“Rainway” it may be, but St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is worth every speck of dirt, mud and penny spent!Posted February 8th, 2011 At 6:36 pm By MTV ASIA
REVIEW: FELINA TAN
Relentless rain, cloying mud and uneven grounds – that certainly do not sound like it’s the most comfortable setting for an outdoor live music festival. But if Glastonbury can do it, what’s stopping Southeast Asia’s first St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, held on the historic slopes of Singapore’s Fort Canning Park on January 29, 2011? The 11-hour indie music festival saw a 6000-strong crowd of music lovers singing and dancing to the beats of nine critically-acclaimed bands from the likes of Beach House, Foals, and The Temper Trap.
Warpaint, the experimental art-rock all-girl band based in Los Angeles, kicked off the festival with the song “Bees.” All ears and eyes were firmly fixated on the band as Emily Kokal’s starkly haunting vocals, accompanied by the intricate and rich electronic sounds from the guitars and drums, burst into the afternoon air. Indeed, the girls are highly talented, swapping instruments and taking turns on lead vocals duties. Warpaint demonstrated their musical chops well with the tribal-like tunes of “Composure” and their first single, “Undertow,” amongst their other hypnotic tunes taken from their Exquisite Corpse EP and debut album, The Fool.
Ladyhawke, with her grunge-y golden tresses, was second to take the stage that afternoon, just as a light drizzle began to set in. The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from New Zealand belted out hit singles such as “Paris Is Burning,” while a sizeable crowd started to gather in front of the stage. The mood continued its upward trend throughout the set, which then culminated in a sea of bodies dancing to the energetic anthem, “My Delirium.”
With pretty stage props made by The Confetti System as their backdrop, highly-acclaimed dream-pop purveyors Beach House came on as the third act for Laneway Festival. Clad in a spring green coat, vocalist Victoria Legrand launched into a string of singles off their Sub Pop-released record, Teen Dream. Their slow, atmospheric sounds accompanied by soaring vocals kept festival punters hypnotised for the next 45 minutes.
As the rain began to recede momentarily after Beach House, Atlanta, Georgia’s Deerhunter came on and delighted with their blend of neo-psychedelia. Beautiful harmonies and instrumentation aside, lead singer Bradford Cox, in his over-sized yellow polo, also delivered the hits like “Revival” and “Helicopter” with great vocal abilities.
As dusk approached, the crowd was once again wowed by the next act. Truly, there’s no reaction more appropriate to this band’s live show than an exclamation of the band name itself. Holy F**k’s sunset slot was the perfect catalyst to an upward spike in the overall pacing of the bands that day. Occupying only a fraction of the stage in an intimate setting resembling a rehearsal space, the band from Ontario was a chaotic bunch, interacting with a host of musical instruments and contraptions, many of them being played at the same time. Throughout the set, effects instrumentalists Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh could be seen hunched over their array of instruments like master craftsmen, seeking out the perfect sound. The result? A tight, though fully-improvised set of dance-y electronic rock.
And if there were to be an award at Laneway Festival to be given out to the musician with the best showmanship, it would without a doubt, be awarded to Nic Offer, vocalist of !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk). Decked in mini shorts and an “I Love Singapore” tee, Offer was exploding with so much energy and exuberance from the first song to the last. The dance-punk band from California infected the audience with almost a jitterbug fever as soon as they came on. The crowd went wild when Offer maneuvered his way through music goers who were standing at the front, hi-fiving them while at the same time, still singing into the microphone. Evidently, the band’s playful performance was too hot to handle as a pink bra was swung onto the stage, straight into Offer‘s chest. And being the flamboyant frontman that he is, Offer cleverly improvised the pink bra as a prop till their final song for their set.
The night was in full swing by the time New York quartet Yeasayer stepped on stage with their unique blend of psychedelic pop with world music influences. Songs such as “O.N.E.” and “Ambling Alp,” taken off their second studio album Odd Blood, showcased an impressive three-part vocal harmonies (led by vocalist Chris Keating) that were coupled with the sounds of electronics and synthesizers. This was a band that constantly kept punters on their feet and smiling, moving and grooving throughout their live set.
Cheers and screams ripped through the blanket of darkness (save for the LED lights dotting the stage’s backdrop) as soon as the members of British band Foals took the stage. The pulsating depth they evoked was more than adequate to distract everyone from the incredibly heavy downpour. Their dance beats got the crowd jumping even on the muddy and slippery upland. The cadence was moving and exuded a rhythmic high, made even more magnificent by the lyrical poignancy and thundering tom rolls. The indie disco set was aptly accompanied by flickering lighters and black balloons blown up by fans of Foals who could be heard singing along to the tunes of “Spanish Sahara” and “Cassius.”
As we approached the homestretch, the downpour began to get lighter. The soft midnight rain was the perfect complement to the atmospheric sound of The Temper Trap. Mud and rain? It all did not matter. The music magnified that magical experience of simply being there, together with great music and a sea of appreciative crowd. Controlling one’s self from moving to the upbeat tracks was just foolish, even with the space constraint and cold humidity. The driving, pulsating beat of the drums and Dougy Mandagi‘s emotionally-charged vocal performance effortlessly came together as the band serenaded the rain-soaked crowd with hits such as “Fader,” “Science Of Fear,” and their hit song (which many first heard as a soundtrack on the film 500 Days Of Summer), “Sweet Disposition.”
Although at the end of the day many dubbed Laneway as “Rainway” (no prizes for guessing why), truth be told, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was worth every speck of dirt, mud and penny spent and has no doubt amplified Singapore’s spot on the world map as a flourishing music scene, both mainstream and indie.