LLOYD COLE LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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I arrived at the Esplanade Recital Studio in the early hours of Monday afternoon and was welcomed by the distracting noise of the Esplanade sound crew carrying out its microphone check. The purpose of my visit? To provide Lloyd with a couple of guitar stands! Anything to meet the man, I guess. He turned up, greying hair and slight paunch (like me, I guess) and proceeded to go about his sound check in a business-like manner. Armed with his two acoustic guitars, Lloyd sounded warm and pristine as the Recital Studio resounded with his baritone voice. Nice.

It didn’t take long for Lloyd to finish up what was required and Dinesh and I escorted him back to his hotel. Dinesh & I chatted for awhile before he had to meet up with his wife, Sylvia and by then it was two hours plus to the gig.

So there I was, macbook on my lap, in the Esplanade Concourse, typing out these words and trying to figure out how I will approach this review. I guess I could begin by referring to my love of Rattlesnakes, that magnificent debut LP of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. With literate words and folk-jazz arrangements, Rattlesnakes spent more than a fair amount of of time on my turntable in the early 80s. Or I could pontificate about how in the internet age, even obscure artists could turn their musical gift into a cottage industry of sorts. Or maybe I could write about how Chris Collingwood and Lloyd Cole are friends and live in the same area in the USA.

Whatever.

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I rather start with Tim Ellis. Tim is an Aussie Lloyd Cole fan who flew down to Singapore to sell Lloyd’s CDs. Mind you, Tim is a volunteer (!) and does so purely out of his love and passion for Lloyd’s music. Which to me says more about Lloyd’s music than a million press releases and glowing reviews. And… the 52 CDs that Tim brought with him were sold out during the half time interval between Lloyd’s two sets.

So here I am warm in the afterglow of Lloyd’s performance, listening to Lloyd’s recording of his Whelan (in Dublin) gig and whilst the CD is good in its own right, it cannot compare to a special intimate night with Lloyd as he shared songs from his early days with the Commotions, his middle period as a solo artist (and the Negatives) and his newer material.

Certainly, the songs he popularized with the Commotions eg Perfect Skin, Are You Ready to be Heartbroken (which Lloyd actually played twice for the folks who returned late after the break!!), Lost Weekend and the like, go down well with the sold out audience whilst latter-day solo material like My Other Life, Late Night Early Town, Old Enough To Know Better, Undressed, No More Love Songs, Unhappy Song, What’s Wrong With This Picture hit the spot every single time.

Personally, I found the set truly inspiring and its the sort of influential performance that make us musician-types wanna pick up a guitar and start playing. I am richer for having had the experience. Good enough reasons for re-visiting the music of this talented and distinctive singer-songwriter.

Official Site

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Pix by Jonathan Kwa.

CONFESSIONS UPSIZED!

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A month after Taken by Cars and Chicosci shook up the *SCAPE Youth Centre Lab, *SCAPE is back with Confessions UpSized, featuring The Giant Sound of the South, Urbandub and Angulo from the Philippines, together with some of our most talented local bands.

The Giant Sound of the South will be back on Saturday after playing an overwhelming set last June 6 at Rock The Sub at the Substation. For the past few months, Urbandub have been in the studios recording their fifth studio effort, The Apparition, to be released under MCA Music Philippines.

Apart from this, the band has been playing numerous shows like the Sonic Boom 3rd Anniversary and a number of large-concerts scattered across the whole country. With the recent typhoons in the Philippines, they’ve also taken time out to play intimate shows like Sonic Shutdown to raise funds and gather supplies for the victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that have devastated the metro and neighbouring provinces.  All of these, while also playing at a host of other corporate events and bar gigs around Metro Manila.

On Saturday, they’ll be playing some choice cuts from their massive fifth salvo, The Apparition, and a host of other songs from old albums, 2001’s Birth; 2004 NU Rock Awards’ Album of the Year, Influence; Gold-Record hitting, Embrace and the 2007 crossover hit, Under Southern Lights.

With a large and still growing following in the Philippines, Angulo have managed to make a name for themselves through the sheer amount of hard work and dedication they’ve put it to band. With regular performance with some of the biggest and most prominent production houses in the Philippines, they have played for some of the biggest shows in the Philippines, including Fete de la Musique, Myx Mo!, Pulp Summer Slam, MTV Summit and they were handpicked to open for New Jersey-based post-hardcore pioneers Thursday during their Asian Tour.

Following a successful debut release, Blur The White Lines in 2008, they’re back in the studios to record a new album, which promises to be more experimental while enabling them to broadening their niche market without alienating existing fans. Their second album would push the band further in their ability to showcase what Angulo are capable of achieving musically.

On the local front, we have some of the freshest talents playing alongside Urbandub and Angulo. Marchtwelve are back, having played numerous acoustic shows, Baybeats in 2007 and more recently, for Rev Up On Orchards in conjunction with STB for F1. They’re currently working on a full-length album, with recording happening in the middle of the year. Their debut album would be released sometime in March or April 2010.

