Neon Lights illuminates on first outing

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (left) on the first night of the alternative outdoor festival. Local rapper Shigga Shay belting out his hits in a half-hour set.
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (left) on the first night of the alternative outdoor festival. PHOTO: NEON LIGHTS
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (left) on the first night of the alternative outdoor festival. Local rapper Shigga Shay belting out his hits in a half-hour set.
Local rapper Shigga Shay belting out his hits in a half-hour set.

Stellar headliners such as Chic and Mogwai wow fans on the first day of a festival billed as six stages of music, art and fun

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 on day one of the inaugural edition of the festival, which took place last Saturday and yesterday 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 their disco-era classics 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 - the songs he is responsible for producing.

The undoubted highlight of the euphoric set, however, was the Chic version of Daft Punk's Get Lucky, the song that put Rodgers on the global music map again in 2013. He 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 last Saturday for its diverse music line-up that spanned genres and decades.

The 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. They split their time between Australia, Ireland and Singapore.

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 was diverse, featuring hipsters, young professionals and 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 the 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 the Royston Tan film, 3688, during a 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 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 concertgoers had to choose between the two.

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 and $10.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Neon Lights illuminates on first outing'. Print Edition | Subscribe