Saturday, August 6, 2016

Blast from the Past: Wanderland 2016

While I'm still currently taking a break from attending gigs and shows[1], I decided to transfer almost all of my previous posts from my old Wordpress blog to this one right here. The following post taken from my old Wordpress blog is a personal favorite as it is perhaps the most thorough show review I've ever done so far. Some portions out of the original post have been edited[2] as I am planning on submitting this to a radio station currently looking for content writers; here's to hoping I actually make it.

Ah Wanderland, we met again after having intentionally skipped on the last one… Some things surely have changed and a few rather unfortunate circumstances along the way have happened too.

For starters, Circuit Makati where Wanderland has been held since its inception back in 2012 now has a mall complex just beside the festival grounds itself. Most of the music and arts festival’s “Wanderers” (as attendees of the said music and arts festival are rather cheekily called) suddenly had a shady place to sit (and/or dine) in while waiting for their buddies to arrive whereas the whole lot of us who were at that very same area two years back had to stand and wait while getting baked in the sun, so I guess it’s safe to say that those whose first taste of Wanderland was from a few days ago had it quite comfortable enough. Can’t ruin delicate sensibilities after all.

The new mall inside Circuit Makati almost looked like Greenbelt the very minute I strolled around it. Classy work, I must say.

The thing though was that I unfortunately had to wait for two hours that entire afternoon for a good friend who personally volunteered to take the place of the one I was originally supposed to be with to arrive at the venue. My good friend’s reason was valid enough though as she forgot to pick some things up at some university bookshop the night before and thus had to go back there the next morning as those were urgently needed as teaching materials come two days later. We both missed out on A LOT of acts but since I badly want to make as comprehensive a show review as possible, here’s my attempt at describing how all those acts I and my good friend both failed to catch had fared:

Local opening bands were Oh, Flamingo along with Jensen and the Flips and Cheats. Not actually surprised at all if both Oh, Flamingo and Cheats left the crowd in awe despite the blistering heat of the sun as both bands make really good and catchy music that even this usually hard to please fella right here absolutely dig for some reason. Jensen and the Flips isn't really my thing at all though, I'll just leave it at that.

All those photos I found of the local opening bands have Wanderland watermarked all over them so here’s a photo of a group of flamingos instead.

The first two foreign acts to grace the Wanderland main stage were Panama and San Cisco who are both from The Land Down Under and yet geographically confused. Yep, main stage. Whereas there was only one stage to deal with last 2014, this year’s installment of Wanderland featured two stages: the main one at its usual center spot as well as a smaller satellite stage located at the farther left side of the festival grounds. Not really a fan of multiple stage setups as it only creates confusion as to which acts to catch and forgo but good thing set times between the two stages were alternately placed such that I and my good friend strategically positioned ourselves just within amenable walking distance of both main and satellite stage; if only more people followed suit, all the acts performing on that satellite stage would have amassed a larger crowd. Both Aussie bands mentioned were a bit okay for me personally but not really that exceptional to trigger any deep regret for having missed out on their entire sets. Panama reminded me of all those “new rave” bands from the late 2000s; listenable, sure but I’ve heard their sound done better by others.


San Cisco on the other hand is what would have been if the Arctic Monkeys ditched Alex Turner and replaced him with Ezra Koenig plus some random female co-vocalist who also happens to play the drums (use your imagination there as I don’t have the time of day to do Photoshop; I’m an extremely busy person); the indie music fan in me from 2006 would’ve instantly dug it but the same me a decade later felt otherwise. A lot of attendees surely must have felt pretty much the same way towards San Cisco as we were all stocking on some much-needed energy for the long night ahead by eating all the food we can eat and buying all the bottled water as well as alcoholic drinks we can buy (and after queueing for what seemed to be an hour at that as this year’s food concessionaires did not sell any drinks since all them liquids were available in separate stalls which frankly does not make sense at all to me as who in his/her right mind would spend 12 hours or so inside Wanderland’s festival grounds buying nothing but drinks, no?) that one can’t help but feel sorry for the band as they plowed through hit upon hit from their two albums. No word yet as to if San Cisco would ever decide to just do a solo show instead.

