The forecast for last Saturday’s Good Vibes Festival was ‘rainy with a chance of good music’.
I am not a fan of electronic music. There I said it.
Somehow, the genre does something to my system; I get headaches, and I feel my heart beating unsteadily at times.
So when organiser Future Sound Asia (FSA) announced its headliners for this year’s Good Vibes Festival – which included American singer-songwriter Banks, indie dance/rock band !!! (pronounced “Chk Chk Chk”); electro-synth pop maestros Empire Of The Sun, and British pop pixie Ellie Goulding, each with electronic leanings of varying degrees and styles – I was less than enthusiastic. More than 20 acts were scheduled to perform, on three different colour-coded stages, Red, Blue and Green.
But the music gods were kind. When I arrived at the Sepang Go Kart Circuit festival venue at 4pm last Saturday, I was slowly eased into the inevitably EDM-filled evening with a generous serving of more acoustic and pop-driven performances, courtesy of our local acts.
On the Red Stage, One Buck Short drummer turned solo artiste Narmi won the crowd over with his smooth, arresting vocals and feel-good cover choices.
His rendition of The Rembrandts’ I’ll Be There For You and Manbai’s Kau Ilhamku cloaked us with nostalgia and warmth (something we needed a lot of later). Narmi also performed original numbers such as Make Me Whirl and Cair.
Then, singer-songwriter Froya took it to the next level, performing an entire set consisting of just originals such as Uncomprehended Child, Fries In Cream and We’re Here. Her bold move (and that oh-so-soothing voice) paid off with a relatively strong turnout, proving that our local acts, too, can hold their own.
Meanwhile, at the Blue Stage, I was particularly drawn to Faiq & The Manja Mob. The quartet was just formed at the beginning of the year, so they must have been doing something right to have landed a slot at the music festival.
Their harmonies were slick, and they totally had me at their acoustic arrangement (of ukuleles, guitars and cajon drum) of TLC’s No Scrubs.
Credit must be given to the organiser for introducing fresh local acts to its line-up. However, support from local festival-goers could have been more encouraging, with some performances fetching only as few as 15 to 20 people.
Unfortunately, around 6pm, the festival was hit by strong winds and heavy rainfall, forcing acts such as Bittersweet and Paperplane Pursuits to call off their performances altogether.
When Banks took to the Blue Stage at 8pm, around the same time the rain started to subside, I was surprised to find that the (ehem, aesthetically-pleasing) American songstress chose to perform a stripped down version of her electronic-tinged tracks.
“I wanted to share with everybody ... it’s always just my voice and the keyboard,” she told the crowd before launching into Fall Over and an acoustic version of Warm Water. And what a voice that was – Banks sounded confident and in control, and she didn’t shy away from taking on the big notes either. For a moment, she even reminded me of Lorde.
Banks may have held back on her electronic stylings, but there would be no such thing for the night’s next international act, Empire Of The Sun.
Scheduled for 9pm, lead vocalist Luke Steele arrived on the Red Stage a full hour later (to be fair, the rain could have contributed to the hold-up).
He gave the term fashionably late a whole new meaning, rising from below the stage on a raised platform, clad in an all-black ensemble made complete by a large gold neckpiece and a spiky, metallic headdress.
Eyes painted with elongated blue and white strokes, Steele looked at the crowd and hollered, “Are you ready to party?”
And just like that, the festival became an explosion of pulsating beats, as Steele performed tracks from both albums including crowd-pleasers Walking On A Dream, We Are The People and Alive.
It was an out-of-this-world visual experience right off the bat, with dancers donning costume after costume of what can only be described as works of art.
While there were moments I felt queasy and had to take in deeper breaths, it was exhilarating to be a part of the crowd that leapt and danced as one.
Back in the Blue Stage, !!! got the crowd grooving to their distinctly disco-funk vibe, but, it was frontman Nic Offer’s unbridled dance moves that stole the show. To put it simply, Offer danced like it was his last day on Earth, even winding up face-down in the mud at one point!
When Ellie Goulding finally got up to perform at midnight, I thought I heard a collective gasp from the audience at the Red Stage.
Goulding’s voice was surreal. It was as if someone had poured sand on her vocal chords, and mixed it up with smoke and helium (kids, do not try this at home). Her voice sounded heavenly even when she spoke, and it almost didn’t matter what she sang (OK, fine, she sang Figure 8, Guns And Horses, Anything Could Happen and of course, Lights and Burn)!
With good voices, good music, and good fun – there certainly was a whole lot of “good” at this year’s Good Vibes Festival, which more than made up for the bad weather.