Everybody remembers their first music festival _ the crowds, the energy, the walls of sound. It's the time of year again when the weather improves and the party people come out to play. In the run up to Christmas, three major festivals are billed in the region drawing big-name acts usually associated with more famous festivals in the West.
Culture One in Bangkok, Urbanscapes in Kuala Lumpur and ZoukOut in Singapore are on the bill as the region's music fans raid their piggy banks to get among it, in what seems like a promising state of affairs for the local scene.
The first leg of the music festival triangle is local favourite Culture One, which is now in its fifth year. Billed as Bangkok's International Outdoor Dance Music Festival, the party actually takes place largely indoors at Bitec on Saturday.
Headliners include 808 State and Dash Berlin as well as Bez and Rowetta from the Happy Mondays, with the full spectrum of electronic music on offer from the 30-plus acts set to perform on the five stages during the 12-hour bill. It's big, dirty and commercial, but an Asian-style one-stop mega-haul of music to cure that electro itch. The venue could easily hold 15,000-20,000 revellers, attracting everyone in the city from wide-eyed high schoolers to hi-sos letting their hair down for the evening.
The weekend after, from Nov 24-25, Kuala Lumpur will play host to Urbanscapes, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year with a schedule spread over two full days. It's billed as an arts festival, bringing together communities and participants from the fields of music, arts, fashion, visual design and more in a city that incubates a creative scene at the grassroots level. The big draw of this year's event is Sigur Ros from Iceland, which is a pretty impressive pull for the organisers who hope to double last year's crowd of around 12,000.
"There's been a lot of excitement over Sigur Ros and the homecoming show of one of Malaysia's hottest talents, Yuna, who has spent a large part of this year breaking it in America," says organiser Adrian Yap. "But beyond music, we've got some really interesting artists doing large-scale art installations that will add a whole new dimension to the festival set-up."
Expect a "colourful, loud, friendly and happy" festival, he says.
Completing the festival triptych will be ZoukOut in Singapore from Dec 7-8. With more dollars floating around the business-centric city, the budget extends to pull a host of big names, this year luring Major Lazer, A-Trak, Above & Beyond, Hardwell and Calvin Harris among others. Music ranges from straight-up house to trance and electro, even hip hop, over the four main stages of the established site. Now in its 12th year, it's a polished and well-organised affair, with prices to match and a no-doubt fashion-conscious crowd in tow, which is expected to tip 30,000. It's "two nights of letting your hair down under the stars, with sand under your feet, surrounded by beautiful people, partying together like there's no tomorrow", says Timothy Chia, head of marketing and events at Zouk. "All this is in line with our club's motto of 'One World, One Music, One Tribe, One Dance'. ZoukOut really has to be experienced in person, words can't do it justice."
While Southeast Asia has been generously granted an unofficial stamp for being a party circuit, it can only truly claim to be so with some decent music festivals in its armoury.
This year's schedule brags some of the best-organised events yet, promising hope for the future of the region and grooming a new generation of festival-thirsty punters.
Hopefully we can see the trend increasing as promoters start to realise the lucrative lure of the Asian markets, which will only continue to grow as revellers get more of a taste for it.
Other notable festivals on the horizon include Big Mountain Music Festival (www.bigmountainmusicfestival.com) in KhaoYai north of Bangkok in December, Singapore St Jerome's Laneway Festival (singapore.lanewayfestival.com.au) slated for January 2013, and Future Music Festival Asia 2013(www.futuremusicfestival.asia) scheduled for March 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.
When: Saturday, 3pm-late
Venue: Bitec, 88 Bang Na-Trat Road Km 1, 02-749-3939, www.bitec.co.th
Tickets: 2,000 baht and 3,000 baht (VIP) pre-sale, or 2,500 baht and 4,000 baht (VIP) at the door; from www.we-booking.com, True Shops, or 02-900-9999
When: Dec 7-8, 9pm-4am and 8pm-8am, respectively
Venue: Siloso Beach, Sentosa Island, Singapore
Tickets: Day 1 S$78 (enter before 10pm), S$98 (at the door); day 2 S$88 (enter before 10pm), S$98 (pre-sale) and S$108 (at the door); both days S$158 (pre-sale)
When: Nov 24-25, 2pm-midnight
Venue: Padang Astaka, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tickets: Sat, RM87; Sat-Sun, RM187 (pre-sale) or RM237
About the author
- Writer: Richard Mcleish