Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

Venue: Marina Promenade, Singapore
Dates: 15th & 16th April 2011
Organizer: Timbre Group
Review by: Joanne L.
Special Thanks: Seow Yee and the Timbre Group team
Photos: Raw Earth, Toots & The Maytals, 53A, Imogen Heap, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, John Legend

Timbre’s Rock and Roots Music Festival hits Singapore for the second time on April 15th – 16th 2011 at the Marina Promenade. It featured a star studded lineup of Grammy Award winning artists and well known favourites. The two day festival was generally a success as evidenced by the turnout, which has seen an increase since the last Timbre music festival here in 2010.

The first day was attended by about 6500 people. In line with Timbre’s aim of nurturing local talent, Raw Earth, a group barely four months into conception as a group, was given the coveted opening act spot. The blues act was a surprise success with the crowd, featuring their very own Ray Charles reminiscent, Francis Chan. Relatively new on the local live music scene, the band members are no strangers to the industry, many of them having long, vibrant careers in other groups such as Ublues and Reverie. The group performed covers of evergreen rock and roll staples as well as original tunes.

Raw Earth @ Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

The festival vibe kicked in, in full force, with the appearance of Toots & The Maytals. The Jamaican reggae group’s music got the crowd to their (dancing) feet throughout the hour-long set. The buildup at this juncture hinted at a very promising evening but alas, the highlight of the night (or some say of the entire festival) Bob Dylan, failed to wow the crowd. I’m putting my finger on a few things here: the muted vocals, a disengaged Mr. Dylan or simply just the wrong crowd. While the majority eventually dissipated into private chatter, there clearly were the rare few who seemed to have lost themselves in Mr. Dylan’s legendary music. Although Dylan’s set lacked a theatrical component, so what? Dylan is all about the music and the messages it convey – and that was exactly what Dylan delivered. Clean, minimalistic and raw. All the same though, it is ironic that his songs are about the people but yet, there lacked a personal connection with the crowd. It certainly did not help that the crowd was segregated according to ticket classes. All I can say is the jury is still out on this one.

Toots & The Maytals @ Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

Next up was Michael Franti & Spearhead who certainly took the unconventional route. Upon Franti’s request, the barriers were taken down allowing everyone equal access to the front stage. The reggae- folk artist even mingled among the crowd at the back, while serenading them to the sounds of Hey, Hey, Hey.

The second day saw a smaller crowd of 4500 people.

The events kicked off with local band 53A and The Sets – the Levi’s challenge winner. The two groups presented a contemporary take on music. They were followed up by Imogen Heap.

53A @ Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

I will be the first to admit that I am more familiar with Frou Frou, a collaborative project which Imogen was a part of, rather than Imogen Heap as a solo artist. Prior to watching her perform, I had thought that the electronic sounds in her music originated from a single nifty synth. As I learnt, these sounds were produced by individual (exotic) instruments, which Imogen brought along with the rest of her luggage. The talented singer proved to be an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, flitting from one instrument to another to provide that ethereal feel so characteristic of her work. Imogen has a way with piecing together sounds seamlessly. For example, she sampled sounds from wine glasses on stage and blended it with organic tones for First Train Home. The highlight of the evening for me was her debut public performance of the song titled Lifeline which she performed with a marxophone. The song was dedicated to the victims of the tsunami disaster in Japan. Fans were invited to submit sound clips and words/phrases which she arranged into a stirring piece. Later, Imogen involved everyone in a little classroom exercise, by enlisting different sections of the crowd to provide the background vocals for the song Just For Now. The stage props are something worth mentioning too – Imogen had a quirky, clear, see through, ‘grand piano’ on stage which became the talk of the town.

Imogen Heap @ Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

The energy of the festival pumped up further with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. The group turned up the funk meter and worked up the crowd with skillful trombone and trumpet playing. I’d say that it is quite a feat to get the 4500 strong crowd to their feet and dancing. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews even showed off his Pavarotti-like lung power by holding a note on the trombone for a full two minutes! Nothing short of impressive, I would say.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue @ Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

After a seemingly long intermission, the star of the night, John Legend finally made his appearance in front of an adoring crowd. The kick off for his set was awkward due to an audio glitch which failed to pick up any of John’s vocals for Rolling In The Deep. It took the organizers awhile to rectify the problem but things got up and running before the crowd started jeering loudly. Clearly a hit among the ladies, he belted out lady killer classics like PDA and Save Room. At one point, he invited a female member of the audience from the crowd on stage who gave John a show instead. The performance ended with an encore of Ordinary People and Stay With You.

John Legend @ Timbre Rock & Roots 2011

Overall, I thought the festival was great despite feeling there was a disconnect in the blend of artists and genres. Nevertheless, good job, Timbre!