West Grand Boulevard are no strangers to the scene, having played numerous show in Singapore and the Philippines. The quintet have played numerous shows in the Esplanade, including a Late Night @ Esplanade show at the Recital Theatre Singapore and Baybeats 2009, School Invasion Tours and the School Invasion Finale Tour and 98.7’s Life’s A Beach. They’ve also played in the Philippines for Sonic Boom 2nd Anniversary in 2008 and a Philippine tour earlier this year before ending the tour playing for Sonic Boom Sinulog Blast Off! 2009. After taking time out to record their full-length album, their album would be out by end of the year.

Following a China tour in June and self-releasing their Phoenix EP in July, Caracal are back with a fresher perspective and a larger sound. Following their China tour, their Phoenix EP was self-released in July 2009, consisting of songs from the band since their beginning in 2006. The long awaited EP is available at Straits Records Shop, *Scape and directly through the band. Back home, they’ve played for GNITE! Music Festival 2009 at Republic Poly, Electric Ballroom at Homeclub and the Nudge Charity Carnival at Sentosa Cove.

Silhouette’s immunity to categorization has allowed their music to evolve and not be based on a specific genre. With roots in modern rock and alternative music and with Incubus as a significant influence, Silhouette is a band that has garnered a lot of attention within the scene in recent months. Their music reaches out to people through personal emotions and feelings that a lot of bands fail to capture in their music. Their EP, Discover, was launched in January and the band is currently back in the studios working on their debut album with Leonard Soosay of Snakeweed Studios, whose passion and ability to see the bigger picture with his ears has benefited many local bands within our scene.

Come prepared to experience an unforgettable evening with Urbandub, Angulo, Marchtwelve, West Grand Boulevard, Caracal and Silhouette. Take it from me; you won’t be disappointed with the stellar line-up for Confessions Upsized. See you on Saturday!

Details:

Sat 21 Nov, 630pm till late

*SCAPE Youth Centre: Lab

$18 presale tix at www.onetickethub.com

$24 at the door including goodies!

(Rebecca Lincoln)


Urbandub

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Angulo

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Marchtwelve

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West Grand Boulevard

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Caracal

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Silhouette

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Latest Music Video of Urbandub’s song, The Fight Is Over.


+/- {PLUS/MINUS} LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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+/- {PLUS/MINUS}

w/ Amateur Takes Control

Date: Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009

Doors open: 7:30pm

Venue: HOME Club, The Riverwalk, B1-01/06 20, Upper Circular Road, Singapore 058416

Tickets: S$40 (Includes 2 Standard Drinks) Available for purchase online from KittyWu Records.

Tickets at the door on event day: $50 (Includes 2 Standard Drinks)

A SIDE SHOW

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This weekend, we’ll be in for a musical smorgasbord coming from *SCAPE as an eclectic variety of bands from the Philippines and Singapore come together for *SCAPE PRESENTS A SIDE SHOW.

Having graced our sunny shores in August as part of the Baybeats lineup, Taken by Cars will be back with fellow Pinoys, Chicosci, this Saturday at *SCAPE’s Lab for a show presented by *SCAPE and Wake Me Up Music.At Baybeats, Taken by Cars wowed the Singaporean audience with their fun and upbeat music from their first album, Endings Of A New Kind. Citing their musical influences to Electro, Indie and New Wave, you can’t go wrong with music this good, especially when The Fire Fight’s front man, Josh, danced to most of their songs.

Having recently released their 5th album, Fly Black Hearts, Chicosci are back in Singapore for the 3rd time and better than ever! Their popularity in the region and the Philippines has been growing since they started out, winning for them Favorite Artist of Philippines from MTV Asia last year.

They’ll be sharing the stage with our local favorites, Plainsunset and The Fire Fight, representing our best in punk rock and indie respectively. With successful tours in the Philippines, Plainsunset are back with their exhilarating stage performances and their inspiring songs.

Following the SOLD OUT launch of Henri, our favourite quartet have been gigging regularly, having played for Ben Sherman, Gap and the Esplanade.

It’ll be an interesting mish mash of music featuring a few of the best bands Singapore and the Philippines have to offer from their respective genres. I look forward to the musical smorgasbord, and interviewing Chicosci before the gig.

Details:
Sat 24 Oct. Doors open 730pm
*SCAPE Youth Centre: Lab
$18 entry
Limited tickets!
( CONTACT _Con-3936AC451 \c \s \l Rebecca Lincoln)

Taken By Cars
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Chicosci
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Plainsunset
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The Fire Fight
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Official site

Latest Music Video of Chicosci’s song, Diamond Shotgun.

Latest Music Video of Taken by Car’s song, Shapeshifter.

RICK WAKEMAN

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RICK WAKEMAN The Six Wives of Henry VIII: Live at Hampton Court Palace (Eagle Vision)

Wakeman is probably best known as the keyboards player of progressive rock pioneers/legends Yes. But certainly, Wakeman’s pseudo-classical style set the standard for all progressive rock keyboard players to come. At the height of Yes’s success, Wakeman released The Six Wives of Henry VIII LP in 1973, his 2nd solo album.

