Of Monsters and Men

Venue: The Coliseum, Singapore
Date: 10th May 2016
Promoter: WOAH Fest
Review by: Anna F.
Special Thanks: The Symmetry Entertainment team

Amidst agitation and complaints (manifested through angry and bitter Facebook musings on the event page) from annoyed individuals who found themselves stuck in an hour-long queue leading to the venue, inside, homegrown band DEON took the stage punctually at 8PM. The set was so well-crafted and magically ambient that fireworks even went off at one point, literally. Singer-songwriter Deon Toh, and his four-piece band perfectly melded organic as well as electronic elements into their floaty dreamscape, which put everyone at ease and managed to ignite in them a calm and peaceful evening beach vibe.

Whilst the crowd outside continued in its state of ambiguity and helter-skelter, one thing was for certain inside though, and that was that the stage was awash with talented musicians. Their short 30-minute set was filled with surprises, including the live premier of the song, “Fix”, which they planned on unveiling for the first time on their upcoming Tokyo tour. As their set was coming to an end, and all that remained were the last two songs, “Lights” and “Stars”, Deon explained that a lot of the inspiration for Oceans, their 2015 release, actually came from his visit to Iceland, also the home of Of Monsters and Men.

After taking a picture with the crowd, DEON took their exit and the stagehands began setting up for OMAM. I tried to lip-read a conversation between two crew members possibly regarding the queue situation outside and all I got was “this is the first time this has happened” or something along those lines. One of them also came out and asked everyone inside to “take one step forward” because apparently, there were “thousands and thousands” of people who were STILL outside trying to enter the already-packed venue. As more people streamed in slowly and climbed up to the top in worn out shoes, the organizers coordinated with the band and pushed back the time they were slated to go onstage by a couple of minutes so no one would miss the Icelandic spectacle. The anticipation grew and the crowd resorted to occupying themselves with even more selfie-taking, hand-clapping and chanting.

OMAM was formed in 2010 through Músíktilraunir, an annual music competition. Fast forward two studio albums and an ever-growing list of accolades, the five-member Icelandic band, consisting of Nanna (guitar and vocals), Raggi (guitar and vocals), Brynjar (lead guitar), Kristján (bass) and Arnar (drums), has been busy dismantling the festival circuit as of recent, playing at both Coachella and Lollapalooza. Whether they play for 30,000 or 3,000, though, it was evident that they were full of life and full of love and weren’t holding back, especially when they delivered flawless performances of their more infectiously danceable and upbeat hits.

Their somber tunes, on the other hand, were in a league of their own. The theatricality of “Thousand Eyes” was a brilliant fit for an opener. It was one big, drawn-out crescendo which resulted in everyone thirsting and clamoring for more whilst “Organs” took the audience to a whole other world, as people closed their eyes and soaked in the ethereal, almost spiritual aura and introspectively reflected upon their lives. Driven mainly by classical guitar, OMAM never fails to transcend universes through their music as they take their listeners on a journey of self-discovery and self-revelation, sometimes plagued with darkness and mystery.

Captivated by Nanna’s flowy, tassel-clad outfit, which swayed hypnotically every time she moved, everyone seemed to have found comfort in the sound that was masterfully being produced by nine incredibly skillful musicians, one of whom delivered a jaw-dropping trumpet solo towards the latter part of the set. The camaraderie and synchronicity between everyone both on stage and off was astounding as they switched between different instruments and positions without a hitch. Nanna’s and Raggi’s voices blended effortlessly with everyone else’s backing vocals. They led the audience through an unbelievably breathtaking wonderland, balanced superbly with up-tempo as well as more laid back songs, which showcased their sheer musical versatility and sometimes even resulted in audience members finding themselves stuck in slow life.

As soon as the first seconds of “Little Talks” came through the speakers, the crowd erupted in cheers and phones and cameras shot up in the air faster than you can pronounce any one of their surnames correctly. The lead single from their debut studio album, My Head Is an Animal, seemed to heighten the already-palpable exhilaration in the air as members of the audience were seen jumping up and down the floor.

Once the last echoes of “Yellow Light” reverberated throughout the venue, there was nothing left for us to do but breathe in and breathe out as we realized that soon, it will be over and buried with our past. Their set drew to a close as the band, as well as their touring musicians, gathered at the front of the stage and bowed to a room full of people completely enamored and infatuated with what they just witnessed.

You’re gone, gone, gone away, I watched you disappear.”