Mixed feelings about the second day of Baybeats 2007.
Well, okay, to be honest, the so-called negative vibes were more or less overtaken by the positive ones.
On a personal level, I was totally ecstatic about Allura's performance at the Arena stage. I do know for a fact that beforehand, the band were nervous but once they hit the stage they captured the attention and hearts of the sizable crowd with their competent musicianship, superior songcraft and of course, Inch's dynamism, charm and that voice! The crowd were enraptured by the complete package that Mark, Han Quan, Inch, Matt and Aaron were delivering and it was less about any on-stage gimmicks and more about the group presence that kept the crowd enthralled.
I must say that the more I watch Allura the more I am convinced that they have the potential to be an artistic and commercial success not only in the Singapore music scene but beyond. Uniqueness is the key and between the band's hybrid sound and Inch's soulful larynx, Allura possesses a potent combination that will only grow stronger when you consider that the average age of the group is 20!
But let's back up a little, I made it a point to attend the afternoon events at the Singapore Arts Cafe at the behest of Warren (the Ferns) and I'm really glad that I did. I loved the acoustic setting and it was a marked contrast to the noise and thrashing of the night events.
When I arrived - at slightly past 2pm - Reza Salleh had already begun his set. Reza is a consummate guitarist with a rich voice reminiscient of Jason Mraz. He must be a popular performer on Malaysia's pub circuit. He went about his set so cooly and effortlessly, he is a talented guy.
Warren came up and appeared uncomfortable without his other band mates - he confessed as much - but once he began playing, he amazed the crowd with his high-register voice and sophisticated twee pop material. Self-effacing to the max, Warren threw out one gem after another and closed his brief set with an ambitious cover of ELO's Mr Blue Sky, which to these ears sounded quite like Grandaddy! An absolute treat!
TooKoo was next, an emo indie band from Beijing who sang angsty songs to jazzy alternative tunes, which were listenable if unremarkable. Of course, singing in English presented the usual diction problems but they certainly looked the part.
In the interim period, I had a chance to meet Lumpy, a freelance photographer whom I may work with in the future. Also, had a short chat with Jack, Jon How (of Singapore Arts Cafe) and a longer one with Pat. Massive fun, espcially Pat as we got down into serious discussion about the local scene, and what we could collectively (i.e. Music for Good/Power of Pop) do to move the scene forward. Stay tuned!
Last two acts at the Singapore Arts Cafe were the Love Song (from Hong Kong) and the City on Film (from USA). The former featured a non-singing singer who basically intoned over the rather lush acoustic backing - rather recalling David Byrne (Talking Heads) whilst the latter featured one Bob Nanna (formerly of Braid and Hey Mercedes) who thrilled the assembly with his wry song vignettes.
Basically, a very profitable three hours or so.
After Allura, it was a bit of a mixed bag of performances. Deputy Siren had a new singer as their previous vocalist pulled out just before Baybeats. Unfortunately, this was all too evident as new singer, May, just did not gell with the band or the material and to be brutally honest, shouted her way through the set - I am sure she's a good vocalist but perhaps the pitch of the songs did not suit her. As usual, the supportive crowd was up to it so no harm done, I guess but personally I thought it didn't work, on a purely musical level.
I caught marchtwelve last at the Anberlin/Copeland gig and could not quite get into them. Their performance whilst solid and professional was a bizarre one. Singer Dewi-Marie looked kinda pissed off, my observation, at the crowd. I mean, at one point the crowd was shouting - "We want to mosh!!!" and when the band closed its set, Dewi-Marie actually said something to the effect of - "This is our last song, you can mosh to it too" and not in a celebratory manner, mind you!
This was compounded by the fact that whenever the band finished a song, the crowd barely cheered or applauded. Too much!!! Do these moshers care about the music or the bands at all, or is the music just an excuse to mosh? Sad. That put a serious damper on my opinion on the local music scene. Sure, mosh if you want and have fun but please recognize and appreciate the efforts of the bands who have sacrificed time and money for their art and craft.
So what did I think of marchtwelve? Well, it's a bit too math-rock for me at times and you get the impression that they're trying too hard to impress with their numerous chord and key changes. All fine but the impact on melodies is telling. Notwithstanding that, Dewi-Marie has a powerful voice and made it all worthwhile for me... that and Joseph Cinco's inventive guitar playing - a one-man fret orchestra.
After a break for dinner, we returned as Blindside closed the Saturday night's events with a blistering post-hardcore set that to these ears was more like Metallica than Dead Kennedys. You couldn't help but be swept away by the power and the fury of this Swede quartet. Bonus for me was that Blindside is composed of Christians and that added edge brought the whole proceedings to a different level. The crowd was all course more concerned about moshing and bodysurfing, even when there was a deliberate lull in the music - sorry, if this makes me sound ancient but I much preferred it when gigs were about the bands 1st. Y'know, this is why all of us rockers thought disco sucked in the 70s. What's the bloody difference?!!!