music festivals

Wanderland Festival 2023: An epic comeback

Amanda T. Lago

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Wanderland Festival 2023: An epic comeback

COMEBACK. The Wanderland Music and Arts Festival holds its first edition in three years.

Micah Go/Rappler

From a star-studded lineup to a joyful crowd, these are some of the things that made Wanderland's return unforgettable

All photos by Micah Go/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – After a three-year pause, the Wanderland Music and Arts Festival returned on March 4 and 5 at the Filinvest City Events Grounds. 

Touted as the festival’s big comeback, the event put a lot of pressure on the organizers Karpos Multimedia to mount at least a decent run. By the end of it, however, most festival-goers might agree it was more than just that – it was a runaway success.

The festival’s main draw was of course its lineup – a roster that looked like the Festify results of someone with excellent taste in music. For one, there were the headliners, pop messiah Carly Rae Jepsen and indie rock kings Phoenix, both acts returning to the Philippines after years of being away.

Carly’s set was one giant party, bringing back the heady warmth and excitement of pre-pandemic dance floors as if the last three years never happened, but also healing the souls of her fans who had gone through “the loneliest time.”

Phoenix brought an era back to life as they took the stage playing a mix of their best-loved old songs and newer material. They stunned not only with their music, but resplendent stage design and visuals – which at some point included the audience when frontman Thomas Mars looked out into the crowd with binoculars that were hooked up to the screen, showing everyone what he could see with his own eyes.

The band closed their set in the most epic way possible – with Thomas successfully crowd-surfing for the first time in the country. Not every audience will be able to hoist their hero up overhead, but the eagerness of the Wanderland crowd made the moment possible.

Both headliners seemed altogether more relaxed than they had been in their previous Manila shows – almost as if, like everyone in the crowd, they were truly, deeply happy to be back.

Of course, the front acts were not to be underestimated. Emo legends Dashboard Confessional drew a crowd of the most joyful emo kids ever to be seen, and frontman Chris Carrabba’s banter made their set feel both intimate and magnanimous.

Pinoy rock icon Rico Blanco brought a reverence to the stage, with people swaying and singing along to every song, arms in the air and eyes closed. 

R&B goddess Raveena stunned with her sultry, soulful stage presence and soothing voice. 

Music prodigy FKJ had the audience leaning in even more as he flitted from one end of the stage to the other, playing multiple instruments and lulling everyone into a pool of pure good vibes.

Sunset Rollercoaster had a tough job of going just before Carly (her fans were already screaming even as her road crew was setting up), but the Taiwanese band made magic on stage, especially on their famous “My Jinji” jam.

And those are just some of the acts that lit up the Wanderland stage on both days. Men I Trust, Ylona Garcia, HYBS, No Rome, Blaster, Stephen Day, (((O))), Balming Tiger, and many more artists kept the music playing.

In between that, an assortment of booths, food options, wide open space, murals, and freedom walls gave festival-goers no excuse for a dull moment. From the party on stage to the playground on the ground, all the festival’s elements came together to keep the good vibes going.

The crowd was also a crucial element to Wanderland’s success. Like the artists, the Wanderland crowd radiated joy and pure excitement. It’s as if they were happy not only to see their musical heroes, but to simply be out in the world again, listening to music as it is best heard: live, and surrounded by amazing people.

Since the pandemic, the live music industry has weathered a challenge of epic proportions, and while it might have been touch-and-go for them for a while, the slow return of gigs and concerts has signalled a revival of the scene.

With Wanderland’s victorious return, we can definitely say that live music is back and, after all this time, it’s here to stay. – Rappler.com

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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.