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Saturday, August 04, 2007

YOU CAME AND GAVE TO ME A HEART AND HELPED ME BREATHE

The privilege of being a music writer is that you get so many goodies to listen to. As mentioned, I got my grubby hands on the debut single of The Fire Fight. Well, the review can be read here. Suffice to say, that it contains really good songs that fans of modern rock will throughly enjoy... and if you dig 80s big music viz U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, Waterboys, Simple Minds etc, you will love this. C'mon, make sure you buy the Green Single either today or tomorrow at Baybeats. Please tell them I sent you, okay?

BAYBEATS DAY ONE - 3RD AUGUST 2007

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.
See ya!

Friday, August 03, 2007

I ALWAYS DREAM OF BIG CROWDS

My mind is still reeling from the psychedelic noise wonderland that was the Mercury Rev concert at the Esplanade Theatre last night. A truly awesome set and not what I expected at all. I mean, I knew it would be great but it was different from what I thought it would be. Anyhoo, my review is here.
Saw the usual suspects there as well - Pat, Chang Kang, Ben, Joe, Lennat... also some friends from across the border - Warren (Ferns) and Zack (Deserters). Memorable... and inspiring...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

OH DISTANCE WHY WON'T YOU DISAPPEAR

Back from the airport sending the missus off to North America for the next two (!) weeks. Currently on seriously repeat mode is the Great Spy Experiment's Late Night Request. Just another meloncholy beauty for these melancholy moments.

Oh sorrow
Won't you flow out?
These tired veins have dried
This tired soul has burned out
Collect her
Bring her back here next to me
'Cause I need her now
I need her touch so desperately

(Words by Saiful Idris)

PoP BENI

Yes, a round of applause and a warm welcome to my buddy Beni who makes her debut as a PoP writer with an incisive review of Magneto's Resistance is Futile. Please check it out!

HAPPY MONDAY NORTHERN LIGHTS

This Monday at Earshot!
Happy Monday Northern Lights
Cross-Causeway Acoustic Antics
Earshot - Artshouse - Singapore (Old Parliament)
6th August 2007 / 8pmFree admission

After the intense aural assault by bands at Baybeats 2007, wind down and chill out the Monday-after, with a selection of featured performers doing things a little differently.
Warren Chan (Ferns, Malaysia)The unlikely frontman of indie pop outfit Ferns, Warren Chan has been flirting with music for as long as he can remember. The Ferns' released their debut album On Botany in 2006, and have since been honoured on the list of "Top 25 Bands on Myspace" by Rolling Stone magazine, finally affirming Warren's belief that living inside his head would one day, pay off. http://www.myspace.com/fernfrens

Reza Salleh (Malaysia) Reza owes much of his singing career to the Seattle sounds of Nirvana, radio pop from the 90s, the vocal stylings of Black American vocalists, and reality. The stuff he writes is a mish-mash of elements drawn from a combination of his inner space and listening diet from the last decade. Dark, heartfelt, confused. Best served with coffee. http://www.myspace.com/rezasalleh

Zack Yusof (Deserters, Malaysia) Zack Yusof is a music journalist, occasional indie radio jock and enthusiastic part-time club DJ who – driven by his love of classic songwriting and inventive sonic experimentation – sings, plays guitar and writes songs in KL-based indie rock quintet Deserters. Zack in solo form makes intimate lo-fi acoustic folk under the guise of Kid Kowalski.
http://www.myspace.com/deserters

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

THE MATCH THAT STARTED MY FIRE

Feelin' melancholy as the love of my life goes away for two weeks (!). So here's a clip of the Style Council with one of all-time favourite songs - The Paris Match... still as powerful as it was the first time I heard it in the early 1980s... sums it all up really.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO FAR?

It was a truly enjoyable lunch time for me today (I usually don't have a 'proper' lunch - but that's another story) as I sauntered down to the Esplanade Concert Hall to be thoroughly entertained by Jack and Rai (backed on percussion by Vick - recommended drummer for the Groovy People - yeah, another story).
Now, I'm used to seeing Jack and Rai in more casual environments and the Concert Hall seemed a bit formal. Unusually so. Quite a good crowd turned up as the MC Vivien Tan kicked off proceedings nicely.
Jack and Rai performed 5 songs from EIC's upcoming album (entitled In Stores Now, in typical droll Jack and Rai fashion with release date of 28 Sep. Take note!) and whilst the 1st three were in their usual lanquid, easy rock style, I could not quite get into them - maybe first time listen but when the familiar Falalala Song came up, it was pure bliss.
The usual banter was evident between the dynamic duo, although it was clear that they were a little nervy. Not that I blame them, the venue is more suited for a classical music performance than acoustic rock. Still, Jack and Rai sure did deliver.
Especially when my fave Fiona closed the set and to these ears, it was the best version thus far although the bouncing noises were kept to a minimum. Out of reverence to the hallowed Hall?
And in a flash, it was over... I repeat... what a great lunch time treat. Till the new album, fellas!

DEAFCON 5... CONFIRMED!

Never imagined that I'd be performing at Deafcon... and an acoustic set at that. In the spirit of National Day and all that, most of the songs I will be playing will have a Singapore theme... and there will be surprise guest singer with me as well... can't wait...
... and there's more ...

Monday, July 30, 2007

JACK & RAI @ ESPLANADE

A Newsflash from our favourite dynamic duo:

July 31st (Tues) -- It's the 2nd installation of Lunchbox at the Esplanade. This time, we call it "Acoustic Interpretations 2" and it's gonna be an all-original set as we showcase a full half hour of tunes from our upcoming album that's due end-Aug. Make a date with us at the Esplanade Concert Hall (don't play play!), 12.45-1.15pm SHARP!

Be there! You know the drill... come up and say HI!

SOUNDS OF DELIGHT AND JOY

One hook is all anyone needs to explore and expand on an interest in an artist. Could be a tune, vocals or even good looks, whatever it takes.
Indus Gendi has been described by my good buddy Beni as three guys from her band and two others... hurhur...
Anyways, last night's set at Cineleisure, one song really stood out for me and that was Then and Now. To these ears, it had a cool early 80s vibe - Style Council, Everything But the Girl - filtered through early 90s modern rock instrumentation - Jeff Buckley, Radiohead - and features a wondrous old-school guitar solo from James... you can catch Then and Now at Indus Gendi's myspace site. Suffice to say, I'm pretty besotted with it!
Probably need a few more listens to the other songs to truly appreciate but for now, repeated plays of Then and Now at the band's myspace page will do me nicely... a band to watch.

OH WON'T YOU STAY AWHILE

It's Monday night but I'm in paradise... as I am listening, groovin', boppin' and wiping away the tears to The Flower Show Riots, the eagerly anticipated debut album of the Great Spy Experiment.
I can tell you that I am so proud of the band for their tremendous achievement, this Singaporean group consisting of five humble gal (and guys) has assembled a collection of world-beating songs that every red-blooded Singaporean can stand up and salute, this National Day.
The moment the opening Dance With Me came on I had no choice but to move just like on that first time I heard the band at Dragonfly - irresistible, elevating and uplifting - this is music that touches the heart and feeds the soul with unbridled joy.
...steady on, better save some words for the numerous reviews and articles I will be writing on this event. And it is an event, believe me. So, when Flower Show Riots is (finally) released, remember - run, don't walk, to your nearest CD shop and get your own slice of heaven...
... and there's more....