The greatest outdoors

ABOUT A BRO - Ralph Mendoza (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2013 - 12:00am

Welcome to Camp Symmetry, the latest music festival to surface from Singapore. As host to 10 of the best indie bands from countries like Australia and the US, the gig had the likes of Best Coast, Wild Nothing, Last Dinosaurs, and veterans like The Cribs and Explosions in the Sky up on stage for a whole day of good music.

With the likes of Baybeats, Mosaic and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival finding a home in the country in recent years, Singapore has quickly morphed into this big, bad world of indie music festivals right before our eyes. And it’s our good fortune that Camp Symmetry is the latest one to surface, this time from the country itself.

When I first stumbled on to Camp, I eyed the keywords “wild,” “nothing,” “best” and “coast” back home and I knew I had to hit up Camp Symmetry regardless of who else was in the 10-act lineup, just to catch Wild Nothing and Best Coast. They seemed like a spillover of the past Laneway festivals. Before I knew it, there I was strapped into a Tigerair plane seat en route to Singapore from hazy Clark. Camp Symmetry was the adventure I wanted to take on despite the passive hype it endured months prior — not nearly enough firepower as a Laneway lineup but enough chill power to sit back, discover eight acts I find relatively good, and worship two bands I find legit good.

It was a cloudy first Saturday of November as I entered The Meadow in Gardens by the Bay yet again to the tune of Veronica Falls getting all sweet baby pop on me. Cute rock all over. After immediately buying a Wild Nothing tee in fear that supplies might run out, I went to check on what the sweetness was about. I ended up remembering them as the band with the guitarist that looked like a whiter Lena Dunham but with confidence.

Last Dinosaurs, meanwhile, kind of had me second guessing them due to their band name. For me band names really do say a lot and I wasn’t about to hail a group that reminded me of Petri from Land Before Time. But dude, their stuff is actually good. They’re a very tight indie dance outfit that brought to mind Two Door Cinema Club and The Whitest Boy Alive. Just Aussify their sound child and you have Last Dinosaurs. I also heard they’re coming to Manila in a week’s time so that’ll be fun to re-watch.

And from the mild we go to the wild: American band Wild Nothing. Smooth as silk, my friends. They started the set with the cadence of This Chain Won’t Break and played hits from both albums. Paradise was the heavyweight track on their set list. My only two complaints were their technical complaints and that they had to skip performing Nocturne because they wanted to end on time. What? Anyway. It was newer wave in its most refreshing state, I thought. It was still very good. It was as if water were invented for the ears. Their bassist Jeff Haley definitely carried the band for me in my opinion, not only because he looked like a thinner Scott Disick, but because of his solid bass chops. He was more of a backbone than the drums were. I was able to chat with him afterwards and it was nice to know his current digs: the newest Of Montreal album and underground disco dude Arthur Russell.

Best Coast, as expected, were killer. Actually, in the 75 minutes they were onstage, they were more killer than expected. They kept the hits coming, from Crazy For You and When I’m With You to slowing it down with Our Deal and picking up the pace with new songs like This Lonely Morning to finally ending it all with Boyfriend. It wasn’t just the hits, though. I remember Beth telling us to find someone to French-kiss with to their songs. It was that stage presence with matching Metallica T-shirt that won us over.

The gig ended with American — I hate genre dropping post-rock but that’s what they say — band Explosions In The Sky, who were just in Manila the week prior. Seeing them all the way in Singapore surrounded by the views of The Meadow was a mesmerizing way to cap off the night. Atmospheric and ambient, their instrumentals soundtracked the futuristic meadow as they played Your Hand In Mine, First Breath After Comma, and even The Only Moment We Were Alone.

And that’s pretty much my story. I really think it pays to catch bands live whether in Singapore or just back home. Seeing bands in the flesh opens up another dimension to their songs. It’s like opening a third ear. You’re not just listening to a song; you’re experiencing it in ways you can’t imagine. I can’t wait to head back to camp next year.

Photos by Jared Ryan Rezel and Nur Hakim Alim


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