Loosley based on the titular characters, this instrumental suite really had nothing to do with Henry VIII’s six wives, rather they served as musical inspiration for the songs that Wakeman composed for this album. The significance of Hampton Court Palace, of course, is that it is the building that is most associated with Henry VIII in modern day England. Apparently, Wakeman had attempted to stage a concert of the album for 36 (!) years and finally in May of 2009, his wish was granted and this live DVD is the recorded result of that special concert.

Obviously aware of this, Wakeman pulled out all the stops and so not only does he have a full band to back him (including his son Adam) but he also ropes in actor Brian Blessed (for narration), the English Chamber Choir and Orchestra Europa to flesh out these intriguing and influential songs.

So prog rock fans should really thrill to this release as the concert is immaculately staged with Blessed, in particular putting a human face (and voice) on the proceedings. Considering the recent popularity of the Tudors TV show (about Henry VIII, of course, and yes, his many wives), it is a good time for the well-known monarch and this concert DVD is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Check out the video of Kathryn Howard below.

ELVIS COSTELLO LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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“Oh I just don’t know where to begin…”

Indeed, where do I start? I have been a fan of Elvis Costello ever since I bought the Armed Forces LP about 30 years ago and to finally see him in the flesh was an emotional experience. Playing to a positively packed Esplanade Concert Hall, Elvis was in fine voice and form, looking lean and dapper in a suit.

Mixing up classic favorites with selections from his new album Secrets, Profane and Sugarcane, the set list was well thought through with highlight following highlight. Accidents Will Happen, A Good Year for the Roses, Radio Sweetheart, Veronica, Everyday I Write The Book, God’s Comic, Alison, Oliver’s Army, Pump It Up… the hits kept coming.

The best part was that Elvis really appeared to be enjoying himself as he delievered his excellent songs with aplomb, grace and good natured fun. It was inspiring watching him in action – the consummate entertainer – over two hours of sheer joy and pleasure.

Yes, folks, I’m gushing and this is probably the best concert I’ve ever witnessed since David Bowie’s second show in Singapore. 2009 has been a great musical year … and there’s more …

CHUNK FEST 2009

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In Singapore, any opportunity to get your music heard must be grasped with both hands (and feet, if possible). Especially if you’re new and starting out. Thankfully, in 2009, there are far more avenues to express one’s music in Singapore than there used to be. I guess there’s a greater recognition and understanding of the role that the creative arts play in our society, albeit belatedly.

Better late than never, I always say.

Chunk Fest 2009 was Ben & Jerry’s way of giving back to the S-ROCK scene, having bands write an original song relating to the theme of “peace, love & ice cream”, auditioning these songs before Jack & Rai, with the winning bands performing at Chunk Fest (held at the Marina Barrage) and the resultant live recordings being collected on a CD.

I basically planned my Chunk Fest visit around the performances of Cove Red (above) and Indus Gendi (below). Getting to Marina Barrage was a bit of a hassle. After leaving the Marina Bay MRT station, I waited for around 20 minutes in the baking hot sun for the shuttle bus. It took another 10 minutes to reach the Barrage and after a call to Keith found the venue. By that time, I was hot and bothered, met Rach, Yinky and the gang, Keith, Jack & Rai.

Cove Red were supplemented by percussion and cello, which certainly made them distinct from the other bands. Unfortunately, the sound was a little too harsh and saturated for their acoustic set-up. That said, the quartet delivered a delightful performance of melodic, thoughtful, folky songs. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a crowd at the front of the stage (it was 3 plus in the afternoon) but that’s often the challenge for S-ROCK bands. I really loved the new songs – Sarah and Taste of Life – vibrant, mellifluous pieces.

I first saw Indus Gendi about two years ago and was impressed by a song called Then and Now (which to my chagrin, they don’t perform anymore). Well, the band has certainly come a long way since “then”. Indus Gendi “now” has Adam on drums (where he is at his best, no doubt, one of the finest young drummers in Singapore), Leonard on bass and vocals as well as Mel on backing vocals. Thus on many of the songs, there actually are three-part harmony vocals going on, which is pretty unique amongst S-ROCK bands, for sure. Also, they appear to be veering away from the more emo-centric material and moving towards a more eclectic jazz-pop direction, which I very much approve of. Esther was in fine vocal form and cuts an intriging figure up front although I still believe that she should take on vocal duties only and let Mel play keyboards as well. But that’s just me.

Two S-ROCK bands to watch out for, the potential is immense and I hope that they will get the attention and exposure that they deserve.

