SINGAPORE – The tagline for the recently concluded Music Matters Live 2014 (MML14) in Singapore was “Who Will You Discover?”
The festival certainly made discovery possible, with over 60 bands from 18 countries doing their best to impress the general public, as well as delegates from the associated All That Matters conference conducted at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that MML14 was the best in the series and both industry players and music lovers were able to discover numerous bands and artistes. For the overseas bands here, the motivation to succeed at MML14 was strong enough to ensure that they pulled out all the stops to put up memorable shows.
For Portuguese folk-blues outfit The StoneWolf Band, the significance of MML14 was more personal as founder Ricardo Lobo grew up in Singapore. “I was born in Portugal and raised in Singapore till I was 18. So it’s a special touch to come back to play.”
The Boxer Rebellion saw the event as a stepping stone to getting more gigs within the region. “We get to play to people who’ve come in from elsewhere in South-east Asia, make connections and then come back and hopefully do a few more stops on the next run but using Music Matters as a launch to the rest of Asia,” drummer Piers Hewitt said.
One particular highlight were Canadian indie-rock combo JPNSGRLS (pronounced as “Japanese Girls”), the Vancouver-based quartet blew audiences away with sheer energy, musical ability and the showmanship of frontman Charlie Kerr, with the crowds singing along and screaming to every move made by Kerr and gang. Irish band Buffalo Sunn (consisting primarily of four brothers) endeared themselves to lovers of reverb-drenched country-folk coming across like a post-punk version of Crosby Stills & Nash, resplendent with their angelic harmonies.
Equally impressive were the Aussie contingent with the likes of grunge revivalists The Love Junkies, retro-pop master Jeremy Neale and fragile folk specialists Lyon Apprentice; and London-based The Boxer Rebellion was probably the “biggest” act on show (and no, they did not disappoint the masses either). Most surprising were two Korean indie bands that proved that the Korean music scene is much more than boy bands and girl groups: Hard rock trio Asian Chairshot demonstrated complete control over dynamics, shifting from visceral metallic rockers to atmospheric numbers effortlessly; whilst electro-rock group Love X Stereo, fronted by the lovely Annie Ko, delivered smart danceable pop tunes.
But there was little doubt that the biggest buzz came from Singapore’s musicians. The Made In Singapore showcase was a massive success, as fans packed out Paulaner for their local heroes. While Gentle Bones and Ming Bridges were clear fan favourites, soul/R&B artistes Mark Bonafide and Gareth Fernandez (brother of Brendon Fernandez) gave compelling evidence that our “soul men” can hold their own with the best elsewhere. With Sezairi Sezali and Trick (newly signed to SONY) added to the mix, it’s easy to believe that the future of the local music scene is very bright.
When Music Matters first landed on our shores four years ago, there was skepticism in some quarters about its value and impact. But there can be no denying how important Music Matters and its live component is to Singapore and its fledging music scene. There is now a symbiotic relationship between the two and given time and support, there’s no reason why it can’t be the premier music event in the region and well beyond.