The People’s Party - 15 January 2012 | *SCAPE Warehouse
After the success of bringing in MGMT, French Horn Rebellion and Hurts last year, Untitled Entertainment expanded The People’s Party tour to Singapore, bringing in acts such as Metronomy, The Jezabels, The Naked and Famous and Bombay Bicycle Club. The line-up for the second day of the mini-festival held at *SCAPE featured MUON (SG), Noughts & Exes (HK), Analog Girl (SG), Unknown Mortal Orchestra (US/NZ), In Each Hand A Cutlass (SG), The Naked & Famous (NZ) and Bombay Bicycle Club (UK).
MUON opened the festival right on schedule, playing to a crowd of about hundred people, which slowly expanded as people trickled in on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Their set was overall disappointing, as they sounded unprepared for their performance. Their first attempt to perform their new track Failure of Plan B ended in a mess, which Nick (programming/bass) somewhat saved with an awkward joke about “the failure of the intro”. At a point in their set, a few sound samples were played and quickly cut, as if the band was indecisive or unrehearsed. To their credit, the rest of their set was wonderfully intense, but unfortunately the crowd had not fully warmed up to the ambient soundscapes created by the band.
Noughts & Exes’s performance that day was their third one in Singapore (last being Baybeats ’11), and received an overwhelming positive response from the crowd. Playing tracks from their albums The Start of Us and Act One Scene One, the band soared through songs such as The Crime and Everything. Their set was heartfelt and honest, especially Joshua’s vocal performance. Their set became an intimate affair as he the strain of his vocals revealed him laying bare his feelings through the songs, and the interaction with the audience felt sincere. The rest of the band was also lost in the music when they played, showing their utter commitment and faith in the music they were making. However, the actions of the backup vocalist marred their set. Her vocals were very suited to the songs and matched Joshua’s vocals, but her hand actions and dancing felt extremely forced and awkward, as compared to the natural movement and charisma of the other musicians on stage. The placing of the drumset could also have been improved, but perhaps due to logistics, the drummer was very far upstage, so much that he was visually unnoticeable. As a whole their set was a real treat for those present at the time, as they also played a new track that they had not played anywhere else yet.
Following Noughts & Exes’s indie-folk set was The Analog Girl’s brand of electro-rock. Her set was an impressive visual and aural experience, with her use of a Tenori-On and AudioCubes. The lighting design during her set was also particularly noticeable, as it created a strong and dark atmosphere for her creation of soundscapes. Her vocals contributed to the impressive live experience as they were not the sole focus of her music, but added an element of the dreamy and ethereal to her music.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO) also made their Asian debut at the festival, immediately making an impression on everyone in their tribal-ethnic clothing, prompting an audience member to shout “nice shirt!” Surprisingly, the band already has a fanbase here, clear from the roar that went up in the crowd as they arrived onstage. Playing tracks from their self-titled debut album such as Bicycle, Jello and Juggernauts and Boy Witch, they had everyone in the crowd grooving and jumping to their lo-fi psychedelic rock. Their brand of guitar rock was definitely a breath of fresh air in the festival after much electronic music. The band members, Ruban Nielson (vox, guitar), Jake Portrait (bass) and Julien Ehrlich (drums) also communicated well with each other, continually maintaining eye contact with each other throughout their set. The band also thoroughly impressed the crowd with Ruban’s shredding on his guitar and Julian’s relentless and precise drumming. Their performance ended on a high as the audience were very pumped up and sang along for their biggest hit, Ffuny Ffrends.
Next up was In Each Hand A Cutlass, who only released their debut album late last year and brought the intensity to the festival. In Daniel Sassoon’s words, they are “from Singapore and we (they) represent”! Their brand of post-rock was the heaviest music heard that day, with tracks such as A Universe Made of Strings and Chocolate and the Lovelorn Girl, verging on metal. Unfortunately the crowd noticeably thinned after UMO had left the stage. But Daniel Sassoon was certainly the most dynamic musician performing that day, with his jumps and twirls, and even sliding on the floor with his guitar. The crowd was receptive to the band, but they definitely did not enjoy their performance as much as the others, as audience members were overheard saying the music was too heavy for their liking. Nelson Tan’s imitation of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean certainly drew many comments and much (good) attention.
The crowd swelled up to the warehouse’s full capacity in anticipation for The Naked And Famous, whom the crowd went wild for throughout their set. It seemed as though a majority of the crowd was there for The Naked And Famous rather than Bombay Bicycle Club, with their catchy indie-pop tunes. All eyes were on Alisa Xayalith during their set as she lost herself in the songs and led the sing-alongs to their famous tunes Punching In A Dream and Girls Like You and of course, Young Blood. Though most present thoroughly enjoyed their set, it felt a little stale to this reviewer as the organisers could easily have just done a playback of The Naked And Famous songs, as the band didn’t attempt to change any of the songs and they sounded as if they were entirely played off a recording, which at the same time also attests to their musical skills. There was also little attempt to engage the audience, as the band chose to simply perform their songs instead of bantering.
The last band of the night was Bombay Bicycle Club, which Power of Pop also interviewed earlier that day! General opinion among the crowd was that Bombay Bicycle Club’s set was better than The Naked And Famous, perhaps because of their engagement with the crowd. All the band members besides Suren (drummer) repeatedly made an effort to come closer to the audience and play to them, especially Jamie (guitar). It was a special night not only for fans of the band present, but also Jack (singer) as it was his birthday, and Jamie led a massive sing-along for Jack, who added that he was glad to celebrate his birthday playing in Singapore. The crowd lapped up every moment of the hour-long set, as they played songs from three albums, but especially their first, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. The audience also expectedly chanted for an encore following the band’s departure from the stage. Combined with the strobe lighting used and the band’s infectious and obvious love for performing their music, their set was an enjoyable and special experience for everyone there.
Much thanks to Untitled Entertainment and props to them for improving the overall sound quality of the venue those two days and for making the festival an intimate and enjoyable experience.
Picture of Bombay Bicycle Club courtesy of Alvin Ho.