Rachael Teo Myspace

Indus Gendi Myspace

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PEACE OFF/LOVE ON

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9/11 Gig: PEACE OFF – LOVE ON

Date: 11 Sept 2009

Time: 8pm

Venue: Crawl Space, North Bridge Road – above Straits Records, Singapore

Bands: We GANG, CloseApart, Etc, The Guilt

There’s a decidedly “old-school” 90s vibe about this gig. We GANG is fronted by Adrian Bestium (ex-Rocket Scientists), the Guilt features Dino (out of Force Vomit), CloseApart can boast Harold Seah (formerly of the Dongs) and of course, there’s Ben Harrison’s Etc…whom y’know…

Don’t miss it!

CHRIS COLLINGWOOD – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

 

We ran off the stage anticipating an encore – Leave the Biker – but the host killed it for us by anouncing the end of the set instead of attempting to coax one more song from us. So things did not quite go to plan and my dream gig was over.

Over.

Four intense days of jamming, bonding through food & shared musical interests culminated in a thrilling (albeit terrifying) 45-minute set at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.

From Wednesday to Friday, the band (Desmond Sim, Eugene Wee, Alexius Cai and I) jammed with Chris to work out the songs that we would perform on Saturday night. By the time we sound checked on Saturday afternoon, we had a set list all planned out and we were in good shape for the performance.

Chris asked me if I would back him up for Troubled Times for his solo acoustic set for early Saturday night at the Concourse. The song had been dropped from the full band set list and I felt honoured by his request. But before that, the five of us were featured artists at the library@esplanade for the “observation deck” segment. It was great to see familiar faces in the crowd – Tim, Chang Kang, Weiwen, Daniel – as we manoeuvred our way through the usual questions.

From then on time seemed to freeze and fly past at the same time – if that makes any sense. Chris played his solo acoustic set, I backed him on Troubled Times (which was almost dream-like, surreal even), we set up at the Outdoor Theatre, cracked opened the set and ran through the songs, trying hard to remember my vocal, guitar and keyboard parts. The highlight for me personally was seeing all the familiar faces in the crowd, the missus, my eldest son Wesley, Narisa, Cindy, Roland, Weiwen, Thomas, Poh Soo. The audience reaction to I Love Singapore was bigger than I expected – Chris described it as the “biggest hit of the night” – a fantastic high!

Then it was done. I felt relieved that it went down well and yet was slightly disappointed that it was over. I want to thank to everyone who made this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible. The folks at Esplanade – Chloe, Keith and Junmin, the awesome band – Des, Gene and Al and of course Chris. I have been blessed to have collaborated with talented people like Skye, the Great Spy Experiment, Jon Chan, Jack and Rai but working with Chris has been phenomenal.

Truly unforgettable … but there’s more…

Set list – Please don’t rock me tonight/No Better Place/Sink to the Bottom/Red Dragon Tatoo/Wasting Time/Hackensack/All Kinds of Time/Mexican Wine/I Love Singapore/Sick Day/Radiation Vibe/Stacy’s Mom/Survival Car.

NATIONAL DAY CELEBRATIONS

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It has been a good 2009 for Kevin Mathews, singer-songwriter-performer, as I have been playing gigs at least once every month. Never would have imagined this scenario two and a half years ago when I had decided to “give up” music! But God does work in mysterious (and wonderful) ways…

I am also extremely thankful to the Esplanade for their continued support of Singapore music and in particular, mine. Being invited to be part of their National Day Celebrations at the Concourse is/was an honour. I was specifically requested to sing my Singapore-centric songs and so that was the brief and it gave me the opportunity to debut some new material as well, which is always rewarding.

My set on Friday started at 8.15pm and the crowd was mainly old folks and young kids. A little bizarre but the trouper in me ensured that I was up for it, albeit barely. Saturday’s first set at 5pm was better. If I wasn’t late that is. You see, I met up with Rachael Teo after the sound check for a chat and the time really flew and before I knew it, I was late for my own gig. Never done that before. But somehow, it worked out (Thanks, God!) and my heightened adreneline resulted in a pretty good set, if I do say so myself.

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But it was the second set at 7pm which I thoroughly enjoyed, with the benefit of a baby grand… I tinkled and banged away to some newer material including my own version of a National Day song which I believe went down well. This is the third time that I’ve done a solo set with piano/keyboards and it was immensely satisfying. Must do more!

Anyways, here are the set lists

Friday (8.15pm)/Saturday (5pm)

I Love Singapore, Pasir Ris Sunrise, High Cost of Living, Past Tense, My One & Only, Gum.

Saturday (7pm)

Late Night Request (Great Spy cover), Texas, Little Red Dot, My Life, Better, Happy Theme, My One & Only.

Thanks to the Esplanade crew, especially to Delvin & Hairon, for taking care of me and for Rach, Ivan and Samuel for kindest support. Oh, and if anyone shot videos, please share.

… and there’s more …

IGNITE! MUSIC FESTIVAL 2009

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I heard about Ignite! Music Festival 2009 through A Vacant Affair’s status updates on Facebook. I couldn’t make it for their set on Friday due to other commitments, so I trooped down after work on Saturday.

