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Sunday, June 10, 2007

ROCKING THE SUB

As I expected, Saturday (9 June) was a fun day filled with Singapore indie rock music and cool funny moments with funny cool people.

I arrived at about 2pm at the Substation Theatre on a blistering Saturday afternoon and could not wait to get into any room with air-conditioning. So I quickly picked up my comp ticket and rushed into the hall. It was empty...

In typical Singaporean fashion, the show which was scheduled to start at 2pm had still not yet begun... rubber time and all that. I had a short chat with Ben Harrison (Etc) who was supposed to play at 2.30pm... but we've been there already.

Yay! The gig kicks off with My Writes who promptly announce that this would be their last gig as three members would be serving their national service. MyWrites is part of the twee pop scene and from the get go, you can hear the usual twee pop influences - Felt, Orange Juice, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura and so on. What the band lacked in the songwriting department, it made up in enthusiasm and by all accounts it was a fine way to bow out, if only for a season.

An aside - Singapore kids are a cooperative bunch but apparently unable to enjoy a rock gig without being told how to. So the kids would only stand if they were asked to. If not, they would happily sit on the floor while the band is performing... strange, but true.

And oh yeah, Inch had made her appearance too, of course. (hi inch!)

Etc, viz Ben and Lennart took the stage and immediately the entire mood was altered. The banter was priceless with Ben and Lennart joking around, it was almost like an informal jam session. Ben was in fine form, and once again proved the adage that it is the songs that makes you, not the flash and style. With top notch material like "When I Was A Store Detective," "Astrogal," "Meet Me At the Supermarket," "Love is No Alibi" and my personal fave, "Superhero" (with its classic lines, "I am a super-hero/I'm not a weirdo" resonating), and Ben's dynamic guitar work, it was a brilliant set. Thanks, Ben & Lennart!

Once the Etc set was over, I rushed over to the Youth Centre to catch Openstage @scape and just got there in time as HYR began his talk on song writing. When he was done, he handed over the reins to Xiaohan to speak about lyric writing. All informative. Then, Jack and Rai (EIC) sang three songs from their upcoming album viz. "The Falalala Song," "Release Me" & "Fiona." Every song a winner - funny, entertaining and catchy. What more could you want? I was truly impressed especially by the fact that Jack and Rai mined the rich vein of folk-pop-rock to great effect - which is rare in the Singapore music scene. If there was any justice in the world, they would be superstars! Can't wait for the new album, fellas...

Anna Judge April was the showcase band and all I really wanna say constructively is that they really need to rehearse more cos it just didn't work for them.

Edward (from Timbre) was kind enough to give me a lift back to the Substation just in time to see Analog Girl on stage. Armed with laptop and microphone, it was a different gig experience and whilst I must confess that electronica with deadpan vox is not really my scene, I could appreciate the fact that she was good as what she did.

Astreal, a veteran band of the indie scene (formed in 1992!) were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd and delivered a competent shoegazing performance although the guitar was so low in the sound mix, it stripped much of the power out of the set. Honestly, as with many in this genre, the songs get pretty samey fast and thankfully, the band trotted out a sexy trip-hop number which kept things interesting.

By then, Saiful had turned up and it was fun chatting with him, as always. Saiful had come for the Pinholes, of course. The hall was so suffocatingly hot that people had to troop out for some fresh air (debatable as most would light up) and so we waited until we heard the Pinholes start up and we rushed in to...

... the Pinholes giving up one of their best performances as they launched into "Shake and Bake," "Long Live Rock n Roll" et al in cool retro outfits and delivering their usual high standard of showmanship. The band was in good spirits and the songs were tighter than the set at Playden two weeks ago. I love the Pinholes! Great attitude, great songs and they always look like they having loads of fun and they make no pretence about being entertainers - isn't that what rock n roll is all about!

It was almost 10pm and I was frankly getting rather knackered but I wanted to watch B-Quartet, after all the good things I've heard. I have to report that the hype is justified. Having expanded to a sextet, the band proceeded to impress with their jazz-infused indie rock, spotlighting the influence of Jeff Buckley, Radiohead and a little Muse. The highlight for me was a song called Shoebox, which began as a jazz ballad and ended as an emo punk stomper. Exhilirating...

... and that was that! Overall, Rock the Sub was a success, notwithstanding the usual technical sound glitches and the heat. The response was heartening although lacking in audience participation (it's still Singapore, folks) and I'm glad to report that there are indeed outstanding bands in Singapore, based on this evidence - Etc, the Pinholes and B-Quartet, ahead of most of the pack yesterday. Not forgetting EIC...

Would appreciate it if anyone else who managed to see the bands I missed, please let me have your comments... thanks!

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