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Album Review: Fifth Harmony - Reflection
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Album Review: Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho
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Album Review: Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint
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Concert Review: The Gathering

By Nikita Feb 15, 2015

Battling the intensity of the sweltering heat on Valentine’s Day, true blue concert revelers were present at “The Gathering” from as early as 12pm to secure a vantage point. Held at Fort Canning Green on the 14th of February 2015, this was the absolute way to spend a Saturday especially if you missed the Laneway Festival! Beach mats were strewn over the grass patch as concert goers made themselves at home while sipping on their ice cold beer.

A total of 8 music acts performed at the inaugural event including local acts, Charlie Lim and Pleasantry as well as international bands  Belle and Sebastian, Caribou, Temples, Tune-Yards, Real Estate and How To Dress Well.

This is what you have missed at the festival!

Best Act Of The Night - Charlie Lim & The Mothership

Don’t you find that local bands are severely under rated as compared to international bands? How many times have people cited that local bands have poor stage presence?

Well, Charlie Lim & The Mothership absolutely proved us wrong.

Commencing strongly with a jazz pop feel, Pedestal had the crowd swaying to its ebullient love ballad. Melting the hearts of many with his smooth inclination towards the upper register, fans were hypnotised by his velvety vocals. Additionally, a sense of penetrating dynamics was felt from the gritty guitar grooves, pulsating drums and booming bass-lines during the instrumental fills.

HANDS DOWN CHARLIE LIM WAS THE BEST ACT OF THE NIGHT!

Best Stage Presence - Tune-Yards

Decked in psychedelic apparels, lead vocalist Merrill Garbus wafted the crowd away with her semi rap and inimitable vocals as fans echoed bloops and zagging keys.

She is indeed the Real Thing as her lyrics suggests. She has this African tribe vibe which she incorporates into her singing together with her bold display of self-confidence and strength of personality.

The 36-year-old occasionally teased the audience with frequent pauses in between songs - vaulting while playing the drums and prancing around with her back up vocalist. “I guess I have to play more shows to swim at Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool as I don’t have the money now”, she knew how to interact with her fans and her set felt so ever short.
 

Best Band Who Had Chemistry With The Crowd - Belle and Sebastian

Have you imagined yourself sharing the same stage with Belle and Sebastian? Yes, that happened to a mob of concert goers when Stuart beckoned them to join the band on stage. Nostalgia filled the air as supporters cooed to their favourite tunes My Wandering Days Are Over and I'm A Cuckoo, the perfect band to end the night with an oldies aura under the blanketed sky.
 

Best Band With Stupendous Dynamics - How To Dress Well

Electronic Dance Music quad How To Dress Well kicked off their set with an expressive war cry song, A Power. With the aid of cans of Tiger Beer, Tom Krell was high and immersed in the music with extreme gusto.

I love the interchanging mics which he used for his normal and echoing voice which enhanced the overall appeal of the song. There is so much soul in his voice that it lingered in our heads before they slowly dissolved.

 

Best Band That Got The Crowd Grooving - Caribou

Decked in all white and looking dapper, Caribou wasted no time as they dropped the beats down low for music lovers to sashay their hips to the thumping synthesised EDM tunes.

Maximum pulses rattled by enormous bass and lurid synths accompanied with shafts of lights rays which filled the venue. Everyone was bouncing away and left their worries aside to Can’t Do Without You.

Who needs to go to a club when you have Caribou performing at an outdoor venue at 10pm?! Everyone was in a trance as the music was so satisfactory!

*****

Thank you The Gathering for arranging this event. There is no better way to celebrate such a special occasion with a spectrum of renowned international and local bands! 

Photo Credits: The Gathering 

Usually associated with the hormone-ridden, probably phallus-preoccupied melodrama of pubescent juveniles, pop punk has been a genre that has (in recent times) been regarded with much derision if it caused enough ruckus to even be acknowledged by the stultifying prescriptivism of cooler-than-thou modern music critics.  But what with Paramore – an act born and bred on the Warped Tour –   recently gaining entry into the hallowed halls of Grammy-level recognition, you would think that pop punk was in the process of undergoing a mainstream revival of sorts. The truth is, pop punk never really died – people just stopped paying attention.

That’s pretty much what New Found Glory has been trying to postulate for the later part of their 18 years in their role as the scene’s staunch big brothers, advocating and nurturing like-minded individuals, fame and fortune be damned.  MTV airplay or lack thereof, the Coral Springs quartet has so far stood the test of time, pushing on in the face of controversy for all the right reasons. It’s a wonder then, that after nearly seven years since their stint on a heterogeneous (and currently defunct) Singfest, NFG only recently staged their first “proper punk rock show” here.