By the time I arrived, Tacit Aria had already started their set. I hadn’t heard that much from them, other than through their Myspace account.

They had decent stage antics but I felt that they relied too heavily on their influences, and they sounded similar to a lot of the other bands we have within the scene. Some of their songs also sounded mashed up and it was a bit confusing to follow.

They did better with the last song and they meant it when they said they were rocking out to end the set. They’ll be performing alongside Fire Away Samson and Saving Someone! on August 15 for Transitions EP Launch @ Scape Labs ($15).

I hope they improve because I really liked the last song they performed, and based on that, they have the potential if they come up with a sound that’s unique to who they are as a band.

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King Kong Jane were next, and I’ve always though they were one of the more consistent bands in the scene. They won Powerjam 2008 & were Vivian Wang (The Observatory)’s apprentices for NOISE Singapore.

By the time they started the set, there was a small crowd, mainly seated at the back in the shade. Colin commented that it was like playing to the seventh month audience, which was partially true considering the wide gap between the stage and the audience.

They played songs like Waiting for Friday and Lollipop, which were catchy. The band themselves looked like they were having fun, it was such a pity they got such a poor response. I really liked the band’s performance. It’s been far too long since I caught them live.

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Vertical Rush was the band I came to see. I was a bit disappointed with their performance and it wasn’t their best one. They played the usual songs like Spaceman, Your Last Song and Collide. Their redemption came when they played a revision of Wasting, which was fantastic.

The thing I didn’t like about the set was how Esmond’s vocals kept fading in and out throughout the set. The sound was problematic, ranging from drowned out vocals to the bass being too loud.

It was an interesting festival and even though I didn’t stay the rest of the day, I heard positive feedback from people who stayed throughout. I heard that by the time The Great Spy Experiment played, there was a big crowd of people moshing. ‘Moshing to The Great Spy Experiment!’, you may exclaim. My sentiments. I figure the GSE played music you could dance to, but you never know what to expect with youths these day.

I had a good time while I was there, although there’s still room for improvement. Nonetheless, it was great that they brought back Ignite! Music Festival this year with fantastic bands.

(Rebecca Lincoln)

Pix by Shiro Ang

THE FIRE FIGHT

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Every now and then, a band comes that totally blows one’s mind. In 2005, I found myself captivated by B-Quartet. This year, The name of the band is The Fire Fight. The story of Henri was conceived 3 years ago, now, the story of Henri the Bear has been unveiled and I had the chance to check out the album launch of their full-length album, Henri.

The evening started with Iain playing the introduction to the Sonnet, followed by the rest joining him onstage. From where I was, there were smiles on faces around the room as Joakim Gomez narrated the journey of Henri.

Throughout the launch, The Fire Fight were accompanied by special guests Angel Lee (backing vox, guitars), Joakim (backing vox, keys),  Esmond (backing vox, trumpet) and Calvin (trumpet) on songs like Portrait Lover and Covenant. It was really nice that they got (a little) help from their friends, talented musicians themselves!

The crowd was engaged with the narrations from Joakim, coupled with the music The Fire Fight played that told the story of Henri the Bear. Everyone warmed up pretty quickly to the music, and as I looked around the room, they were definitely enjoying themselves. The energy throughout the night was kept at a constant high, with most of the people around me dancing and waving their arms around. At some point in time, light sticks were given, and they were waved enthusiastically to the music.

Everything about the launch was outstanding, from the transformation of the Recital Studio to look like Elemenopee, to the party hats, animal ears, the balloons, the sing-alongs, the connection the band had with the audience and the band themselves.

I really enjoyed Iain’s drum solo, Josh and Angel singing an acoustic version of People and Spaces, the balloons which were thrown into the crowds, the decorations and the stage lighting, which changed with the mood of the songs. My favourite song of the night would have to be Portrait Lover, which incorporates expressive, poetic lyrics with melodic tunes.

All the jamming sessions The Fire Fight put in paid off, because they sounded incredible! There were some hiccups along the way but they still managed to engage the audience while keeping the energy levels up despite being out and about the whole day with soundchecks and preparations that needed to be done. They definitely delivered an outstanding performance, which ended with everyone shouting for an encore, before they finally ended with inevitable crowd pleaser, Train Song.

After the launch had ended, everyone hung around talking to their friends and congratulated the band before being going out. By the time I left the Recital Hall, there was a call for the last Henri CD, which was immediately snapped up. It was heartwarming that all the months of hard work the band put in paid off when all the CDs that were on sale and tickets to the album launch of Henri were sold out.

I was very impressed that so many musicians from other local bands turned up to support The Fire Fight. Some of the members from The Great Spy Experiment were there, in addition to those from Cardinal Avenue and Giants Must Fall, to name a few. It’s fantastic that they’ve got the support of other musicians within the scene.

In my opinion, The Fire Fight has what it takes to mature musically and join the ranks of other famous S-ROCK bands like Plainsunset, Electrico and The Great Spy Experiment. I look forward to what they have to offer in future!

