Venue: Fort Canning Green @ Fort Canning Park, Singapore
Dates: 21st & 22nd March 2013
Promoters: Timbre Group and Bluesfest Pty. Ltd.
Review by: Maisha G.
Special Thanks: Pauline and the Timbre Group team
Photos by Alvin H.
The festival that all music veterans look forward to, for the fourth year running; the well celebrated blues festival right in the hearts of our humble shores where many amazing concerts were being held at. The two day event was held at none other than Fort Canning Park. With the amazing lineup this year, I could not think of anyone who’d miss this festival. As far as I know, I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since they released the lineup.
On the first day of the festival, I was all geared up in my band t-shirt and jeans and ready to rock to the rhythm of blues. More importantly, to rock with someone whom I’ve been watching videos of religiously every night and on the Woodstock documentary ever since I was introduced to the band. I was pumped up and ready to let loose. The streams of people filled the concert area, many of whom were made up of expatriates.
Homegrown band Raw Earth, or popularly known as the Timbre band made up of the man himself who is the owner of Timbre, Danny Loong on vocals, guitar and keyboard, playing jams known vastly across the veteran crowd that graced the occasion on day one of the festival. They called in a special guest, all the way from down under, Kara Grainger, as she made many men in the crowd swoon over her sick guitar licks and solos as she sang one of her songs titled “A Pack Of Lies”. Her guitar solo was beyond amazing and got many men staring at her fingers as she worked her magic, accompanied with her remarkable vocal abilities. These men were ready to party and it seems she got them wrapped around her finger just by singing the tunes of blues. We could see a lot of smiling men in the crowd, already happily knocking their beer cups with each other. Oh, the night just started alright.
Rufus Wainwright, thought I’m not exactly familiar with his work and his breakthrough in the music scene, I’ve heard a lot of interesting stories about his man, of which I look up to him as an individual, not only a musician. He is known to have a knack on writing weird lyrics that may not necessarily rhyme but it tells a story of which he would love to share with his fans, a analogical story that seeks understanding from his fans in order to appreciate his music on another level.
His stage antics are very well as interesting as he is as a person and I have to say, after hearing so many covers of the song “Hallelujah” originally sang by Leonard Cohen, his cover proved to be out of this world. His emotions as he pressed on the keys of the piano, him alone on stage, magnified on the big screen through the lenses of the video camera. I learned to appreciate the song more than I could ever before. It was sung beautifully.
There is this one song in particular which he sang was in memory of his mother titled “Zebulon”. He said “now, things will get weird, a bit weirder so here goes”. He closed his eyes as he pressed the keys to the song, pulled his head back, and let out words that I could only possibly imagine how hard it was to be singing about about your late mother and having your emotions fused with it. It brought me to tears; Mr. Wainwright definitely has made me a new fan in me.
When the night started, I was just enjoying my comfortable spot, somewhere on the left side of the stage. But for this particular third act and perhaps the sole reason why I was looking forward to this festival or more so, looking forward to this night for all the years I’ve been graced with the awesomeness of one individual’s impeccable vocals. Even though I may never get to see the band since the last reunion was 6 years ago, I would gladly settle for the man who’s voice could break a goblet, a test done by many opera singers to test the strength of their voice. But this man’s voice is not a tenor sensation. Instead, he is the voice behind the band that was associated closely to the hippies and the flower generation which people knew then was all about peace and love for all, and that Woodstock was the biggest festival of all time, which is still talked about right up to this very day. It’s definitely the year to be born in to absorb all the musical greatness.
Also, the band made up of musicians inspired me, not only to indulge in music particularly but to always live life to the fullest. The man who was crowned Rolling Stone’s best drummer in the world who holds the number one spot for the magazine and also my heart, the late John Henry Bonham, the heartbeat to the band called Led Zeppelin. Though I was expecting more to see the band’s chemistry together, it was my dad’s idol – the man whose voice can’t be imitated by anyone – Mr Robert Plant himself, accompanied by a league of extraordinary musicians called “Sensational Space Shifters”.
Mr. Plant was known to have a strong liking for the Indian culture. I pushed myself all the way to the front, just right at the spot where I can soak myself in his awesomeness. I could literally wet myself with all the excitement contained and bottled up in me. Speaking of how much he interest he takes in the Indian culture, I could see incense sticks being burnt and placed in between the speakers right in front of the stage. Everyone was chanting “Robert Plant, Robert Plant”. I couldn’t really figure out what I was trying to say because it sounded like I was mumbling heavily and I was just overwhelmed with all the emotions I have. It felt like the inner me was trying to jump out from my mouth!
Clad in his pointed boots, washed jeans, a shirt with a breast pocket, and known for his curly tresses, he graced the stage. The crowd’s roaring was similar to that of a soccer game in Old Trafford. Everyone was just overwhelmed with their emotions, choking up on the ultimate excitement as I felt I was in another realm altogether. Is the real life or is this just fantasy? The leg quirks and the microphone swings, holding up the microphone stand, it was all too familiar to what was documented in the Woodstock festival of 1969.
His stage antics was inane in him. He still has the moves and as soon as the familiar tunes struck, or more of what was the more “underground” song from them – “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” from Led Zeppelin III (my favourite album from them thus far), I sense my body to be moving by itself, it was like involuntary spasms that was happening within myself. Instead of feeling petrified, I was over the moon.
