IN PHOTOS: Wanderland 2017
Wanderland is a one-of-a-kind music festival in the Philippines, now on its 5th year, which brought a thoughtful lineup of artists together for a day of feel-good music.
I’ve covered this one previously, and the vibe is welcoming and electric, a gathering of folks dedicated to the love of music. One of the more appealing aspects of a festival is catching live performances from bands that have just come on your radar, but you didn’t think too much of at the time. However, after experiencing them live, you gain a whole other level of appreciation for them, and may become a fan of a band that you have never even heard of before. The overall spirit for Wanderland 2017 was upbeat, easygoing, with something special in the air.
Granted, the organizers consistently highlight numerous bands from all over the world, mainly in the alt/pop/folk genre, this year featuring The Temper Trap and The Ting Tings.
But what caught my eye was the consistency and creativeness in the branding itself. From a marketing standpoint, they check all the boxes: there’s a steady look and feel to the overall execution and to all the details in every component of every marketing piece. It all matches, from the youthful artwork seen in banners, posters, or wristbands, to stage designs and the activities for the day, which vary depending on what you feel up to.
There’s a formula for success here, with a wide selection of activities and food booths to suit everyones tastes, meet-and-greets to say hello to your favorite band members, and a jam session booth, where would-be musicians can pick up an instrument and have at it.
There’s also a thoughtful process to the various lineup choices that they have spotlighted over the years. There's more of a hand-picked feel, not just scheduled because the band was available and in the neighborhood of Southeast Asia or obligated contractually by their record label. You know what to expect here – the familiar yet exciting.
Last year, the event's proceedings went down smoothly, but this year they moved to a different location, the Filivest City Event Grounds, rather than the Circuit in Makati, so you’d expect a hiccup here and there.
If anything put a damper on the day, it was indeed the heavy rain that occurred, not during the festival itself, but in the morning before the gates opened. It was a downer because some of the equipment that suffered. Water and electronics don’t mix well, and a few of the crucial components met their match with the brief but torrential downpour. Major technical problems ensued, causing about an hour long delay of the kick-off itself, which cascaded through the rest of the schedule.
One of the advantages of the previous event grounds was an elongated U-shaped Quonset hut that kept everything high and dry. This, as opposed to starting from scratch here at Filinvest, where they had to set up all the structures from the ground up, including planting the grass sod well in advance of the show. Lola Amour, the first act of the day, which was scheduled for the main stage, performed on the Globe stage to get the ball rolling while the technicians did their best to get things up and running.
A fresh steady breeze throughout the day and evening was a pleasure for the guests, although occasionally toppling some of the lighter displays. Even still, the tech problems crept up on them throughout the event, delaying the start of the LANY and Temper Trap sets.
What stood out was how understanding the crowd was. If anything they were more upset when bands left the stages, often shouting for more. The band LANY was worried about the clock as they were also having trouble kicking off their set, but to the delight of the fans, they were allowed to perform their planned setlist. The last two acts, The Temper Trap and The Ting Tings, ended the day with a bang.
It was after midnight when The Temper Trap finally took the stage after another delay, but the lead singer thoughtfully thanked the crowd for hanging around: “I know it’s super late, you guys are officially our most loyal fans.” He jokingly continued, “If I had to wait to watch us play, I would have gone home four hours ago.”
Here's a quick rundown of all the artists that I was able to capture as I wandered to and from the 3 stages. Karpos Multimedia staff had timed them out well, so I was able to catch portions of all the acts, except Tom’s Story.
THE TEMPER TRAP
No stranger to the festival circuit, this was not The Temper Trap's first rodeo – they've performed here previously at the inaugural Wanderland festival in 2013, with an abundance of fans anticipating their return. They certainly didn’t disappoint this time around. A 4-piece unit, hailing from Australia but now based in London, they blasted into the international scene with their hit song, “Sweet Disposition,” which happens to be one of my favorite songs, and of course, was played last.
Dougy Mandagi’s distinctive falsetto voice has an ethereal quality, that sets them apart with their latest album taking them out of the shadow of their first hit song. There were a few touching moments during their set, where the connection with the fans and the artist was palpable, especially during the song “Trembling Hands,” a moving experience for many in attendance.
The rest of the rock band is made up of Jonathon Aherne on bass guitar, who is entertaining to watch as he often sways to the rhythm of the beat, Toby Dundas on drums, and Joseph Greer on keyboards and guitar. They all performed with the stage presence you’d expect from seasoned professionals, hitting all the marks musically. Dougy even jumped down to the front barricade on more then one occasion to directly interact with the crowd.
THE TING TINGS
Known for their creative high-energy live sets, something about the raw and viral energy The Ting Tings produce sets them apart from most pop bands. This English duo is compromised of Katie White on vocals and guitar with Jules De Martino, a multi-instrumentalist, on drums, guitar, bass, keys and vocals. Their reputation, as one of those bands you must see live to appreciate, preceded them.
She often bopped about the stage with authority while dancing with a power and attitude you’d expect from a punk rock band. When not at the mic stand, Katie was constantly on the go, either intentionally knocking over a keyboard or any mic stands in the way, displacement with style.
On their current tour, they were also joined by Boix, a DJ with scratching and sound effects that added robustness to the duo’s music. What impressed me here was the layers within the arrangements themselves, with only two people – Jules often looping a guitar riff or a drum beat, and Katie looping part of her vocals when called for. Looping is a skill not for the faint of heart and technically a challenge to master, most bands don’t even attempt it live. Ed Sheeran is an example of someone who has mastered it and Jules was no less impressive, not only mixing his percussion skills on the drums but often picking up the guitar to create a seemingly effortless sound, all while accompanying Katie on back vocals.
