Opening weekend of 100 Bands Festival off to a slow start

What was possibly the largest gathering of home-grown bands to date, got off to a slow start at the old Hougang bus interchange on Saturday.

Industry insiders and audience members put down the lacklustre attendance at the 100 Bands Festival to a combination of a fairly lesser-known lineup on opening weekend, an unfamiliar venue and the unforgivingly hot weather.

The free event, which lasts for six days over three weekends, is part of PAssionArts Festival 2014, an annual event organised by the People's Association to bring the arts to the community. The line-up of bands was curated by The RSC, a group which organised gigs at the recently defunct Home Club. In Each Hand A Cutlass and The Analog Girl were among the over 30 acts who played on opening weekend.

The festival kicked off at 12.30pm on Saturday and by 6pm, had an audience of about 50. Founder of The RSC Razi Razak, 32, estimates that about 500 people attended the festival on Saturday evening from 7.30pm to 10pm.

He says: "The line-up was quite scattered, in the sense that most of the bands were fairly new. Personally, I think next weekend will be the highlight."

Razi expects over 2,000 people next weekend, when better known groups such as Astreal, Monster Cat and experimental rock band sub:shaman will be performing. sub:shaman will also be premiering their new film Outsider.

Mr Pin-Ji Tang, 29, a freelance writer who attended the event on Saturday, suggests: "It might be a good idea to alternate some of the more well-known bands with the lesser-known ones. That way, people who come for one act may stay a while."

Visual effects artist Shermaine Toh, 25, was also among the crowd. She says that the idea of a hundred bands "will attract music lovers, and it sounds like something huge", but blamed the mediocre turnpout on the venue.

She says: "It's not very well-known, not like *SCAPE or Esplanade. Not many people know about a bus interchange in Kovan." The interchange is now known as Kovan Hub.

Student Isabelle Chan, 19, also noted that the attendance was "not stellar", a fact that she attributed to the weather affecting the outdoor performance area, which did not have a shelter. "It's too hot, and too humid," she says.

But freelance makeup artist Aries Tan, 24, was impressed by the quality of the musicians.

"I really like the line-up, and in particular the songwriters are good. I really enjoyed the original songs today," she says.

The Kovan resident, who lives a 10 minute walk away from the old bus interchange, also liked the venue.

"Even *SCAPE would also be hot in the afternoon," she noted. "Here, at least we have trees and wind."

What everyone did agree on was that the 100 Bands Festival was a great platform for local acts to strut their stuff.

Grayson Seah, 23, is the bassist of Stopgap, a five-piece independent rock band who played on Saturday.

"It's quite cool, and the fact that you can pull together a hundred bands for a festival like this is a testament to the growing music scene in Singapore," he says.

"It's quite a spectacle, and for those who are not into the scene, it will catch your eye."

Meanwhile, Razi is hopeful that subsequent weekends of the festival will fare better.

"I did expect more people but across some parts of Singapore it was raining quite heavily," he says.

"The festival is spread over six days, so Saturday for me was just an introduction to the 100."

The festival continues on Sunday, at the same location in Hougang Street 21. Highlights include electro-pop artist The Analog Girl at 9.15pm and hip-hop duo TheCrazy88 at 6.30pm.