Music and Other Musings

Category: Live Shows

Air @ Esplanade Theatre, 27 May 2017

An amazing thing happened during the Air concert. During ‘Alpha Beta Gaga’, I looked behind and saw a guy who was standing and throwing his arms up urging others to stand. S and I sprang to our feet and grooved to the music, as people around us started to stand. It was an amazingly rousing version which blew me away. The drums were unbelievable and the song positively galloped, the whistles more infectious and urgent. I was expecting a passive, sit-down affair and for the most part it was – I had spent the whole show up until that moment bopping in my seat. The concert got off to a slow start with ‘Venus’ but picked up as they played well-known songs like ‘Cherry Blossom Girl’, ‘Remember’ and ‘Playground Love’. The songs were familiar but sounded different; more energetic and fresh.

I had seen Air at Primavera Sound last year and the two gigs couldn’t be more different. It was at a big outdoor stage, their music disappeared into the air and I was too far away to hear it properly or feel much of a connection. I felt bored and kept thinking they would have sounded better in an indoor venue. Seeing them at the Esplanade Theatre, I was reminded of their festival set and was glad I decided to see them a second time. The visuals were great: there were geometric patterns, colour blocks, shapes that shifted and bubbled. They ended with ‘La Femme d’Argent’ and there were a couple of people in front headbanging. There are lots of bands I can imagine headbanging to and Air isn’t one of them, but it happened. How awesome is that?


Yelle Club Party @ Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore, 13 May 2017

If Cigarettes After Sex was the appetizer and Mew the main course, the Yelle Club Party last Saturday was the perfect sweet ending to a crazy week of gigs. The lively French electronic pop group were in town to play two shows at the Gallery Theatre @ National Museum of Singapore and I went for the second one. I confess I never really listened to their music all that much but I have a new-found love for them after the concert. Their videos are always super fun and entertaining to watch, and seeing them live, it struck me how physical their shows are. Julie Budet was a ball of irrepressible energy on stage, prancing about and deftly maneuvering her body here and there, and dispersing heart flourishes into the crowd. Jean-François Perrier and the drummer (didn’t get his name unfortunately) kept the beat going and matched her antics with choreographed moves and gestures, but it never felt overly rehearsed.

For a band with three albums, their set was a tad too short at an hour and 15 minutes and the audience was definitely left wanting more. Outside, a bunch of us gathered with posters in hand that the concert promoter Figure8 Agency gave out. The band eventually emerged and spent around an hour signing and chatting and taking pictures with everyone. A, E, S and I had attended the Yelle in Context talk at Gallery 10 earlier, where Julie and Jean-François discussed how they use technology, language and culture in their music. Afterwards, I asked Julie which artistes they would love to collaborate with and she said Depeche Mode and Katy Perry. I couldn’t help but notice her awesome shrimp sweater and if I recall correctly, she said it’s by her friend Jean-Paul Lespagnard.

Halfway through May and I’m looking forward to the upcoming gigs next week where I’ll be seeing (coincidentally) a couple of French acts: Worackls and Air. They’re both electronic musicians but have different sounds. Their gigs are back-to-back and I reckon it’s going to be another awesome time.

Cigarettes After Sex + Ulrich Schnauss / MEW @ Urbanscapes, 9 & 10 May 2017

When I heard Cigarettes After Sex were playing Urbanscapes in Kuala Lumpur but skipping Singapore, I knew I had to fly to see them. They’ve been on my radar ever since I heard their 2012 EP I and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them. Ulrich Schnauss got the crowd warmed up with his lush ambient electronic; I wish he was playing a solo show instead because he’s got so much material and one hour wasn’t enough.

Cigarettes After Sex came on at 10.30pm to huge cheers and screams and I have to say I’m impressed with the KL crowd – they enthusiastically belted out the words to all the songs, from the wistful ‘K’. to the dreamy ‘Affection’. The band sounded amazing just like their records, and live their smoky songs were even more intoxicating.

I caught Mew the following night and I was really there to hear their older stuff as I haven’t kept up with their releases. Their new songs sound generic and ordinary though, and just not as arresting as their earlier tracks. 1 and a half hours later and it was over and I was in a cab back to my hotel. What a whirlwind two days it’s been.

La Femme @ *SCAPE The Ground Theatre, 7 March 2017

10 minutes into their debut gig at *SCAPE The Ground Theatre, keyboardist and co-founder of La Femme Marlon Magnée uttered this sly teaser:

“Hello Singapore, tonight La Femme will give you some pleasure!”

With that cheeky proclamation, we were in for a sexy, rollicking time at the French krautrock band’s show on 7 March 2017. They were playing as part of the Francophonie festival and their 100-minute set was pure unadulterated fun from the get-go. Drawing on influences as varied as psychedelia, pop and punk, they oscillated between the jangly surf rock of ‘Où va le monde’ and ‘Anti Taxi’, to the noir mystery of ‘Packshot’ and the moody synthpop of ‘Nous Etions Deux’, to the dancey new wave of ‘Sphnx’.