That beagle right there is Ezra Koenig.

Also checked the crowd out and compared to two years ago, I can’t really help but notice that the usual staple headdress for females attending indie music festivals – the flower crown – looked like it is already on its way out as I saw some girls sporting bucket hats that I asked myself for a bit if I was in fact attending Wanderland 1996. Seriously though, good thing I guess that finally, a fashion statement with a bit more practicality into it has gained traction amongst indie scenesters here in the country as getting baked in the sun for an entire afternoon is no joke at all. Another thing I noticed though – and a bit more prominent at that – was that A LOT of girls had hairs of different colors other than the usual black or golden brown that I can’t help but suddenly recall something out of David Foster Wallace’s sprawling modern epic novel “Infinite Jest” called Subsidized Time where each year is attributed to its attached sponsor/brand. While Subsidized Time pretty much ended in 2010 aka Year of the Glad[3] in “Infinite Jest”, I still think it’s safe to say that if only DFW were still alive to this day, he would’ve probably called 2016 the Year of Manic Panic[4] – not to mention that it’s quite catchy for a branded year name.

David Foster Wallace would be proud.

As the night started to sink in, I and my good friend checked out Chad Valley (stage moniker of British musician Hugo Manuel) performing over at the satellite stage. First heard of Chad Valley while listening to a KEXP radio program a few years back which was why I found myself quite stoked to see Manuel doing his own spin on blue-eyed R&B as part of an emerging breed of like-minded musicians from the UK[5]. While the crowd that gathered during Chad Valley’s slot is a bit less than what I personally expected, the turnout was still pretty much decent most especially as Manuel and his onstage partner closed their set with “Shell Suite”, a song of theirs that got included in the soundtrack to zombie romcom flick “Warm Bodies[6] which I think a lot of Wanderers are a fan of.

Chad Valley

This blog’s author along with a really good friend had a photo taken with Hugo Manuel aka Chad Valley. Had to cover my friend’s face though for privacy reasons. What’s interesting behind this photo is that my friend was actually in cahoots with one of the bouncers stationed in the Globe satellite stage who happened to be her uncle somewhere in Manila. This is actually NOT ALLOWED AT ALL for the entire event itself; I was merely dragged along to this photo op.

Who would’ve thought that a short walk was all it took to travel from UK to New Zealand – or to put it more clearly, I and my good friend walked some steps from just having finished Chad Valley’s set at the satellite stage to the left side of the main stage where The Naked and Famous totally blew the stage apart with their brand of aggressive electro-rock that fans of The Joy Formidable and Death from Above 1979 can very easily sink their teeth into. Vocalist Ashley GosiengfiaoAlisa Xayalith has one of the most distinct voices in the world of indie rock that even I can’t fully describe it here unless you were there amongst the thousand-strong Wanderland crowd who heard her sing. The usually aggressive music fan that I am is very, very pleased with the inclusion of The Naked and Famous in this year’s Wanderland lineup that I actually found myself pogoing to “All of This”, a personal favorite song from their debut full-length. The band brought some much-needed energy into the whole festivities right up to the last song, celebratory youth anthem “Young Blood” (which I enjoyed a lot despite being too old for the younger scene). Thank you Wanderland for finally having brought a band that the rather picky indie music fan in me can totally get behind!

The energy of the crowd was quite intense at this point that all I had was this amazingly blurry shot of The Naked and Famous.

Blackbird Blackbird (aka Fil-Am electronic musician Mikey Maramag[7]) then summoned the crowd to rush over at the satellite stage. While I saw some who danced to his tunes and remixes, I felt that Maramag would’ve fared better if he brought his one-man act to some club in the Metro instead just like when he first visited the country back in 2013. That or he should’ve gone full-on psych pop just like he did with his “Boracay Planet” EP when he played a lot more guitar alongside his usual pulsating electronic beats. But then again, I honestly think psych pop as a whole is a bit of a hard sell over these parts for whatever reason. I’m still hoping just the same that psych pop will be a thing someday amongst the indie crowd here just like in the States.

