Photo recap: Wanderland Music Festival 2015
The summer music festival season all over the globe is much anticipated. These events have managed to carve a niche in the scheme of things and have managed to elevate themselves as cultural icons in the immediate community, and perhaps, beyond. Coachella, Glastonbury, Lollapallooza, Bonnaroo, Roskilde – the list goes on. Closer to home, the ASEAN region arguably has Laneway Singapore, one of the extensions of the Australian festival. (READ: IN PHOTOS: 14 highlights, Singapore's Laneway Music Festival 2015)
Then we have our own local festivals, such as the recently concluded Wanderland Music & Arts Festival, set in the Globe Circuit Grounds.
The festival is bolstered by unique dynamics. The production is a family-owned venture, and oftentimes, the best people to work with are the people you love and grown up with. In the last two years, its lineup has been primarily composed of alt-rock and folk acts – genres that are still niche in a cultural landscape with a predilection for chart-topping pop hits.
But fast-forward today: it has defied the odds, and is thriving. Its third year is proof of its persistence and ambition, as it strives to carve out a distinct but dynamic identity.
Welcome to Wanderland Day Camp!
This year, Wanderland decided to go the extra mile with a themed, well-curated sort of experience.
Kids in school and (young and older) professionals alike, dubbed lovingly by the organizers as Wanderscouts, trooped to this year’s Wanderland to bask in the day-long festivities celebrating music and community.
Teepees were scattered over the festival grounds to escape from the unforgiving sun. Like true scouts, festivalgoers were game for attractions set up by the festival organizers and partners in exchange for badges and prizes. These ranged from camp-inspired activities such as archery and tug-o-war, an art tent for outdoor crafts, to the music-driven quizzes at the Globe Wondertent.
The fundamentals were executed properly, creating a comfortable outdoor setting. Food options were diverse—enough to provide fuel for the long day, but the drinks can leave people wanting for a booze kick. This year, Wanderland took a cue from nearby Singapore’s Laneway with a token system for food and drinks, as well as for the attractions.
Influential young contemporary artists were also there to showcase live art. Tokwa Peñaflorida was doing his usual thing: an ethereal watercolor portrait. Kris Abrigo’s geometry and color driven-piece was a great fit for the festival atmosphere. June Digan was faithful to the camping theme, rendering the words “Adventure waits” with her handcrafted typography.
Wanderbands: Austin and The Strange Creatures
Last year, Wanderland’s organizers created an opportunity for this country’s many unsigned but talented musical groups to perform on the same stage as the influential headliners of the festival. This year, bands Austin and The Strange Creatures were given that privilege after a fierce battle that required them to garner enough online votes, among other things.
Austin possesses a deceptively straightforward sound, but the hints of innovation are hidden in plain sight. The band once covered Leeds-based indie rock band Alt-J’s “Tessellate” in the Wanderband final battle round, and the cues they take from them are woven into a sound that has grounding in local leanings.
The Strange Creatures provided that dose of effervescent, twee pop that is anything but trite. Their sound, with vocals from Jon Tamayo and Stephanie Coojacinto, is buoyant and feel-good, perhaps written to induce an ear-to-ear smile on anyone’s face the whole time they’re playing.
Trios like CHVRCHES, London Grammar, or The xx have done their share of contributing electronically-based vocal music in the global scene. There isn’t much of that here, but there has been evidence that the scenario is about to change. Sinyma is one of the players in the changing local music scene.
Electronic producers Silverfilter (on guitar) and Abdul Aziz’s beats supporting Jess Connelly’s soulful but restrained vocals, make up the trio. They have already fronted for international acts like Charli XCX and How to Dress Well. But at Wanderland, they took center stage as they dished out their own brand of house music set to keep the crowd grooving to their beat.
Kate Torralba is a "seamstress-songstress," her Instagram profile declares. Indeed, she was prepared to captivate the crowd with her timeless-sounding, ivory-tinkling songs. But her songs have stories behind them, and this is the core of her charm.
Before settling in London, she shared that she never drank, but wrote about a different kind of inebriety with “Drunk on Your Love.” She also recalled how she used to do these gigs in Quezon City where reception was not as warm, and when she saw someone mouth the words to her songs at Wanderland, she felt as if she would be reduced to tears. She promptly gave the lucky girl a copy of her record, Long Overdue.
She and her “Torralband," as she calls it, also premiered the animated music video for her song, “Pictures,” and performed live along with it. Kate’s own surprise was just one out of many that day.
It was still early in the afternoon; a more substantial crowd was already gathering at the festival lawn. LA-Based Youngblood Hawke gave that shot of adrenaline with their youthful pop-rock anthems that just didn’t back down with their scale and power.
They pounded at their drums with so much intensity. Sam Martin, one of the vocalists, marched across the stage trying to draw some more energy from the crowd.
That part in their single “We Come Running,” which says “Soon, they’re gonna know the sound when we come running,” was surely made evident that day.
The Jungle Giants
Brisbanite four-piece The Jungle Giants sustained the crowd’s energy with their upbeat songs. Clearly comfortable with the theatrical side of the job, the band didn’t let everyone spend any wasted time dancing and jumping along to songs clearly inspired by living on the Australian east coast.
Their famous single, “Mr Polite” was apt for Wanderland, as it can remotely describe the experience of dancing and singing along with strangers, “No, I don't even know these people / But I don't mind a little unfamiliarity while I politely let go.”
