Our humble island has played host to more gigs and artists than you can count with your fingers and toes, securing Singapore as one of the busiest and thriving concert and festival circuits around right now in the first week of March.
But the most raucous and deafening occasion all week had to be the congregation of rock and metal heads in the heart of Fort Canning Park over two perfect blustery nights on 5 and 6 March.
The first ever Singapore Rock Festival 2014 unquestionably felt like one that was a long time coming for thousands of heavy music fans of all demographics all over the island who were in dire need of a full audio beating.
It seemed appropriate that the youngest outfit Black Veil Brides were appointed the momentous task of getting the headbangers’ ball rolling as the sun began to set. Loaded with theatrics, gratuitous guitar solos and a fearless attitude, the Black Veil Brides live experience emulates the decadence of 1980s’ glam metal but altered for a new generation who missed out on the opportunity to be a part of the KISS or Mötley Crüe army back in the days.
‘I Am Bulletproof’ was a great opener and tracks off their latest album ‘Nobody’s Hero,’ ‘Wretched and Divine’, ‘Shadows Die’ and a cover of Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’ got the BVB Army in their signature BVB trappings singing along in full force. It is palpable that Black Veil Brides’ appeal and strength lie in the unique rapport they have cultivated with their fans throughout the years.
American-favourites Five Finger Death Punch rolled out onto the stage (with a gnarly eagle brass knuckle that read ‘5FDP’ for a backdrop) in what was starting to feel like the most anticipated act of the day with throngs of fans in their freshly purchased FFDP shirts.
By now it’d started to almost feel as if this was an Asian edition of a Family Values or Summer Sanitarium Tour and the first circle pit of the festival happened. Frontman Ivan Moody (who was reminiscent of a stout version of Flea) has learned how to tap into building camaraderie with the audience and was charismatic, commanding and genuine all at the same time. Their catchy metal anthems combining technical riffs, relatable lyrics and Moody’s forthright presentation rightfully gained them a reputation for putting on a great live show.
As if the first two openers didn’t provide a sensory overload, out rolled the magnificent stage set up of the first night’s co-headliner Rob Zombie’s favourite nightmares: black and white posters of the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s monster and a massive drape of King Kong clutching Fay Wray.
Singapore didn’t seem ready or to know what to expect from a Rob Zombie show. Before they could figure that out, the catchy earworm ‘Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown’ commenced the show with Rob wasting no time in cavorting around three podiums in the filthiest-looking flare pants (with banners that screamed ‘Suck. Die. Crush.’ ‘Love. Death. Sex.’) proving that he could still cut a rug in a way that would make any of the twenty-something up and coming metal frontmen green with envy.
John 5, Piggy D. and Ginger Fish joined in the reveling with otherworldly get-ups whom when all put together on stag can be likened to a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity.
“Raise your hands if you’re an old school metal fan. No, not the ones born after the year 2000. That makes you like, what, 5?”
Rob Zombie shouted, before he delved into a wicked cover of Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’. During an impressive Randy Rhoads-esque guitar solo by John 5, Rob ran through the audience, slapping hands with fans. By the end of the set, Rob had evidently declared his love for Singapore in a corny ‘I love SG’ T-shirt and draped our national flag over himself.
It was a totally different world that my senses just experienced: a party filled with creepy synesthesian atmospherics and punch drunk funk.
It would’ve taken a whole lot to top Rob Zombie’s unearthly show but if there was a co-headliner worthy of doing so it could only be Korn.
It was blatant that the majority of the 6,000 attendees on the first night of the festival had been anticipating Korn since they first laid eyes on one of their music videos on MTV in the 1990s’. A two-decade long wait for many fans finally paid off when Jonathan Davis appeared genuinely happy to be playing on this side of the world at last.
The band opened with ‘Falling Away From Me’ and they played and still looked like 20-year-old rockers. Even though the intensity and anguish of a bullied introvert in high school in Davis have mellowed, his vocals felt as creepy and tortured as they were back in the good old days.
They delivered a gratuitous portion of old hits that were improvised by the new members, most notably by drummer Ray Luzier who showcased the most energy, spewing out crazy drum fills. The thumping slap bass and guitars cut through the packed park crisply and the volume was near-perfect.
Newer hits like ‘Never Never’ and ‘Get Up’ sounded crisper live than on record as the younger fans and Skrillex recruits headbanged in unison to them. It was nu-metal nostalgia at its peak when Davis brought out his iconic bagpipe and when the set reached ‘Freak on a Leash’. All good things must come to an end; ‘Blind’ closed the show and warmed every Korn fan boy’s heart, as a sick Davis left the stage escorted after saying his thank yous.
Needless to say, a fine time is had by all on the first night of the rock festival. Undefeated by ringing ears, graphic band t-shirt-clad attendees strode into Fort Canning Park visibly pumped for the second night of rock heavyweights Alter Bridge and Alice in Chains.
A premonition that faces were going to get melted even more and guts were going to get blown out on this second night overcame the anticipating crowd as a slew of Rage Against the Machine tunes blasted out of the speakers. The park was buzzing ahead of openers Alter Bridge’s arrival to the stage and the house lights dropped to the powerful intro to ‘Addicted to Pain’, met with the roar of fans who made up one of the greater armies among the other armies of the rest of the bands on the lineup.
The trio manages to blend melody with power effortlessly, although sometimes they are so loud that the guitars and drums muffled frontman Myles Kennedy’s magnificent vocal prowess. On Kennedy’s third trip to the country, it was clear that he’d already developed camaraderie with the audience and conducted the orchestra of thousands with magnetism. Guitarist Mark Tremonti demonstrated his guitar gymnastics, particularly during the solos in ‘Brand New Start’ and ‘Cry of Achilles’.
To say that they’ve come a long way since ‘Open Your Eyes’ is an underestimation, for Alter Bridge have never sounded heavier and at their peak.
Without Alice in Chains, there probably would be no Korn. As far as legends go, it’s safe to say AIC was the one band on the entire bill that could justify that term in the eyes of both their diehard fans as well as the rest of the bands on the line up.
By the time AIC emerged with the opener ‘Them Bones’, the volume surrounding the park is resounding. The new vocal commander William DuVall is immediately in high spirits, charismatically working the stage like a less corny Lenny Kravitz. He was impressive in his ability to soar without screaming on songs like ‘Again’ which was faster and less ponderous.
The vital piece of the band that is Jerry Cantrell far more defines AIC’s sound. His guitar licks were the one thing that differentiated songs such as ‘Dam the River’ and the significant riffs of the new prehistoric-sounding ‘Stone.’ Cantrell’s voice coupled with DuVall’s made for some of the more enjoyable songs of the night like ‘Your Decision’.
Favourites of the night included newer material off The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here which served up nostalgia-triggering crunch-and-moan. The epic, unsingable hook of ‘Hollow’ emulated modern mystical desert rock. Tracks from ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here‘ fused seamlessly with the acid rock sprawls and funereal acoustic tunes from 1992’s Dirt that bookend the set. Rebuilt and out of the woods, there was no other deserving act apart from Alice in Chains that could satisfy the hunger of 5,500 heavy music devotees and close the festival on the best ear-splitting (literally) note.
After two days of sheer hypnotic noise, it’s back to an unnervingly noiseless reality once again but if there’s one piece of advice I’d give to anyone of all ages, is that the best way you can serve society is really, by just rocking.
Written by: Amanda Choo (Contributing Curator)
Photos by: Aloysius Lim, Lionel Boon and Alvin Ho / LAMC Productions