music festivals

How the Wanderland Festival staged its big comeback

Amanda T. Lago

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How the Wanderland Festival staged its big comeback

WANDERLAND. Music fans gather at the Wanderland Music and Arts Festival in 2019.

Paolo Abad/Rappler

After a heartbreaking cancellation in 2020, the music festival is coming back swinging

MANILA, Philippines – On March 4 and 5, beloved music festival Wanderland is set to stage its big return, three years after it canceled what would have been its eighth edition.

The 2023 show, happening at the Filinvest City Events Grounds, has been marketed as “the comeback” – and what a comeback it is.

The lineup for this edition is a millennial music fan’s dream, headlined by French indie rock icons Phoenix and pop superstar Carly Rae Jepsen, and with acts like Dashboard Confessional, iKON’s Bobby, Sunset Rollercoaster, and Rico Blanco also taking the stage.

“We did go all out,” said John Uy, CEO and president of Karpos Multimedia, which produces Wanderland.

“This is the biggest yet in terms of budget spent for artists, and we hope we didn’t disappoint,” he said.

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LISTEN: A Wanderland Festival 2023 playlist to hype you up for the big comeback

LISTEN: A Wanderland Festival 2023 playlist to hype you up for the big comeback

Splurging on a star-studded lineup shows just how determined the Wanderland team is about staging a great show – a determination that makes sense considering everything that happened to them in the past three years.

Like the rest of the world, 2020 hit the team hard. With the festival scheduled for the first week of March 2020, they were directly affected by everything that had happened early that year.

“Early 2020 was really something no one could have ever planned for. First was the Taal Volcano eruption in early January that slowed down our progress and caused some uncertainties regarding the safety of the event. Two weeks after, the first case of COVID-19 in the Philippines was reported,” John shared.

As COVID-19 took hold of the world, the festival team dealt with problem after problem.

“Some artists could not continue touring, sponsors were very hesitant to push through with the partnership, and, of course, our Wanderers had second thoughts about attending the event,” John said.

Despite the setbacks, they were set on powering through, even proceeding with their scheduled ingress. For a while, it seemed like the festival might still push through, but just three days before the show, COVID-19 developments led to the Department of Health and the Muntinlupa local government canceling Wanderland 2020.

“It was really tough and heartbreaking, but we respect and agree with the decision made,” John said.

One day at a time

What followed, of course, was a dragged-out lockdown that left the live music industry struggling. For the Wanderland team, it was a time of uncertainty.

“We were all lost because no one knew when the pandemic was gonna end – especially for our industry. There was no clear indication on when and how we were all going to get back on track,” John shared.

“The only thing we could do was to take it day by day, just like everyone else. We just had to keep in mind that when we are finally able to come back, we have to finish well – everything we’ve started and worked so hard for pre-pandemic,” he added.

As the pandemic raged on, with COVID-19 surges coming and going, the team kept their eyes open for any sign that they might be able to mount Wanderland again.

“Every time there’s a positive indication that the world is slowly opening up – from vaccines finally being available, countries allowing tourists again, and festivals returning in other parts of the world – we would come together and see if the Philippines will follow suit,” John said.

In the meantime, they stayed afloat by working on livestreaming events, content marketing, and brainstorming new business ideas (In fact, their current ticketing platform Tickelo was a product of their pandemic brainstorming.).

By 2022, they saw another big sign that the time was ripe for a comeback: the 2022 presidential campaign.

For several months, people all over the country would gather in massive crowds to support their presidential candidates of choice, and this, John said, “was a big indicator that large public events were now acceptable and doable.”

“When a lot of the rallies were happening, we already knew that 2023 would be a realistic year for us to return, so that’s when we started planning our comeback.

But as one can imagine, putting up a pandemic-era music festival is no mean feat.

“It’s definitely more difficult than before as we are not in the same economic conditions anymore,” John said.

“The market has changed in terms of their preference and expectations,” he added.

He did notice that international artists are showing more interest in touring Asia, which bodes well for the team and is perhaps why they were able to book an all-star lineup.

No hesitations

Even with all the complications brought about by the pandemic, the Wanderland team had no hestiations about coming back.

“We knew that we had an unfinished race. We stayed the course, and now we have a chance to finish it the best way we can,” John said.

With the festival only a week away as of this writing, the finish line is certainly in sight for the team – though it is by no means their last hurrah. As John shared, they have a lot more surprises lined up for their community this year.

Of course, one of those is the Arctic Monkeys concert, which is happening right after Wanderland on March 6.

As the first Wanderland show to be staged in three years, the 2023 edition is bound to be remembered. As John shared, they’re doing it for the community that they’ve fostered through the years.

“We just really wanted to come back for our community and get a much deserved win,” he added. “Three years was a long time without live music, so I think we all wanted to return big and get that winning live music and festival experience again.” –

The Wanderland Music and Arts Festival is happening on March 4 and 5 at the Filinvest City Events Grounds in Muntinlupa. For tickets, check out Wanderland’s website.

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Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.