The sun was already setting over the city, and it was a perfect backdrop to British singer-songwriter Lewis Watson’s sublime set. Some girls were giddy, but one exclaimed, “That was beautiful!”
Indeed, listening to his songs such as “Stay,” indeed might evoke beautiful images of a forest clearing or a countryside road at day’s end with his crooning and strumming.
But Manila’s sunset was just perfect with slivers of golden light punctuating lines in his songs.
Armed with new material like the symphonic but restrained anthem, “See You,” one can say that Hale made their comeback fully known at the festival after a five-year hiatus.
Known for songs like “Blue Sky,” the band prompted sing-alongs with their familiar songs of yesteryear and youth. They even performed a cover of “Lost Stars” from the film Begin Again, segueing into their very own “Broken Sonnet.”
Augustana also made the crowd wax nostalgic about their youth.
Their rock ballads had everyone singing along, but perhaps the most-anticipated performance was the piano-driven single that propelled them to fame, “Boston.” The crowd was very vocal about it and was waiting for frontman Dan Layus (the only member left from the original lineup) to sit at the piano and play the song’s opening strains.
Layus admitted that having audiences sing his songs, particularly “Boston” – after all these years – makes him always want to perform these older songs live for the rewarding experience that they allow.
The Locally™ Stage Acts
This year, Wanderland took a major bold leap by creating a separate stage, named after a new beverage brand sponsoring the festival, to showcase this country’s finest young electronic music producers. This was most likely the fuller realization of an experimental setup last year with the Globe Wonderlounge, where the likes of June Marieezy, MOONWLK, and (current main lineup act) Kate Torralba had previously performed.
The After-School Special opened the stage’s lineup with a set of dance music that sound calculatedly restrained – self-described as “Introverted Dance Music.”
similarobjects, a producer who already has footprints in other parts of the globe, already has a reputation for experimentation. He did a live set based on bossa riffs and beats – a familiar sound that may have helped the uninitiated members of the crowd ease in.
FXXXYBLNT managed to seamlessly bring together elements different forms of electronic music production, from the familiar chillwave to the emerging post-/future R&B, contributing to the already diverse lineup at this year’s festival.
Pop wunderkind B. P. Valenzuela had a strong showing for this little stage. More popularly known for her single, “Pretty Car,” her synth-based songs were enthusiastically received, and her growing appeal might just put her on the main slate next year.
CRWN (a.k.a. King Puentespina, guitarist for She’s Only Sixteen) samples old jazz records; his fusion music imagines a visual landscape that is suave, classy, nostalgic, but swiftly upends all of these to be reinvented for today. Take the track he performed live, “New Yorker,” for example, which samples Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s “Autumn in New York” as he repeated a few passages from it, interspersing it with beats that worked just so well. His set proved to be a hit as well, as he brought in fellow producer Curtissmith to freestyle rap with him. He also performed a second set later on with Sinyma’s Jess Connelly, whose sultry vocals created a very dynamic synergy with his own.
The Remix Artist Collective (RAC) is known for their philosophy of reinventing songs. By looking at the nuances in the spirit of the original material, RAC has managed to maintain a warm, analog sensibility instead of being “technical and precise to a fault,” as the Riverfront Times notes. Their DJ set, as one of the headliners at the festival, was destined to be a hit for everyone, despite their own personal preferences.
André Anjos and Karl Kling, two members of the collective, performed remixes of songs like Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” and Two Door Cinema Club’s “Something Good Can Work.” This had the already large audience dancing on their feet instead of lounging on the lawn. The crowd sang also along to their originals “Hollywood” (with Penguin Prison) and “Let Go” (with Kele Okereke of Bloc Party and MNDR) as well.
RAC scored a coup, however, when they brought out Alice Katz and Sam Martin of Youngblood Hawke to perform live to their collective’s reworking of their song with Digitalism, “Wolves.”
Kid Cudi’s set in Wanderland was an exclusive stop in the region. The anticipation was evident, as unprecedented crowds in the festival’s three-year run swelled across the lawn.
Cudi confessed that he had never set foot on this side of the planet, but emphasized how the experience of performing in front of people he has never met – with a rapturous welcome – is a wonderful feeling.
“You feel that? That’s love… I am always down to come back for the Philippines just for this right here.” His words unwittingly summed up the day. It’s true that all concerts offer some sense of transcendence, but twelve hours? There is an undeniable difference.
He ended his set with a soliloquy on his philosophy of life, before transitioning to the Ratatat-produced “Pursuit of Happiness,” featuring vocals by MGMT amidst confetti signaling the end of an eventful day at camp.
Wanderland has achieved so much more this year; its turnout is only an indication that it will soon come of age. It continues to up the ante – departing from that mentality of featuring artists that matter only to the festival programmers to acts that matter to a community’s past, present, and future.
A young festival will always have birthing pains. But an ever-transforming vision for the festival is good. When organizers settle with a singular musical identity, it loses its connection to a community it strives to build.
Keep reaching for the stars, Wanderland, and 2016 will surely be bigger and better than ever. – Rappler.com
Wanderland Camp 2015 is a Music and Arts festival by Karpos Multimedia Inc., presented by Globe & locally co-presented by Fox & Starworld. Official Apparel: Topshop Topman. Official Alcoholic Beverage: Smirnoff Mule.
Paolo Abad is a film/television editor and motion graphic designer. He is also a self-confessed concert junkie. Follow his Instagram for live music @outoftunephoto