Laneway Festival Singapore 2017: Energetic sets, but smaller crowds

Oxford indie quartet Glass Animals' lead singer Dave Bayley (far left); and Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins.
Oxford indie quartet Glass Animals' lead singer Dave Bayley (far left); and Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Oxford indie quartet Glass Animals' lead singer Dave Bayley; and Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins (above).
Oxford indie quartet Glass Animals' lead singer Dave Bayley; and Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins (above).ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

While bad weather was a possible factor for the turnout, some fans say the line-up was not as power- packed as before

It was another round of "Rainway" at the seventh edition of the Laneway Festival Singapore, as relentless rain pelted down over Singapore's largest indie music festival.

From around 2pm to midnight last Saturday, when the last act left the stage, the weather ran the gamut from light, persistent drizzle to thunderstorm that left a palpably wet blanket over the festival.

The drab weather was reminiscent of the first edition of Laneway at Fort Canning in 2011, where punters had to brave the rain as well.

While the festival's current home at The Meadow at Gardens By The Bay proved to be far less muddy than its former location, there was no lack of enthusiasm from the 10,000-strong crowd that danced and sang its heart out, whether armed with ponchos or not.

The line-up of 29 international and home-grown acts comprised everything from feel-good festival bands to cutting-edge fringe ones.

At the main stages, the crowd was significantly less packed than in previous years, but this opened up more space for dancing as Australian psychedelic dance band Jagwar Ma provided tunes such as the euphoric Slipping and slow-burning Uncertainty.

Many festivalgoers whom The Straits Times spoke to were there to see Oxford indie quartet Glass Animals, who were playing their first show in Asia.

Lead singer Dave Bayley set the tone, pacing around on stage barefoot and dancing uninhibitedly. From the tribal drums of Life Itself to the eight-bit slow jam vibes of Season 2 Episode 3, you could feel the energy of the crowd lift significantly.

The atmosphere hit peak euphoria on Gooey, where the crowd singalong prompted Bayley to say a breathy, "You guys are awesome."

However, the hype and energy was no match for the action on the smaller indoor stage of The White Room, where Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins held court over a noticeably younger crowd.

With spitfire delivery and charismatic flow, the 25-year-old opened with Jazz, seguing into The Waters and Spread Love during his 45- minute set.

He acknowledged that unlike rappers on Top 40 radio who wax lyrical about prostitutes and money, his message was about positivity, constantly getting the crowd to chant "spread love" and the teetotal mantra of "drink more water".

It was a case of the crowd and the performer feeding off each other's energy to full effect.

The smaller crowds, however, could not be ignored. Last year's edition of the festival saw 13,000 in attendance.

While the falling attendance could be attributed to the weather, some also felt that this year's line-up - with Australian singer-songwriter Nick Murphy as headliner - was not as strong as previous years.

"I think the line-up isn't as power- packed as the previous years," said Mr Cleon Chua, a national serviceman who was attending his fifth Laneway.

Having been at the festival grounds from 1.30pm, he added that the rain was "definitely a bummer" that tired him out and also his friends. "But that still doesn't stop the people from coming," added the 22-year-old.

Some revellers had flown here, including 19-year-old university student Nabeela Styer, who travelled from Sydney, Australia, which also has its version of the festival.

Unlike the Sydney edition which admits only people over the age of 18, Singapore's edition is an all-ages affair, letting in anyone over the age of six. Certain smaller stages such as The White Room, however, had an age restriction for "some mature content".

"It's a better vibe than the Sydney one. It's more chill whereas the Sydney one can be more intense with the crowds," said Ms Styer, who was accompanied by her younger sisters, aged 16 and 17, and their mother.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Energetic sets, but smaller crowds'. Print Edition | Subscribe