It’s crazy to think I nearly didn’t go as I wasn’t taken with them initially and even after a few more listens I still wasn’t fully convinced to part with my money. Vinyl Of The Day had a giveaway and I entered on a whim, and so did E and he won a pair of tickets. Thankfully the gig proved me wrong and I’m glad I went after all. The band had the crowd bopping with every song and they’re friendly to boot, even inviting a fan onstage to dance. 3 days later and I’m humming their songs, if they swing by here again I’ll go again for sure.


Neon Lights, 26 & 27 November 2016 / PJ Harvey, 13 January 2017

As usual, I’ve been tardy writing about shows so I’m making up for it by covering Neon Lights 2016 and PJ Harvey back-to-back in this post.

Neon Lights @ Fort Canning Park, 26 & 27 Nov 2016

The weather during Neon Lights might have been stormy but it wasn’t going to put off the crowds who had descended on Fort Canning Park for the festival’s second edition. Standing on the raised platform and clutching the barrier with rain pouring down on me, I even felt fuzzy as it brought back memories of the first Laneway Festival in 2011. Undeterred by the rain and wearing ponchos “in solidarity” with us, Chairlift put on an amazing set, delivering new songs like “Romeo” and “Crying In Public” and older gems like “Amanaemonesia” and “I Belong In Your Arms”. Dressed in a hot pink cropped top and shiny black pants, Caroline Polachek got everyone singing along while dancing gracefully on stage. Theirs was one of my favourite sets of the festival and needless to say, I was pretty crushed to learn just days later that they had broken up. RIP Chairlift. I’m glad I got to see you guys one last time.

Foals was an angry, intense affair reminiscent of their set at Laneway 2011. The majority of the crowd were here for them and the air of anticipation had grown so heavy that you could slice it with a knife. Unfortunately there was a group of drunk guys a few rows behind us who started singing Foals’ songs during Gentle Bones’s set which wasn’t cool at all. I’m not a fan but at that moment I felt really bad for him. When Foals finally came on, it took all my strength not to be swept away by the heaving crowd. A wasn’t as lucky – he lost his footing on the muddy ground and fell; luckily some helpful festival-goers pulled him up. To be honest, I stopped listening to Foals after their second album and was clueless about the more recent stuff they played. It didn’t matter though – they played an energetic set and it felt great to let my hair down and rock out.

Blood Orange kicked off the second day with a stunning set filled with sensual, new wave grooves and melancholic, soulful musings. Equal parts introspective and danceable, he flitted between themes like race (“Augustine”) to heartbreak (You’re Not Good Enough”). Dev Hynes is a crazy talented artiste, and I really hope he returns for a full-length concert because a 45-minute festival set just isn’t enough.

Malaysia’s Yuna was probably the most mainstream of the acts and though her music isn’t what I’d normally listen to, I have to admit I enjoyed her set. She has a good voice and catchy songs and after standing all day, it was nice to sit on a mat and chill to her brand of R&B-infused pop while enjoying the night air.

The largest crowds were arguably reserved for Icelandic post-rock icons Sigur Ros with hordes of people packing the front of the stage to as far back as the eye could see. I saw them at the same venue in 2012 (where coincidentally a light drizzle fell) and remembered being unable to get into their set, much to my anguish. This was my third time seeing them after Primavera Sound several months earlier. I felt their set at Primavera was better in terms of sound and lighting. That said, this was still as ethereal with soaring instrumentals anchored by Jonsi’s incredible falsetto. They ended with a fiery blaze of lights which I thought was a nice touch to cap off a wet and wonderful weekend.

PJ Harvey @ Esplanade Theatre, 13 Jan 2017

I’d seen PJ Harvey at Primavera Sound last year but I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to see her play here. She was absolutely incredible during the two-hour show, mesmerising the audience with her flawless vocals and bewitching dance movements. Credit too to her backing band who provided the bedrock. Most of the setlist consisted of songs from her latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project, but near the end she switched things up by launching into the angst of “50 Ft Queenie” and the creepy “Down by the Water”. 2017 couldn’t have started off on a better note and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the year brings.

Primavera Sound Festival, 1 – 4 June 2016

They say the third time’s the charm, and the lure of seeing Radiohead, John Carpenter, LCD Soundsystem and Lush was too much to resist, so back to Barcelona it was for another summer of music by the sea.

Recent Gigs

A short round-up of recent shows I attended.

Andrew Hung @ Kult Kafe, 5 March 2016

Better known as one half of Bristol electronic duo Fuck Buttons, Andrew Hung played an hour-long set at Kult Kafe filled with bleepy bloopy songs from his Rave Cave EPs, and a couple of Fuck Buttons songs thrown in. I went alone and stood at the back nursing my beer until he started. It was a decent turnout; about 30 people I think. I was handed a free poster as I left which was nice.


Panama @ The Substation, 6 March 2016

Painfully short and unsatisfying – that was the general consensus after Panama’s debut gig at The Substation. I went with S and we sat outside eating burgers and fries from McDonald’s while waiting for the doors to open. They came on at 8.35pm and played their swoony romantic tunes that had everyone grooving and swaying. Then they announced that they didn’t have much material and that they would be playing their last song. I looked down at my phone and the screen read 9.08pm. No way – they’ve got to be kidding! The audience thought so too and cried out in disbelief, refusing to budge when they finished playing and walked off stage. One enthusiastic fan threw back their song title – “It’s not over!” – imploring them to come back for an encore, but alas the gig was really over.

