It's hard to ignore the brightly clothed, friendly-faced character that adorns Kira Kira Pop's event artwork. The bubblegum idol serves as the mascot of the recurring dance night's brand for good reason; she reflects the high-energy music found in the J-Pop and Idol culture that their audience finds so addicting. Since June 2016, Kira Kira Pop has hosted myriad DJs, Idol acts and pop stars at Bikkuri Sushi on Colonial.
Behind this colorful imagery are four co-producers – Sam Harris, Joy LaFleur, Jason Rosa and Cherry Wallflower – working diligently to bring internet artists from all over the country to Orlando. The next Kira Kira Pop arrives Saturday, June 26, and features NYC pop star moistbreezy, DJ Clickbait, Cooliane and Gojii, as well as performances by co-producers Cherry Wallflower and Sam Harris (aka Hoshikuzu Kid). Orlando Weekly caught up with the group at the recent Anime Festival Orlando to talk about the community they've fostered and the music they love.
"This was all based on a good foundation of cringe," says Rosa, explaining the origin of KKP and his and Harris' previous attempts at creating a J-Pop dance event. "It comes with the culture, though. You have to be cheesy enough to be OK with people making fun of themselves."
It's true. Kira Kira Pop is a self-aware, more palatable version of a subculture many are quick to label and dismiss. Instead, they've been able to book fringe genres like Idol, which Wallflower describes as "people dancing and singing to bubblegum pop songs," alongside DJ sets with ease. The combination is a night of undiluted fun. After witnessing the inviting artwork, earworm dance bangers and flashing lights, it's not surprising to learn "Kira Kira" directly translates to "sparkling."
Surprisingly, our talk with Kira Kira Pop's organizers digs past sugary dance music and into convention politics. And though we're speaking just feet away from rooms and hallways full of cosplayers, the brains behind Kira Kira Pop keep this culture at a distance. "[Conventions] care more about money than anything. ... When people see Kira Kira Pop, they see an 'anime girl,' but we don't want to limit ourselves," says LaFleur. Harris interjects, "Their goals are completely different from ours," while LaFleur adds, "It's the lack of a social agenda."
So, in their own words, how do they "make your own thing, hold up a bunch of things you're passionate about, but not be appropriative at the same time"? The collective answer: "Everything is nail-biting." In this writer's opinion, it's this hyper self-awareness and keen attention to detail that has allowed Kira Kira Pop to praise the music and culture they're into and, at the same time, make something entirely unique. At the events, the co-producers stay mostly in the crowd, but when they do take the mic it's to remind everyone to stay safe and that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. This acceptance expands into their lineup decisions as well, says LaFleur: "Diversity, not only in showcasing really cool artists that might not always get noticed, but also hosting people that the audience might relate to more."
The team has been astonished at Orlando's enthusiastic reception thus far. This Saturday's event marks the one-year anniversary of Kira Kira Pop and will likely be the group's most successful to date. Afterward, the collective plan on taking their time working on the next show, scheduled for sometime this fall. If you're still not convinced, the Kira Kira Pop experience can be boiled down to this anecdote from fan-turned-promoter LaFleur: "The first show that I went to, before I was a part of the team, I went with one friend that I knew. I didn't know anyone else, but by the end of the night I was dancing with people and making connections, making community. And I needed that so bad."