On a side note, The Fire Fight was also impressive in their use of social media. Those of you who follow The Fire Fight on Twitter (www.twitter.com/thefirefight) would have known what they were up to throughout the day, whether it was photos of Iain soundchecking his drums or Josh eating a foccacia sandwich through the photos that were taken. The Tweets added to the buildup to the launch of Henri. Wake Me Up (www.twitter.com/wakemeupmusic) gave updates ‘live’ from the Recital Studio, complete with photos!

(Rebecca Lincoln)

The S-ROCK scene lives on the hope that its fellow countrymen will wake up to the fact that there are exciting, talented & passionate musicians and songwriters in their midst. But even more than that, a belief that one fine day, our best bands will get the recognition they so richly deserve from outside their own home town. Watching, cheering and dancing to the sublime music of the Fire Fight last night ignited that flame of conviction that indeed the former will become a reality sooner rather than later. The launch of Henri was a celebration, not only of the Fire Fight’s magnificient achievement but the realization that these young men are our very OWN. My sense of pride shook me deeply, not only at what Josh, Iain, Jon and JBarks had wrought together but looking around at the like-minded souls around me – Mike, Song, Rebecca, Daniel, Caleb, JBoss, Leonard, Huza, Weiwen, Roland, Fir, Poh Soo, Ivan, Audie, amongst many others – this is a victory that we all share. Together.

The Fire Fight’s inspiring new album, Henri, is in the stores now.

…and there’s more…

Pix by Ivanified.

CHRIS COLLINGWOOD – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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Dreams do come true! Sometime in 2008, I posted an event on Facebook for my performance (with the Groovy People) at Rock the Sub. I got a bit of a shock when Chris Collingwood (the voice of power pop legends Fountains of Wayne) wrote on the event wall that he would love to play in Singapore!

Well, in about 5 weeks’ time, Collingwood will in fact be playing in Singapore at Baybeats 2009 on the 29th of August to be precise. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, yours truly will be backing Chris playing rhythm guitar and singing backing vox! Yes! Really!

Let’s just say that I have been a big fan of FOW since their gorgeous eponymous album was released in 1996 – the one with the kid playing Superman holding his pet bunny – and I can barely wrap my head around the fact that I will be on stage with Chris playing great songs like Radiation Vibe, Sick Day (my favorite!), Red Dragon Tattoo and Stacy’s Mom!

So, stay tuned as Power of Pop begins its countdown to Baybeats 2009, with special emphasis on my experiences with Chris in the coming weeks! Oh by the way, rounding up the band are Eugene Wee and Desmond Sim out of S-ROCK legends The Lilac Saints!

Check out my review of FOW’s third album, Welcome Interstate Managers, which I wrote a few years back. Still there’s more.

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Ten tracks into this, the third and latest album from Adam Schlesinger, Chris Collingwood and company, Fountains of Wayne delivers a truly incandescent pop moment with the ‘70s soft-rock evoking “Halley’s Waitress.” With the inspirations of Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters trailing in its wake, “Halley’s Waitress,” with its baroque piano, poignant string arrangement, vibes and theme of wistful regret, represents the rare indications of heart (rather than mind) dictating the Fountains Of Wayne pop agenda.

This superior mood and tone is mirrored in the folky “Hackensack” and the balladic Fire Island, not to mention the radio-friendly “All Kinds of Time.”

Not that the band’s trademark driving sunshine pop-rock doesn’t in itself justify a recommendation. It’s just that I’ve always felt that this particular kind of Cheap Trick meets Pixies melodic crunch has been better served up by the likes of Weezer and Grandaddy. Worse still when juvenile urges are indulged with the rather distasteful “Stacy’s Mom” – imagine a much creepier “Jesse’s Girl,” where instead of lusting after another guy’s girlfriend, this time it’s your girlfriend’s erm mother – although I presume it’s done as a parody but why go there at all?

That aberration apart, the songwriting duo’s knack for stitching together vivid novelettes ala Ray Davies remains intact. The working class dilemma is outlined in tracks like “Mexican Wine” – “I used to fly for United Airlines/Then I got fired for reading High Times,” “Bright Future in Sales” – “I had a line on a brand new account/But now I can’t seem to find/Where I wrote that number down” and “Little Red Light” – “Stuck in a meeting on a Monday night/trying to get the numbers to come out right.” Even happier to report that the boys’ sense of humour is not lost in songs like the bizarre action-replay paean “All Kinds Of Time,” which simply describes an American Football TV scene, “No Better Place” with “Is that supposed to be your poker face/Or was someone run over by a train” and “Hey Julie” which illustrates the mundanity of the working stiff – “Working all day for a mean little man/With a clip-on tie and a rub-on tan.”

Hailed years ago as the Great White Hope of power pop, Fountains of Wayne do not disappoint with Welcome Interstate Managers, clocking in at 55-plus minutes and 16 tracks, discerning pop fans will relish every nuance and every lick. Indispensable.

