The first time is always awkward. And this is applicable to most things in life: first dates, gym sessions and yes, even festivals!
Music festivals, just like girls, can be just as intoxicating and overwhelming of an experience especially if you don’t know what you are in for. The key words here being, not knowing what you are in for. Therefore, don’t you wish that someone prepared a handy crib sheet to smoothen your date or festival experience?
Unfortunately, here at Bandwagon, we are no experts in love (well, maybe love songs). But what we do know, we are more than willing to share. So digging deep into our collective music knowledge, we bring you the ultimate guide to the inaugural arts and music festival happening on our shores, Neon Lights.
For those about to DANCE
CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
Even if you haven’t heard of CHIC or Nile Rodgers, chances are that you will be familiar with their body of work. Proclaimed as the most sampled band in history by The Guardian, Nile and his hitmaking production skills (along with his iconic guitar, of course) have worked with the likes of Madonna, David Bowie and of course, Daft Punk. The man won three Grammys for his collaborative effort, Random Access Memories with the French duo, proving some things don't always go out of style — even disco.
Flight Facilities (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
Flight Facilities is taking the world by storm. Their much acclaimed debut album Down To Earth has charted on no less than three iTunes country charts! In between their extensive tour schedule, they even found the time to curate videos for two singles. They recently released the video for Down To Earth starring Hollywood actor Sam Rockwell. As busy as they are, they'll be flying over here to give us a taste of the full Flight Facilities dancefloor experience.
Ratatat (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
After making fans wait five years for their fifth album Magnifique, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast return to serve up their core guitar-driven sound as Ratatat. The Brooklyn-based "rocktronica" duo played Coachella this year and have toured with artists such as Daft Punk, The Killers and Björk. We think they'll be serving up a heck of a party, complete with mind-bending visuals and lights, so you'll do best not to miss out on their SG live debut.
Mr Scruff (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Drawing his stage name from his namesake facial hair, Mr Scruff is a British DJ and producer who incorporates quirky home-produced visuals and animation with his music. Known for his Get A Move On club night, the passionate vinyl collector is famous for his “all-night long” DJ sets which covers electro, soul, funk, disco, deep house and drum & bass.
RÜFÜS (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
Already a hit in their home country, Sydney trip-hop trio Jon George, Tyrone Lindqvist and James Hunt, otherwise known as RÜFÜS, released their debut album ATLAS in 2013. ATLAS was certified gold and peaked at number one on the Australian music chart. Slowly dominating live stages around the world, they've come to invade ours in November.
The Field (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Starting out as a way to combine his love of pop artists with a hearty dose of minimal techno, Swedish DJ Axel Willner aka The Field received near-universal critical acclaim with his first full-length album From Here We Go Sublime. His last album, Cupid’s Head was released in 2013 and was hailed as “one of Willner’s most affirming and beatific creations to date”. As much as he evolves, there's always something to enjoy about the producer's respectable discography and his live setlist should be a diverse stunner.
Jacques Greene (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
Having collaborated with the likes of The xx, Radiohead and Jimmy Edgar, house producer Jacques Greene is leading the way with his genre-defining works within the dance music realm. Even though he has yet to release a full album, the enigmatic young Canadian has already played at some of the top venues and festivals across Europe. Having appeared earlier this year at Zouk to a massive crowd, the festival grounds should provide a different, and no less exciting, experience.
Kiasmos (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
Comprising of BAFTA-winning composer Ólafur Arnalds and ex-Bloodgroup member Janus Rasmussen, Kiasmos took flight in 2009, initially starting out as a fun project but, after releasing their debut self-titled album last year, they've been taking the road to promote their clinical and meditative take on minimal techno.
UNKLE Sounds (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
Originally one of UK's most successful and impactful trip-hop acts, UNKLE Sounds is now the touring moniker of UNKLE founder James Lavelle, who has been using the moniker for a variety of DJ shows and releases, along with audio/visual performances that comprise of classic UNKLE tracks and more surprises. Having performed in Singapore before under his own name, this will be the first time he'll be making an appearance as UNKLE Sounds so expect plenty of UNKLE classics and — hopefully — some new tracks that are desperately needed.
For those about to CRY
Damien Rice (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
After starting his musical career with ‘90s rock band Juniper, singer songwriter Damien Rice released his understated yet emotional charged solo debut album O. His latest offering My Favourite Faded Fantasy, is a continuation of his honest tunes about love, life and the future. Younger artists such as Ed Sheeran and David Knowles have even cited Rice as an influence in their music, while crowds flock to every show the reclusive performer does.