A resurrection of sorts was also in order for local outfit Aspectrum who in spite of their pursuit of further academia, managed to come together for one last time. Roping in founding member Shaun Sloane, the four-piece’s set was characterised by the raucous outbursts of their tight-knit unit of appreciators in what must’ve been a terribly bittersweet albeit triumphant experience.  It’s a real shame too – we were just getting used to the growth of Tejo D’Cruz’s majestic mane.

Ludicrously greeted by The Lion King’s Circle of Life (aka AH ZABENYA), Sydney-based openers Cambridge were determined to be the ostentatious Rafiki by ushering in a frenetically paced intermission. Transitioning seamlessly into DJ Snake and Lil Jon's booming club banger Turn Down For What, melodic anthems like Black Dress saw vocalist Brad Smith manically pacing the stage, unabashedly expelling, "You're not the one, but I've got a feeling that you want (want, want, want) it!"

Irrefutably the most invigorating segment of the quintet's performance, their crushing Taylor Swift cover was a standout that saw many "(slam) dancing like they were 22." Such an unadulterated zest for the Style singer was seconded only by (NFG bassist) Ian Grushka's subtle, sparkly "13" plastered on his bedazzled instrument of choice. And then there’s that custom pick-guard displaying his mug with Swift herself. But I digress.

New Found Glory themselves divulges a flair for the dramatic, with a pseudo-grandiose entrance of Judy Garland's Battle Hymn of the Republic (not to be confused with the Old Trafford chant Glory, Glory) – a recognisable play on words whose Biblical/patriotic underpinnings complements the ambitiously altruistic pathos of Selfless. This sense of blind faith borders on naïveté but maybe it's the band's inherent, adolescent-like idealism supplemented by the mandatory angst of Don't Let Her Pull You Down or Truth of My Youth that still resonates amongst the evenly split demographic of current teenagers and new, reluctant adults.

Much like Aspectrum’s ringing war cry of “I wanna dream 24/7,” NFG reiterates that they started out with a sole ambition in mind – to escape the normalcy of their Floridian suburb and go on tour. As lead guitarist Chad Gilbert earnestly avows, “We’re gonna be here forever!” it seems like the dream hasn’t really changed and it’s going to remain that way for an indefinite period of time. With the furious help of ex-Set Your Goals drummer Mike Ambrose, frontman Jordan Pundik coaches the crowd in the fist-thrusting, gang vocalising routine of The Worst Person – a beefy track that appears to take aim at their fallen guitarist Steve Klein. On the other end of the spectrum, a sickly sweet rendition of Sixpence None the Richer’s Kiss Me, the disputed power ballad, It’s Not Your Fault and the quirky “do”s of Hold My Hand populate the 21 song strong setlist without a hint of irony.  

Despite their median age of 35 and the ever-looming responsibilities as either a paternal figure or a fiancé, New Found Glory’s continued embrace of perpetual teenhood (wondering aloud the about the hazards of having monster-sized domestic cats, attributing drummer Cyrus Bolooki’s absence to an inability to utilise contraceptives) is in itself punk rock. The reward for doggedly chasing the thrill of performing their art is that they get to be NFG, posi-jumping, baggy bermudas and all. It is a privilege they clearly cherish and as long as they can belt out a mean tune, pop punk will always have its loyal and doting fathers to count on.

Setlist:

1. Selfless
2. Understatement
3. Don’t Let Her Pull You Down
4. Resurrection
5. Hit or Miss
6. Something I Call Personality
7. Hold My Hand
8. Anthem for the Unwanted
9. The Worst Person
10. Truth of My Youth
11. Listen to Your Friends
12. It’s Not Your Fault
13. Ready and Willing
14. Failure’s Not Flattering
15. Kiss Me
16. Dressed to Kill
17. Intro
18. My Friends Over You

Encore:
19. One More Round
20. Truck Stop Blues
21. All Downhill from Here

Photo credit: Impact Live/ Pennylane Events

Written by Holmen Tham and Angela Low

St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore 2015 was sold-out, and for good reason, too. Spread out over three stages at The Meadow, Gardens By The Bay, it hosted a beyond stellar line-up including highlights such as FKA Twigs, Chet Faker, Banks, and St. Vincent. Any participant of this alternative musical year-opener would be struggling to recover from the greatness that’s transpired over the weekend for the weeks to come. And here’s why.

