All photos courtesy of Aloysium Lim, LAMC Productions
With an attendance of 6,000 on the first night, and 5500 on the second, the sea of black-clad fans that descended upon the dry, grassy knoll of Fort Canning Park on 5 and 6 March was testament to the enduring draw of hard rock music in Singapore.
There was plenty of deafening rock music, head banging and sweaty fist pumping over the two nights of the inaugural Singapore Rock Festival. While there were the newbies like Black Veil Brides and Five Finger Death Punch, it was clear that the crowd was there for the seasoned performers that were Rob Zombie, Korn and Alice in Chains.
Despite the last minute cancellation by Newsted (fronted by former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted), the crowds still showed up. Even if that meant coming for the gig straight after work in office wear.
Californian “Glam rockers” Black Veil Brides opened proceedings on Day 1. But sans their usual black and white makeup and body paint, they certainly weren’t bringing back Glam. Baby-faced lead singer Andy Biersack and his shirtless counterparts drew screams from the tween girls, but even their cover of Billy Idol’s 'Rebel Yell' did little to sway the hardcore metalheads who were there for the later acts.
Black Veil Brides
They were followed by Las Vegas quintet Five Finger Death Punch, who got the crowd at the front pumped enough to start a circle pit, with tracks like 'Burn MF' and 'White Knuckles'. But there was also a surprisingly tender moment in the set, when singer Ivan Moody lead the crowd in an acoustic rendition of 'Remember Everything'.
The crowd however, only filled out considerably just in time for the co-headliners Rob Zombie and Korn. With the first two acts out of the way, it was clear who they were there for.
Rock ‘n’ roll theatre by Rob Zombie
It was rock ‘n’ roll theatre, with a stunning backdrop that played tribute to iconic characters in horror movies of yore, including Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and King Kong, it was a show and a half by Zombie.
Opening with 'Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown', Zombie was backed by John 5 on guitar, Piggy D on bass and Ginger Fish on drums, all kitted out in elaborate costumes and face paint. The band slipped in a few White Zombie songs like 'More Human Than Human' and 'Thunder Kiss ‘65', alongside 'Dragula' and 'Living Dead Girl' in a set filled with a good mix of old and new.
The “spookmaster” himself was a firebrand on stage, spinning and leaping from riser to riser. His other personas as director, screenwriter and actor in horror cinema, bled into his onstage persona with great effect. He was a showman. Zombie later wore a touristy “I heart Singapore” t-shirt that a fan had given him from a meet and greet earlier in the day.
But it was apparent that even Zombie was having problems with the sound, entering the crowd at one point to head all the way to the front of house where he seemed to give his sound guy an earful. It clearly wasn’t just the audience who was having trouble with the imperfect sound system.
Despite the hitches, Zombie had thrown down the gauntlet with such a high energy set.
Nu-metal nostalgia with Korn
Arguably one of the pioneers of “Nu-metal” in the 90s, with their hip-hop influenced rhythms and revealing, emo lyrics, the nostalgia was up full whack when Korn took the stage.
The set included their collaboration with Skrillex, 'Get Up' which meant screechy, dubstep drops and wobs. Thankfully Korn stuck to fan favourites like 'Falling Away From Me', 'Freak on a Leash' and 'Blind'.
Jonathan Davis of Korn
Korn’s lead singer Jonathan Davis might be the only man still sporting an eyebrow piercing in the year 2013, but that’s no discredit to his on-stage persona. Despite running a fever, he delivered an intense performance worthy of his past glory.
Davis brought out his trademark bagpipes on 'Shoots and Ladders', a staple from their first album, and from their live shows in the 90s. Davis’ menacing voice growling “ashes, ashes, we all fall down” over Reginal “Fieldy” Arvizu‘s thundering bass was straight out of one of their live sets in the 90s, that until now, most Singaporeans had probably only seen on DVD or YouTube.
Before leaving, James “Munky” Shaffer addressed the audience saying, “It’s amazing to come somewhere we’ve never been before”. While their music might have been subversive and cutting-edge when they first debuted, it’s a pity it took them so long to come to Singapore.
Despite the last minute cancellation by Newsted (fronted by former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted), the crowds still showed up in throngs on day 2. Even if that meant coming for the gig straight after work in office wear.
Anthemic rock with Alter Bridge
Proceedings started with Alter Bridge, whose frontman Myles Kennedy is no stranger to these parts, having last been here in 2010 and 2011 while touring as a vocalist for Guns’ N Roses guitarist Slash. Now with a band made up of three former members of Creed (guitarist Mark Tremonti, drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall), Alter Bridge provided melodic heavy rock and a high energy set.
The band ripped through tracks like 'White Knuckles' and 'Metalingus', with Tremonti’s searing guitar shredding providing accompaniment to Kennedy’s vocal chops. With one foot on a riser and effortlessly transitioning between guitars and vocals, Kennedy looked every inch the rock star and worked the stage like a pro. He got the crow dutifully “woah-oh-oh” ing and clapping along.
Unfortunately the band skipped old fan favourites like 'Open Your Eyes', favouring new material like “Addicted to Pain”, thus missing out on more crowd singalong moments.
Seattle-grunge in Singapore with Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains proved why they are still juggernauts in the world of rock music despite being formed two decades ago. One of the original purveyors of Seattle grunge rock, seeing them live was a dream come true for many present.
Alice in Chains
While the lineup may be missing the iconic vocalist Layne Staley (who tragically died of drug overdose in 2002), front man William DuVall held down the fort with his vocals sounding eerily similar to Staley’s at times. Known for their trademark two-part vocal harmonies, founding member/lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell and Duvall played off each other effortlessly and flawlessly.
The extensive back catalogue of music meant a set bookended by tracks off the seminal Alice in Chains album, 'Dirt', like 'Them Bones', 'Rooster' and 'Down In A Hole'. But there were also new, post-Staley tracks, like 'Stone' and 'Check My Brain'. Thankfully, the transition between new and old material felt natural. It was rich, grungy metal at its finest.
With a problematic sound system that occasionally cut out on both nights, and deafening volumes that were so loud that all subtleties were lost, the first Rock Festival was not perfect.Understandably the weekday slots meant that less people showed up, and the organisers should look into making it a weekend affair instead.
Though there was decent representation of rock across genres, it’s nowhere near the level of multi-day rock festivals in Europe or Japan like Rock Am Ring or Fuji Rock, and their stellar line ups. But the first Singapore Rock Festival was certainly a step in the right direction. As always, the Singapore crowd is ready for even bigger bands.