2 November 2013
The Meadow, Gardens By The Bay
Last Saturday, indie fans descended on The Meadow at Gardens By The Bay for the first edition of the annual Camp Symmetry, organised by Symmetry Entertainment, who has brought us gigs by Beach Fossils, Yacht, Carl Barat & The Libertines and The Drums. Starting at 12 noon, the festival line-up presented 12 hours of indie folk, indie pop, indie rock and post-rock. The festival expectedly attracted hipsters and music lovers ranging from the ages of 15 to 40. Camp Symmetry invited comparisons to Laneway Festival – having similar programming, targeting the same audience, being held at the same venue, and the festival held up very well. There was a good variety and somewhat affordable F&B choices for a festival, with more activities like bouncy castles and ping-pong tables. The festival also ran like clockwork, with each set starting and ending at its scheduled time, which is remarkable for a festival!
General consensus on Veronica Falls’s performance at the festival is that they fell flat and were boring, but they nevertheless were able to please their fans, who gamely bought up the band’s merchandise like tees and totes. It did not help that the crowd was thin at noon, with most streaming in during the next few hours. However, Last Dinosaurs sure warmed up the crowd with their feel-good and catchy indie pop, eliciting much excitement, screaming and cheering among their fans. Having only released one album, In A Million Years, they played almost all the songs from that album. While their music is very much in the vein of other indie bands, their pleasant tunes with catchy riffs injected a much-needed dose of energy and melody into the festival, getting the crowd dancing and jumping.
Of the early line-up, San Cisco was the clear favourite. The band was a real crowd-pleaser, impressing and entertaining fans and non-fans alike, with their catchy tunes and harmonies getting people dancing in the mud early on in the day. Songs like “Beach”, “Girls Do Cry” and “Fred Astaire” had great hooks and quirky harmonies a la Peter, Bjorn and John, and the band was endearing in their interaction with each other. Ending their set with their hit song “Awkward”, there was a real festival atmosphere with the laid-back and happy vibes emanating from the crowd.
The crowd visibly thinned significantly after San Cisco’s set, but fans of Wild Nothing eagerly planted themselves at the front in anticipation of the band. In my opinion, there was nothing entertaining about Wild Nothing’s set, and besides fans, most used this time during the festival to laze in the sun, check out the activities, take a nap or seek shelter because of the (apparent) impending rain. Their set had a couple of hiccups due to technical difficulties, and that only added on to the banality of their set. Their set came off sounding like a soundcheck, with the band discussing on stage, and saying, “let’s try that” at one point in the set. Nevertheless, they could do no wrong in the eyes of their fans, despite them embodying the worst of dream pop – overindulgent, boring, draggy and without melodies.
The programming of William Fitzsimmons in the middle of the day was definitely a right choice, providing a peaceful respite and quality tunes enjoyed by all. Songs like “Passion Play” and “Beautiful Girl” were gorgeously performed, adding to the festival atmosphere a sense of peace and serenity. It was undeniably a wise choice to place him in the line-up before the longer and noisier sets by Ra Ra Riot and Best Coast, giving the audience a chance to catch a breath and relax before the euphoric night ahead.
Ra Ra Riot animated and thrilled the crowd with their upbeat tunes like “St. Peter’s Day Festival” and “Can You Tell”, charming fans with their vocal-focused melodies. One of the most anticipated acts of the festival was Best Coast, and rightly so, as they have quite a large fanbase in Singapore, yet they have not performed here before. Playing a full set of 18 songs, it was a real treat for the audience, as their songs like “Boyfriend”, “No One Like You”, “The Only Place” and “Crazy For You” sounded even better live, stripped off the fuzziness that is so evident on their records. It was good to hear the band without the fuzzy tone that is so prominent on all their songs, which is honestly distracting and hides lead vocalist Bethany’s voice. Following their performance of “No One Like You” in the middle of their set, there was a collective gasp as Bethany announced that the gig would be her last performance… as a 26 year old. *Cue huge sigh of relief from the crowd. The crowd proceeded to sing her a birthday song, which I expect was a memorable moment from the festival for her. Unfortunately, proceeding that moment, their set blended into one long song, as their songs all tend to sound similar. However, they were definitely able to please their fans and satisfy the crowd with the length and quality of their set.
The festival only got better from that point, with energetic and electrifying sets from The Cribs, Mew and Explosions in the Sky. The festival was made so much more enjoyable and muddy conditions tolerable with the incredible hospitality by the folks at the Spotify tent. Kudos to the Spotify team! We can only look ahead with anticipation for Camp Symmetry in 2014 – hopefully the line-up will have more quality bands earlier in the day instead of fillers (in some cases), and congratulations to the Symmetry Entertainment team on a first successful festival!
Thanks to Symmetry Entertainment for making this review possible.