English post-punk band Eagulls, fronted by the charming George Mitchell, rocked the main stages of Laneway with their ferocious, angry sounds, appropriate for the then scorching-hot weather. Though the band seemed pretty nervous, with little attempt to interact with the crowd, the crowd was rather into the music, with a few punk-heads bopping along to their tunes. NME award-winning number Nerve Endings hit a nerve with the crowd – probably the only moment throughout their set where people knew the lyrics.

The band that really loosened up the crowd here at Laneway attracted a rather sizeable crowd to their stage with their psychedelic rock act. Complete with songs that changed mid-tempo, loud reverbs and electric guitars, Pond completely tore the Garden Stage apart. The casual listener would want to hear more from Pond naturally. You’d be lying if you did not look them up on YouTube after Laneway was over. The rather underrated band from Down Under deserves more attention. Had they been around when Pink Floyd and The Beatles were at their peaks, they would have gone pretty damn far by now.

Canadian-native Mac DeMarco attracted the largest afternoon crowd at Laneway, with many fans losing their spot for Garden Stage’s Pond for Mac. The indie rock and self-labelled “jizz jazz” crooner captured the crowd’s hearts with his jokes, goofy behavior and of course, good, laid-back music.

At one point, Mac’s guitar experienced some technical issues. Being who he is, he fixed it himself then and there on stage, while his equally-goofy band played a rather hilarious cover of Coldplay’s Yellow to a rousing ovation. The set ended with Mac crowd surfing over the soaking wet crowd over Still Together – an experience anyone who’d caught Mac would never forget.

It’s Laneway’s second year calling local acts upon the stage, and this instalment saw two outfits immensely worthy of the honour – indie folk group Hanging Up The Moon and chill wave electronic twosome .gif. Despite occasional minor hiccups, .gif dominated the Cloud Stage with cool, swaggerific vibes that refused to fall prey to the harsh afternoon heat. Laneway is a festival of heavyweights and high expectations, explaining why the homegrown duo would want to up their game by introducing a drummer (Isyraf of The Psalms) and bassist (Hanis Isahak of sub:shaman), who would accompany them on stage periodically. The result is an amplification of sound, depth and dimension, inspiring a more uptempo interpretation of singles such as Diatribe, and Good Night, Green Light.

The evening was welcomed on a high note and in even higher spirits, thanks to another duo at Garden Stage, except unlike .gif, they didn’t have a supplementary backing crew. I’m talking about Royal Blood, throwing in a riotous splash of garage rock into the mix of indie jams. The tri-sound of vocals, guitar-like bass and drums rippled through the sea of headbangers and bodyrockers with such resonance, it came as a surprise to some that there were only two lads on stage. Chairs and guitars were hurled across the platform, and drummer Ben Thatcher went within sweating distance of the audience as gritty, heavy riffs and power beats roared on palpably. Forty-five minutes of serving up crowd-pleasers one after another – Little Monster, Careless, Ten Tonne Skeleton, Loose Change and the closer, Out Of The Black – was obviously not at all enough.

Before long, we were moseying over to the adjacent Bay Stage, trampling over used ponchos and beer cups and feeling like being stuck in a crowded MRT train. But it was all worth it when seven-piece British soul-funk ensemble Jungle hit their first note. Easily the most danceable set of the night (in part by dint of two back-up vocalists, who were dancing in flawless sync), they were a direct contrast to Royal Blood, yet equally as supreme. And what’s a groovy gig without a misty horizon, courtesy of an overused smoke machine? Jungle may not command as massive a crowd as the bigwigs, but they sure warrant a spot at the top of our list.

The single most anticipated act to take the Cloud Stage, Aussie electro-soul music-maker Chet Faker (and his ginger critically acclaimed whiskers) was no disappointment at all. Though getting off to a slow start with the lesser knowns, Blush and 1998, a public chorus of sorts eventually congregated to lend their voices to Cigarettes & Chocolate, Gold, and easy hits such as Drop The Game, and Talk Is Cheap. When he finally bestowed upon us his much-awaited rendition of No Diggity, like a déjà vu of Pitch Perfect’s Riff-Off, the hey yo, hey yo, hey yo’s were chanted with unadulterated pride. You simply can’t go wrong with a set list like that. What could go wrong is the size of the partying grounds – this time, it was undersized.

Even before Banks took center stage, the crowd was electric, many giving Little Dragon a miss for a good spot for Banks. Her debut album, Goddess, was released four months ago and she’d been touring ever since. Her debut in Singapore was nothing short of amazing. The set featured a beautiful light show, which complemented her haunting vocals and dark instrumentals. Waiting Game struck everyone’s hearts with its dark murky beats that could have shaken the Earth beneath us. The R&B songbird expressed her love for Singapore between songs to loud cheers from the crowd, though I’d admit her voice seemed so shaky and fragile, she might break down in tears any second.