The setlist flowed well and many of their earlier tracks came across with character, the result, I suppose, of touring for so many years that the songs themselves begin to take on a life of their own. Well done indeed, my favorite of the day.
Purity Ring brought their brooding ballad style of music all the way from Canada with a stage show, unlike any other I’ve experienced. This duo consists of Megan James on vocals and Corin Roddick on percussion and instrumentals.
There was moody quality to the lighting as Megan took the stage in a futuristic ensemble, moving with fluid gestures, while hopping up on risers located on either side of the stage, often striking surreal body-bending poses.
And Colin was stationed on an electric drum kit like no other I’ve ever seen, one of kind for sure, with what looked to be giant crystals lined up on poles surrounding the musician and lighting up when played.
But even with all that jazz, it was Megan’s angelic, child-like compelling vocals that kept everyone mesmerized. An evocative and complex sound created from two people, check out their song “Bodyache” for a sample of their infectious melodies.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY
A post rock band hailing from the metropolitan Austin, Texas, where everything is bigger. There’s no vocalist here, all instrumentals, but what they may lack there, they more than make up for in their intensity and skill level as musicians. I’ve photographed them before, and this 4-piece group may be the most passionate and powerful instrumental group I’ve ever heard. Mark Smith on guitar, Michael James on bass, Munaf Rayani on guitar and keys, and Chris Hrasky on drums, create beauty in the melody, which often hits you with huge hypnotic wall of sound. Their intensity live is something else and provided the perfect segue to the final acts for the evening.
Honne is an English duo, formed in 2014, consisting of James Hatcher on keys and Andy Clutterbuck on lead vocals and guitar, both of them writing, recording and producing the music. They were joined during Wanderland by touring musicians Naomi Scarlett on backing vocals, Duayne Sanfor on drums, and Amadu Koroma on bass. There was a smooth ambiance to the sound here, with the crowd singing in unison to their hits, a standout with the song “Warm on a Cold Night.” Overwhelmed by the attentiveness and interaction of the crowd, Andy sincerely and humbly addressed the crowd, “Manila this is great, I mean it from deep down.”
Yuna is a Malaysian singer-songwriter who performs with fluid moments and hauntingly beautiful vocals that enthralled the crowd as she took them on a musical journey. The rhythm of this music was hypnotic with an R&B sensibility, more of an ambient, jazzy sound.
It was a performance that would even make a statue sway with the beat, you just couldn’t stop yourself from moving. It felt as though she was taking you on a ride, perhaps starting from a gloomy valley and completing your travels on a gleaming mountain top. The crowd was responsive and thrilled to catch this artist do her thing with the presence and grace of a performer beyond her years.
Woodlock is a Melbourne-based 3-piece folk rock band who began their career with a low profile by busking on the streets of Australia. You could feel a connection between these guys as they took the stage, no surprise there, as two of them are brothers. Zechariah "Zech" Walters was on guitar and vocals, Ezekiel "Eze" Walters was also on guitar and vocals, and rounding out the band was Bowen Purcell on drums and percussion.
Bowen played the drums in an animated fashion, which was a blast to watch, and Eze reminded me a bit of Dave Matthews on guitar. They performed a cover of a Rusted Root track, “Send Me on My Way,” which was impressive. Rarely do I think a cover song is an improvement on the original, but that may have been the case here. It was a fun upbeat show with the crowd joining in unison with their infectious energy.
Lany (pronounced lay-nee) is a 3-piece alternative rock band from Los Angeles, California. This is a band to keep an eye on, with Paul Klein on lead vocals, guitar, and keys, Les Priest on keys and guitar, and Jake Goss on drums. Paul’s soothing and hypnotic voice has a quality about it that had the crowd eating out of his hands, as they sang loudly and from the heart.
Check out their song “Good Girls” or “ILYSB” for a sample of their melodic and soulful sound. At one point of their set, Paul mentioned that this was the largest crowd they have ever performed for. I love that when that happens, it’s like watching your kids take their first steps, and it's wonderful to be part of the crowd for such a momentous event in the band’s career. You could actually see that he was taken aback, as he thanked the crowd, he turned towards the drum kit and took a moment for himself.
Paul addressed the crowd, “I think were gonna come back a lot,” he continued almost in disbelief, “We had no idea that anybody here even knew we existed.”
Other bands were also part of the stellar lineup, which included the cream of the crop of local groups that you may be familiar with. All of them shined in their own right.
GAB AND JOHN
UP DHARMA DOWN
FOOLS AND FOES
Overall I’d rack this one up as a success, again making it clear why Wanderland is one of the premier festival events in Southeast Asia. All the artists performed at an impressive level, skillfully done, not really a bad apple in the bunch. If you haven’t attended one yet, make it a point to do so, don’t miss it next year, with all the bells and whistles that everyone has come to expect, while meeting up with old friends or making new ones.
Of course, you could do without all the technical problems, but these large scale events rarely go off without a hitch. With plenty of other activities and multiple stages to keep everyone occupied, most folks didn’t really mind the delays, especially since the bands in the lineup were worth waiting for. What can you do but go with the flow and enjoy the day? Following the wisdom in a Ting Tings song “Wabi Sabi,” which means finding things that are imperfect quite beautiful and actually more perfect, in a way. – Rappler.com