The Rest is Noise ups the ante on local music festivals
Who knew there were two different types of music festivals?
I used to think they were pretty straightforward: you go and catch your favorite artists on an expansive lineup, discover new bands along the way and make sure to stream their stuff afterwards, grab a snack from nearby food concessionaires and just take all the lights and sounds in. Turns out, there’s a commercial festival and a showcase festival––the former being the more prevalent one catered to the audience’s tastes with a lineup of acts you most likely already know (think: Coachella), and the latter serving as a breeding ground for artists and a platform for industry professionals to discover new talent (think: SXSW). All of the Noise 2019 (AOTN) ushered in a whole new format subscribing to the showcase type. With not just a concert but industry talks and a music market to boot, it’s safe to say I’ll have higher expectations for the next festivals I’ll be attending in the future.
We kicked things off early on Saturday morning with music talks at Coro Hotel, just a little walk from Century City Mall. The Rest is Noise (TRIN) invited a panel of tastemakers and industry professionals from around the region to give insight and perspective into their respective music scenes. The talks happened simultaneously, and in the absence of a time-turner we were made to choose which ones to attend. Most of the talks seemed to be catered towards musicians seeking advice on how to make it in the industry, but as a non-musician myself, I gravitated towards Weining Hung’s talk on championing regional acts to a global audience and Camille Castillo’s talk on music journalism in the country.
Weining Hung, founder of Taiwan’s LUCfest and international manager for Phum Viphurit, ADOY and Mellow Fellow, touched on one of the day’s common threads: the internet. A lot of our music consumption these days occurs within the “borderless internet world,” says Weining, what with the prevalence of streaming services. It’s an open space where we can discover artists and where artists and promoters, in turn, get to analyze data and insights from streaming platforms to gauge where their market is.
We also can’t discount the importance of what goes on in real life, though, like going on tour and seeing live shows. Weining recently managed to score Bullet Dumas in this year’s LUCfest. Considering she probably doesn’t understand an ounce of Tagalog, Dumas’ music still managed to leave an impression with the texture and feeling present in his performances.
It just goes to show how music transcends language—that no matter the language, as long as you believe in your work and it shows, you’ll have a better chance at finding someone who might want to take a chance on you, too.
During the culminating panel discussions, Camille Castillo, editorial director of Bandwagon Asia and country manager for the Philippines, would often preface her answers with “from the media side,” lending some perspective to a panel and an audience comprised of mostly musicians. During her solo discussion, Camille shed some light on the state of music journalism in the country and the ways that Bandwagon tries to innovate content creation in the era of clickbait articles. Only a few local publications are focused solely on music these days––Bandwagon being one of them––while the rest generally pool music-related content under the all-encompassing lifestyle umbrella. As a media company, Bandwagon always aims to preserve its integrity, finding the right and sometimes even unconventional angles to tell stories, giving both artists and people behind the scenes (music video directors, songwriters, photographers, even fans themselves, etc.) an avenue to share their experiences.
Most of what was said during the talks and the panel discussion inevitably revolved around the way we consume music nowadays: mostly on the internet, finding songs by happenstance. With a market so saturated, it’s really no wonder that some are still struggling to gain their footing. If you’re a musician in need of advice and reading this, the most important thing the AOTN speakers want you to do is to stay genuine and authentic, and believe in the music you’re making. For a musician, it seems increasingly hard to reconcile this notion of wanting to incite feeling in your audiences while at the same time keeping financial stability and sustainability at the back of your mind. Weining said this in passing but it’s one of the things that really stuck: good music will travel. M1LDL1FE bassist and one of the morning’s panelists David Siow also said that your conviction will come out on stage, and that’s what’s gonna convert hearts.
Onto the much awaited chunk of the day, the first part of the showcase focused on the AOTN Featured Acts who were carefully selected through open applications: Submission, Pikoy, Nights of Rizal and the One Pesos, and Imelda.
I’d never heard of the first two before but both were pleasant surprises, with Submission opening the showcase with dreamy synth-laden electro rock. By this time, it still felt rather unconventional to be starting a concert at 3PM, sun shining way too brightly through the venue’s glass windows. There had to be a metaphor in there somewhere, something about these artists finally getting a taste of the spotlight they deserve.
Self-proclaimed wannabe pop star Pikoy, one of my favorite discoveries from the festival, possessed this wide-eyed wonder and navigated the fine line between edgy and ethereal. Imagine my surprise finding out that my seat mate during one of the talks that morning was the same girl who took the stage in her red tracksuit, chunky platform boots and long bubble pigtails, singing into a small megaphone? I’ve learned that whenever musician/producer Nick Lazaro is involved in a project, it has to be something worth-venturing, and seeing Nick on guitars for Pikoy solidified the notion that she’s off to accomplish greater things.
Another favorite from the afternoon was electronic outfit Nights of Rizal and the One Pesos who openly viewed the festival as a testing ground for new material that hasn’t come out online yet. Imelda closed off the Featured Acts section with a refreshing hard rock set. The transition from the earlier poppy and groovy sets to a hard rock set was a little jarring but certainly not unwelcome, and further proof that The Rest is Noise set out to showcase a vast range of genres to cater to different pockets of the music scene.
Acts from independent record label Offshore Music began to usher in the sunset as Ena Mori, One Click Straight, Apartel, and Cheats took the stage, spliced with sets from The Rest is Noise alums Oh, Flamingo!, Autotelic and She’s Only Sixteen. Most of the night’s performances unfortunately encountered some technical difficulties but, aligned with the message the morning’s panelists wanted to get across, none of the acts wavered. They kept the crowd enthusiastic amidst apologies and flashes of gratitude.
Capping the showcase festivities were the much-anticipated reunion set from Cambio and from the night’s international headliners—Singapore’s M1LDL1FE with their indie pop set, UK’s Delta Sleep (an apparent crowd favorite!) with their electronic-slash-math rock ouvre, and the US’ metal outfit Deafheaven necessitating a moshpit from the sweaty head-banging crowd.
With the success and ambition of this year’s AOTN, we’re sure to be looking forward to the next one as trends within the Southeast Asian music market evolve with time, and as long as musicians keep working towards the things they believe in.
Special Thanks to The Rest is Noise
Words and Photos Beatrice Mata
Art Alexandra Lara