First time at Singapore’s Laneway Festival

Thinking of attending a music festival? Tips, tricsk, and the festival experience through the eyes of a Laneway newbie

SINGAPORE – YOLO: You only Laneway once.

This was my mentality last December when I booked a flight to Singapore and bought tickets to my first ever outdoor music festival.  

Admittedly, I am not a fan of crowds, hate feeling sticky and knew only three bands in the lineup (my iTunes playlist is a confused hodgepodge of Billboard Top 100 hits, the occasional Calvin Harris and some favorite indie acts that I happened to discover on Hype Machine while stuck in traffic along EDSA). But I figured it could be fun to discover some new artists and do something different. 

I learned about Laneway two years ago after I heard Chairlift’s “Bruises” playing at furniture store Heima. I sent an email to the owners, asked if I could get their playlist, and was told that it was mostly from artists who performed at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Singapore, which they attended that year. I found out it was an annual event originally from Australia that brings together the best new musical talent from around the world—hosting the likes of Feist, M83 and The xx.

It was the closest thing to Coachella, and it was only 3 hours away.

So like a typical Millenial, I googled the dos and don’ts of festival attendance, though I also wish I didn’t follow some of them. Here’s my version:

1.  Make sure you find out the schedule and set times prior to the event. 

Research and plan your day. I was aware of the lineup, but I forgot to check back if a schedule had been released (which was apparently done two weeks before). The e-ticket indicated 11am, so I just assumed the festival would start at this time. 

Some articles online advised getting there at least an hour early to get a good spot, but this was impossible to accomplish after those punchbowls at Jigger & Pony (plus 3am dim sum) the night before. So my friend and I wolfed down our breakfast sandwiches thinking we were late, but there was no line at the entrance when we arrived at the Meadow at 12:30. 

WAITING TIME. Find your spot and set up shop. Photo by Kristel Cue

I found out then that the first performance wasn’t until 12:50 according to the festival guide. Since we were luckily early, we found a good spot not far from the main stage. There was plenty of time to spread out our picnic mat, grab cold water and settle in before singer-songwriter Vance Joy strummed his guitar with the initial chords of “Emmylou.” And in true Singaporean fashion, the event started on time—so don’t be late if your favorite artist happens to be the first act!

2.  Bring a mat or blanket to sit on as it seriously creates an invisible force field around your area.

ESSENTIALS. Bring a picnic mat, wet towelettes, and your sunnies. Photo by Kristel Cue

There were three stages: the Derrick and Roscoe comprised the main stage, while the smaller Cloud stage was about five minutes away by foot.  Most of the bands we wanted to see were performing on the main stage, so we decided to stay in that area. But having a mat to save our spot allowed us to visit the Cloud stage anytime without worrying about losing our early bird perks. 

Festival-goers were also quite good about respecting personal space. Fans of each artist would rush to the front of the stage then return to their original spot between sets, but I never had to worry about being stepped on. Performances alternated between the Derrick and Roscoe as I likewise alternated between my falafel and ice-cold Stella Artois. 

3.  Check the weather before deciding what to wear.

WEATHER REPORT. No, that's not the name of a Laneway act! It was a little cloudy at this year's festival. Check the weather and dress accordingly. Photo by Kristel Cue 

A few articles advised wearing boots in case of rain, but I checked the weather and the chance of it was only 10%. There was also that risk of getting stomped on by random dancing feet, so I decided to play it safe by wearing sneakers. 

Weekends for me are “sandals days” because I’m usually in heels or work flats during the week. So I was very jealous of a lot of people who opted for open-toe shoes—even flip flops—that day. We were probably just extremely lucky this year, but in my opinion, you can save yourself the heavy footwear if the chance of rain is low.  (And don’t bring an umbrella because they’ll make you leave it at the entrance.)

I was also half-dreading to be drenched in sweat from the heat (so I brought an extra shirt), but it was a sunny yet partly cloudy day in Singapore with a gentle breeze. When alternative rock band The Jezabels came onstage, “Endless Summer” could not have played at a more perfect time.  

4.  Don’t hoard food and beverage coupons for fear of starvation.

The email reminders I received about long queues convinced me to buy F&B coupons in advance, but it turned out to be very easy to buy drinks and additional coupons due to the many stations scattered across the festival grounds. Yes, there were popular food stalls with long lines, but you can strategize by eating before or after peak hours. And if you don’t mind missing an act or two, a full food court is a short walk away if you want more choices.

With Frightened Rabbit’s catchy “whoa oh oh oh” chorus stuck in my head (in my mind I was still clapping and tapping my foot to their upbeat rock tunes), we left the festival for a bit to grab an early dinner and walk around The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. If I had known beforehand that it would be easy to come and go, I would have bought fewer coupons. Plus, we were craving Pita Pan.

(They inform you before the event that you can’t bring in food and drinks, yet I was impressed by the creativity of some people. The most interesting tactic I saw that day? Sneaking in drinks via a contact lens solution bottle.)  

5.  Let go, let your hair down and have a good time. 

When we came back, our spot was untouched, and we were left to enjoy the rest of the festival in peace—until London-based Daughter appeared and people rushed to the front to get a better view. The depth and soulfulness of their lyrics, coupled with a compelling indie-folk rhythm, had the crowd’s rapt attention right after sunset. 

LET YOUR HAIR DOWN. Fans sing along to Haim's catchy tunes. Photo by Kristel Cue

Our force field pretty much disintegrated when the Haim sisters began their set list. But I didn’t care. It was too much fun to witness all the hair-flailing as they performed hits like “Falling,” “Don’t Save Me,” “Forever” and “The Wire.” It was classic American pop-rock at its finest.

By the time electro-pop trio Chvrches hit the stage close to 10pm, the crowd was wild and energetic. The festival had taken on a different energy, with the gorgeous backdrop of Marina Bay Sands towering behind the stage and the unusually cool temperature making it tolerable to risk getting stepped on. It was difficult not to join in and sing along to “Gun” and “Mother We Share.” 

Though we briefly checked out Jamie XX over at the Cloud stage, we skipped the final act—James Blake—to avoid the crowd when the festival ended. Apparently we were not the only ones with this idea.

LANEWAY AT NIGHT. Stay for the last acts before the festival begins to wind down. Photo by Kristel Cue

Perhaps other people had a different Laneway experience, but mine was relatively tame. Most festivals like this have a reputation for catering to a discerning music subculture, but what I saw that day were just people from different parts of the world coming together to enjoy good music, whether you’re familiar with the bands or not. It’s all about the experience—one that deserves a repeat. 

Anyway, you only Laneway once… a year. Right? –