One of the most senseless statements that somehow has become a Singaporean truism is that there's nothing to do in this country. More than anything, that's just a sign that people aren't paying attention or digging deep enough – looking only at our musical entertainment options is enough to prove that. We're blessed with a great variety of gigs here, from the high-budget blowouts to the tiny shows that turn into saunas.
At the mid-year mark, the 5-person Bandwagon editorial team reflected on the shows we've had the privilege to attend in 2018 and picked our top three, all arranged here in alphabetical order. Check 'em out and duke it out in the comments with us!
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Photo by Png Eng Ngee for Bandwagon
New York hardcore legends Agnostic Front finally visited Singapore last May and it was worth the long wait. Known for infusing thrash metal influences into their songs, Agnostic Front was one of the key hardcore bands from New York back in the day, along with bands like The Cro-Mags and Murphy’s Law. Formed in 1980, the band has been around for ages. They called it quits in 1992 before reforming again in 1996.
Seeing the legendary hardcore pioneers in the flesh themselves got me feeling some type of way. Their stage presence was captivating and finally hearing Roger Miret’s vocals live? A dream come true for me. Songs that got the crowd riled up were definitely ‘Gotta Go’ and ‘For My Family’, but the highlight of the night was still Vinnie Stigma’s encore where he sang ‘Paulie the Beer Drinking Dog.’ – Mahirah Mahmud, editorial intern
Read Bandwagon's review of the Agnostic Front show here
Photo by Natasha Hassan for Bandwagon
Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals at Laneway Festival 2018
Yes Lawd! At this year’s iteration of the Laneway Festival, a new high-water mark was set. Eleven years after it unspooled out of a grimy Melbourne alley and emerged as the indie-celebrating multi-stage behemoth of an event in Southeast Asia, 2018 was the site of its single-best performance yet. When the lineup was unveiled, there was never any doubt that the soul-forward charms of Anderson .Paak would be a majestic proposition – and then, he took the stage. Not even a technical fault that occurred mere seconds into his blast off, “Come Down”, could make things awkward enough for him. He got his affairs in order, started over and held us in the thrall of his beatific verve. It was only natural that the single largest crowd for any one act in the festival’s history here pogoed obligingly in arms-raised testimony. – Indran P, editor
Read Bandwagon's festival report of Laneway Festival 2018 here
Photo by Png Eng Ngee for Bandwagon
Arch Enemy’s show was the first major metal show I’ve attended in awhile, the last being Dream Theatre last year. I’ve always been a huge metal fan and I tend to be rather picky about the shows I attend. Following my metal gig resume, which includes Lamb Of God (twice), Metallica, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Arch Enemy had a lot to live up to. This was my first time seeing them, since the last time they came here, I wasn’t much of a fan of the band.
The show was billed as the only show in Southeast Asia so I knew fans from all over the region would be coming in, making the entire experience that much more special. I had my reservations about the venue – Club ViVa never crossed my mind when it comes to thinking of a venue for a metal show. But I was glad with the turnout and the production. Arch Enemy completely blew my mind and I can guarantee that everyone left the concert happy and content.
The highlight of the show however, had nothing to do with the band. It had to do with the crowd. A couple of minutes before the band took the stage, a concert promoter announced on the microphone to make way for an attendee in a wheelchair. Everyone immediately made way and applauded the attendee’s commitment to the show, many of them even shielding him during the insane mosh pits. Not too shabby for a bunch of scary-looking dudes who like to throw elbows, huh? – Surej Singh
Read Bandwagon's review of the Arch Enemy show here
With Singapore's crowded live music calendar (and ticket prices rising every year), even the glossiest of pop stars can't guarantee sold out venues and people in the seats. But Bruno Mars is an unstoppable force, and so it was no surprise when both his concerts at the Singapore Indoor Stadium sold out in a trice. I got my hands on a ticket a few days before the show (thanks, Carousell!) which, in my opinion, is the Singaporean pop concert to beat this year, from the thrilling stage production to Bruno's impeccable pipes and the slick dance moves from him and his backing band. – Karen Gwee, editor
Read Bandwagon's review of the Bruno Mars show here
Photo by Natasha Hassan for Bandwagon
Daniel Caesar took the R&B world by storm last year with his breathtaking debut album Freudian, a sultry, emotionally charged masterpiece that can rake up a flurry of feelings even in most impassive of us. Despite his then status as a fresh face in the scene, he played not one, but three sold-out shows at the Pavilion earlier in March.