Mikey Maramag aka Blackbird Blackbird

Bon Iver (aka indie folk musician Justin Vernon) delivered a mostly somber performance that served as a breather from all the energy that the Wanderland crowd had given off thus far. I’m not really THAT deeply into Bon Iver’s music as a whole but a few parts of his entire set were quite memorable for me. There was this one song for example whose title has since escaped my memory wherein I was in awe of the saxophonist fella skronking all those notes even if it’s not Colin Stetson himself who I was actually expecting to be part of Vernon’s live backing band. Vernon also did this sort of improvisational looping vocal thing whose latter part ended up with him screaming at his mic that a wild idea occurred to me right there and then: What if he and Minnesota rapper P.O.S. formed another side project aside from Gayngs where they’d be doing second-wave screamo?[8] Pretty sure most Bon Iver fans who only know Vernon through his indie folk music would be in a state of shock if ever that happens, eh?

Bon Iver and his entire live backing band

Justin Vernon doing his smash hit “Skinny Love”. If only setting a campfire was allowed within the event grounds (it is unfortunately NOT ALLOWED AT ALL; one wouldn’t want the entire place to catch fire)…

And last but not the least, Death Cab for Cutie made a triumphant return to the country four years after their last concert here. The band’s comeback visit – this time as Wanderland’s headlining act – was very much anticipated on my end as I am a huge fan of a lot of indie music made within much of the 90’s to the early 2000’s when making panties drop wasn’t part of any agenda at all. DCFC pretty much schooled the scenester kids in the audience on how indie rock should be done. It also helped that vocalist Ben Gibbard sported a cleaner haircut compared to the one he wore some months ago that it almost felt to me like watching DCFC from the year 2003 when they were still quite young and on the heels of success – that despite guitarist and co-founder Chris Walla having left the group shortly after the release of their latest album “Kintsugi”.


Nice twin guitar attack except that the music isn't metal at all.

It’s great to see Ben Gibbard looking fresh with a cleaner haircut after his unfortunate divorce from Katy PerryZooey Deschanel.

A minor technical difficulty arose during the band’s set though when Gibbard’s guitar broke down during the first few seconds of “Cath…” that he ended up just walking onstage, singing the whole song without his guitar, kicking the nearest mic stand that sent it flying and taking selfies with random phones from a few members of the crowd up front and center. Other than that, DCFC’s completely rock-out set is definitely one for the books not just for me but for the entire Wanderland event itself too. Here’s to hoping more bands like DCFC would headline Wanderland in the foreseeable future.

1 Going to several for quite a handful of years already can get really tiring in the long run as I am now finding out the hard way. I'm guessing it's the whole "signs of aging" thing, eh? Don't get me wrong though, I'd still be attending the occasional gig or two, just not as much as before.

2 I admit I could be severely opinionated from time to time with regards to some artists that I don't like at all. This is an attempt at becoming a more objective observer.

3 A brand of household plastic wrap.

4 A popular brand of hair dye.

5 I’m actually a bit more partial towards urban music from the UK. Not quite sure though just exactly what is it with the waters there that make British hiphop/grime and R&B stand out for me in terms of overall sound.

6 Haven’t seen that movie yet. Might try to watch it once I get the time to do so.

7 Fun fact that almost all indie hipsters into Blackbird Blackbird might not know at all: Maramag used to pound the skins for hardcore band Murder Practice. Go take a listen to their self-titled album to get an idea of just how intense Maramag used to be before he went the indietronica route. Will post their sophomore record "Prophecies of Doom" as a full feature soon.

8 Aside from being a full-fledged rapper, P.O.S. was also a part of a couple of hardcore punk bands. Will do a separate feature on that soon as well.

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