Photo: Ryan Chang / Esplanade
Days away from the quintessential indie music festival in South East Asia, 35 bands are gearing up to rock out to an estimated 70,000 music-goers at three different stages within Esplanade. And this year’s event is particularly significant for a few backstage.
Already in its 11th year, the three-day festival, Baybeats which will run from 29 June to 1 July 2012 has been lauded for creating a platform for emerging bands. The Oddfellows, Padres and TypeWriter were one of the bands that grew up through Baybeats’ stages, and 44-year-old Patrick Chng have played for all of them.
For this year’s installment, he returns with The Fast Colors, a classic rock tribute band made up of highly respected music writers Christopher Toh and Kevin Mathews. But what’s equally special — other than being a band that unites the authorities of the industry — is Chng’s role as one of the judges and mentors for the Baybeats audition. If his band plays old school rock, his musical journey is coming of age.
“Baybeats is one of those rare festivals where Singaporean bands get to play in front of thousands of people,” Chng says. “It has grown into one of the most anticipated and important annual music festivals in Singapore. That says a lot about the festival.”
Also see: Follow Patrick Chng on inSing.com
In maintaining the festival’s high standards, Chng selected eight young bands –from 30 in two rounds of auditions—and put them through their paces in four grueling months of mentorship.
Eddino Hadi (Force Vomit), Suhaimi Subandie (Stompin’ Ground) and Mike See (founder of Riot! Records) made up the other mentors.
“I look for bands whose music move and stir up something inside of me,” Chng adds. “Apart from being tight and a good live act, which are a given, are they bringing something new to the table? Are they interesting musically?”
The Great Spy Experiment
The Next Big Band
Also read: 5 bands to check out at Baybeats 2012
If anyone understands what ‘makes’ a band, it would be Mike See. Managing some of Singapore’s best musical exports (indie darlings The Great Spy Experimentwhich returns to Baybeats this year; Inch Chua and Charlie Lim), See believes that quality, originality, marketability and attitude each plays an important role in a band’s development.
“The music industry is a tough business to break into; and it requires real tenacity, commitment and the right motivations for a band to find even the smallest level of success,” he explains.
But if he could pick three out of the eight bands he had mentored, See struggles but manages to select his favorites.
“This band's music possesses the magic we look out for every year (and that is ever so elusive!)” he said of ANECHOIS’ youthful but polished brand of instrumental progressive-rock.
As for the festival’s youngest band, Godzilla, See applauds the 15-year-olds for their “great showmanship and infectious energy.”
Indie-rock quartet Cashew Chemist was also given praise: “Simply put, they evoke an instant smile on my face when they start playing. The freshness of their sound, with all the fun trimmings, really allows them to stand out”
“It’s difficult to choose between the eight bands as they're all really good,” said Chng.
‘Secret Life’ - ANECHOIS
“A Town In Fear and Embrace Them Ghosts are very powerful and awesome ‘live’ acts. Obedient Wives Club and Black Diamond Folds have some brilliant tunes while Godzilla has an infectious youthful energy about them,” Chng recommends.
However, for ANECHOIS’ guitarist, Justin Koh, the limelight could prove too glaring. “Baybeats has given us a lot of media, performance, and learning opportunities, but it's also a challenge to cope with the sudden attention and to build long term relationships beyond the festival itself,” he confesses.
For young upstarts like ANECHOIS, no matter how intimidating the big stage could be, they will undoubtedly receive a wealth of experiences that have musically matured veterans like Chng and See.
And with bands from Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Japan all set to showcase their prowess on the stage, Baybeats have become a homecoming of sorts for the region’s best indie talents.
Aside from the eight auditioned bands, 27 other bands from eight countries will be taking on the stage.
‘Irish Girl’ – The Trees and The Wild
With regional favorites like The Trees & The Wild - Time Magazine’s “Must See Act of 2011”, Japanese all-girl rock group, Start Of The Day, and energetic Korean ska-punk quintet Copy Machine headlining the festival, this year will also see the return of Hong Kong’s hardrockers King Ly Chee and Malaysia’s Love Me Butch who will be playing for the fifth year.
“Baybeats is one of the most incredible festivals in Asia. Asian countries should fly out Baybeats organizers to conduct workshops on how to properly run a festival,” said King Ly Chee’s frontman, Mohammad Rizwan Farooqi.
Rizwan explained the similarities between Singapore and Hong Kong --with the two being commercial, financial-centric, and designer-label heavy cities. But that’s where the buck stops when music is concerned.
‘Time Will Prove 時間證明’ – King Ly Chee
“Our (Hong Kong’s) government is completely out of touch with the arts while Singapore continues to show how involved they are,” he observed. “It just seems that the (Singapore) government puts faith in those who do what they do best. To have a music festival in Hong Kong is a dream, but to have one that actually receives government support is unfathomable.”
Love Me Butch’s guitarist, Wing Meng, echoes Rizwan: “Baybeats productions have always been top notch. The crews are very professional and helpful, and the show starts on time. We were really inspired by the productivity of its people and brought the spirit back to Malaysia.”
While Jakarta-natives The Trees & The Wild think that Asia has musical potential, vocalist Remedy Waloni, is adamant that more opportunities to perform is needed for Asian bands to develop internationally. “Baybeats have allowed Asian musicians to introduce their works to many people,” he said. “It’s a great festival!”
“I think the Asian music scene has seen a steady improvement,” said Start Of The Day vocalist, Yuya Tanami. “Everyone in a band has to make the most of their chances. So all the songs have to be well crafted and every concert has to be their best performance. It's our first time performing at Baybeats but we're super excited!”
Though bands like Start Of Day will be singing in their native Japanese, Korean Copy Machine’s (who played at the Mosaic Music Festival in 2009) band member Jun Won Lee doesn’t think the language barrier will pose a problem.
“Our music has loads of energy and we are confident that everybody will party and dance with us. The language difference doesn’t matter!” he exclaims.
Wing Meng agrees. “Music connects people regardless of language or ethnicity. We've played in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines and the receptions were always great. I guess the key is to get out there to connect with people, learn their culture and respect each other.”
And it is with this attitude that echoes Baybeats’ theme of “friendship” this year.
Sounds of Camaraderie
“Our interpretation of the theme includes renewing friendships with bands that have paved the way for the festival to have grown to what it has become,” says Esther Chloe Masada Lee, Baybeats programmer and programming officer. “Whilst we usually only have five or six returning bands at most, this year, we deliberately picked as many as 12.”
“We will also be fostering friendship through our youth-engagement components such as the Baybeats Budding Writers programme which creates opportunities for young people to come together,” Lee adds.
With a myriad of activities for everyone, a line-up of some of the biggest bands in Asia, and an organization that champions youth development, Baybeats 11th year is looking to be a memorable affair.