On Nov. 3, six venues in Tokyo — Spotify O-EAST, Spotify O-WEST, Spotify O-nest, Shibuya duo MUSIC EXCHANGE, club asia, and Shibuya 7th FLOOR — hosted BiKN shibuya 2023, a multi-site event that brought together high-profile artists from across Asia.
BiKN shibuya is a new event, held for the first time this year. It featured performances by the Taiwanese guitar-centered band Sunset Rollercoaster, which truly shined in this year’s Coachella and Summer Sonic, Korea’s Silica Gel, Malaysia’s babychair, ena mori from the Philippines, and more. Japanese artists included Ai Higuchi, DYGL, She Her Her Hers, The fin., and other artists who have already received effusive praise overseas. All in all, 35 artists performed at the event.
The opener at Shibuya duo MUSIC EXCHANGE was Japanese rock band DYGL. Vocalist and guitarist Akiyama kicked off the show with “Good morning. We’re DYGL!” and launched into “Waves.” The gentle, warm sound of the band immediately rang through the venue. DYGL had just finished its Asian tour in October, playing in Taiwan, China, and other locations, and this was the first time it had played in Japan since returning.
They then played their newest song, “Acervation,” which was released on October 11, and followed it with four new songs in a row, “New Song,” “Evil,” “Ain’t Nothing,” and “Shadow,” captivating the audience in both mind and body. “We’re so glad to be able to play here in BiKN today,” said the singer before belting out the closing song, “All I Want.” The band was a great top batter, leaving the whole audience feeling satisfied as they left the stage.
At 2:20 p.m., Japanese artist Cody Lee took the stage at Spotify O-EAST. Their set began with the beautiful but wistful arpeggio of “Dancing Lights.” The entire audience, from venue wall to venue wall, swayed to the cozy soundscape. The band then played the danceable “Tootles” and the funky “Aliens and Sweltering Nights.” The crowd continued to heat up. Their diverse set kept going with “Sayonara,” a heartrending song with a retro feel, and the powerful “Wo Ai Ni” and “Mong Mong.” They mentioned the band Sorry Youth, who their set overlapped with, and talked about their love for Taiwan before launching into “See You at Night Market,” a song they wrote in a Taiwanese night market. The slow pace of the song, which had a particularly Chinese feel, was exquisite.
Vocalist and guitarist Takahashi talked again about how unfortunate the overlapping timetable was, and then the band began playing a cover of the Sorry Youth song “Sorry No Youth.” Towards the end of the song, members of Sorry Youth, who had finished their own set, joined Cody Lee on stage as guests in a special collaboration, bringing to song to an exciting climax. The last song of the set was the punk-inspired “When I was cityboy.” The band showed the primal urgency behind their music as they brought the genre-spanning set to its end.
In the middle stretch of the event, ena mori, an artist with Filipino and Japanese roots, was joined by keyboardist Tim and drummer Cairo in club asia. This Japanese performance was ena mori’s first set with a full band. She started with “VIVID,” an energetic, danceable tune, to the cheers and applause of the audience. From the very start, there was power in her voice, which she occasionally accompanied with tambourine. Her cute pop performance immediately captivated everyone in the crowd. As the audience grew larger and larger, she performed killer tunes like the party anthems “KING OF THE NIGHT” and “TALK TALK.” As the band ratcheted the excitement up with its powerful grooves, the voltage in the air of club asia reached its peak.
She then performed “A HIGHER PLACE,” a song about how her experiences kept from getting up her expectations, and then “SOS,” which brought out rounds of applause. During the show, ena mori talked about how playing live in Japan had been something she had dreamed about since her teens, having lived in the Philippines since first going there at the age of 15 as an exchange student. She performed “Ichigo Milk,” a collaboration with Tomggg, and “WHITE ROOM,” before finishing off with “RUNAWAY HOLIDAY!” It was an unparalleled performance, like the physical embodiment of music itself. She left the audience enthralled as she exited the stage.
At 7:10 p.m., Korea’s Silica Gel took to the stage as the finishing act at duo MUSIC EXCHANGE. It was the band’s first time to play in Japan in five years. The set began with “Sister,” which painted a fantastic soundscape with its synth highlights and rough undertones. Most of the set’s songs were from Machine Boy, which the band released earlier this year. The intro to “NO PAIN” brought out huge cheers from the audience, and then “Budland” showed off the band members’ emotional playing and staging. The heavy groove of “Realize” pumped the venue full of energy. In “Tik Tak Tok,” a funky, danceable rhythm intertwined with sharp guitar lines. The ensemble reached a fever pitch, creating an overwhelming spectacle.
The band spoke to the audience in Japanese and English, sharing their joy at playing in Japan for the first time in such a long while, a sentiment which was palpable to the audience. The next block showed off the band’s cooler side, with “Mercurial” and “Desert Eagle.” “We’ll be coming back to Japan, so make sure to come see us again!” With that, the show reached its grand finale as the band began its last song, the up-tempo “Everybody Does,” which was one of the band’s first numbers. The audience could not contain its excitement, though, so the band immediately returned to the stage for an encore. They played the bittersweet “9,” an unplanned addition to the set, as their true final song, bringing an end to their first Japanese performance in years.
At Spotify O-EAST, the headliner of the entire BiKN shibuya 2023 event was Sunset Rollercoaster. This guitar-centered band from Taiwan also played at this year’s Coachella and SUMMER SONIC. For the assembled crowd, packing the entire venue from the stage to the back, the band chose to open with “Burgundy Red.” The languid, nostalgic song, evocative of 70s pop, had the audience swaying to and fro. Somewhat surrealistic visuals played on the screen, complementing the song.
After speaking to the audience for a moment, the band played four songs in a row: “Summum Bonum,” “New Drug,” “Teahouse,” and “Vanilla.” After each song ended, the venue rang with applause and cheers. The urban, mellow sound was perfectly balanced, with its winding bass line and superb sax and synths, which was beautiful, groovy, and simply amazing. Then the band started heating up its performance with timeless, polished pop like the anthems “My Jinji” and “Greedy,” before finishing with “Candlelight.” The venue filled with warm applause, and the band encored with “I Know You Know I Love You.” Vocalist and guitarist Tseng Kuo-Hung beamed at the audience, exclaiming with gratitude, “I love you, Tokyo! Thank you so much!” The band members lined up at the front of the stage and bowed, and the curtains closed to deafening applause.
—This article by Haruki Saito and Rumi Miyamoto first appeared on Billboard Japan