From online fandom to offline craze: YouTube Fan Fest 2016

MUMBAI: Starstruck would be the right word to describe the thousands of fans who came to enjoy the YouTube Fan Fest 2016 which went live on 18 March 2016 at the NSCI in Mumbai. It was nothing short of a big ticket award show or a concert where your favourite rock star makes an appearance, with YouTube Stars setting the red carpet on fire, which was organised for first time in this year. And rightly so! With over millions of subscribers and several contracts to their name, YouTubers like TVF, AIB, Kanan Gill, Superwoman, and Connor Franta are nothing short of celebrities in this digital age.

The Red Carpet

The day was marked with high tension and excitement amongst the audience which took to the streets to show love for favourite YouTubers. Flashing cameras, selfie sticks and screaming fans were a common sight. Hundreds of teens, preteens and twenty somethings were seen flocking the space, trying to get a glimpse or maybe a photo or even get lucky and shake hands with their favourite star. The YouTubers also didn’t lose any chance to shower their fans with attention and clicked several selfies and signed many autographs for them.

Opening with EDM

By the time the fanfare outside settled down, the theatre inside was already packed with the audience, with everyone waiting for the stellar action to begin with EDM king Nucleya’s performance. And what a performance it was! As the familiar beats exploded through the auditorium, people were seen bobbing up and down on their seats, unable to contain their excitement. The sound was well produced, and the technical team made sure there was no jarring at the low base notes. Nucleya played a medley of his top tracks - Street BoyLaung GawachaAkkad Bakkad, and many more, and the familiar dance beats got the audience off their seats. He was soon joined onstage by his rapper Naezy and Abish Mathew who also surprised everyone with his amazing rapping skills. Abish Mathew stayed back on stage after the performance to host the rest of the show.

High on Music

Nucleya paved the way for the folks from the very popular comedy channel East India Company.  Though only three of the seven member group were present at the Fan Fest, they entertained their fans with their familiar comedic flavour while also giving a glimpse of their new property EIC Outrage. The trio was soon joined onstage by musician Kenny Sebastian who ended up teaching fans how to do an English and Hindi fusion song in a hilarious way. Sebastian took dibs at artists who took old Hindi songs and added English lyrics to them. Was he hinting at popular YouTube star from the UK, Arjun, who was also performing at the Fan Fest? Arjun is known for his cover renditions of Hindi songs, sung with English lyrics.

The next big act to take the stage by storm was Indian Jam Project, which is famous for taking popular theme songs and giving them an Indian classical rendering. Their powerful music and vocals easily won everyone’s heart. IJM and a few more musical acts set the stage for the super stars of the night, All India Bakchod aka AIB, who brought in their flavour of comedy live on stage. The four thoroughly entertained the audience which only stopped screaming and laughing to hear the jokes. Their short act left everyone wanting for more.

Fantastic Franta

The screams soon multiplied as international YouTube star Connor Franta was introduced on stage. Emotions were high amongst the crowd as several diehard fans had tears in their eyes at the sight of Connor. As if that wasn’t enough, a few more millions of views and subscribers were added to the stage when Kanan Gill and Biswa joined him. The duo acted as temporary emcees for the session and was tasked with organising an interactive round with Connor and his fans from the crowd. A quick snappy Q and A got the crowd guessing, from Conor’s first written book to what holiday destination he wants to visit.

Shout out to South

This year’s YouTube Fan Fest also saw a series of acts from South India which reflected the growth of original content creators on YouTube there. It couldn’t be helped that Viva Boyz and The Madras Meter didn’t garner as much fandom at the event, because their regional fanbase wasn’t reflected in the crowd present in the auditorium. While they failed to have the same response as the veterans in the field like TVF and AIB, acts like the Chennai based PutChutney did a fairly good job for its YouTube Fan Fest appearance. The comedy group SNG also put up a good show with its impromptu acts and interactive session, but Being Indian’s duo Ayushman and Khattar clearly stole the show with their amazing fan presence.

When it comes to live singing, Maati Baani also had the crowd cheering through powerful music and heady visuals in the background. After a few hits and misses, it was international YouTube star Arjun’s turn. He charmed the fans with his sweet smile and magnetic personality.  Raising the bar with her awesome vocals, Shirley Setia joined Arjun along with Kurt Hugo Schneider who gave music on keyboard. Schneider even sang a few Hindi lines, much to the audience’s delight.

The Finishing blows

This was followed by what was perhaps the most powerful live musical act of the night with Sanam. Staying true to their reputation, the boys rocked the stage with the high octane vocals and equally heart thumping instrumental beats. They turned YouTube Fan Fest to a rock concert. The only thing that could top it off was Lilly Singh Aka Superwoman who is considered the queen of YouTube space, especially when it comes to India. This US based star, has recently moved to LA after completing her world tour A Trip To Unicorn Island. Superwoman entered the stage like a true super star atop an auto-rickshaw that was driven on to the stage. Joining her was her favourite collaborating artist of many songs, Humble The Poet. She danced to the beats of her popular hits like IVIVI and Leh, while crazy fans couldn’t stop themselves from screaming out loud. There couldn’t have been a better way to close the curtains of the digital to offline magnum opus!

YouTube Fan Fest 2016 was clearly an upgrade from last year’s edition. Not only did it increase the number of artists from 14 to 30, and added several more millions of views to the stage, it became a lot more inclusive of the regional talent that is currently budding in India, especially in the south. It successfully set digital viewers and fans to aspire to become creators themselves.

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