Laneway Festival roars to a high note

Fans were kept happy all day by acts such as art-rock stalwarts The Observatory(above).

LANEWAY FESTIVAL SINGAPORE/The Meadows, Gardens by the Bay/Last Saturday

The hypnotising beats and jazzy vocals of English electronic producer James Blake closed the fourth annual Laneway Festival Singapore on a chilled-out and intimate note.

The Grammy-nominated London experimental beatmaker delivered a performance that matched the cool, breezy weather of the night – he had the crowd mesmerised by his deep, soulful beats and rhythms flushed with introspection, performing hits such as The Wilhelm Scream, Limit To Your Love and Retrograde.

His performance gave a sweet ending to the 12-hour festival, which boasted a star-studded line-up of 18 indie acts, including sister trio Haim from Los Angeles, American dream-pop act Youth Lagoon and post-punk band Savages from Britain.

Organisers Chugg Entertainment brought their A-game this year with the addition of a third stage and, for the first time, the inclusion of Singaporean music acts to the festival line-up.

Holding their own against their international peers were home-grown acts Vanessa Fernandez aka Vandetta and Germa at the new, albeit smaller, third stage at the back of the venue that also hosted other electronic music acts such as Jamie XX from Britain and XXYYXX from the United States.

Art-rock stalwarts The Observatory were the most prominent local act, taking to one of the two main stages at 6pm, mid-way through the festival.

The fans on their feet near the stage numbered a few hundred, noticeably less than for the other acts as the dark and industrial feel of the group’s music was in stark contrast to that of many of the other artists on the bill.

The less-than-enthusiastic response by the rest of the audience, who were content to sit on their mats, obviously did not have an effect on the quartet. The band tore through an intense and fierce set, driven by the percussive and droning rhythms of Bani Haykal’s drumming, Leslie Low and Dharma’s twin guitar attack and Vivian Wang’s gloomy and guttural synths.

Earlier in the day, Australian acoustic crooner Vance Joy opened the festival at close to 1pm and was followed by the dreamy, lush pop of Youth Lagoon.

Next, Australian four-piece The Jezabels cranked up the mood with rousing, stadium-worthy anthems such as Endless Summer from their 2011 debut album Prisoner.

Power trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra, whose three members hail from New Zealand and the United States, filled the trippy shoes left behind by one of last year’s Laneway highlights, Tame Impala, by dishing out a good dose of garage rock tinged with psychedelia.

Lo-fi American rocker Kurt Vile and his backing band The Violators took the excitement level down a notch with their laidback yet melodious tunes inflected by the singersongwriter’s lackadaisical drawl.

Their music was a marked contrast to the spirited display by Scottish indie rockers Frightened Rabbit. Bearded frontman Scott Hutchison was already sweaty by the time the band kicked off their energetic set.

With a big guitar sound and buoyant choruses, the band gleefully marked their first gig in Asia with plenty of audience participation in the form of synchronised claps and call-and- response singalongs.

Channelling the spirit of 1970s rock, Haim kept the energy levels high with blistering guitars and feel-good melodies that got the crowd clapping and wanting more. Lead guitarist Danielle Haim impressed with her guitar chops as she covered the fast electric blues song Oh Well, the 1969 hit by British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac.

Then came Glaswegian electro-pop act Chvrches, who took the crowd back to the 1980s with their rave-ready brand of synth-pop music that reminded one of acts from the era, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Depeche Mode. Though the band suffered a few technical hiccups with the sound levels, they pulled off an otherwise decent set, with frontwoman Lauren Mayberry engaging the crowd in funny banter.

Away from the stage, there were plenty of fringe activities to keep festivalgoers entertained. The various booths by fashion retailer H&M alone had, among other things, free ice cream, cotton candy, caricatures by a group of artists and phonecharging stations to keep punters occupied.

Music fans were also spotted partaking in the drinking game of beer pong at footwear brand Dr Martens’ booth, while travel company STA gave out free apples.

Mineral water was priced at a relatively affordable $2 a bottle this year instead of last year’s $5, but there could have been a little bit more flexibility with the food and beverage tokens, which festivalgoers had to buy to pay for food and drinks.

Each token cost $2 but the tokens were sold only in sets of 10 that cost $20. It would be a lot better if fans were allowed to buy any amount they wished, especially when the prices for the food and drinks varied.

And while there was a bigger variety of food options this time, perhaps more could have been done to improve the wait time at food stalls during the peak dinner period around 7pm, when festivalgoers had to queue for up to an hour to buy food.

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