POWER OF POP FESTIVAL

If Power of Pop organized a one-day rock festival, the line up would probably look a little like this…

My headliners would be –

WILCO

NADA SURF

FLEET FOXES

GARY LOURIS

So far, so good eh? And my supporting acts would include –

WHITE DENIM

ELIZABETH AND THE CATAPULT

DAVID MEAD

SPLITSVILLE

… and of course, my favourite S-ROCK bands will all be given primo spots for maximum exposure as well!

Okay, day dreaming over.

…still there’s more…

LING KAI

Here’s a video that Singaporean singer-songwriter (and youtube superstar) Ling Kai has just posted online. Its a new song called Perfect Today and features an off-camera kazoo. Yeah, really. Ling Kai will be opening for Aimee Mann at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 29th August at 7.30pm. In the meantime, enjoy…

S-ROCK UPLIFT

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For reasons I will not bore you with, it was important for me to get a lift this weekend, to recharge these batteries for yet another demanding week. Friday and Saturday nights promised much, first with the performance of the Great Spy Experiment at dbl O for Hennessy Artistry and then for my collaboration with Jon Chan at the For This Cycle EP launch the following night.

On Friday night, I met up with Firdaus, Audie, Nigel & Deborah for a meal before the GSE gig and had a fine time bascially talking cock (foreign visitors would need to google that). By the time, we got into dbl O, Freaky Z was on stage. The sound was less than optimal but I really dug what Freaky Z was all about. Unfairly lumped together with Singapore’s hip-hop scenesters, Freaky Z never tries to ape African-American rap culture in the way he looks or performs, instead he remains himself – Singaporean! His musical style, to my ears, is more reggae/ska filtered through indie Brit-rock, like Arctic Monkeys. I enjoyed his set. When GSE finally came on (sans Song – holidaying in Spain), the crowd rushed to the front of the stage obediently at Saiful’s prompting and from then on it was a half-hour of blissful mayhem. Yes, the sound basically sucked (inaudible guitar, distorting vocals etc) but the band soared above that limitation to deliver a heady set. The crowd certainly played its part as the connection between band and audience elevated this gig to sweet highs! New songs Wasted and The Lights stood their ground amidst “old” faves like Dance With Me, The Great Decay, Late Night Request, Siti in the City and of course the communal event that is Class ‘A’ Love Affair. I personally like the way Mag’s keyboards are more prominent in the newer material, a welcome development. So thanks to Saiful, Fandy, Mag and Khai for a magical night! Shout-outs also to Mike, Rozz, Huzaifah and Ian (The Fire Fight)…thanks!

Here’s a little “secret”, Jon Chan and I only rehearsed for our guest spot on Saturday night at 4plus on the day itself! Don’t try this at home, kids! Heh! I love Jon Chan! He’s one of our best singer-songwriters – talented and versatile. But most importantly, he’s a gent, no egos and hang ups, an absolute joy to work with. After the run through of our set, we ran over to the Cineleisure food court for a satisfying dinner with Esmond and Brian (always great for a chat). When we returned, there was a pretty big crowd (200 peeps?) waiting to enter scape, not bad for a ticketed event. No doubt that For This Cycle (aka Weiwen Seah) is going places indeed. After Fire Away Samson, Tacit Aria and Trella, we made our way onto the stage and did the set. A cover of the ever-reliable All Along the Watchtower, Jon’s wondrous new untitled song about grace – (“you know you can’t make it/and you know you can’t fake it”) and Gum. Judging from the bemused faces of most of the audience, I’d say that it was the youngest crowd I’ll played to since I started performing again but I wanna say “thank you” to the kids at the front who actually sang along to Gum. Made my night!

As young as Weiwen is, he has the mature sensibility to explore so-called older approaches in his music and as much as I agree with Esmond that he is the “Next Big Thing” in S-ROCK, I believe that Weiwen will be more than a passing fad and that he has it in him to be an exciting singer-songwriter/performer anywhere. I highly recommend you to keep an eye on this young man, and of course check out his EP (review to come…).

So that’s my re-charge sorted, high fives(!) to Jon, Esmond, Brian, Weiwen, Roland, Jordan, (Mr) Dex, Azly (thanks for the Postbox EP), Zaki (Peepshow), Joakim… later!

(Pix by Jane Liew)

… still there’s more …

AIMEE MANN LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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I recently wrote a review of David Mead’s excellent new album and lamented how difficult it is for sophisticated pop songwriters to earn their keep in the superficial modern rock scene. Well, Aimee Mann has certainly faced her fair share of challenges since she left 80s band ‘Til Tuesday in 1990. Releasing her first two albums (Whatever and I’m With Stupid) to critical acclaim but relatively weak sales, she was released from her contract with Geffen who were indifferent about third album, Bachelor No. 2, which she subsequently self-released under her own label, Superego.