Playing the greatest hits ranging from “Whole Lotta Love” to “Black Dog”, the songs were sung in what Mr. Plant said was a “questionable performance” as it wasn’t the normal fuzz sounds known by many how Mr. Jimmy Page would play on his gold top or even the bass tunes from Mr. John Paul Jones. Instead, the songs were fused with several elements, of which the Indian influences proved to be vast in the musical instruments. Mr. Plant sounded pretty sore on stage and mentioned having his band to be denied twice to enter Singapore back in those days, often reminding us on how “questionable” his performances were going to be. I didn’t find any of the songs or the way it was being performed to be questionable. I was having the time of my life, living my dad’s dream once again to watch his idol perform right before my eyes. I could not fathom the night just by the two-hour performance. It was a lot more for me to take in after his set. I sat down and trying to digest that I’ve just watched just about the most amazing musician ever on stage. And that night was the night that would be marked in my calendar and to share with my future kids, a night I’m proud to call myself a fan.
The night’s festivities didn’t end there. Just when I thought that I might not be able to take in the night in just a few hours worth of performance, I was in for more than a treat. The Tedeschi Trucks Band ended the night with a bang, playing the blues, the ever familiar blues with two drummers on site, the vocalist, a female armed with a Strat in her hand. They played the tunes of what got my body swaying from side to side, “Everybody’s Talkin” – an amazing song that got me feeling all good. It leaves me feeling that this is why I love music – it was because of the blues and also my dad played a huge role in introducing this genre of music to me. And so I told myself, it was only the first day of the festival and my face, or more like my heart melted in a good way. I was ready for the next day. Yes, I was.
Day two arrived and it was another day of a massive lineup and I could confidently say that more people were looking forward to this than they were of the previous one. I was looking forward to show people how much I enjoy this dance called ‘skanking’, a dance made popular in the ska music or what people would associate it more to reggae.
The night started with the band that flown all the way from Indonesia and they call themselves Mike’s Apartment. They do covers of songs from bands that all of us could sing along to and the song that I really loved their cover was “Come Together” by The Beatles. This acoustic band has indeed gained many fans from Singapore even though they’re just a cover band, they did an amazing job singing those songs and did justice to the existence of these popular numbers.
Bonnie Raitt, a stunning woman, of songs “Something To Talk About” often heard being played on the radio stations but more familiar to me, on my mum’s iPod. My mum loves Bonnie Raitt and often tells me how much it would remind her of Bonnie Raitt each time I put on a mini performance for her, playing her favourite song on the guitar. The 63-year-old lady proved that age is not an issue. She looks flawless; even better –FABULOUS! With the guitar strap sling across her shoulders, she played her amazing tunes and guitar solos that left my mouth open for the rest of her performance.
I was just in awe and I couldn’t believe my eyes on how incredible she was on stage. She came back with an encore, the song that was covered beautifully by Bon Iver which is well loved by many, the song “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. That song has a history behind it for me. It brought back many memories as I felt tears welling up my eyes. She brought meaning to the song, having it to be performed life, it felt as though that chapter was closed. The chapter of which the song reminded me of. It was definitely a heartfelt set by Bonnie Raitt.
As the night passed, the crowd grew larger and more people were crowding the barricades. Paul Simon, popularly known from the dynamic duo Simon and Garfunkel was the act that many were looking forward to that night. I have to say though I wasn’t really big on their music because I grew up more listening to hard blues and rock and roll, I do enjoy a few songs from them; two in particular which have lyrics that mean more than just a mere song – “Kathy’s Song” and “The Sound Of Silence”.
Paul Simon, the small built man graced the stage with his band, made up of many familiar faces in the music scene. The songs that I could relate to was ‘skank’ (the dance move) worthy, with the saxophone, the trumpet, and the bongo beats with the bass slaps. It was all too amazing and I was jiving to the beat and enjoying every second of the music emitting from the amplifiers.
I was getting a tad too worried because I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs until he played an acoustic stripped down set of “The Sound of Silence”. Yet again, I feel that I belonged right in the crowd and I crooned to the guitar plucking and closed my eyes. It felt so surreal. Everything around me felt calm. It was a great feeling. The set grew even more interesting when a little boy was called up to the stage by the man himself to dance along to “Graceland” and oh boy! That little man has got sick moves and everyone cheered at the sheer cuteness and the tandem of the music. It was a set filled with fun and laughter.
I was ready to skank my way through the night for the last act. Many people would immediately associate reggae music to Bob Marley but there’s more to how this genre is being well liked, and certainly more to it than just Bob Marley. And it has got to be Jimmy Cliff.
The man who made the song “I Can See Clearly Now” viral all throughout after he covered the song originally sung and written by Johnny Nash that topped the Billboard charts. It was also the very first reggae song that I remember dancing to and was made popular by the movie Cool Runnings. His band was made up of entirely people of his kind, from the heartlands of Jamaica. And all the more, the atmosphere kicked up a notch and it felt as if a slice of Jamaica was presented to us right before our eyes. The vibes and the instruments fused to create a hypnotic environment.
Clad in all yellow, there stick out in the crowd. We were greeted by the vivacious and overly energetic man himself, Mr. Jimmy Cliff, clad in what I understand to be a national Jamaican ethnic costume improvised to be a suit. A performer who well inculcates the essence of his country and the pride he has for where he came from as he graced us with his popular number and a personal favourite of my bestfriend’s, “Vietnam”.
I was skanking all throughout the night and I was very well much sober than anything else. It felt like I needed that night to let loose of the week’s built up stress from work and ultimately a music festival did just that. Thank you Timbre for making our wildest dreams come true and givings us a reminder of why music is equivalent to respect because as much as we love music, we also learn to respect. A great takeaway from the two nights of massive performances. My March ended with a bang.