Welcome to the last day of the 2016 earthings! Fantasy Festival, a week of live performances that’s all just happening in our heads. Today, editor Niko Batallones picks his five acts – some male-led ones included – all while tweaking his stage a bit and turning it into a smaller tent. Intimacy, whether quiet or loud, is the rule.
For the third time in three years I agonize over my Fantasy Festival stage, throwing in acts that I’ve wanted to include before, and then throwing them out again. This is fun… nope, this isn’t fun. That said, for the first time I’m actually happy with the relative diversity of the Faraday stage this year. There’s a good mix of genres, and while I’m not very crazy about all the acts, I think there’s something for everyone. Especially the penultimate one. A particular subset of people have been going crazy for that last one for years. [NB]
First off, Sarah Blasko. I’ve enjoyed the Aussie singer-songwriter previously, but it took David Bowie’s death – and her subsequent cover of “Life on Mars?” – to turn me on. Sarah’s voice is sublime. Spooky, even. Frankly, I am not sure if this would translate well to a music festival, what with its big stages and occasionally sucky sound systems… okay, let’s imagine that I don’t have a stage, but instead, a tent. A smaller venue, tighter space, less people, more intimate. I can do that, right? Sure, let’s go with that. Anyway, back to Sarah – her voice is sublime. Spooky, even. She hasn’t stuck in the same lane throughout her albums but that vocal remains true. It lingers, it gives you chills, and maybe it’ll make you explore her original stuff. (Here’s “Fool”, performed live.)
Ben Howard has released two albums and, while their textures are different, the underlying intensity remains the same – if not better on his second album, I Forget Where We Were. I like his lyrics: they’re simple, but they’re quite poetic. Or maybe it’s the “hitting me at the right time” thing I so often do. There’s a world-weariness that plays delicately, not bearing down hard – and maybe that might not work in his favor, or maybe it will, because there would be the right time when you get hit with it. Also, I have to say I’m including Ben Howard here because I know someone who wants to see him live here badly. I thought British folk singers had a dedicated enough following to compel organizers to bring him here?
Just when you’re all bathed in the so-called feels, things take a swerve. MØ is next on the list, marking the moment when we get heavy. It’s been an interesting couple of years for the Danish singer otherwise known as Karen Marie Ørsted: after successful collaborations with Iggy Azalea and Major Lazer, she’s priming herself for the release of her second album. I am, again, mostly new to MØ, only really drowning after “Kamikaze” became an earworm, but I think she makes for a good transition: there’s something about European electropop sensibilities that doesn’t scream homogenous, that oddly translates well to a more intimate setting, even if all we can do is jump.
Then, Foals. These guys are a no-brainer on my festival stage, because there are a lot of people who want to see them here in Manila. Remember the scramble when Wanderland and GoodVybes began promoting their line-ups? “Do they have Foals? Please tell me they have Foals!” One of the biggest indie rock (whatever indie rock means nowadays) bands in the world today, and nobody is bringing them to Manila? How can the cool kids assert their supremacy? Okay, that’s enough. Foals had a non-descript start but surprisingly evolved into this arena-friendly rock act. They take the usuals of their preferred genre and pass it through an intensely clubby sieve. It’s just so… strong. It grinds and keeps going, and the results are, well, interesting. Too bad the band announced they’ll go on break before working on their next album… but I hope they do have Manila in their sights. If only for the clamor to die down.
Finally, an admission: the Weeknd is a last-minute inclusion. (In a stage filled with last-minute inclusions, that says something.) I only really thought of him after the Grammys; I’ve heard his later songs, – inevitably, considering they were the bigger ones – but I am not familiar at all with his earlier stuff. But what I have heard, I like: he’s leading that flavor of R&B that’s, well, not annoying. I say this as a 90s kid growing up with radio stations that only really believed in bumping and grinding, and arguably still do. “Can’t Feel My Face” is a bumping and grinding song, you can say. But it’s not annoying. It takes what we know about R&B and passes it through an intensely clubby sieve. Yeah, I used that for Foals earlier, but you get the idea. I think it’s perfect for my stage.