Disco legends Chic wow crowd at inaugural Neon Lights alternative outdoor music festival

CHIC frontman Nile Rodgers performing during outdoor music festival Neon Lights at Fort Canning Park on Nov 28, 2015.
CHIC frontman Nile Rodgers performing during outdoor music festival Neon Lights at Fort Canning Park on Nov 28, 2015.PHOTO: NEON LIGHTS

In spite of a half hour delay to their set due to technical issues, disco legends Chic wrapped up the first day of alternative outdoor music festival Neon Lights with aplomb.

They were clearly the largest draw of the inaugural edition of the festival, which took place at Fort Canning Park. The band were scheduled to go on at 10.30pm. But at 10.45pm, frontman Nile Rodgers appeared on stage to cheers in an all-white suit and his trademark long braids to inform the crowd that they were having "some piano issues".

"As soon as we're ready we're gonna disco out!" he proclaimed, and that is exactly what the band did when they eventually took the stage at 11pm, hitting the crowd with wall to wall disco-era classics of theirs such as Everybody Dance and I Want Your Love.

Backed by an eight-piece band including a full ensemble of drums, keys, bass, horns and vocals, Rodgers also took the crowd on a jukebox journey through the decades with everything from Madonna's Like a Virgin to David Bowie's Let's Dance - all songs he is responsible for producing.

The undoubted highlight of the euphoric set, however, was Chic's version of Daft Punk's Get Lucky, the song that put Rodgers on the global music map again in 2013. Rodgers co-wrote the Grammy-winning song with the French duo and Pharrell Williams. It was a magical moment with the crowd singing along to every word.

Billed as six stages of music, art and fun, Neon Lights saw a crowd of 5,000 show up at Fort Canning Park yesterday for its diverse music line-up that spanned genres and decades. TThe festival is organised by husband-wife duo, Declan Forde and Jennifer Jennings, who have helmed other festivals such as Harvest Festival in Australia and Electric Picnic in Ireland. 

Other acts included English indie pop trio Daughter and Japanese acid-punk band Bo Ningen, as well as local acts such as rapper Shigga Shay and Hanging Up The Moon.

The crowd itself was diverse, featuring hipsters, young professionals and even families with young children, despite the threat of rain for most of the afternoon.

Aside from music at the two main stages, the other four stages saw a mixed bag of street and performance art, comedy and activities for children.

Club Minky, just behind the main stage, saw everything from stand-up comedy to a three hour DJ set by Mr Scruff.

Easy Street, a much smaller space on the other end of Fort Canning near Fort Gate, saw rapper Shigga Shay spitting rhymes. He performed his hit songs Lion City Kia and Tapau from the soundtrack of Royston Tan film 3688, during a tight, half-hour set.

The Cloud Factory stage, an enclosed tent with a sparse set-up and trippy lights, played host to Yuen Chee Wai from The Observatory and Bluefaced People, who played with experimental sounds and screeching guitars. The discordant sounds were both uncomfortable and mesmerising at the same time.

With so many activities going on at once across the six stages, it was hard at times to keep track of who was playing where.

Clashes in set times, like Glasgow post-rockers Mogwai playing at the same time as Chic at a stage at the other end of Fort Canning, also meant that concert-goers had to choose between the two headliners.

However, unlike most music festivals here which are plagued by long queues for food and drink kiosks, Neon Lights' set-up was a welcome change. Options for both were plentiful, dotted around the vast venue and easily accessible.

Coupons cost $2.50 each, with food options such as burgers, bagels and cupcakes, ranging between $5 to $10.

For a first outing, Neon Lights was an illuminating one, proving that you can pull off an all-round festival - helped along by a stellar headliner and great tunes.

anjalir@sph.com.sg