Undaunted by the grumbling sky, 3,200 people attended this celebration of independent live music with comers arriving as early as 7.30pm to catch the acts.
The vibe was electric with a fanfare of praise for homegrown Singapore acts. Having witnessed the phenomenal support that FLOW has received, I found myself having to chew on the doubt cast over live music events in general in the previous issue.
On arrival, I must say that the security was absolutely anal. Three checkpoints? This is probably an inadvertent result of the mixed age policy (and subsequent licensing), no few indie kids were bemoaning the 'no smoking and no alcohol' policy in the main arena and Smoove - but they'll just have to wait till their balls drop.
There were reports of amusing incidents like the headlining act Divine 9 from Australia being forced to produce their I.D although most of the front door staff (and a significant portion of the queue) recognised their costumes and front man Shane Ross's Prodigy-esque red and white spiked hair. Allegedly, Shin, Miss Earth Singapore 2006, the co-host of the main room was denied entry to Pure because of her missing wristband and I was stopped from bringing a glass of water served to me at the Balcony bar into 54.
It was Tight alright. Tighter than Tien's opening set with bassist Nicholas Lee giving the cheering audience snide looks after his recent "men we love" nomination from Nu You. The number of panties flung onto the stage only reinforced this fact- one even hit the mic stand and hung there. Their closing number "Perfect Morning" was a poetically justified love song; "that's when he drove by the guy that made her cry..." I bet no few fans were won in that performance alone.
There was a short performance by the iLLers with beatboxing, breakdancing and 'Krumping' amidst the cheorography done on two platforms at the start of the night. I was rather taken aback by the brutal, elemental nature of this form of dance, which is yet largely undiscovered in Singapore hip-hop.
Participants 'jerk' their motions in rhythmic motions much like a restrained war dance. In a controversial move, iLLer's top mover "Hidden" a.k.a Wilson Ho Haven gave a signal and the dancers ripped their shirts off (yes, even the girls!) in frenzy. Thankfully, there was an underlayer which ensured compliance with the 16+ licensing.
Speaking of controversial, one of the most controversial happenings in the local live music scene this year happened live on stage at Flow, with the much-celebrated Singapore Idol finalist Daphne Khoo leaving West Grand Boulevard as their singer.
The band had enjoyed considerable acclaim in the scene whilst being managed by independent label Funkie Monkies music under the helm of Chinese songwriter and producer Eric Ng, although their appearance on the media radar post Rock for Good (Dec 2005) was largely boosted by their new frontgirl's Idol status. Daphne cried, "It has been a wonderful journey!" as fans screamed in unison when Brian (the former front man) reassumed his mantle... a total surprise. He sang one of their iconic songs, "Now we will", melding old and new fans with his winning voice (and looks)
Concave Scream and Plain Sunset built up a huge amount of momentum with their straight out Rock ballads. Concave Scream's "Rewire" hit me as a breakthrough number which is irritating considering that they are not being given as much recognition as they should for their contribution to local music in general. Divine 9's set was a fist-in-the-air riot; an electronic / Rock hybrid much reminiscent of early 90s Prodigy and/or Atari Teenage Riot with a dash of Metallica.
The crowd that 'grooved along' (because there's no shoegazing in this country) after the end of Plain Sunset started bouncing with fury as they belted out singles "Senseless missionary" and "Plutonium". This only got crazier when a cover of Prodigy's "Breathe" was played.
It's a hard image to get out of one's head - the 2-meter tall front man Shane, the gimp suited Keyboardist Saito or the insane shredding from Gibson sponsored guitarist Leigh Siragusa. Reports from the promoter's indicated that Divine9's entire case of CDs was stolen from the band room after their set in which a few CDs were tossed into the crowd. High demand, you say?
A few peeps in the smaller arenas yielded tremendous performances by artists such as A Vacant Affair which had a raw emo / rock edge as well as the curiously sequenced metal by Feizonik. Ivy's Vendetta had a interestingly foreign feel to their music, punctuated by technical drummer Pio, Flybar also had incredibly addictive pop rock songs such as "Lazy girl" and "Beautiful killer" that inspired a singalong session with their audience.
I particularly enjoyed DJ Vortex's liquid Drum and Bass set in 54 while enjoying a short smoke break. Then, it was back to more indie room madness with Syawla Evol's 6 piece funk rock, Stentorian and their "jazzical hiphop" sound (terrific technical playing by Keyboardist Samuel Gabriel) and Project Ultrasound's rap-rock antiestablishment tunes. Although the event was mostly a thrill there was a few disappointing acts such as Seraph's Japanese Rock set that failed to captivate the shrinking crowd before them.
The band's Chinese originals were scarcely memorable with the bassist and guitarist fighting to keep their music on track. Paul Twohill's hosting was tastelessly adlibbed, probably a far cry from the script... although he undeservedly got crowd surfed once in the night. DJ Koflow did not battle Ministry's Rattle as anticipated, for it seemed the scratch master did not bring the right records into the warzone... he played a party set.
All in all, the bands as well as the fans got what they wanted - a huge local music buffet, like the one with free drinks at the secret after party revealed to be at Fluid Bar. It was a real feast to sink my teeth into a truly Singaporean music smorgasbord. One can only hope for seconds. www.flow.com.sg for more information.