SINGAPORE - From a new stage to livestreaming selected shows, Singapore's annual alternative music festival Baybeats continues to reinvent itself in its 18th year.
Returning to the Esplanade this weekend from Aug 23 to 25,the free festival's eclectic line-up will once again see everything from heavy metal to indie rock represented. After introducing hip-hop acts to the fold for the first time in 2018, there are plenty more this year with rappers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.
A total of 48 acts will perform across five stages, including the Chillout stage at the Esplanade Concourse and the Esplanade Annexe Studio.
While the Powerhouse stage along the Esplanade's waterfront is no longer because of ongoing construction for a new theatre, the harder rock acts it used to host will now be moved to the Arena stage at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.
There will be a new LiveWire stage for rock and hip-hop acts, erected in the Esplanade's Forecourt Garden. Also in the area is the return of the Open Stage, last seen in 2016, which will feature unplugged sets on all three nights.
This year, Baybeats will also be livestreaming selected performances on the second day (Aug 24) of the festival via the Esplanade's YouTube channel (youtube.com/EsplanadeSG) and the Baybeats festival Facebook page (facebook.com/baybeats).
Hosted by local indie music darling Inch Chua, there will be live post-show artist interviews and special backstage content.
If you are short on time,here are five acts to check out - from Singaporean Vedic metal pioneers Rudra and Filipino nu metal veterans Slapshock, to the hottest rap acts like Indonesia's Ramengvrl and Singapore's Mean, along with up-and-coming local math rock band, Cues.
Genre: Vedic metal
Why watch them: For Vedic metal from pioneers still in their prime
Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre) on Aug 23 at 11pm
While home-grown pioneers of Vedic metal Rudra have played around the world and in various venues in Singapore, they say that Baybeats is one of the few shows their family members can go to.
"We usually play in shoe-box studios or bigger venues that are enclosed spaces, which can be very intimidating with the kind of music we play and the way metalheads tend to enjoy the music," says frontman-bassist K. Kathirasan, 46. "There's nothing wrong with it, but an open space that's a melting pot of different genres of music in the way Baybeats does it is inviting."
Besides him, the band who are coming up on 27 years in the industry, is made up of guitarists Vinod Vaskaran, 34, and Simon Mariadoss 39, and drummer Shivanand Palanisamy, 46.
Rudra's genre of black metal-influenced death metal draws on traditional Carnatic music, with lyrics inspired by the Hindu sacred texts called the Vedas.
The band are no strangers to Baybeats, having played at the festival in 2010 and 2012.
As headliners again this year, frontman Kathirasan says the "real dilemma is having to pick which songs to play because we have nine albums to choose from".
On Aug 20, they released their 10th album, Invoking The Gods, which features covers of songs by metal music legends that were key to their formative years, like Black Sabbath and Sepultura.
There is no stopping these legends, who have already completed three songs off their next album, which they say is centred around "eight to nine women from Indian epics who challenged philosophical thoughts and norms".
Why watch him: Potential preview of new music from one of Singapore's top rappers
Esplanade Annexe Studio on Aug 24 at 11.30pm
For his next album, titled 44, home-grown rapper Mean went into the studio for the first time with producer Gema from local audio-visual collective Syndicate. Their chemistry was so explosive that they came up with five tracks within the day.
The album, named after their shared European shoe sizes, is still a work in progress.
"It's as if we've both walked a mile in each other's shoes, that's the whole idea of the project," says the 30-year-old.
Those who show up at his Baybeats debut this weekend could get to hear some of it.
He used to attend the festival every year when he was in polytechnic and playing there is a dream come true.
Known as much for his slick designer togs as he is for his slick flows, Mean, or "the dapper rapper" as he has been christened, will be backed by a band comprising a bassist, drummer and turntablist.
He also hints at the possibility of a performance with Malaysian rapper Airliftz, who takes the stage just before him.
SLAPSHOCK (THE PHILIPPINES)
Genre: Nu metal
Why watch them: Nu-metal veterans perform in Tagalog and English, but transcend language barriers
Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre Stage) on Aug 25 at 10.50pm
Filipino rockers Slapshock are one of the oldest active metal bands in the scene with 22 years under their belt.
Their world tour adventures and high-energy live shows have been captured on videos on the band's YouTube page, showing the extent of their reach. The five-man band are currently on their bandera world tour to promote their ninth studio album Atake.
Frontman Jamir Garcia says that they "still have the same passion just like when we started back in 1997 and we are still hungry and loving every minute of it".
Unlike other bands who have members who take on solo or side projects and change members, their line-up has remained unchanged from the start.
"Having the same guys since day one is amazing and to be able to share it with the same people who went through the tough parts of being in the band is beyond our imagination," he says.
They are no strangers to Singapore either, having played here at smaller gigs before. Garcia adds: "Singapore always shows us love and we have a pretty good crowd every time we come. It is also amazing to have the backing of the Filipino community."
It has taken them a while to get to the Esplanade, but he promises they "are going to make the most out of it".
Why watch her: For her onstage antics and message of female empowerment
LiveWire Stage (Esplanade Forecourt Garden) on Aug 25 at 8.50pm
Putri Soeharto, more popularly known as Ramengvrl, is part of a wave of Indonesian rappers, including Rich Brian, who are making their mark.
She commanded attention with her 2016 debut single I'm Da Man and remains one of the most high-profile female rappers in the game. She mixes Bahasa Indonesia and plenty of slang into her spitfire raps.
"Everyone has been making their own moves. They're not waiting for opportunities anymore, they're just doing their thing," notes the 27-year-old, who released a mixtape, No Bethany, in April.
She feels that Asian rappers in general are on the rise, especially those who add their own distinctive touches.
Citing Singaporean performers like Yung Raja and Fariz Jabba, who both played at Baybeats last year, she says: "They're all so fresh. We're taking notes from what's happening in the United States, but we also add our own flavours and slip in our own languages and slang."
And all that attention on the scene has pushed her to up her game.
"I don't want to just rap, I want to make good s*** that anybody can relate to, but also tell a story when I'm performing," she adds.
As for her Singapore debut, she says to "expect nothing but energy and also some dope visuals".
Genre: Math rock
Why watch them: For their joyous take on post and math rock
LiveWire Stage (Esplanade Forecourt Garden) on Aug 25 at 6.30pm
Playing at this year's Baybeats is a milestone for local four-piece math rock group Cues, whose intricate instrumental music does not conform to the usual confines ofpost or math rock.
Comprising twin sisters Gina and Germaine Phoo on guitar, as well as Rex Chin on drums and Tang Hui Jun on bass, the group, who are part of this year's Baybeats Budding Bands programme, are all in their 20s.
Tang says: "The twins have this uncanny synergy about their guitar writing.
"Some people see it as interweaving melody lines, others see us as having no distinct lead or rhythm guitar parts. It's almost like there is only one guitar instead of two sometimes."
They feel that is what makes them stand out from the pack, writing-wise, since they "incorporate more interesting or unexpected rhythm changes".
Just before their Baybeats debut, they are dropping a single called Buttxt on streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp. They also plan to release their debut album in 2020.
VIEW IT/BAYBEATS 2019
WHERE: Various venues across the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Dr
WHEN: Various times from Aug 23 to 25. Aug 23, 6.30pm to 3am; Aug 24, 6pm to Midnight; Aug 25, 6pm to 12.10am