Granted, it’s hard to expect a band with a handful of EPs to their name to jam for two hours, but I wish they had played just a bit longer or done a cover or two. Come back soon guys, and let’s have a proper full-length gig this time.


Death Cab For Cutie @ The Coliseum, 7 March 2016

This was a pure nostalgia show for me. I’d seen them at the Esplanade Concert Hall in 2008 and when they returned for their second gig at Fort Canning a few years later, I’d kind of gone off them. I wasn’t as enthused about their recent albums, and the departure of Chris Walla further deepened the disconnect. Seeing them at The Coliseum and hearing their old songs brought back memories when I listened to Transatlanticism on repeat on my discman. And sometimes that’s enough.


Paskura @ Hidden Agenda, Hong Kong, 8 March 2016

While searching for upcoming indie gigs in Hong Kong, I  discovered that they were playing on my first night there. Frankly, I had no idea who they were but Russian progressive rock/post-rock/post-metal sounded interesting so I went. They put on a good show and were really enthusiastic to be playing in Hong Kong. Pity the crowd was so thin, only 15 or so people turned up. The venue was pretty cool; it’s located on the second level of a industrial building which is reached by a cargo lift that’s accessed through a small door in the shutters. We definitely need more of these underground music venues in Singapore.


Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ MacPherson Stadium, Hong Kong, 11 March 2016

I’m not a big fan of post-rock, but when I found out Godspeed You! Black Emperor were playing at MacPherson Stadium, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the Montreal legends. It was a solid gig with beautiful music and visuals, and they did an encore which is apparently very rare for them. There was a crowd gathered around the sound booth after and I ambled over to see what was going on. Turns out they were giving away strips of film and I got a piece with a word that I couldn’t make out.


Chad Valley and Blackbird Blackbird @ Cafe Hillywood, Hong Kong, 12 March 2016

I enjoyed Chad Valley’s set much more than Blackbird Blackbird. The former had more interesting and complex tunes and friendly stage banter, while Blackbird Blackbird’s songs got repetitive fast. I thought it was strange that though it was supposed to be a live set, he just played the tracks on his laptop and strummed some guitar over them. I’d have been satisfied if it was just Chad Valley headlining, they were that good.


The Observatory @ The Substation, 19 March 2016

I haven’t really kept up with The Observatory but their latest August is the cruellest is their angriest, noisiest record to date. I’d read that it was inspired by the haze and the SG50 celebrations last year, and it shows in the accusatory lyrics and sheer wall of dissonance.  They played two sold out shows at The Substation and it was a blistering affair from start to finish. Thankfully I was standing at the back so my ears were spared from ringing afterwards. The covers of The Cure’s ‘Fascination Street’ and Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down The House’ were a nice touch. They’re truly one of the best local bands around.

Neon Lights Festival, 28 & 29 November 2015

Some snaps from Neon Lights Festival at Fort Canning Park last weekend. Two days of amazing music with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Kiasmos, The Field, Nouvelle Vague, Damien Rice and Ride, capped off with a crazy dance party in the pouring rain during Flight Facilities—that really brought back memories of the epic rainstorm during Laneway 2011. I haven’t had this much fun in awhile.


Primavera Sound Festival, 28 – 30 May 2015

Two years on, I found myself back in Barcelona in May for Primavera Sound Festival. Perfect sunny weather and music by the sea, what more could one ask for? They say a picture says a thousand words, so I’ll let mine do the talking. The highlights of 2015’s lineup in images:

Slowdive @ The Ground Theatre at *scape, 31 July 2014

Legendary British shoegazers Slowdive swung by Singapore for a one night only gig last Thursday, and it was beautiful and magical. Held at The Ground Theatre at *scape, the show saw a healthy turnout of hip 20-somethings and aging fans in their mid and late thirties, or “a mature, discerning crowd” according to A.

It’s been awhile since I’ve attended a concert – my last show was at the Mosaic Music Festival back in March – and I felt the familiar pre-show shivers coming on. The band were in top form, running through a 1 and a half hour set that included classics ‘Alison’, ‘Machine Gun’, a heavy, hard-hitting version of ‘Crazy For You’ and the melancholic ‘Dagger’. Dreamy, hazy soundscapes filled the air as the band held court over everyone. Apart from minor sound issues which resulted in Rachel sounding muffled throughout, the show was as close to perfection and worth the wait. Funny quip of the night: someone in the crowd yelling for ‘Search & Destroy’ in a reference to Neil’s Iggy Pop and the Stooges tee.

I later met Neil and Simon at the after party and chatted with them, they’re really friendly and amiable guys who were full of praises for Singapore. I’m not a huge fan but it was still a thrill meeting them, and I went home buzzing from the show and our conversations, and clutching a gig poster adorned with their signatures.