I'm a Baybeats virgin!
Hard to believe, huh? But in the last couple of years, I never really thought I was interested in the local 'indie' scene enough to push my way through masses of kids and subject myself to music that I was convinced was sub-par.
How things change...
After the thrilling kick-off that was Mercury Rev's phenomenal set, I approached Baybeats Day One with high expectations.
We arrived at the Powerhouse stage to find a sparse crowd, it was 6.30pm on a Friday evening I guess, but opening band King Kong Jane did not let that deter them as the boys delivered a tight set with hooky originals. I was impressed as was the crowd in attendance. Going by the quality of their songs - catchy choruses, bouncy rhythms and robust guitars - King Kong Jane have the potential to deliver. I liked their set, a lot.
Monofone was performing next - on the other side at the Arena stage and so we attempted to get across but was slightly delayed as we met the Fire Fight sans JBarks (sadly, still in camp). Was introduced to Chris - keyboard player - unforgettable in his bleached hair! The boys graciously passed me their debut single - The Green Single - more about that later.
Anyways, got to Monofone, halfway through their set.
Monofone is a confident group, made all the right moves and had a decent enough fan base. Their modus operandi owes, you might say, a big debt to Muse but as even Muse were slammed as Radiohead rip-offs when they started, I'd rather give Monofone the benefit of the doubt for now. I must confessed that the sound was a bit too close to Muse for my comfort and the rock posturing was a tad off-putting but the crowd enjoyed themselves so we'll leave it at that for now...
Stentorian was on at the Powerhouse and again we tried to get over and by the time we did, the crowd had grown considerably. We stayed for maybe two songs - clearly, Stentorian has great mainstream appeal though the songs were a little too funky for my tastes. Good musicianship though and the vocalist was top notch.
We decided to head back to Arena stage *whew* to watch Caracal. By then, the crowd on that side was pumped up to the max. Caracal came on - one by one - a cute gimmick which I remember my band - Blue Lightning - did in 1979! Some things never change, eh?
Now, I have to be honest here without being too cynical. Caracal gave the audience what they wanted - high-energy emo punk to mosh and bodysurf - but after a while it might as well have been techno played at a club... meaning that there was precious differentiation between song to song and that to me is a serious impendiment to the artistic growth of these young bands.
Yes, I guess they're young but rock music is more than posing, sure it's fun to look and act cool but what really do you have to say to your audience? From the number of times, Caracal's frontman was hawking the band's merchandise, he might as well have been a salesman and not a singer.
I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but in my book, a band should never sell merchandise on stage, let the organizers or the MCs do it - artistic integrity, man!
But the crowd sure loved them so at least Caracal has a good foundation to build on - now they need to write a couple of meaningful, distinctive songs. Make me eat my words, boys!
Feeling a little hungry, we adjourned for some dinner at Marina Square.
By the time, we got back for final local band - Plainsunset - the crowd was immense at the Arena stage and so we had no choice but to get up to the overhead bridge to catch glimpses of the band in action. Now, my impression of Plainsunset was a straightahead old-school punk band. After all, drummer Ronny played with Popland once when we did a punks covers set some years back and Ronny was kind enough to give me the band's Runaway album and that's as old-school (think: Ramones) punk as you can get.
However, what I heard was a more updated version of punk - with clear elements of emo that really appealed to the kids. Overall, I believe it was a successful performance. I mean I respect the band for trying out new sounds and new song, Sword of Achilles, had progressive rock nuances as well (!) - which I guess highlights the difference between a seasoned outfit like Plainsunset and an inexperienced band like Caracal. Again, I was thrilled by the crowd response although some of the moshing looked a little dodgy, especially with the arms swinging but thankfully, I did not observe any serious incidents and by and large the security people had matters under control.
At the end of it all, I had a few words with Leonard Soosay and I was remarking (lamenting) that we (as in the bands from the early 90s) never had the level of support the new bands have nowadays. To me, this cannot be an end in itself. We have got to build the local music scene to a level where our bands are touring regionally and even Japan and Australia, sell CDs by the truckloads and able to headline shows in Singapore successfully. This requires work and commitment but I'm also hoping that the powers-that-be recognise the Singapore music scene and provide the seed funding to get things moving further. And can Singapore radio stations dedicate more air time to Singapore music as well?
So, I am no longer a Baybeats virgin!
All told, I enjoyed myself last night and proud to see local bands get the support and recognition they deserve... kudos to the Baybeats organizers for a job well done...
...still there's more, of course... today be sure to catch the full programme which begins at 2pm.