Concert recap: Wanderland makes a grand comeback

Joko Magalong-De Veyra

Posted at Mar 10 2023 05:01 PM | Updated as of Mar 11 2023 10:20 AM

ALABANG -- Everybody loves a great comeback. After years of live entertainment drought, everyone was pumped to welcome back the Wanderland Music and Arts Festival again, as (hopefully) an annual part of our lives. 

A lot of activities for festival goers include games which included basketball, mini golf, and a football game, among others. Jeeves de Veyra
A lot of activities for festival goers include games which included basketball, mini golf, and a football game, among others. Jeeves de Veyra

Held once again at the Filinvest Festival Grounds last March 4 and 5, the festival returned to form with live art aplenty, fun and interactive booths from sponsors, an awesome spread of dining options (that included various purveyors from the south, Crimson Hotel, the Moment Group, Shake Shack, free water from Klean Canteen, cocktails by Kalel Demetrio, and awesome Funky Quarters from La Union), and what all of us came for — a stacked line-up of local and foreign artists. 

 This year’s featured live art artists were Alaga, Amiel Rivera, Faith De Leos and Wika Nadera. Jeeves de Veyra
This year’s featured live art artists were Alaga, Amiel Rivera, Faith De Leos and Wika Nadera. Jeeves de Veyra

Having attended all the Wanderland festivals since the first one, this one felt extra special. The last scheduled Wanderland was supposed to happen just before the first lockdown, and so walking the grounds this year felt both familiar and strange. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in talking about the last festival like it only happened last year and not two years ago, and reveling in the wonderful freedom of shouting out lyrics, pumping your hands in the air, or smiling upon hearing the requisite, “Mabuhay!’ and “Mahal ko kayo!” by foreign artists. 

I did miss seeing more local talent this year, but I’m always in awe at the young OPM acts featured in Wanderland (Flu is a new favorite). Was I alone in feeling a sense of pride when Carraba said that Rico Blanco was his new favorite band? I hope not, because "My Universe" (and all his other songs) will always be *chefs kiss* anywhere in the world. 

Asian talent whether from Asia or the Americas/Europe was also a treat (I really enjoyed the sets of (((O))) and No Rome). There were also more Korean artists in this year’s festival (even discounting a late-minute force majeure cancellation, which I believe the festival handled well), and I think that’s just right, since the K-wave is going strong in our country. 

Headliner Carly Rae Jepsen (my seatmates called her Tita Carly, a compliment) was a fireball of cuteness and awesome singing chops, while Phoenix was, as always, one of my favorite bands in the world for a myriad of reasons, including the band performing my favorite song ("Long Distance Call") and Thomas Mars crowd-surfing in a festival (!!!) Yes, it was as amazing as you can imagine. 

Phoenix's Thomas Mars waves to the crowd. Jeeves de Veyra
Phoenix's Thomas Mars waves to the crowd. Jeeves de Veyra

One of the more organized and laid back Wanderland festivals I’ve attended, there was ample space to move despite the crowds, and the weather cooperated, giving attendees cool breezes all throughout the two days. 

I must also mention that whoever said ‘we should have bleachers in the SVIP section’ was a genius, as I enjoyed myself 10x more because of those bleachers and makes that ticket so very worthwhile, besides the obvious perks of an elevated platform and airconditioned loos.

The best way to sum up Wanderland The Comeback comes from Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carraba when he said, “It’s so good that live shows are back.” 


See you next year at the Wanderland Music and Arts Festival 2024 happening on March 9-10, 2024! 

 DAY 1 

1. The Sundown

It’s always tough to be the first act to perform on the Wanderland stage, especially for an edition that is aptly named "The Comeback.” It was truly a comeback of sorts, although it is the first time for Cebu-based band The Sundown to play at the music festival. Winners of the Wanderband Battle back in 2020, their debut was postponed for two years but they more than made up for it. They got the pretty good-sized early birds singing along to some of their songs like "Don’t Stop," "Come Home To Me," "Last Dance," and of course, crowd-favorite "UwU." They even played their newest single "Car Keys" live for the first time. -- Ida Torres

2. Leo Wang

Taiwanese singer-rapper Leo Wang got to play on the Globe stage first in his Wanderland debut as well. The music fest has done a good job of bringing Asian acts to the ears and eyes of Filipinos and this one in particular had the early crowd bobbing their heads and dancing in the afternoon sun. He also brought out special guest Chunyan and even if people couldn’t sing along, you could see they were having a good time (if hip-hop and/or good music is their cup of tea). -- Ida Torres