His show brought a warm sense of familiarity with its uncanny resemblance to the scene in the music video for ‘Get You’, a stripped-down performance where Caesar, donning an oversized T-shirt and converse sneakers, took centre stage.
There’s such a raw, unpretentious quality to Caesar’s songwriting that brings out the unspoken beauty of vulnerability. Watching him croon in an intimate setting among a sea of young, sentimental souls left me a teary mess by the end of the night. – Bernice Kwok, editorial intern
Read Bandwagon's review of the Daniel Caesar show here
Photo courtesy of One Production / Rock Records
K-pop supergroup EXO came to Singapore for the fourth edition of their EXO Planet tour - this one is named The ElyXiOn. The boy group has gone through many ups and downs throughout their years - lineup changes, crazy fan wars and many more.
The last time I saw EXO was during EXO Planet #1: The Lost Planet. I was 16 at that time, and like every adolescent who was enthralled by the Hallyu wave, greatly adored the boys. Being at the EXO concert this year was definitely nostalgic and personal for me. With my very own eyes, I witnessed how much they’ve grown and changed over the years and that will always be the greatest takeaway from The ElyXiOn. The fanservice, the strobe lights and explosive pyrotechnics could never compare to the effort and sincerity the boys poured into their performances. – Mahirah Mahmud
Read Bandwagon's review of the EXO show here
Photo courtesy of Good Times
Good Times 10th Anniversary
Good Times’ 10-year legacy is proof that it has transcended the tall order of its christening. In fact, it’s made it clear that the ingredients for said good time are gloriously simple: Good people, good drinks and good music. And the coronation that was its 10th birthday was proof of that. The talent on hand was expansive: Hip-hop ambassadors MATTEBLACC chimed in, as did heavy-hitters RAH, FAUXE and Intriguant, while Stones Throw emissary Samiam headlined. The resulting musical gumbo was sumptuous and beyond eclectic. It’s a truism that the immediacy of sounds matters more than the conventions of genre and in the sprawl of the former, we experienced raw, unfiltered limb-unlocking power. Hip-hop was the engine on a trip with a heck of a lot to take in. – Indran P
Photo by Chin An Eng for Bandwagon
Gud Vibrations at Ultra Singapore 2018
It’s rare that I ever consider a DJ set to be one of the best gigs I’ve seen, given the fact that majority of the music played during a DJ set is tracks from other musicians. But there’s absolutely no way I can omit Gud Vibrations’ set at Ultra Singapore from my list.
For those who don’t know, Gud Vibrations is a collaborative project between two separate EDM artists, NGHTMRE and SLANDER. The two have never played in Singapore before, and they’ve always been acts that I’ve wanted to catch. I would’ve never dreamt that my first time seeing them would be as Gud Vibrations. Here’s why that’s a big deal: Gud Vibrations are very, very selective about where they perform together. The fact that they performed together in Singapore without having prior experience in the country is very telling about how much faith they have in Singapore’s bass music scene.
They played a whopping two-hour set (not even Swedish House Mafia or DJ Snake does that). And their set was HEAVY. I’m talking headbanging, mosh pits and a whole lot of fist pumping all through the two hours. They gave everything they had to Singapore and the crowd returned the favour in one of the best crowd showings I’ve seen in recent months. I might be getting sentimental here but their set truly felt like a gift from the EDM Gods. – Surej Singh
Read Bandwagon's festival report of Ultra Singapore 2018 here
Photo by Marcus Lin for Bandwagon
I’m just going to come out and say this. I’m not a fan of Katy Perry. I never cared for her music, and never thought much about her singing abilities. I’m not even a fan of many pop artists, but if there’s one thing I’ve wanted to see, it was a pop concert in all its glory – the glitz, the glamour, the stage props and world-class production.
Katy Perry’s show was outstanding in that regard. From stage risers, to pyrotechnics, an ensemble of world-class dancers and backing musicians, everything was on point. Katy shut me up. I’m not afraid to admit that as a huge metalhead at heart, I enjoyed the heck out of her show.
Say what you want about Katy and her music, but she’s a performer and she’s earned my respect and changed my mind about pop shows. – Surej Singh
Read Bandwagon's review of the Katy Perry show here
Photo by Christopher Sim, courtesy of Symmetry Entertainment
If there’s a band that pulls off eccentric and laid-back at the same time, it’s got to be Khruangbin. It’s hard to put a finger on their sound because it’s such a unique one that meshes the most eclectic of genres, from 60’s Thai funk to surf soul and Persian pop. The cherry atop the cake: a band name that raises plenty of eyebrows (it’s Thai for airplane).
