15,000 brave mud over two days of Neon Lights music and arts festival

Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna looked more comfortable than ever on stage during the second day of Neon Lights 2016 on Nov 27, 2016.
Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna looked more comfortable than ever on stage during the second day of Neon Lights 2016 on Nov 27, 2016. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna looked more comfortable than ever on stage during the second day of Neon Lights 2016 on Nov 27, 2016.
Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna looked more comfortable than ever on stage during the second day of Neon Lights 2016 on Nov 27, 2016. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
New York-based English singer Dev Hynes, known as Blood Orange, channelled Prince and James Brown with his face-melting guitar licks and bendy-legged dancing on Nov 27, 2016.
New York-based English singer Dev Hynes, known as Blood Orange, channelled Prince and James Brown with his face-melting guitar licks and bendy-legged dancing on Nov 27, 2016. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Ms Denise Png, 19, reacting after receiving Blood Orange's set list at Neon Lights 2016 on Nov 27, 2016.
Ms Denise Png, 19, reacting after receiving Blood Orange's set list at Neon Lights 2016 on Nov 27, 2016. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
The Neon Lights festival's biggest name, Icelandic band Sigur Ros, drew probably the biggest crowd to the main stage over both nights, during their performance on Nov 27, 2016.
The Neon Lights festival's biggest name, Icelandic band Sigur Ros, drew probably the biggest crowd to the main stage over both nights, during their performance on Nov 27, 2016. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

REVIEW CONCERT

NEON LIGHTS 2016

Fort Canning Park, Last Saturday and Sunday (Nov 26 & 27)

Neither rain nor mud deterred about 15,000 people - 5,000 more than last year - from turning up for the second edition of the two-day music and arts festival Neon Lights, held on Saturday (Nov 26) and Sunday (Nov 27).

Fort Canning Park was a proper mud bath following a mid-festival downpour on the first day, creating slippery slopes and mud pools and destroying footwear.

In the midst of the muddy mayhem, the festival's biggest name, Icelandic band Sigur Ros, managed to draw probably the biggest crowd to the main stage over both nights and make the vast space feel intimate.

Now performing as a three-piece outfit instead of a quartet, the experimental rock outfit filled the venue with moody, atmospheric soundscapes as the closing act on Sunday.

There were the familiar tunes such as Staralfur and Saeglopur, but the set quickly veered into darker territory, which the band had hinted they will be exploring in their next album. Against images of fjords and glacial valleys straight out of Inception, singer-guitarist Jonsi Birgisson's distinctive falsetto was a strange but riveting juxtaposition that kept the audience in rapture.

Equally dreamy and magical, but far more upbeat, was the goddess-like Yuna, who took the stage earlier that night.

Backed by a three-piece band, the Malaysian singer-songwriter looked more comfortable than ever on stage, probably thanks to her new direction with R&B and hip-hop laced tunes off her latest album Chapters.

Long-time fans would have been satisfied with her throwbacks to her older indie-pop songs such as Mountains and Live Your Life - she even threw in a delightful rendition of Malay song, Terukir Di Bintang.

After apologising for not having R&B superstar Usher with her, she launched into their sutry duet Crush, employing the help of the crowd for a singalong - not that the audience needed any prompting to open their mouths.

With six acts taking the main music stage on Sunday night, Yuna's tight 45-minute set was understandable. But the schedule proved to be almost hectic for fans at times, such as with Blood Orange's fantastic but brief half-hour set.

Blood Orange, who is New York-based English singer Dev Hynes, channelled Prince and James Brown with his face-melting guitar licks and bendy-legged dancing. In a funky nine-song set, he played plenty of material from his latest album Freetown Sound, including Augustine, E.V.P and Juicy 1-4.

Backed by a three-piece band and a backup singer who was as much a part of the show as he was, Hynes showcased luscious R&B vocals and fancy footwork in a show you did not want to end.

Saturday's headline billing saw British indie rock act Foals throw down a proper rock show. Lead singer Yannis Philippakis was the undisputed star of the show, venturing into the crowd and keeping them hyped despite the weather, before the band wrapped up the heavy-hitting set with an encore of What Went Down and Two Steps, Twice.

The Fort Gate stage at the other end of the grounds was considerably smaller but still drew packed crowds for acts as diverse as Canadian experimental electronic duo Crystal Castles and Swedish folk singer Jose Gonzalez.

Crystal Castles' raucous, strobe-filled set brought plenty of spectacle. While their original vocalist Alice Glass was replaced with a new vocalist, Edith Frances delivered the goods on tracks such as Crimewave, retaining the weirdness and intensity that made people fall in love with Crystal Castles in the first place.

Singapore's Gentle Bones had a prime evening slot on Saturday, but other homegrown acts such as Cashew Chemists, Disco Hue, Linying and .gif, had to make do with earlier time slots over both days.

Fringe activities saw curious passers-by wandering in to intense and confronting performances, such as Holding The Fort, a punk musical combining spoken word and punk music by a homegrown collective called The Scene Kids.

At the Club Minky stage, rambunctious London cabaret duo Bourgeois & Maurice waxed lyrical about everything from the Brexit to Trump in fabulous, campy outfits.

The mud made it extremely inconvenient to get around an otherwise well-organised festival filled with good vibes and well-curated acts.

But everyone just sucked it up and got on with it. There were even families with young children and infant children spotted among the crowds.