Neon Lights is a festival held in Singapore at Fort Gate in The Fort Canning National Park. While on my travels, the stars aligned so that I was in town to check it out. Beers cost like $20 a pop here, so I thought bugger it - might as well try to swindle a media pass by pretending to be some big shot journo from Australia. Media pass approved, more money for overpriced beers.
Firstly, I feel like I need to point out that I’ve never actually reviewed an event before, so, apologies in advance if this is something of a train wreck write-up. I probably won’t do one again for a very long time / probably won’t be allowed to after I hit post on this.
My day started as I rolled into the media accreditation section. I picked up my wristband, felt mildly important as an international blogger, and then I was on my way into the festival grounds.
Singapore is really hot. Like humid AF. Luckily, the venue was well-shaded and provided some relief. There’s an interesting history behind Fort Gate that goes back to the 1300’s, which you can totally Google if you’re really keen for a brush-up on Malaysian / Singaporean history.
After topping up my wristband with some cash, I ventured over to the smaller stage 'Easy Street', where two dudes called 'E-TracX Scratch Works' were getting down with some hectic vinyl scratching. While I'm sure there's an audience for this repetitious display of DJ'ing, my limited attention span indicated that I was not up to endure an hour straight of it. My overall thoughts of their performance? 'Wicky-wicky'. Stick that pull quote at the top of your next press release, lads. You're welcome.
A short walk to the main stage greeted me with Afrobeat group, Instigator Afrobeat Orchestra. Some dude was ripping on a bongo and the rest of the band were pretty gnarly too. This kind of music really doesn't do much for me, as it just strikes me as background / elevator noise. That's not taking away how tight and great they were, it's just I preferred to use this opportunity to buy a beer.
After purchasing a frothy, I felt like charging a durry, and the smoking area was right next to the Easy Street stage. So, there I was back hanging out with scratch Magee again. What's pretty rad is that they'd invited people up to have a crack at some scratching; kids were having a great time and that’s what counts.
Riot !n Magenta took to the main stage with their blend of electronica, trip-hop and soul. Tight rhythmic grooves played under an airy and spacious layering of synths, dreamy guitar and steadfast bass. Frontwoman Eugenia Yip's commanding soulful vocals soared above and completely mesmerised.
I ventured back to Easy Street, where Perk Pietrek quietly addressed the crowd as he opened his set, but what followed was anything but reserved. Explosive future bass, deep-house and trap rattled the Easy Street stage, blending together an eclectic collection of samples and textures. The small crowd there to watch him were all intrigued, with growing enthusiasm. I was continually on the edge of my seat as every transition piqued my interest. This was thought-provoking and exciting electronic music. In conclusion, it’s safe to say I'm now converted into the Perk Pietrek fan club. Only critique is – shush between songs, man! Just play your bangers and don’t talk. I genuinely mean that with love.
Back at the main stage, London indie-punks Shame burst open their set with 'Dust on Trial'. I was super pumped to catch these dudes, as I saw them absolutely slay back in Australia earlier this year for Laneway Festival and a headline show at the Lansdowne Hotel. Unsurprisingly, their frenetic brand of punk rock impressed all in attendance, and Neon Lights' vibe stepped up a considerable notch (even if it was just mostly from the hilariously polite mosh pit). Crowd favourite 'One Rizla' was met with a roar from the audience; Shame had well and truly got the Singaporeans eating out of their hands at this point. Despite the unwavering heat, the charismatic quintet continued to power on with a hugely compelling performance all the way throughout their set. Some of the new material worked an absolute treat as well.
Bouncing back to the Easy Tree stage, local producer FAUXE delivered on flawless hip-hop inspired beats, deep trembling bass and intricately brooding production - often melding samples of traditional Malaysian music into the mix. Vocals shifted between English, Indian and Malay; as odd as it sounded, it worked. Dynamics constantly dipped and rose erratically, but with precision - FAUXE effortlessly crafts songs - this guy is the real deal.
On that note, my phone was about to die as The Vaccines opened their set. All I can say from my vague and boozy memory is that they instantly found the extra gear in the events atmosphere, and I sadly had to depart a few songs in. On the plus side, it was to a rad restaurant to finally gorge down on some highly anticipated Singapore Chilli Crab.
Thank you, Neon Lights. What a great addition to Singapore's ever growing contemporary music culture.
P.S. Yes, I missed Interpol, but apparently they only played new songs, so joke isn’t on me lerl!