Review by CJ Ang
For what it was worth, Music Matters Live 2012 was extravagant, and spectacular like fireworks on display.
In local, Singaporean context, it is a free three-days music event in conjunction with Gaming Matters and Digital Matters, it is like a musical discovery journey out amongst the 8 participating venues in the urban, nightspot jungle of Clarke Quay (my workplace)!
For myself, this week was a hectic one – musically, professionally and personally. I couldn’t make it on Saturday, the last day of the event, as I was playing judge for the semi-finals at this year’s edition to the NUS-fronted music competition, Stardust 2012; nor could I catch all the acts and actions on the other two days as well, so the best I could do now is to sum up the handful of artistes that I had managed to catch within the short span of time, and tabulating a Top 3 highlight feature for what I had seen with my own eyes. For the rest first:
Minor Soul (Hong Kong)
An acoustic duo, with an armful of ballads and boyband looks to charm the pants off the girls, that is, if any of the female dominated crowd was donning any instead of those summer dresses in these humid and hot weathered conditions. Think Evan & Jaron, or maybe even Hanson, without the catchiness of “Mmmbop”.
Inch Chua (Singapore)
With eccentric-styled eye makeup on, Inch Chua looked enthusiastic to be given a chance to perform, though she must be quite expectant of what the crowd had to offer in terms of responses (her open letter floats into mind). Branching away from her acoustic ballad genre, her new direction seemed to have injected some indie and funk elements, inclusive of a livelier set that proved more crowd engaging and a refined pumped-up feel than one would not have originally expected to attain.
A compliment would be that he rapped and sounded like Kevin Rudolf. An insult would be that I don’t like the music of Kevin Rudolf. My biggest issue with his set was that when performing rock-infused Hip-Hop – clearly his genre of music, the presence of a band is as essential as the lyrical contents and rap tripping style improvised. With the huge possibility of budget constraints, a live band was not present; instead, the music played over the stereo via a minus-one. Also, the lack of turnout for his set at The Forbidden City was demoralizing, and it actually made me feel awkward when he mentioned how appreciative he was of the crowd and the response (or lack of). Ouch.
Warning Birds (Australia)
Folksy, somewhat Damien Rice-ish, and The Cave Singers popped and swung into mind as well.
9 Maps (Hong Kong)
Slightly Azure Ray, maybe even a slight cross between The Corrs and The Cranberries, but definitely more work needs to be done to match up with such credibility of the established 3 bands mentioned prior.
The Great Spy Experiment (Singapore)
I like to look at the intensity and inclusivity of the crowd when artistes perform, to see if they are really paying attention or whether they have something else in mind (drinks, food, socializing, blues). And for its set at Crazy Elephant, I could safely say that it was more the first than the latter, that being an accomplishment for a band and their live delivery.
And below are the Top 3:
3. Turtle Giant (Brazil/Macau)
Their music and style reminded me of No Age. That aside, I would say they might just have had the most happening set I saw during this year’s event. Why, one may question? Their set at Cuba Libre clashed with what was on the main stage, where the K-Pop Night Out was happening, with a mob of crazy, young female fans willing to do anything – almost absolutely anything – for their idols. Either that or the restaurant/bar management wasn’t really into loud music, and the band was told on various occasions to lower its noise rock sounds, which prompted the band to annoyingly almost perform a love song. Their tour assistant/agent, succumbed to management pressure, much to the band’s obvious chagrin. The band turned the volume back up, much to my pleasure and amusement (as the tour guy was standing next to me, and I had a guilty pleasure of seeing him stressed out). He also distributed photograph postcards promoting the band, making him probably the most hardworking touring agent of any act in the music event.
2. Charlie Lim (Singapore)
Even though I had heard of him, and saw an entry from Kevin Mathews reviewing his debut, I did not check out his music until at the event itself. And what a pleasurable listening earwax I was encountering and exposed to from hearing him perform live. Definitely having the vocal chops of a swingin’ charmer, even to the extent of reminding me of an understated, underrated Wang Lee Hom, there is this twinkle of jazz, indie, blues, contemporary, folk and alternative all mixed in one. It is definitely not a bad mixture, but an enriching one. He flexed his James Blake-styled, multi-layered vocal capabilities with a cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”. So much so I was in love with this new discovery that I purchased a copy of his EP from the man himself, upon seeing him at Inch Chua’s set. A talent to watch out for.
1. Kate Miller-Heidke (Australia)
There are various reasons why Kate and her band are at the top spot. Appearance wise, Kate’s quirkiness reminded me of Little Boots, with a silly crown on her head, and I was almost bought over with the image. Her guitarist-husband looked strangely like Ben Gibbard. And the other supporting vocalist could perfectly fit together alongside Garbage’s Shirley Manson, or even The Puppini Sisters – how bizarre. Then they started singing, and there was no looking back. With quirky lyrical contents and a cutesy, folksy-like voice, Kate broke into opera-styled vocals, and it definitely stood out and distinguished her from the rest of the acts. The crowd attention-grabbing cover of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” was an instant live winner, and let’s say this is the second time I’ve heard an act brilliantly done so for an artiste with songs almost impossible to cover, with the exception of Jeffrey Lewis and Laura Marling’s “Brain Damage”. Also, “The Facebook Song (Are You Fucking Kidding Me)” could perfectly relate to the state of the world we are living in now, with too much connectivity at its most negative points.