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MANILA, Philippines – Perhaps the most uttered words at Wanderland Music and Arts Festival in Makati City last Saturday, May 17, weren’t expressions of glee or excitement; it was about the weather.
Variations of “Ang init!” (It’s so hot!) were heard even before the gates of Circuit City were officially opened around 11:30 am. It was stating the obvious, of course; temperatures were in the high 30s, and the early birds who spread blankets near the stage had no recourse but to take refuge under umbrellas they had to purchase inside the venue. That audiences turned up that early and were willing to brave the heat was a sure sign, though, that the second edition of the country’s premier indie music fest was off to a good start.
While there is also an arts component, with on-site artists and exhibits, the festival organized by Karpos Multimedia is best known for its lineup of musical artists with a pronounced bent towards indie pop and rock. Last year’s inaugural show was headlined by The Temper Trap, Neon Trees, Nada Surf, Colour Coding, and local acts led by UpDharmaDown and Taken By Cars.
This year, the band that had the honor of opening the festival was local act Chocolate Grass. They were followed by Brisom and Techy Romantics. The first foreign artist onstage was Woody Pitney, an acoustic singer-songwriter from Australia who brought folk, pop and country to the proceedings. It took an unusually long time for the next act to set-up, and by the time The Ransom Collective started playing, they were way behind schedule. One of the winners of Wanderband, a competition for new artists that possessed the “Wanderland sound,” the group didn’t quite deliver as expected. Perhaps nerves got the better of them.
When not locked into the artists performing onstage, audiences could, well, “wander” around the festival area. There was a fully operational carousel, live painting sessions from artists like Anjo Bolardo, JP Cuison and Dee Jae Pa’esye, a variety of booths selling food and drinks, and a merchandise tent where fans could get stuff from their favorite bands. There was also the Wonderlounge of co-presentor Globe, a fully airconditioned tent that was a welcome respite from the searing heat outside. Subscribers of the telecom network got the exclusive chance to hang out, get premium items from Globe partner Spotify, and watch pocket shows from artists like Bullet Dumas, June Marieezy and Kate Torralba.
Back at the mainstage, popular local group Franco brought a reggae/dubstep-tinged, hard rock edge to the show. They may not have fit the typical Wanderland genre, but audiences didn’t seem to mind. I know I was rocking out and cheering vocalist Franco Reyes on as he sang about “herbal medication,” and enjoined everyone to “just have fun.”
Lucy Rose is a British artist that reminded me of Cat Power and Feist. Her lilting vocals framed by lush, insistent instrumentation clearly resonated with the audience, which sent her much applause and adoration. The Paper Kites and Last Dinosaurs next played back to back. The former is a five-piece that play head-bobbing folk music ideal for a chill Sunday afternoon drive, while Last Dinosaurs is a trippy, beats-laden indie rock outfit best heard while on the way to the next party on a Saturday night. Both are beginning to gain notices in their native Australia and elsewhere.
“Superband” doesn’t even begin to describe the next act. Wonderful All-Stars is composed of Radioactive Sago Project, fronted by writer, TV host and all-around hellraiser Lourd De Veyra, joined by singer-songwriter Enrique “Inky” De Dios, white hot vocalist of Sinosikat? Kat Agarrado, Taken By Cars’ Sarah Marco and DJ Mars Miranda. De Veyra screamed more than he sang, as he is known to do, but the set was thoroughly enjoyable, particularly with the sublime vocals of Agarrado and Marco.
Expectedly, the festival saved the big guns for last. Swedish dance-pop-rock outfit The Royal Concept played almost an hour later than scheduled, taking their time to make sure every technical aspect of their performance was perfect, but when they did, it became a definite highlight of the festival up until that point.
Led by charismatic frontman David Larson, the band turned Wanderland into one huge dance party, playing the hits from their much-lauded debut album Goldrushed, including “D-d-dance,” “World On Fire,” “Goldrushed,” and “On Our Way.” At the end of the song, Larson took his sweat-soaked shirt off, much to the delight of the shrieking fangirls in the front row.
Architecture in Helsinki certainly had their work cut out for them after such an energetic set, but they came prepared. Dressed in their trademark colorful get-ups, the Australian band’s music is a cross between psychedelic funk and the unmistakably pop sounds of the 80s, with a dash of their own brand of indie sensibilities. The playful keyboards and whimsical beats certainly got much of the crowd jumping and moving, even if it was already past midnight.
Traditionally reserved for the festival’s main act, the final artist had the job of ending the show on a high note, and making sure audiences left with that warm, post-festival buzz.
To that end, The Drums did not disappoint. Jonny Pierce, Jacob Graham and the rest of the New York-based band finally materialized at around 1AM, when some of the exhausted festival-goers were already snoring in the grass. Their presence though was enough to turn the energy level straight back up. Pierce, especially, possessed the swagger of Morrissey and the vocal chops of Brett Anderson (Suede). “You guys have shown us so much love, we’ll always be grateful for that,” he said. “I’ve eaten a lot of mangoes while I’ve been here. You have the best mangoes.”
The crowd had noticeably thinned by then, but The Drums played on, buoyed by the intensity of the hardcore fans who remained. They played “Days,” upon the request of many of the people they’ve met while they were here, as well as the other fan favorites like “How It Ended,” “Money,” and the infectious single “Let’s Go Surfing.” They came back out to do two more songs, including the saccharine sweet “Down By The Water,” and the big finale, “The Future.” “Thank you Manila! Hope to come back,” Pierce said to a visibly overjoyed audience.
I stayed for almost 12 hours at Wanderland, and just like in similar festivals, the most fascinating, heartening thing to witness, perhaps even more than the artists themselves onstage, is the reaction of the fans as they mouth the words, dance along and just go crazy to the music. It only drives home the point that these shows really are the realization of a dream to see a favorite artist perform in the flesh. And for that, much thanks is extended to organizers like Karpos, for being actual instruments for wish-fulfillment. Next year ulit.
See more photos from the event below:
Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine and is a live music geek. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana