FORITS first run, Good Vibes Festival turned Sepang International Circuit into a mini music festival that didn't forget arts, fashion and food. Held at a Go-Kart track, Good Vibes managed to change the space into a convenient site for music lovers. Malaysian artist Nini Ramlan also had a hand in giving the once dull racetrack a facelift with installation art while Malaysian brand Chic Yamada launched a capsule festival collection on the day.
Modest Mouse. Photos courtesy of Good Vibes festival
Organiser Future Music Asia is known throughout the region as one of the strongest in this field, but Good Vibes was their first attempt at staging a rock festival, and they played it smart by keeping the size small and accessible.
And it should be noted that Good Vibes Festival was supported by Malaysia's Ministry of Tourism and Culture in bid to create awareness of the Visit Malaysia 2014 campaign. As the Asean Economic Community is approaching, we can only wish that our own government would seek out more contemporary ways to promote Thailand. Rendering support to a music festival like the Malaysian government did would be the first step in the right direction.
Last Saturday, an 8,000-strong crowd attended the festival in high spirits. It's obvious that the majority flooded the venue to see four international bands on the bill, namely The Smashing Pumpkins, Modest Mouse, Ash and Japandroids. (Ash will play at Sonic Bang in Muang Thong Thani tomorrow on the same stage as Placebo and Slot Machine; Japandroids visited Bangkok last week.)
Good Vibes could have gotten away with just these four headliners and branded itself as a "festival" all the same, but in the right spirit, the organisers went ahead and booked numerous local bands to complete the line-up. I personally consider it thoughtful to include home-grown heroes since it can be a way to integrate the local music scene on the international level and introduce the audience to hidden talents.
Having said that, it was also to be expected that the revellers wouldn't turn up before sundown to watch the first few local bands, and the later ones also didn't receive as much support as they should. In fact, this annoying practice is also the norm in Thailand; hopefully, it will change over time.
There were only two proper stages, which made it more than easy to switch from one to another. In addition, there was one makeshift, compact club area called Starclub that was reserved for regional and local deejays. Representing Thailand was Dudesweet, the longstanding art and music collective and club night promoter. Unfortunately, Dudesweet deejays came on right after Indonesia's Dipha Barus, which was still too early since the festival was still pretty much empty. It was too bad, as Dipha and Dudesweet as well as Singapore's Poptart would have gotten the crowd dancing straight away. It took local heroes Twilight Actiongirl, who benefited from the prime-time slot, to fill up Starclub, and one of Kuala Lumpur's biggest deejays Goldfish finished off the night with people spilling out from the small space with hands high up in the air.
Ash and Japandroids shared the second stage. Both bands suffered from a problematic sound system which forced Ash to stop after their first song. Now back to being a three-piece band, Ash appeared to not have lost their youthful 90s oomph, but their hit-laden set could have used a bit of tightening up. We can only hope that it'll be better for them at Sonic Bang tomorrow.
Japandroids performed in Bangkok three days before they hit Good Vibes, and it was the same energetic performance. The Canadian two-man power band thrashed out with walls of guitar chords and mighty drumming that could get overwhelming from time to time. In all honesty, the second stage could have used a better quality sound system as well as more aesthetically pleasing lighting. The bigger sounds from the main stage were more pleasing even when listening from afar.
Indie-pop veterans Modest Mouse was simply delightful. Having been around the block a couple of times, the West Coast outfit delivered with high and low punches when every member played to their heart's content.
To me, Modest Mouse was the highlight of Good Vibes as everything worked out perfectly for them from, technical skills to humanistic touch.
Nazeera Taib of The Impatient Sisters
The biggest draw of Good Vibes was surely The Smashing Pumpkins. Even with only one original member left, the Pumpkins still managed to hold that god-like aura throughout the show. I'm not sure if it was Billy Corgan's intention to recruit half-Korean Jeff Schroeder to replace James Iha on guitar and beautiful female bassist Nicole Fiorentino to evoke the familiarity of yesteryear. Whether it was the savant's ironic, tongue-in-cheek streak, his recruits, including 23-year-old drummer Mike Byrne, were just musical beasts. These are some fine musicians who can definitely keep up with Corgan. Opening with Tonight, Tonight, chills were felt throughout the entire go-kart track. Many have complained that The Smashing Pumpkins deliberately let them down by not playing one of their most loved tracks, 1979, but all other favourites were present. Corgan's voice hasn't seemed to age at all, with powerful vocal prowess delivered throughout the entire set.
Surprisingly, there were many solo sessions, making it feel like we were listening to The Smashing Pumpkins' non-stop extended plays. We were well aware of how talented these guys must have been to carry out such executions, but in the end, it proved too much from time to time. An enigma as always, Corgan hardly spoke a word, but when he did, he uttered, ''we are, we were, and we will be The Smashing Pumpkins''.
All in all, it was a stellar effort for the first-time festival, and I hope it won't be the last time. The no-frills aspect and the lack of physical exertion were a bonus as it allowed me to concentrate on the music, but a line-up that was a bit more interesting and some newer international bands would have made Good Vibes vibing even harder.
For those from Thailand who plan to check out the festival next year, it's rather convenient as the site is near both airports with plenty of nice hotels available. The only downside would be that the area is rather barren, and has no tourist spots at all.
Malaysia, however, has proven that Asean can be cool and fun. We can only hope that the Thai government will also see the importance of the cultural dimension in its current AEC frenzy.
The Smashing Pumpkins
About the author
- Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor