Venue: Sepang Go-Kart Circuit @ Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
Date: 17th August 2013
Promoter: Future Sound Asia
Review by: Ee Liza
Special Thanks: Commas Industry, and Future Sound Asia
Good vibes across the sky, good vibes surrounding the circuit, good vibes on stage, good vibes permeating through the amplifiers, good vibes in every food truck, good vibes breaking out in silent disco dance moves etc. It is pretty safe to say that good vibes were in abundance during the inaugural Good Vibes Festival in Malaysia (safe maybe at the security check point where, let’s just say there were rather unnecessary grabby hands).
Is this going to be a thing? Not grabby hands, mind you, but a music festival in Malaysia every quarter of the year? Please let this be a thing. It is such an ideal place to congregate with similar minded music enthusiasts and believe me, it is always nice to let your hair down a little. Especially after an awkward car ride with your colleagues when it’s your turn to drive out for lunch and you have Ash’s Candy playing, before an awkward request to stop your playlist entirely and settle on some good old fashioned A Thousand Miles on the radio instead.
A lot can be uncovered when you arrive earlier at a festival to scout festival grounds. This is also a great opportunity to catch judge local acts such as OJ Law, The Impatient Sisters and Pesawat. After performing her own set, songstress Liyana Fizi also joined Kyoto Protocol on stage to perform a cosy mishmash of Jelita. They Will Kill Us All even had the pleasure of closing the second (blue) stage. It is nice to watch and discover great music with the presence of a platform such as this, provided by a festival of this scale. Even the DJs working the silent disco started pumping out danceworthy songs, including Bastille’s Pompeii.
As dusk swept in, to cage and shadow the palm trees that were surrounding the Sepang Go-Kart Circuit, it was finally time for the big international names to saunter out and play. Oh, and how they played. Irish rockers Ash came to prominence during the golden age of BritRock with the release of their debut album 1977 (of which I have heard rumours that they played the album live in its entirety the day before during soundcheck! I would honestly pay good money to watch that!). Ash, along with Modest Mouse as well as Smashing Pumpkins, are all veterans in the music circuit long enough now. They sure knew how to please a very eager crowd.
After a mini power meltdown that occurred halfway through Meltdown, the trio jumped straight to A Life Less Ordinary, a song that I am particularly and ever grateful for the fact that they have never failed to play during a live set. The song certainly misses the second guitar (usually covered by Charlotte Haterley) but Tim Wheeler’s fingers were on fire as it lit through guitar licks that were supposed to cover noises made by two guitars. In fact, his fingers were such a joy to observe throughout the night as it covered the whole stretch of his beautiful, signature Gibson Flying V’s neck.
Nostalgia may be the not-so-secret theme of that night as Ash went through their best picks out of twenty years’ worth of discography. Time was certainly against them however, even as they ultimately had to drop Return of the White Rabbit off their already short set to cover for the power outage earlier. Given that Ash was a last minute addition to the lineup, anything that was heard that night (particularly the very sexy Orpheus!) was clearly a bonus to the Ash fans in Malaysia.
If I thought that a three-piece band like Ash would be able to garner up noise to that level of decibels, certainly I have not heard two-piece Japandroids on stage. When Future Sound Asia first released the complete line up for Good Vibes Festival in a crafty video, a clip of Japandroid’s The House That Heaven Built was played and for a split second, I thought The Gaslight Anthem would be playing in Malaysia. Brian and David who make up the duo from Japandroids, are one guitar, one set of drums and two vocalisers. It was rather exciting to watch the two men prowl and make their presence known in a stage that sounded like it could be sourced from a five-piece band.
Throughout Japandroids’ set, it was peppered with their guilt of making the crowd that stayed to listen to them instead of Modest Mouse. During a break in between a song, David Prowse paused from playing the drums to say, “This is actually my favourite part!” as everyone quiets for a bit to listen to the echoes of Modest Mouse from the other stage. The moment they played the last note though, Japandroids were quick to shoo us off to catch the remaining Modest Mouse set.
I was really looking forward to Modest Mouse playing (aside from the evident Float On) songs from their sophomore album The Lonesome Crowded West (they did not) mainly for the song Trailer Trash which has been a staple song for 90s covers. After quickly heeding Japandroids’ advice to hurry over to Modest Mouse’s stage, I was greeted by at least eight (or was it nine? I may have lost count!) different band members making the best out of their instruments.
The style of playing was so very different from Ash and Japandroids earlier that at one point it was just mesmerizing to watch all eight of them gel together beautifully. A double bassoon and violin made an appearance too. The most prominent feature though, has to be the gorgeous synchronisation of the double drumming that complimented Dashboard so very well. When Isaac Brock whips out his banjo, you know that things are about to get down and dirty. There is an element in the banjo that you can’t seem to take quite seriously, however Isaac is unafraid and it completely adds to a layer of unique character to King Rat.
At the end of Modest Mouse’s set, you would have witnessed a wonderful consummation of a marriage of instruments (based on a polyamorous relationship, maybe?). You can’t help but feel giddy at the very idea of one final band that is still due to play that night. By the time Smashing Pumpkins hit the first note, it was already pushing past 11pm. The exhaustion from a long day does not quite show though, because the atmosphere of the festival which was rather “chillax” certainly helped conserve all the energy needed the moment Billy Corgan stepped out to play a reprise of Tonight, Tonight.
I cannot even begin to describe how apt the words that were sung were in relation to the emotions that many in the crowd would have been going through. Despite the years, in addition to the disbelief that Billy friggin’ Corgan is actually in Malaysia to sing, one cannot help but pinch yourself just a bit as Ava Adore comes to life. Along with a mix of newer songs, they also played crowd favourites. It was surreal to watch how Bullet With Butterfly Wings was interpreted live, and although there was a distinct lack of live cellos during Disarm, the same urgent floating feeling you get with that song still exists in its live version.
Billy Corgan sang with an air of admirable arrogance, however, it has to be pointed out that each new member of Smashing Pumpkins were given enough time to shine with their own bass or drum solos. Were they the best band to perform that night? Possibly not (my apologies Pumpkinites, I am partial towards Ash), but was Smashing Pumpkins the highlight of the night? Absolutely, yes.
Well done, Good Vibes Festival 2013. You have just joined the ranks of great inaugural festivals in Malaysia (Sunburst 2008 or even MTV World Stage 2009). May you continue to shine in the foreseeable future. Rest assured I will be speaking of this edition of the festival fondly, for many years to come!