motavators in the arena, was personality Bethany Mota. At only 19 years old, Mota’s YouTube efforts have allowed her to travel the globe, design and branch out into video content that she never originally would have tried, such as music. Fans could see her achievements in the ‘365 Days with Bethany Mota’ recap, which Bethany didn’t hesitate to iterate was all thanks to her loyal fanbase. She responded to a fan wanting to start her own YouTubing career, saying there was no better way to begin than to be real.

Between a livestream, emoji backdrops and spontaneous Snapchat and Instagram updates, YouTube FanFest was an intersection of the increasingly Internet-based world of entertainment, especially for the younger generation. It was a well-thought out, accessible and interactive experience, a testament to the creativity of the organisers in translating passive Internet engagement into real-life atmosphere. Although massive teleprompters that were in view of the audience made it slightly clumsy at times (with many heads turning to see who the next guest would be) and some YouTubers stiffer than others, they were authentic, relatable and real, and not far off their online personalities. If you want to see how well social media can translate into a concert experience, you don’t have to look much further than YouTube FanFest.