1 September 2012
Rode into Queen Street and parked my rickety post-apocalyptic bike in front of Waterloo Centre. Would have parked illegally (as usual) in the alleyway beside 8Q Singapore Art Museum but the eyeballs installation were creeping me out. Could feel their judgmental Sauron gaze boring a hole into my back even as I rode past them earlier.
Reached The Substation and was surprised they haven’t even closed Armenian Street yet. Cars, trucks and vans passed by the venue without a care in the world as the gathering crowd huddled on either sides of the road, trying to watch The Observatory setting up their multitude of instruments. There were some Substation personnel nervously trying to push the crowd closer towards the pavements. They were seriously looking apprehensive. Did an accident happened before? I don’t know. Wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
The roads were closed to much fanfare and cheers of the crowd, happy to roam about freely as if the road were the property of their fore-bearers. We were all clearly psyched to have The Obs blow our collective minds on this Saturday evening. As Bani Haykal set off their performance with a screaming start, people started nodding along to the droning, shape-shifting sounds. There was this elderly dude, who was looking all horrorshow, dressed in the height of fashion with his Jägermeister cowboy hat, patched vest and jeans, and an old singlet bearing the Singapura Lion icon. With a Big Bird hand-puppet in one hand and a tambourine in the other (no I am not making this up), he bopped, danced and played along with the experimental sounds of The Observatory. It provided a touch of eccentricity to the slow burning music, a juxtaposition of whimsical vitality and serious performance art. Not at all unlike Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Already tired of watching La Argentina’s flying lady confetti parade the day before, me and Delfina checked out The Substation Gallery. We were greeted by the droning of another kind - WAGON robots. Previously LG Robotic Vacuum in their past lives, they now served a greater artistic purpose as part of the interactive WAGON installation art piece. Their reassembled incarnation was an ominous commentary on the speed of technology and alienation, judging from their black industrial constructs. The little autonomous machines reminded me of those Imperial mouse droids from Star Wars. Appropriate, ‘cause I was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt myself.
Enam Jahanam went on stage, swaggering and smoking as they set up their instruments. They were a hardcore punk band, and the scene brought to mind of my old days as a metalhead, attending hardcore gigs in Substation and generally getting my ass kicked - by boots nonetheless - in moshpits and circle pits (remember kids ‘circle pits not karate kicks/glowsticks’). True enough, full-on moshing began as soon as Enam Jahanam started playing. In between sets there were the usual social issue rhetorics; anti-xenophobic sentiments, messages about making Singapore a true arts and heritage hub and breaking stereotypes about pro-violence in punk/skin culture. There was even a pretty awesome song about disillusionment in leading a secure, monotonous lifestyle - appropriately titled ‘DAH RILEK KAPPA’. Very unlikely people were enjoying the set. An Indian family was nodding to it, a middle-aged Chinese lady was dancing by herself and a Caucasian lady was right at the front of the stage, smiling. As soon as the last song was done, one of the vocalists (there were two) started emceeing for the Night Festival at substation. I was like lolwut, he was the emcee all along? Damn son, he switched from Aggro-punk Vocalist to Welcoming Emcee just like that. Mucho respeto.
La Argentina thingy started again so we wandered off to SMU green to see what’s happening. We caught Great Spy just as they were playing their last song (Class A Love Affair, as always). The usual hijinks of a Great Spy gig were there; biggest crowd turnout, stellar band performance and crazy fans at the front of the stage. The grand stage setup must have been really expensive I thought.
Met Glittered White Lady on our way back to The Substation. She was nice.
The Psalms had already started playing. Never heard of them until only recently when I was creating their profile on the new Bandwagon website. I’ll say this about them - very entertaining. I couldn’t put a finger on the type of music they were playing (nor should I) but it’s best described as a frantic mash between noise rock and psychedelic rock with a touch of mathcore. The drummer was a total beast - certainly influenced by Thomas Pridgen, ex-Mars Volta drummer. I thought the vocalist was very good, and then I realized I’d already met her before... when she served the Bandwagon team drinks at Viking Coffee a few months ago when we were doing a piece on them. Not bad at all.
Chilled with a nice hot cup of teh tarik we bought from the very nice pakcik selling it at the alleyway. Nice teh tarik too.
Heard someone wailing, so we checked it out at the stage. It was Cyril Wong, doing a performance art with looped and live voices. The wordless performance was something like a Quran recitation, shifting melodic contours around to create something eerie yet beautiful. Dharma from The Observatory was evidently mesmerized and sat down in front of the stage, never breaking his gaze from the performance. Others joined him on the ground later on.
The night was made even more nightly with the smooth bluesy tunes of Moods, a band that would fit perfectly in a cocktail lounge in 60’s LA. I noticed that almost every time they finish a song, there would be gusts of wind, blowing around the confetti all around us. Really quite magic. They were the type of band that would be nice to smoke to while watching, so I lit up. Then they started to cover Portishead, which made me light up another stick (for Beth Gibbons, who used to smoke a few packs a day and still have an amazing voice). “But you had a lot already today dude!” Delfina said. No matter. A chillbro must have his Next Chill.
The band that everyone was waiting for finally came on stage. And they did not disappoint. All decked in typical Tiramisu style - a schizophrenic combination of outfits and clothing taken from a theatre costume shop.
Rizman Putra made a very grand entrance, being wheeled out in a supermarket trolley. In a shiny black dress, lion head helmet/hat and tail, he stumbled on stage and pranced around the stage. “Lion King!” someone shouted. Smiles and laughs were all around as Tiramisu began their medley of indie rock songs with Rizman gyrating, jumping, running offstage and playing with his lion tail/make-shift penis. He even did a shoutout to Hanis (of Subscene.tv, Radio Pulze and Cold Shoulder fame), for it was his birthday. “I like you because you look like Weird Al Yankovic!”, Rizman said about Hanis (no he does not I assure you). Amidst all the random sounds, rants and dramatics onstage, he said something that stood out - “things like these don’t happen everyday!”.
Too true, too true.