Following her was the petite English singer-songwriter, who goes by the name of Tahliah Barnett and was nothing but a backup dancer for Jessie J in 2010. Two years later, she earned herself a cult following as FKA Twigs (Formally known as Twigs) and is no doubt one of the most unique and revolutionary performers in recent history. From the intricate beats to the choreographed lighting with her commanding body language, the concert was an immersive, one-of-a-kind experience. Videos will never do her performance justice.

Possibly one of the reasons why Laneway fully sold out this year, Twigs was greeted with an eruption of shrieks and cheers the moment she took the stage. Shrouded in thick stage fog 70 per cent of the time, she added an element of mystery to her set. The occasional ‘Sit on my face, bitch!’ from the crowd proves that Singapore love FKA Twigs. A lot.

The indie music festival wrapped up with the American queen of all “freaks and others”, St. Vincent, otherwise known by her off-stage moniker, Annie Clark. A chansonnier and guitar powerhouse, she is the priestess of art rock and psychedelic electro-pop, often seen shredding her instrument effortlessly. The set opened with a robotic announcement a la Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesiser imploring spectators to “refrain from digitally capturing your experience”. Emerging into sight decked in a black, seemingly rubbery cheongsam, she dived into Rattlesnake and the groove-oriented Cruel and Digital Witness. Eyes rolled back on occasion paired with stiff, doll-like dancing, her performance was schizophrenic yet poised, eerie yet vivacious.

Following last year’s configuration of setting two major stages (Garden and Bay stages) side by side, the festival ran surprisingly smoothly in spite of a handful of inevitable hitches. Both stages were meant to alternate, hosting an act on one stage whilst the other conducted sound checks for another, seamlessly scheduled and pulled off without delay. Punctuality itself scores points with us, the impatient natives. The only downside is that it didn’t allow for encores, and each show lasted for about less than an hour, which hardly satisfies hardcore fans wanting more.

Set clashes were inevitable as well, with .gif, Chet Faker, and Jon Hopkins clashing with Royal Blood, Banks and St. Vincent. I suppose it shows you shouldn’t have too much of a good thing – scheduling will be a nightmare. The sheer number of acts we jostled through the crowds to catch barely left us enough time to visit the stalls lining the hills and roads, but then again, we’d rather starve than miss out on what Laneway has to offer.

Photo credit: Lionel Boon, Nor Asyraf, Cliff Yeo, Alvin Ho, Rueven Tan/ Laneway Festival

One of the biggest bands in the UK finally made it to Singapore and what a show they put on for the crazy, crazy fans. Bastille didn't disappoint as they rocked the Hard Rock Hotel stage at Sentosa like never before. 2 years after their debut release, Bad Blood, they made finally decided to come to our little country and definitely gave everyone a Friday night to remember.

The show was scheduled to start at 8pm but as usual we all expected it to run late. Indie DJ Ginette Chittick opened with a perfomance spinning the discs trying to get everyone pumped up for the main event.

Bastille are known for their unique style of electronics, haunting vocals and pounding drums and they displayed that special identity that night. Everybody sang along like football fans chanting for their team to their hits like Laura Palmer, Things We Lost In The Fire and Poet. Frontman Dan Smith announced to everyone that he was probably the worst dancer in the place there but I thought it was alright. And really energetic. Especially when he came to the side of the arena and danced on top of the ledge. Waves of fans came crashing to the left side to take a selfie with the singer.

Bastille even included songs that were not yet released from their second album and a rather well-received performance of No Angels - a mashup of TLC's No Scrubs and The xx's Angels. I was surprised to know that Dan's favorite song to perform live was These Streets and after they rocked out to that song, I could see why. Icarus was definitely my pick of the best song of that night. Everyone was 'pogo-ing' (as Dan would put it) to the chorus in complete unison.

After an emotional performance of Overjoyed from Dan, they told us they had 2 songs left for the night. And we all knew what they were. Bastille ended off the night with Of The Night and of course, Pompeii, in spectacular way and we really want them to come back after their much-awaited 2nd album.