Rachael Yamagata (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
There's just something about Rachael Yamagata that connects vividly with Singaporeans. Appearing for her seventh performance here, everyone should be well versed with Yamagata's discography by now. The American singer-songwriter’s latest album Tightrope Walker is due out Fall 2015 and has had her songs featured on TV shows such as Charmed, How I Met Your Mother and Grey’s Anatomy. Find out what we thought about her solo show in Singapore earlier this year.
Sun Kil Moon (Day One, Sat 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Named after Korean boxer Sung-Kil Moon, American folk rock act Sun Kil Moon currently comprises of vocalist/guitarist Mark Kozelek, drummer Anthony Koutsos and bassist Jerry Vessel. They have only just released their latest album Universal Themes in June. Despite the controversy surrounding the notoriously grumpy mainman Kozelek, who began churning out morose and introspective albums under the band Red House Painters, his current project has been a point of renewed critical acclaim, especially with last year's (terrific) Benji.
Julia Holter (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
An American singer songwriter, producer and composer, Julia Holter is a CalArts graduate whose 2011 debut album Tragedy was named “Best Outer Sound Albums of 2011” by NPR. Her newest effort, Have You in My Wilderness is her most successful charting release to date, featuring a refined and sophisticated sound built upon foundations of classical-based pop music. She is currently collaborating with musician Jean-Michel Jarre for his upcoming double album Electronica.
Bennett Bay (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
A Noise Singapore participant, local musician Bennett Bay aims to evoke pastoral images and create emotional bonds in the minds of his listeners. Having played at venues like the Esplanade, Bay promises to gracefully take you on an aural journey about life.
Shugo Tokumaru (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
With his sweet lo-fi indie pop songs, Shugo Tokumaru’s works call to mind the sounds of early 2000s’ artists such as Plamo, Lullatone and PWRFL Power. The multi-instrumentalist has used over 100 traditional and non-traditional instruments to date and his 2010 album Port Entropy broke into the top 40 in Japan. Powered by his inquisitive nature and impressive work ethic — he oversees the entire process of making his albums, even down to the mixing — Shugo's entering over a decade of making music and his live shows have not faltered either, which makes his set at Neon Lights unmissable.
SOAK (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Otherwise known as Bridie Monds-Watson, SOAK is an up-and-coming Northern Irish singer songwriter who recently came under the spotlight with her debut album, Before We Forgot How to Dream. At age 19, her brand of music has already won over the UK and Australian public with The Guardian calling it “a vivid portrait of teenage deep-thinking”.
Paint the Sky Red (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
Ultimately a purveyor of moody second-generation post-rock, aka "crescendo-core", Paint the Sky Red have been staunch purists in the art of melancholic instrumental rock. So while there will be some numbers that could inspire more empowered head-nodding, there will be tears if your poison is sweeping grandeur in the realm of atmospherics.
Stream the Bandwagon Neon Lights Playlist.
For those about to ROCK
Ride (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
The recent resurgence of shoegaze in modern indie rock has revived the name Ride back into consciousness, and this reunion doesn't hurt either. Ride is a British rock band, considered to be one of the most important alternative rock bands of the 90s, breaking up in 1996 before reuniting last November. Their albums Nowhere and Going Blank Again are highly acclaimed, with Nowhere featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Going Blank Again on NME's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Both are also frequently mentioned alongside My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and Slowdive's Souvlaki as essential shoegaze albums.
Mercury Rev (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
Mercury Rev is a five-piece psychedelic rock band that dates back to the late ‘80s. Often compared to The Flaming Lips and Spiritualized, Mercury Rev is made up of ex-Lips guitarist Jonathan Donahue and Sean “Grasshopper” Mackowiak. They found success with their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs and recently released their first album in seven years entitled The Light in You. A perennial favourite in indie rock circles.
Bo Ningen (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Described as “enlightenment activists from the far east psychedelic underground”, Bo Ningen is a four-piece acid punk band. Besides setting up their own Far East Electric Psychedelic night at Cross Kings in London, they have also played at 2011 Venice Biennale and performed with krautrock legends Faust. Based in London, the Japanese group has made waves for their uncompromising psychedelic sound that led to an avant-garde collaborative album with modern post-punk favourites Savages. Make no mistake though, Bo Ningen never fails to present a forceful and trance-inducing live show.
Viet Cong (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Touching on themes of deconstruction and disintegration, Viet Cong's self-titled album does not let up from the get go. Citing influences like classical composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and art rock visionaries This Heat, the debut album was quickly shortlisted for this year's Polaris Music Prize. Sadly, not all things have been rosy for the Canadian post-punk outfit, causing some controversy recently with their suggestive band name, with plans to change it announced soon after.
