Maybe it was the fact that I spent most of August overseas but somehow I was less than enthused with Baybeats 08. My expectations were pretty low for the event and fact is I only attended a couple of performances. So this summary by necessity only skims the surface and if you’re looking for something more comprehensive, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
However, what is clear to me is that the highlight of Baybeats 08 was the reunion of the Oddfellows. With all the fuss over emo and indie rock, it was a breath of fresh air to listen to unadulterated alt-rock, the way it first came to us in the 1980s as the Oddfellows channeled the likes of the Replacements, REM, Husker Du, Teenage Fanclub, Bob Dylan and Neil Young in their taut 30 minute set.
The band viz. Paddy Chng, Johnny One, Vincent Lee and Kelvin Tan were on top of their game and like the best wine seems to get better with age. Delivering popular songs like So Happy, Lost My Head, Unity Song and Your Smiling Face, the band had the audience eating out of their collective hands. It’s a pity that with Johnny Ong residing overseas, these performances are far and between but I was thankful for the experience. I wanna be Paddy Chng when I grow up!
For me, the other impressive Baybeats 08 performance came from You and Whose Army? Simply gratifying to see the band in their element – communicating their raw blend of Pink Floyd and Radiohead (with a dash of Bjork) to a rapt audience. Probably one of the biggest gigs so far for this fledging outfit, it was satisfying to hear songs like Misplaced, Ordinary is King and Stuck ring out over Marina Bay. Sure, there were nervy bits here and there but you could sense that the band were reveling in the spotlight.
I really wanted to catch Leeson’s set but due to work commitments got to the new Nokia Arena 15 minutes late and boy, was I angry. The design of the arena did not help as it was murder trying to see the band play. So I was reduced to craning my neck over bobbed heads at the uppermost level of the Arena squinting to catch a glimpse of the band. Somehow the band seemed dwarfed by the stage and unsuited to the environment. You see, Leeson – for better or for worse – is the quintessential pub-rock band. Which is not a putdown, seeing that one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters (Elvis Costello) is also a pub-rocker at heart. Leeson needs to be savored up close and in your face, where the jaunty melodic mayhem of their catchy material can wash over your entire being and you’re in a position to see the glint in Jamie’s eyes as he delivers those witty musings on neurotic romance and to appreciate the kinetic energy and tight co-ordination of Gerald, Brian, Mark and Thomas. Still, the band gave as good as they could and I am comforted by the fact that Baybeats 08 provided great exposure for this worthy band and hopefully will open the doors for those intimate gigs that I crave…
One last thing. If nothing else, Baybeats 08 demonstrated that there is a massive audience for live rock music in Singapore. This was obvious from Electrico’s riotous segment at the Nokia Powerhouse. Packed to the brim, the band played an utterly professional set mixing old favorites with new ones. To be honest, the sound is too close to Oasis and Coldplay for comfort (and I really detest those two bands) but there was no denying the power and appeal that Electrico oozed from stage. I firmly believe that there is great potential in our S-ROCK music scene. It’s really all in our own hands.
… still there’s more …