St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore 2018 was burning hot to say the least, but damn us if we didn’t say that the sunburn and uneven tan lines were worth it. From upcoming acts to the hottest names in music today, Laneway 2018 delivered a(n almost) perfect day to their 10,000 attendees.
What Went Down
With the noontime sun beaming down and the majesty of Marina Bay Sands set as the festival’s backdrop, Malaysian artist alextbh took the Garden Stage and officially kicked off Laneway 2018. Sporting an LGBTQ+ flag tied around his microphone stand, the “twink rnb” (his actual words) musician performed his original tracks and a cover of SZA’s “Love Galore”.
Five minutes away on the Cloud Stage, Indonesian-based shoegaze band HEALS played a dreamy set that featured tracks from their debut album “Spectrum” released last year. Walking back to the Bay Stage, Amy Shark made her Asian debut and serenaded the building crowd with her hits like “Blood Brothers” and “Adore You”.
Singaporean post-rock band Amateur Takes Control proved their growth from a bedroom project to a five-piece ensemble with a neck-breaking show. Their performance felt more brief than the others, but they made sure to create a setlist that satisfied both long-time and newfangled fans. Fellow local band Obedient Wives Club created an opposite atmosphere; their blithe surf pop tunes blasted through the speakers–perfect to chill out under the weather that seemed to be getting warmer by the minute. The boys of Australian indie rock band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever offered a different approach with each member taking on lead vocals throughout their 11-song set.
Aldous Harding cooed the Cloud Stage audience with her mysterious gothic folk sound including “Imagining My Man”, a track that popstar Lorde personally loves. Grammy-nominated electropop duo Sylvan Esso, composed of Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn, got the crowd swaying along with catchy rhythms that carried on to every song on their setlist. Singapore’s soul warrior Tim De Cotta accomplished quite a lengthy set, but we’re not one to complain! He also gave us the satisfaction of performing his freshest single “Dreams”, released the day before Laneway Singapore, which you can check out on Spotify.
Representing the UK were Loyle Carner and Wolf Alice who performed almost at the same time. Loyle Carner’s eloquent flow over smooth beats provided us with a refreshing take on hip-hop, particularly hip-hop coming out of South London. Meanwhile, Wolf Alice delivered a breathtaking and aesthetically-pleasing performance even if the bass amp was broken. Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell appeared in a graceful white dress and nailed her vocals, making us forget about the less than desirable technical breakdowns.
One of Laneway Singapore’s best picks this year goes to Moses Sumney. His recently released debut album “Aromanticism” received critical praise, but hearing it live was even better. His track “Don’t Bother Calling” fabricated a sonic dreamscape, making us feel like the Cloud Stage was a world away. Snapping us back to reality was Singaporean-born, Canadian-raised and Jamaican-inspired MAS1A. The music industry veteran showed off her chops and reminded us why she was (and still is) more than worthy to perform in events like Burning Man. THELIONCITYBOY, another local favorite, closed the Cloud stage with a larger than life performance of his idiosyncratic brand of hip-hop.
Father John Misty, or “sad white people music” as one of my companions liked to call it, crooned us with his ballads and infrequent crowd banter with a man in front he tagged as “American Facebook guy”. Following the lax vibe, The War on Drugs‘ neo-psychedelia music framed the hazy atmosphere of the Bay Stage as it neared midnight. The six-piece celebrated performing in Singapore, but little did they know they were also pre-celebrating a Grammy win for Best Rock Album bound to happen the very next day. Talk about an eventful weekend!
Our Personal Favorites
16-year old Billie Eilish quickly became a crowd favorite thanks to her bewitching vocal prowess. Dressed in a yellow and black jersey coordinates, she performed the entirety of her “dont smile at me” EP and some. She pulled out her ukulele and covered Drake’s “Hotline Bling” as the intro of her song “Party Favor”, and of course performed “Watch” (“&burn” for those who prefer the version with Vince Staples) with a radiating confidence that made for one hell of a performance.
Moving just a couple steps away on the Garden Stage, we caught our very own The Ransom Collective fixing up. Family members, friends, and fans of the band who travelled all the way from the Philippines proudly exhibited their love and support with cutouts of their faces, a simple yet endearing banner, and of course the slightly off-key singing to their set. It was surreal to see a band from our country up on that stage but like everyone else down by the pit, I was sure that it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see a Filipino band on the Laneway lineup.
Odd Future signees The Internet gathered the audience from both stages. Vocalist Syd experienced microphone malfunctions early in their set but it was quickly made up for as she and guitarist Steve Lacy (who is twice as fine in real life, for those who were wondering) performed tracks from their solo albums on top of material from the band’s Grammy-nominated album “Ego Death”.
The sun wasn’t letting up, but the chill from the frozen margarita slushies and cool breeze made for a better setting. Because the Garden and Bay stages were propped up next to each other, we couldn’t help but constantly gaze over at the Bay Stage while Mac DeMarco did his soundcheck. Squeezing through the crowd wasn’t a problem and we were more than determined to get as close to the stage as possible. The Big Daddy himself appeared in a bright orange shirt, contrasting his bandmates who either wore black or were shirtless, with his trusty Fender American Professional Stratocaster slung over his shoulder. His setlist was composed of tracks from his last four albums, a (poorly done but hilarious) cover of “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a birthday song dedicated to a lucky fan. It wouldn’t be complete without his on-stage antics–attempting a jumping toe touch from the guitar amps, a successful handstand, and getting told off by staff for smoking his trusty Viceroys while performing. He may not have played my favorite track (“My Kind of Woman”) and his wonderful girlfriend Kiki wasn’t there to sit on his shoulders during “Still Together”, but Mac DeMarco didn’t disappoint.
Following Mac DeMarco was the triumphant return of Slowdive. 20 plus years after the band’s rebranding and initial split, there’s no denying that they only got better with age. They performed a string of classics from their ’90s albums but made sure to welcome newer fans with tracks from their 2017 eponymous album.
If Slowdive guided us to a dimension of ease, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals grabbed us by the ankles. As they began the first chords of “Come Down” the man himself bursts on stage, front and center, and teased us with the first line. Unfortunately and annoyingly, the Garden Stage’s sound system completely shut down right after. .Paak and The Free Nationals didn’t let this little mishap rain on their parade and restarted their intro with even more confidence. Throughout their set, he demonstrated his versatility by moving back and forth from the drumkit to the front of the stage in order to woo the crowd. The group’s collective energy proved to be infectious for both the sober and inebriated folks dancing in their own manners down by the grass.
Concluding the festivities of the Garden Stage was Bonobo, but his set’s anticipation quickly died down due to more technical problems. He was so well prepared, bringing live sessionists and guest vocalist Szjerdene on stage with him. Her vocals were done dirty by the poor sound system but she proved to be a trooper and pushed through. Bonobo’s experimental producing nevertheless proved to still be unmatchable, but we do wish this is the last time he and the crowd will experience stage problems of this magnitude.
As the clocks turned 12, we made our way to a hawker centre for some midnight chow and a last Tiger beer before finally calling it a night. Though we were beyond exhausted, still under the influence, and awfully sunburnt, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore 2018 was one for the books.
Featured image taken by Goh JY