Gengahr (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
As classic horror film enthusiasts, Gengahr’s music is a reflection of their passion. The four-piece outfit’s slow burning tunes, filled with frontman Felix Bushe’s dark macabre lyrics, leaves a deep impression upon all who hear them. But don't be fooled, these guys know how to rip an infectious chorus.
Hanging Up The Moon (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Starting off as the solo project of local musician Sean Lam, Hanging Up The Moon has evolved into a full band with the addition of Dean Aziz (Concave Scream), Leslie Low (The Observatory), Victor Low (Affixen) and Alexius Cai (Piblokto). With their latest album Immaterial, the band weaves a dense lush sound with epic strings juxtaposed against dreamy riffs and melody.
Mogwai (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
At this point, they really don't require an introduction, but we're always more than happy to usher in more new converts in the church of Mogwai. Marking 20 years as a band this year, Mogwai are still running strong — especially with their soundtrack-influenced 2014 record Rave Tapes, their eighth full-length album in total. Having left a trail of copycats in their wake, especially during the mid-2000s, Mogwai make a swift return to Singapore, just over a year after their earth-shattering set at Hostess Club Weekender.
Our interview with them revealed many things as well, like how they're suckers for local Indian food.
For the INDIE POP crowd
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Formed in 2007, The Pains 0f Being Pure At Heart are an American indie pop band from New York. Taking their band name from a friend’s unpublished children’s story, the five-piece band's self-titled album peaked at ninth on the Billboard Heatseekers chart back in 2009, with a surge in interest in the band peaking with sophomore effort Belong, which they followed with an appearance at Laneway Festival Singapore 2012. Several line-up changes and a significant shift in sound later, they're still going strong with their latest effort Days of Abandon, astutely replacing dreamy reverb with crystalline production.
Daughter (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
After their rousing Laneway performance back in 2014, Daughter returns back to our shores having dropped their fresh new single ‘Doing The Right Thing’ very recently. With their new album Not To Disappear due next January, vocalist Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella look all set to build on the hype and acclaim that powered the reach of 2013 album If You Leave.
Nouvelle Vague (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
Nouvelle Vague is a French bossa nova group started by Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux in 2004. Reworking classic post-punk songs of old, the group, complete with their ever growing group of singers and musicians, have injected new life into songs such as ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, ‘Guns of Brixton’ and ‘Dance With Me’.
Mocca (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov)
After a four-year hiatus, Indonesian band Mocca recently reunited and released their latest album Home. Focusing on the band members’ longing for home, Home hails the return of the four college best friends’ retro ‘70s sound that's easy to like and dance to.
Songhoy Blues (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Growing up obsessed with hip hop, R&B, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, it is an understatement to say Songhoy Blues members Oumar and Aliou Toure carry music in their hearts. Together with guitarist Garba Toure, they started to make music while in university. Their music, a blend of ethnic Songhoy music and modern blues rock, was a big hit at last year’s WOMAD festival.
Lost Weekend (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
Formed in 2011 over a love of ‘90s music and Tiger Beer, Lost Weekend is an indie-pop band from Singapore. Having played an exclusive showcase at last year’s Baybeats Festival and Singapore Night Festival, the group just released their self-titled debut album back in August, one filled with relatable lyrical themes and catchy melodies.
BROODS (Day Two, Sun, 29 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Best known as New Zealand's next best indie pop export, after Lorde, Broods were quickly snapped up by major labels before releasing their spirited debut Evergreen just last year. Having toured with Ellie Goulding and Haim, Broods have set their sights on the alternative pop market quite keenly. With their dreamy production and seductive vocals forming an intoxicating combination that'll be irresistible to fans of Halsey or London Grammar.
For the beat junkies
Kid Koala (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov) BANDWAGON RECOMMENDS
Aside from being an award winning graphic novelist, world-renowned scratch DJ and producer Kid Koala is famous for his unforgettable live shows. Currently based in Montreal, the hip hop DJ has collaborated with the likes of Gorillaz, Deltron 3030 and The Slew and contributed to numerous film scores.
Blackalicious (Day One, Sat, 28 Nov)
With a career spanning nearly 20 years, Blackalicious earned their musical cred through rapper Gift of Gab’s tongue twisting complex rhymes and DJ Chief Xcel’s classic beats. The Californian hip-hop duo recently released their album Imani Vol.1 and announced that it will be part of a trilogy series, with the subsequent two albums to follow in the next two years.
Neon Lights Festival will be happening on 28 & 29 November. Tickets are still available.