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June 3, 2013

MusicMatters 2013 – The Showcase

Last week I posted a review of this year’s MusicMatters conference. Now, it’s time to focus on the live showcase, which this year was bigger than ever. MusicMattersLive took over the main square and six venues in Clarke Quay for three nights of original live music, featuring bands from Asia, Europe and North America. Unlike […]

Faber Drive

Last week I posted a review of this year’s MusicMatters conference. Now, it’s time to focus on the live showcase, which this year was bigger than ever. MusicMattersLive took over the main square and six venues in Clarke Quay for three nights of original live music, featuring bands from Asia, Europe and North America.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t try to see every band and made an effort to catch more full showcases. Unfortunately, it was a little hard, because the programming didn’t spread some of the artists around, locking a few into early time slots on every night. And, some venues ran well behind schedule, making it hard to plan one’s night.

Still, it was an impressive showcase, with some great music on display and a fantastic chance to meet musicians from around the world. You can catch some of the live clips here on YouTube.

The Sam Willows

Singapore’s own local scene was well-represented this year. Sadly, I missed seeing Natalie Hiong, whose voice has won me over on the recordings I’ve heard. But I did catch an excellent set from Nicholas Chim at the opening party and some great performances from The Sam Willows, who recently recorded with Steve Lillywhite, These Brittle Bones, winning over the MainStage crowd at the tender age of 14, Kevin Lester, who always rocks the house over with his Hip-Hop style and Sarah Cheng-De Winne, whose graceful vocals really impressed me.

Sarah Cheng-De Winne

Male-fronted power rock bands seem to dominate these kinds of showcases and it was true of MusicMattersLive again. Thankfully, a number of them were quite good. I was impressed with Faber Drive (Canada), Fairchild (Australia), Fluorescent Hearts (UK) and Trash (Taiwan). All had powerful, well written songs (Faber Drive in particular were very catchy) and it’s easy to imagine them going onto bigger and better things outside their home countries.

Gurrumul

But, MusicMattersLive wasn’t all about power and volume. I’ve already mentioned Gurrumul in the main conference review and his performance during the SoundsAustralia showcase was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. He was joined by Katie Noonan for a truly magical duet and Noonan’s own performance the next night on the MainStage, with a string quartet was one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen in three years of MusicMattersLive showcases here in Singapore.

Of course, both Gurrumul and Noonan are established, award-winning artists in their home country. That’s part of the magic of this showcase, because you get to see artists up close who are well known in their home country or region, but have yet to establish a following here in South East Asia. So we were treated to great sets from SID (Japan), Little Boots (UK), Prata Vetra (Lavia) and Indus Creed (India).

SID

In fact, the latter’s MainStage performance was a highlight for several people I spoke to. Indus Creed are a band with a rich heritage and while their set started moderately, they ended with a rousing display of the technical and prog-ish brilliance they are known for.

They were not the only band whose pure musicianship impressed. Guntzepaula from Taiwan delivered some technical fusion rock and The London Souls, especially in their final set at The Beer Market really laid down some wonderfully rootsy rock improvisations. An inventive two piece band, with some similarities to The Black Keys, they delivered one of the bluesiest and most soulful sets I can recall seeing at MusicMattersLive.

The London Souls

And, it was good to see some Hip-Hop on the programme. I’ve already mentioned Kevin Lester and we also had The Kid Famous, a true showman from Canada, who was backed up for his entertaining sets by local turntablist, DJ KoFlow and also some scintillating live looping and beat-boxing from Dub Fx (Australia). And, it was great to see Famous’ manager, D.O. Gordon again, I remember he threw down a scintillating set at the first MusicMattersLive showcase, back in 2010 in Hong Kong.

It’s hard to pick out the best moment from all these performances. Though the highlight for me was probably right at the end of the final night of MusicMattersLive as Boyce Avenue took to the MainStage. One of the YouTube stars I mentioned in the last post, Boyce Avenue clearly had a lot of fans and they flooded the centre of Clarke Quay, singing their hearts out and cheering the band back for an encore.

It was a wonderful moment, the kind of artist and fan unison that makes live music so memorable. But, as the set closed, I wondered if this moment was something more than just one band and their fans. Boyce Avenue are, after all, pure products of the digital age. DIY musicians who release under their own label and have grown their fan-base through smart use of online video and strategic social media – they are role models for the future of music.

Watching Boyce Avenue close out the showcase I felt this wasn’t just three musicians onstage connecting with their audience – rather, I was watching everything I have wished for in the music industry coming true. It was a beautiful moment and a wonderful end to a week of great music.

The Kid Famous

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