 

Setlist:

1. Bad Blood
2. Weight Of Living, Pt. II
3. Laura Palmer
4.Laughter Lines
5. Things We Lost In The Fire
6. Blame (From 2nd unreleased album)
7. Overjoyed
8. Poet
9. These Streets
10. The Driver
11. The Silence
12. Oblivion
13. No Angels
14. Icarus
15. The Draw
16. Flaws
17. Get Home
18. Of The Night.
19. Pompeii

Photo Credits: Dominic Phua and Marcus Lin/ Now/Live Singapore

To state that Yellowcard has been plagued by a series of unfortunate events would be to oversimplify the upheavals that have persistently challenged the four-piece from Jacksonville, Florida. From violinist Sean Mackin’s fight with thyroid cancer to the harrowing accident that paralysed frontman Ryan Key’s wife, these were already potential tell-tale signs that could have ruptured the band’s future. On top of it all, the hasty separation from beloved drummer and founding member Longineu Parsons stole further headlines but nevertheless, YC refused to be eclipsed and the result is Lift a Sail – a lavish rock record whose natural habitat could easily include sold-out arenas.  

The Coliseum is no arena but as the pop punkers’ second Singaporean stint there, the air close to that of a homecoming was unmistakeable as a similar restless fervour audibly simmered. Drawing a parallel to the headliners’ compelling narrative of resurgence was Sign of Five – the refurbished alter ego of Dropbeat Heartbeat who injected a brand of light-hearted (if not shop-worn) banter into their opening set. With a limited repertoire that spanned only a handful of songs, their cover of the bawdy Fountains of Wayne favourite, Stacy’s Mom, boded well enough with the audience as did Wheatus’ one-hit wonder, Teenage Dirtbag. Implicitly stirring certain antagonistic sentiments against One Direction, ‎Rozaihan Ramlan was eager to please – poking fun at their own poorly-lit acoustic endeavour of Less Than Three while guitarists Matin Wallister and Shafiq Hameed busted out melodic riffs to close the quintet’s lead single, Here We Go.

Usually associated with his signature backflips (which later made a striking appearance mid-Way Away), it was Sean Mackin’s stringed soliloquy of Convocation that held the crowd enraptured in its sombre grip notwithstanding the halting technical glitches that preceded it. As former Thursday drummer Tucker Rule smashed out thundering beats that grew louder in succession, the slow-burning instrumental lead-up inevitably erupted into a frenzy of beefy, blaring fretwork courtesy of lead guitarist Ryan Mendez. In remission or not, Mackin’s onstage athletics were far from compromised; never failing to gesticulate wildly in encouragement towards those in the front row to join in Crash The Gates’ soaring battle cry.

Placating long-time fans with the inclusion of 2006’s Rough Landing, Holly and Lights and Sounds, the setlist for the evening was Lift a Sail-centric that was charged with emotional highs. Having proclaimed a worldwide guarantee that it would be absolutely impossible to remain stationary throughout Make Me So, vocalist Ryan Key aired his heartfelt thanks to staunch listeners of the particular album (next to multiple complaints about the humid weather). As a reiteration of his hope that the group’s “darkest days are done,” Illuminate was ever the uplifting track that saw Key’s versatility in crooning silkily, “As we ascend air will get thin, we’ll become ghosts together again.”

Memory, it seemed, still served those present well, euphorically lapping up rare Paper Walls jams like Fighting, before responding equally enthusiastically to more recent anthems like With You Around and Awakening. Coolly sauntering across the stage, bassist Josh Portman was hardly a man of many words, opting instead to let his instrument do the talking by grinding out the gnarly rhythms of Southern Air. Having recently shared a co-headlining tour with Memphis May Fire, it would’ve also been interesting if YC had attempted The Deepest Well sans Mutty Mullins but one can’t really complain too much.

Key initially had qualms about pouring his heart out whilst writing lyrics dealing with his wife’s tragedy – comparing it to a “really, really, rocky road,” – but as a lone figure on the piano singing California, it’s quite apparent from the hypnotic quality of his performance that the heart-warming ballad and even the band’s recent record as a collective, has to be a purgative experience every night. There is a certain poetic symmetry too as the jagged riffs of Ocean Avenue come crashing in that is quite meta. Yellowcard literally tells you that this is goodbye (for now) and it is this seamless connection that mirrors one’s easy investment in this group of individuals who have already displayed a willingness to bare the banes of their existence. 

Setlist:

1. Convocation
2. Transmission Home
3. Crash the Gates
4. Way Away
5. Lights and Sounds
6. Make Me So
7. Illuminate
8. Light Up the Sky
9. Rough Landing, Holly
10. Awakening
11. Fighting
12. Lift a Sail
13. Only One
14. With You Around
15. Southern Air
16. Believe
17. California

Encore:
18. One Bedroom
19. Ocean Avenue

Photo credits: Instagram/ danfollowill, arcariee