The newly opened Circuit Makati grounds recently served as the sonic playground for an outdoor music and arts festival, and it was a scene straight out of our Coachella-like daydreams.
Young people in cutoffs and tank tops checked out the live art artists, Velcro wall and activity booths, while others were contented with lounging on picnic blankets and giant yellow-and-green Havaianas inflatable rafts strewn across the venue. Free drinks and Magnum ice cream bars were handed out to the crowd, a welcome treat to combat the sweltering heat.
As early as 1 p.m. many people had started claiming their choice spots in front of the huge covered stage, where 11 buzzworthy acts, both foreign and local, were about to make indie music history.
Taken by Cars, the first Filipino band to have performed at the annual SXSW music festival in Texas, kicked off the show with its deliciously cool sound. This was followed by the mesmerizing instrumentals of rock trio Pulso, the jaunty hooks of young five-piece outfit She’s Only Sixteen, and the jazz-infused vibes of electronic duo Yolanda Moon.
Next came the bands from Down Under. Sydney-based cousins Chris Holland and Tim Commandeur, collectively known as Colour Coding, sent female tweens’ hearts aflutter with their boyish charm and dreamy pop tunes like “Perfect.”
One-man band Avalanche City, a.k.a. Dave Baxter from New Zealand, dished out radio-friendly folk ditties like “Sunset,” which he actually played at twilight (an intentional move by the organizers, we were told).
Hailing from Melbourne, female-fronted band Tully on Tully delighted Pinoys with progressive folk pop in the singles “Hard to Breathe” and “Stay.”
The audience went wild when Up Dharma Down took the stage in between foreign acts. Much of the loud whoops were directed at the band’s female lead singer and keyboardist Armi Millare and her strong, sultry vocals.
Fire breaks out
After UDD’s set, American alt-rock band Nada Surf took the audience back to the 1990s with its radio hits “Popular,” “Inside of Love” and “Always Love.” (For diehard fans of “The O.C.” soundtrack who were wondering why the band didn’t play its cover of OMD’s “If You Leave,” frontman Matthew Caws had mentioned during the press conference that Nada Surf has never performed it during live shows.)
Funky Utah-based band Neon Trees played the most rousing, high-energy set of the night, hands down. Everyone burned a lot of calories as they danced and jumped to moshpit-inducing charttoppers “1983,” “Animal” and “Everybody Talks,” with vocalist Tyler Glenn diving into the crowd at one point.
A small fire broke out from the wire cables near the stage but was quickly stomped out, prompting a few revelers to tweet, “Neon Trees is so hot, they literally started a fire!”
As the last band on the lineup, Australian headliners The Temper Trap wasted no time in whipping up the crowd into a massive, sing-along frenzy as it performed back-to-back crowd favorites “Love Lost” and “Fader.” Indonesian-Australian vocalist Dougy Mandagi’s flawless falsetto sent chills down our sweat-covered spines, effortlessly soaring and dipping its way through the haunting melodies of the band’s repertoire.
The Temper Trap ended the festival with its well-loved breakthrough anthem, “Sweet Disposition,” which had the euphoric crowd singing along with all their might amid twin confetti showers.
Amazing maiden run
Naysayers who believed that Manila is too Third-World or disorganized to play host to a big outdoor music festival are now probably eating their words, because Wanderland proved it can be done, and done just right. Overall, the music fest turned out amazingly well for a maiden run, and the hordes of Pinoy audiophiles happily soaking up the sun along with good vibes and great music were living proof.
One can bet that the post-concert high will last an exceptionally long time, and that many indie fans have been able to cross a lot of songs off their “must-hear-live” bucket list.
Wanderland is the brainchild of young events team Karpos Multimedia Inc., which also promoted The Cranberries, The Maine and several other foreign acts to Manila.
How did they come up with such a great, diverse mix of bands, you ask? “To be honest, we were biased when we were deciding the lineup. Of course we chose the bands that we love!” said Karpos’ Stephanie Uy with a laugh. “It was a very long process … We carefully chose the bands with different markets in mind.”
Now, we don’t have to hop on a plane to experience our own Coachella or Laneway-type festival. Wanderland was an answered prayer for those who have been longing for this kind of scene that countries like the US, Australia and Singapore have been enjoying for years.
The best part? It’s just the beginning, because Wanderland 2014 is just around the corner.