Fortunately, director Paul Thomas Anderson was introduced to Mann’s music via husband Michael Penn and composer Jon Brion (Brion who has also scored Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch-Drunk Love & I Heart Huckabees, was once a member of seminal powerpop band, the Grays!) and featured Mann’s songs prominently in the Magnolia soundtrack (starring Tom Cruise). This brought Mann the public attention her talent deserved.

Since then, Mann has had the luxury of creative freedom with subsquent albums Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm, establishing Mann as one of the foremost singer-songwriters of this epoch.

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Mann’s latest album, @#%&*! Smilers, is a collection of character vignettes written from the perspective of a novelist or journalist but rendered in song form. The title itself is a rather cynical comment on our current smiley culture and people who are always “up”! The music covers a wide range of pop-rock styles from folk to country to piano ballad to pop and hearkens back really to the 70s singer-songwriter era. Overall, the album is fairly introspective but not downbeat, with most of the tracks not intended to quicken the pulse with the lyrical concepts given room to breathe.

My favorite song is the opening Cars-channelling Freeway with its hilarious line, “Where everyone’s a doctor or a specialist in retail/They’ll sell you all the speed you want, if you can take the blackmail”. Heh. The soaring Looking for Nothing comes close with a look at a girl with no thoughts of the future – “Just spend the money I made/I ain’t gotta do nothing today”.

The rest of @#%&*! Smilers retains that lyrical bite whilst exploring diverse pop-rock agendas. Not for casual pop listeners, Aimee Mann is highly recommended for anyone who is serious about pop music as an artform (which means you, faithful PoP visitor!).

More info on Aimee Mann –

Official Website

Myspace

So get your tickets for Aimee’s Singapore show here.

MARIE DIGBY

gawk away… apparently she’s performing in Singapore soon…

…still there’s more…

RE: PLAY

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RE:PLAY is an initiative of NHB’s youth outreach programme. Like how the pairing up of the contemporary bands with traditional musicians lets the audience enjoy music differently, NHB wants youths to see culture and museums differently too. It’s free!

Facebook page here.

FOR THIS CYCLE EP LAUNCH

PRESALETICKETS

People always gasp, “Oh, he’s so young!” upon discovering that Weiwen (aka For This Cycle) is 16 years old. Fact is that when I first met Weiwen, it was in 2007 at Deafcon 5, when he was 14! He has certainly come a long way and his on-stage personality and the breezy import of his songs make him a S-ROCK fan-favorite.

Well, the good news for all For This Cycle fans is that the debut EP will be launched this Saturday night and I get to team up with the talented Jon Chan (again!) as special guests. So its a double bonus I guess you might say. Information is in the flyer above, though I believe that it all begins at 7.30pm. See you all there!

Check out For This Cycle’s Myspace page.

…still there’s more…

ELVIS COSTELLO LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Elvis Costello

I was reading a news item on Channel News Asia online about Joan Chen doing something or rather at this year’s Singapore Sun Festival when almost as an afterthought, the article mentioned that singer-songwriter Elvis Costello will also be performing.

WHAT!?!

I could not believe it and I scoured the internet for news on this and sure enough, the man who is one of my chief musical inspirations, will be giving a solo performance on 5th October at the Esplanade Concert Hall! What fantastic news! And so, the moment the tickets were available, I got mine – third row centre with early bird discount to boot!

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So… with the new Costello album – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane – out now (kick-ass country-folk-blues), the months leading up to 5th October will be a time when I will be reflecting on the man’s recorded highlights. I am so excited!

More info here.

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ME & MY GUITAR GOES OUTDOOR

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And so, a week of gigs ended for me with two satisfying solo acoustic sets at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. I got Nick Tan and Narisa Chan, two young singer-songwriters to open each set for me with two songs and it was rather affecting, I must say, to watch them delivering their own originals to the crowd.

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Narisa seemed rather nervy but I think she handled herself well. Just needs more experience. Nick more seasoned now and his new song together with You (one of my favorites) pleased the audience. More to come from these two I predict.

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I felt the first set was a little hard going for me – although the crowd was always appreciative – for some reason, I felt the songs weren’t coming across, especially the Singapore-referencing ones, which surprised me. Or maybe it was my own imagination. In any case, set list – Jealous Guy, I Love Singapore, High Cost of Living, The Offender, Pasir Ris Sunrise, Lament, Here, Beautiful, My One & Only.

I started with the electric piano for my second set. Was a little apprehensive about this, I don’t usually do this live but I thought that Texas and My Life went down well. And that pleased me no end. So from that point in time to the end, the set went very well and I could see many mobile phones raised recording my performance. Always a good sign! Also very much enjoyed the debut of (It’s Not A) Fact after all these years. Yes, it’s time to record some of these babies! Set list – Hey Jude, Texas, My Life, Beyond the Ashes, (Its Not a) Fact, Easy, Heaven, My One & Only, Gum.

Thank again to Chloe (and all at Esplanade) and of course to Nick and Narisa.

Pictures courtesy of Soh Poh Soo.

… still there’s more …