3. Blaster

It wasn’t Blaster Silonga’s first time on the Wanderland stage as his band IV of Spades captured festival-goers’ hearts back in 2018. A lot has happened since then (for the band and for us, in general) but now he’s back with his other band, The Celestial Klowns. With his anime and David Bowie-esque persona, he seemed to enjoy playing to the growing crowd and the crowd loved them back. They even flashed their line-up on the screen, in case you wanted to keep up. He almost got me up and dancing (except we were comfy enough in our bleacher seats) with "Disko Forever," a song that would fit in right with both an '80s Filipino movie and TikTok dance challenges. --Ida Torres

4. Ylona Garcia 

Fil-Australian singer (and "Pinoy Big Brother" alumna) Ylona Garcia seemed pretty chill and casual during her set, and this vibe carried on through her music and to the crowd. There was even a brownie break in the middle. This doesn’t mean the music wasn’t awesome of course as she played her popular songs like "Entertain Me" (the soundtrack to the first Filipino character Neon in the videogame Valorant) and "All That." -- Ida Torres

5. Men I Trust

The “sunset” band at any music festival is always a special slot that combines amazing music and the aesthetics of the setting sun. For Day 1 of Wanderland, this went to Canadian band Men I Trust. They got the crowd swaying to their electropop music and singing along to songs like "Ring of Past," "Numb," and "Billie Toppy." And when they played viral hit "Show Me How," it was the perfect background to the fading dusk as the night settled in. -- Ida Torres

6. Balming Tiger

After the laidback set of Ylona and Men I Trust, Korean group Balming Tiger got the crowd hyped for their own brand of hip-hop. They’re mostly known to the general public for their collaboration with BTS superstar RM in their song "Sexy Nukum." But given that Korean hip-hop is a growing niche genre for Pinoy music fans, they have a pretty good following and both fans and new listeners had fun with their performance. It was pretty cute the way they were doing choreography even though they knew they weren’t dancers at all. But when it comes to the actual music, this group were definitely experts. -- Ida Torres

7. Raveena

Dreamy. A shot of a hanging bouquet of flowers coupled with a sultry entrance set the tone for Raveena’s set which was filled with her danceable slow tunes like "Honey," "Tweety," "Bloom," "If Only" and "Headaches," among others. Her newer tunes that featured flourishes from her Indian roots made her extra memorable for me like "Secret" and her cover of "Dum Maro Dum." -- Joko Magalong-De Veyra

8. No Rome

I’ve been under a rock because I didn’t know about No Rome before Wanderland 2023. I did hear he was great though, and he didn’t disappoint. He swaggered his way into my playlist with his singalong performances of the extremely boppable "Narcissist," the rollercoaster that is "1:45 AM," and the nostalgic trip of being "Seventeen." -- Joko Magalong-De Veyra 

9. (((O)))

(((O))). Jeeves de Veyra 
(((O))). Jeeves de Veyra 

I had to google her real name. June Marieezy or (((O))) gave one of the most unique sets ever in a Wanderland Festival. It was a wild ride of performance art, backup dancers (she called them Diwatas), danceable tunes, and haunting songs. Her set flew by so fast! -- Joko Magalong-De Veyra
10. Sunset Rollercoaster

Sunset Rollercoaster. Jeeves de Veyra
Sunset Rollercoaster. Jeeves de Veyra

Taiwan’s Sunset Rollercoaster feels like a warm hug. With the breezy weather, it was a special moment to listen to "My Jinji," while looking at the Alabang sky. They were pied pipers of funk and soul. You could see the throng in front of the stage moving from side to side even from far away. Who can’t help but groove to "Greedy" and "I Know I Love You," among others? -- Joko Magalong-De Veyra

11. Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen. Jeeves de Veyra
Carly Rae Jepsen. Jeeves de Veyra

Depending on your age group, Carly Rae Jepsen is Mama Carly, Tita Carly, the “priest” in the church of Carly, or simply The Queen of Everything. Casual fans of course know her from "Call Me Maybe" and "I Really Like You" but to the “churchgoers” of her cult, they knew every song and every lyric and at Wanderland, they proved their membership. She got us dancing and shouting and singing along to every song. And when she closed her set with "Cut To The Feeling" (with matching sword and confetti), people didn’t want the party to end. --  Ida Torres


1. August Wahh

August Wahh may be a relative newcomer to most ears but she has actually opened for foreign acts like Daniel Caesar and Erykah Badu during their Manila concerts. Backed up by a great band that includes Wanderland fave CRWN, the singer-songwriter got Day 2 off to a great start (despite issues with Korean K-pop star Bobby not being able to perform at the last minute). It’s always a challenge to be the first one to perform even on a second day, but she was in her element and revving up the energy for a great night ahead. --  Ida Torres

