Danny Rogers exclaimed: “It’s just phenomenal!”
Indeed it was, considering that only 6,000 people packed Fort Canning Park for the inaugural Laneway Festival Singapore in 2011.
Fast forward five years later, the music festival with roots in the alleys of Melbourne’s Caledonian Lane hosted its biggest Singapore edition yet.
Under looming thunderstorms that transformed the venue into a sea of pink, green and yellow ponchos earlier in the day, a sell-out crowd of 13,000 people packed Gardens by the Bay on Saturday 24 January 2015.
Rogers, the festival’s co-founder, was “overwhelmed” at the turnout of the festival’s fifth Singapore edition, attributing it to the city’s growing reputation as an epicentre for arts, culture and music for this region.
Mohamad Nur Razak, a freelance designer, drove all the way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to catch the festival with his girlfriend.
READ MORE: [Gallery] Laneway Singapore 2015 a veritable feast for indie music fans
“We just couldn’t miss catching Banks and St Vincent for the world. It was worth the drive down. The atmosphere here is just electric.” he gushed.
Hasief Ardiasyah, a journalist from Indonesia, said that this festival was a great way to catch up with other music lover friends from around the region, but he said he missed the cosy and more intimate vibe of its first two editions.
“It was easier to focus more on the music at a smaller venue, however growth is definitely great for Laneway. With attractions like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay nearby, I am not complaining. And the music is great this year,” Hasief told inSing.
American synthpop band Future Islands | Photo: George Byron
The music was undeniably top-notch. This year’s edition saw a record total of 19 acts, performing across three stages over 12 hours.
Laneway has always featured emerging and established acts, and festival-goers were hard-pressed for choices. The main complaint among attendees was that with the wealth of music spread across three stages, it was simply impossible to catch everyone.
Standout acts include the hilarious Canadian indie rocker Mac DeMarco, who enthralled the crowd earlier in the day with his brand of breezy rock on songs like ‘Brother’, ‘Freaking out the Neighbourhood’, the trippy ‘Chamber of Reflection’ as well as a cover of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’.
All throughout his set, DeMarco tested the limits of Singapore rigorous performance rules. “I just don’t know how to get through this without swearing,” he quipped.
Singapore electronica duo .Gif pleased fans at the Cloud Stage with their catchy synth numbers such as ‘Green Light, Good Night’, ‘Juvenile’ and crowd favourite ‘Diatribe’.
Some of the biggest cheers in the afternoon went to UK big-band act Jungle. The seven-member group was fronted by Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson on keyboards, guitars and vocals.
One of 2013’s most exciting act to come out from the UK, the band transformed the venue into a sunset disco, churning out funky numbers laced with ‘70s-era grooves.
McFarland’s and Lloyd-Watson’s disco-inflected melodies and high falsettos called to mind other British acts such as Incognito and Jamiroquai, but Jungle’s distinctive brand of funk, despite the retro nostalgia, somehow belongs in the 21st century.
The pair never imagined travelling to Singapore to play a festival when they started writing music from the bedroom of their London apartment. "It's just amazing," McFarland said.
"Playing at festivals like these is like hanging out with friends," Lloyd-Watson said.
American singer-songwriter Jillian Banks performs 'Brain' | Photo: George Byron
And just like last year, it seemed that women ruled the festival, with three of the most captivating female indie music artistes performing back-to-back sets.
Banks kick-off the women-only triptych of sets. The Los Angeles-based singer, performing songs from her ‘Goddess’ EP, exuded charisma. Since her debut in 2013, Banks has perfected her live repertoire, enrapturing the crowd with sultry R&B melodies juxtaposed against vulnerable lyrics.
One of the most surprising headliners of the festival had to be rising UK singer-songwriter FKA Twigs. The applause and cheers preceding her set were deafening and yet surprising in light of her niche material that straddles R&B, hip hop and experimental electronica.
The multi-talented British singer, born Tahliah Barnett, took to the stage clad in a shiny gold number, flanked by three instrumentalists who pieced together her futuristic beats with an array of drum and sampler pads.
It is easy to understand why some have likened the doe-eyed performer’s live sets to performance art. Like a cross between an ancient Egyptian princess and a character from a science-fiction movies, she whipped, jerked and gyrated on stage, oozing a kind of alien eroticism. Her vocals were wispy sometimes, mysterious like her music, but when she hit those high falsettos, you could feel the force and emotion.
As the lights dimmed again, the crowd broke into applause for the long-anticipated indie darling, St Vincent.
"Greetings fellow analogue creatures," a computerised voice boomed. "Please refrain from capturing your experience tonight digitally. Thank you, St Vincent."
Dressed in a black latex dress, St Vincent, whose real name is Annie Clark, towered on stage like a dominatrix, and with a sly grin on her face, launched into ‘Rattlesnake’.
Clark incorporated some choreography into the show, with her and guitarist Toko Yasuda sometimes twirling slowly or jerking themselves around robotically like they were puppets under the chaotic influence of the music.
For fans of St Vincent (and there were plenty), this was what they were waiting for all day. Clark and her band performed a high-energy and rousing set that periodically descended into a chaotic melange of beats and guitar twangs.
For anyone who stayed long enough to end their night with her performance, it was a real pleasure indeed.