• A trip to Wanderland

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    Despite searing heat, thousands of music fans attended the inaugural Wanderland Music Festival held at the brand new Globe Circuit Events Grounds in Makati City. Local and international artists provided near non-stop entertainment for over 12 hours, and after the amps fell silent at a little past 1 a.m. Sunday morning, it seemed like Manila’s attempt at a proper indie music festival was a smashing success.

    Patterned after popular music festivals like California’s Coachella, Australia and Singapore’s Laneway, the UK’s Parklife and Japan’s Summersonic, Wanderland attracted music-loving audiences whose tastes lay somewhere between the mainstream and the obscure. Popular electronic act Taken By Cars kicked things off at a few minutes past 1 p.m., two hours after gates opened.

    Audience members braved the blazing midday sun as the Pinoy bands filled the venue with their tunes. Pulso, She’s Only Sixteen and Yolanda Moon are up-and-coming acts who all expressed gratitude at being given the chance to share the stage with the bigger names in the lineup.

    Colour Coding was the first international act to play. Many in the crowd were unfamiliar with the Australian duo, but they made their appreciation for their music felt especially after they sang their modest hit, “Perfect.”

    They were followed by Avalanche City, initially a solo project of New Zealander Dave Baxter and now a band that plays a delightful hybrid of indie and folk music. Audiences started singing along to the chorus of the single “Love, Love, Love,” which visibly delighted the bearded crooner.

    Up next was Tully On Tully, an Australian group fronted by Natalie Foster. By then though, just as the sun was setting, it was clear many in the audience were starting to feel the effects of fatigue. The next band however, shook things up again.

    Local music darlings Up Dharma Down obviously had a multitude of fans in the crowd as they played a set that consisted mostly of tracks from their last two albums, Bipolar and Capacities. It was clear that Up Dharma Down signaled a turn in Wanderland that the night’s big guns had begun.

    Nada Surf were up next. First rising to prominence in the early 90s, the band fronted by Matthew Caws had fans in the audience that skewed a bit older, but everyone, particularly those who refused to give up their space near the stage gave them some love. They played a mix of songs from half a dozen studio albums through the years, but the crowd’s voices swelled when they did the last three songs, “Inside of Love,” “Popular,” and the big finale, “Always Love.”

    Utah-based quartet Neon Trees was the penultimate act and they came out rocking with the song “Moving In The Dark.” Vocalist Tyler Glenn wore a bright orange jacket, which he later took off revealing a skinny frame in a flimsy white shirt that was soon soaked in sweat.

    There was something Freddy Mercury-ish about his whole onstage persona as he crisscrossed the stage relentlessly and sang his heart out. At one point he threw his shoes out to the audience and, later on, even threw himself in a crazy crowdsurfing bit that probably caused a near heart attack for security.

    It was utter pandemonium when they performed their breakout hit, “Animal,” with people jumping up and down throughout the song. “Never let any a**h*** tell you you’re not good enough,” he told the crowd, which garnered wild cheers. It was the cue to their finale, “Everybody Talks,” the first single off their sophomore album. Neon Trees’ performance would turn out to be the highlight of the whole festival.

    The Temper Trap was billed as the headlining act, but they had their work cut out for them following the momentum built up by the previous band. Vocalist Dougie Mandagi displayed stellar vocals backed up by lush instrumentation and dramatic lighting. At one point, the band stopped mid-song because of a technical glitch involving the bass guitar, but resumed soon after the issue was resolved.

    It was past midnight when they started playing “Sweet Disposition,” a global hit for the Australian indie rock group. Almost everyone had whipped out their cameras and phones, pointed it straight at the stage and set it to “record.” There was such a palpable sense of kinship and camaraderie it was a little hard to see it all end, even after an explosion of confetti rained down on the crowd.

    Notwithstanding a few issues with the sound system, insanely high mark-ups on the food and drinks available inside and ridiculous traffic getting out of the venue, Wanderland 2013 was a triumph for fledgling events company Karpos Multimedia.

    On the way out, the announcer already stoked excitement when she said, “See you at Wanderland 2014.” Now that’s something to look forward to.

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