2. The Ridleys

For Wanderland “veterans” like me, seeing acts getting younger and younger is a mixed bag. I mean, sure, we feel old when we see these kids playing but it also feels good to see that the future of music in the Philippines is in great musical hands. The Ridleys is one such young band that already has a growing following and their fans singing along to songs like "Aphrodite," "Running Home," and "Icarus." Their heartfelt lyrics and their super musicality are just some of the reasons why pop rock bands like them ensure that OPM is definitely alive and kicking. --  Ida Torres 

3. Flu

Wanderland is always a great space to listen to artists you may have not known about but know that you will listen to them regularly afterwards. Funk band Flu is the first band signed to Karpos’ Funky Records and they showed us why. Those who first watched them at a Karpos Live event back in 2019 (before the world went crazy) now got the chance to show their friends just why these relative youngsters are worth the listen and the watch. When they played "Fine Day," the crowd went wild and understood why they were the perfect sunset band for Day 2. -- Ida Torres

4. George

They say Pinoys love all things Korean and there’s good reason for it as most of their pop culture exports are pretty excellent. R&B/hip-hop singer George is proof of that and with his Wanderland debut (he was supposed to play in the cancelled 2020 edition), his fans finally got to experience the smooth grooves and beats of his music. He even played an unreleased song called "Forever" to the delight of those who went to the festival specifically for him. -- Ida Torres

5. Stephen Day

Stephen Day. Jeeves de Veyra
Stephen Day. Jeeves de Veyra

Some people are just blessed with beautiful voices, and Stephen Day undoubtedly and deservedly stands out for his. "On Top of the World" is an earworm, "All this Space" is such a genre-bending trip, and "Hey Lady" is a country song, that’s something new to Wanderland. Whether you knew of him before this, you’ve heard his songs on TikTok, for sure. --Joko Magalong-De Veyra

6. HYBS 

HYBS. Jeeves de Veyra
HYBS. Jeeves de Veyra

How can you describe HYBS? This Thai duo sounds so much older than they should be with songs that have beautiful instrumentation and romantic contemporary lyrics (baby, you were born as a killer…). Their set stayed energetic despite having really laid-back songs like "Prettiest to Me," "Ride," and "Runaway," to name some — thanks to phenomenal audience interaction. -- Joko Magalong-De Veyra

7. Rico Blanco 

 Rico Blanco. Jeeves de Veyra
Rico Blanco. Jeeves de Veyra

Rico Blanco rocked the Wanderland stage and proved what every music-loving Filipino knows — that OPM is world-class. Blanco is part of my generation’s heavy weights, and I’m glad that he’s getting his time in the spotlight for new audiences to enjoy. Clad in a wild purple number (he said he was thankful for blustery weather), he performed "214," "Elesi," "Balisong (Transformed)," "Awit ng Kabataan," "Your Universe," to name some. And when he said, “you know the words” in "Umaaraw, Umuulan," that was definite yes and I sang my heart out. One of my favorite bits of Wanderland ever. -- <tagline, itals> Joko Magalong-De Veyra

8. FKJ 

FKJ. Jeeves de Veyra
FKJ. Jeeves de Veyra

French Kiwi Juice is no stranger to the Philippines. What’s not to love about his set? His intro not only showed everyone what live remixing is all about, but also flexed his musical prowess with multiple instruments. Highlights of his set include "Vibin’ Out" (performed with his wife, (((O)))), "Ylang Ylang" (which will always make me think of French movies and may possibly induce some crying), and of course, the always pleasing, "Tadow." --  Joko Magalong-De Veyra

9. Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard Confessional. Jeeves de Veyra
Dashboard Confessional. Jeeves de Veyra

I know people who went to Wanderland just to experience singing "Vindicated" out loud. Were you one of them? While it’s not their first time in the Philippines, who can resist singing your heart out to "Hands Down," "Stolen," and "Screaming Infidelities," among others. The band was rocking (and flying), Chris Carraba’s vocals sound as wonderfully emotive as ever, the crowd was screaming their hearts out (but still in tune), and yes, emo lives forever. --Joko Magalong-De Veyra

10. Phoenix

 Phoenix. Jeeves de Veyra
Phoenix. Jeeves de Veyra

I’ve been blessed to write about all of Phoenix’s shows in the Philippines, (I also interviewed Christian Mazzalai over the phone years ago) and one thing has stayed the same. They are an unforgettable force live and it doesn’t matter how many times I hear "1901," "Lisztomania," "Girlfriend," "Lasso," "Trying to Be Cool," "If I Ever Feel Better," "Love Like A Sunset," or "Entertainment" — every time is better than before, especially peppered with their new classic songs like "Tonight" and "Alpha Zuli." Some memorable things about this show: Thomas Mars cut the performance of "Winter Solstice" short and quickly moved on to play my favorite song, "Long Distance Call," and Mars still crowd-surfed longer than ever before. --  Joko Magalong-De Veyra