What’s most amazing about this band, however, is their brilliant live performances. Their studio tracks are no doubt a treat to the ears, but my oh my… nothing comes close to a Khruangbin show where you’re in for a one-of-a-kind, all-round sensory experience. The Texan three-piece played two full house shows at The Projector in May, immersing their audience in a sensual, psychedelic goodness made of funky, reverb-drenched guitar riffs, soulful bass grooves and intergalactic visuals that trip you out a little. – Bernice Kwok
Read Bandwagon's review of the Khruangbin show here
Photo by Natasha Hassan for Bandwagon
Ms. Lauryn Hill at Sing Jazz 2018
As a realist whom some would probably call a pessimist, my attitude going into Lauryn Hill's set at Sing Jazz earlier this year was: Okay, I'm ready for her to let me down. Stories of her arrivals to the stage hours late have proliferated in recent years, and in Singapore where I've seen my fair share of artists hitting the stage late, I didn't have my hopes up at all.
But she came on perfectly on time and not only killed it, vocally, but also demonstrated her insistence on musical excellence from her band, her years of experience and prominence in the biz shining through. For various reasons, Singapore doesn't have a lot of top-notch hip-hop talent dropping by our shores, which made this incredible set by Hill all the sweeter. – Karen Gwee
Read Bandwagon's festival report of Sing Jazz 2018 here
Photo courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
After Nils Frahm's highly anticipated concert at the Esplanade, I talked to someone who fell asleep during the show, which while understandable (said someone is a busy, busy musician) kind of still boggled my mind. Sure, the Esplanade's seats are cushy, but the sound was impeccable and immersive, and even though it was very much a one-man show, Nils' constant movement on stage whether between setups or at a keyboard, rocking on the balls of his feet and nodding his head, kept me so plugged into his process of live music-making on stage. And of course, who could forget his dry, generous banter that endeared us all to the German neo-classical maestro? – Karen Gwee
Read Bandwagon's review of the Nils Frahm show here
Photo by Jein Eriza, courtesy of Disrupt.co
Turnstile hasn’t even reached the 10-year mark yet and they’ve come so far already. The Baltimore hardcore band recently toured Asia for the very first time and they are definitely a band you would want to catch live. Early this year, they released their sophomore album Time & Space which featured elements of jazz, electronica and even a small musical contribution from EDM DJ Diplo. Most of the time, bands that choose to experiment, end up straying too far away from their roots but Turnstile surprised us all. Their show at Decline was amazing. From the chemistry they had on stage, to the insane moshpit and cannonballing off the stage, it was a thrilling show, even if it was shorter than we would have liked. – Mahirah Mahmud
Read Bandwagon's review of the Turnstile show here
Photo by Shafeeq (@kidmeddling), courtesy of .Wav(y)
.Wav(y) arrived at its place of prominence in the local clubscape with the intensity of a Molotov cocktail exploding on impact. Its club night-stagings are musical and visual arenas where the gladiators are as swag-drenched as the newly minted but already much-beloved trap bangers being beamed at their bodies.
So at its inaugural live edition, which featured live performances by some of Made in Singapore hip-hop’s most buzzing names in the form of AE$OP CA$H, Louie Indigo, G-Preme and Unknown Radicals, things got taken up several levels. Essentially, four vital voices chimed in on the hallowed tradition of turnt-ness that .Wav(y) has established. A transcendentally raucous spirit suffused the crowd – speaking for both the kinetic power of the new school as well as the time-honoured reason as to why we go out to experience music. – Indran P
Photo by Hazel Sim for Bandwagon
What’s ‘vaporwave’? Just listen to one of Yung Bae’s mixtapes, and you have the answer. A peculiar mix of elevator music and artpop among other chilled yet funky genres, it’s characterised by chopped and screwed techniques and 80’s consumer culture aesthetics: think early Internet imagery and jarring 3D rendered landscapes. It’s something you’d either love or hate - there’s no sitting on the fence with this one.
The L.A.-based producer brought a night of sweaty, retro fun to the National Gallery last April with his samplings of 80’s Japanese city pop, American disco classics and addictive remixes of Kendrick Lamar, Rich Brian and more. The outdoor space at Gallery & Co. was converted into a future funk party filled with happy faces, beers in hands, grooving along to catchy tunes all night. – Bernice Kwok
Read Bandwagon's review of the Yung Bae show here
What concerts have you seen and loved this year? Let us know in the comments below! And while you're at it, check out our 2018 concert mega guide which is constantly updated with upcoming concerts in Singapore.