Concert recap: Biggest Wanderland festival so far

Joko Magalong-De Veyra and Ida Torres

Posted at Mar 18 2019 09:28 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2019 12:35 PM

Tighter security this time around. Jeeves De Veyra

MANILA -- One can get sentimental thinking about the seven years of Wanderland, the trailblazing music and art festival in the Philippines, as it’s been a crazy journey filled with good indie music, wonderful art, and a lot of Instagram posts along the way. 

After every successful year, it’s always a question of ‘what’s next?’ for Wanderland. 

For Wanderland Magic, this year’s iteration held last March 9-10 at the Filinvest Event Grounds, the answer was raising the stakes by growing the festival into a two-day affair. It was a daunting task, wonderfully accomplished though with two fun filled days of magical, digital, and musical activities.

Magical activities abounded with illusionists roaming around the festival grounds astounding wanderers with their awe-inspiring tricks, fortune telling booths, and Instagrammable installations like a giant house of cards on hand for some IG action. 

Festival sponsors also stepped it up a notch with booths filled with magic and enchantments. (Wanderers also had the chance to win tickets to next year’s Wanderland by fulfilling a mission by going to all the booths of the sponsors, as well.) 

Globe had a top-hat shaped Magic House, where several live magic shows were held during the day. During the interim, guests could also enjoy digital projections onto its walls, akin to the Team Lab projections in Japan. Grab, meanwhile, had an immersive installation that had wanderers stand in position while lighted kinetic balls moved up and down with music around them. 

Globe's Magic House. Jeeves De Veyra
Grab's illusion lounge. Jeeves De Veyra

For the staple festival activities, the live art spotlight received a new arrangement with the artwork displayed in one wall, in contrast to previous festivals where art installations were painted around a cube. This format made it easier for festivalgoers to watch art being made (a tarpaulin ‘mat’ also helped this along), as well as giving easier access to Instagramming activities to many. 

Adjacent to the live art installation was the Art Market, filled again with art finds aplenty from earrings to socks to cute plant life. 

Beside it was a large Wanderland Store tent where exclusive Wanderland Magic merchandise, as well as some of the performer’s merchandise were available for sale. 

Food and drink-wise, Wanderland Magic exceeded expectations this year. This year’s selection for food was inspired, with booths from well-known brands like Potato Corner and the Moment Group (8 Cuts, Mannam, Shawa Mama, etc), as well as pop-ups from far flung places like Mad Monkeys from La Union, to name some. 

What was especially great this year was the involvement of Grab, in which Platinum members could order food from the Grab genies around the fair, and have it delivered to them. No need to line up! 

Live art wall. Jeeves De Veyra
Wanderland merchandise store. Jeeves De Veyra

Parched? Kleen Kanteen provided water stations to anyone with their own tumbler, and if you didn’t bring a tumbler, you could conveniently buy soda or iced tea which came with a Wanderland tumbler that you could use for any refill. 

Then, there was the music. This year had a well-rounded list of performers with different genres and styles aptly represented. While the two headliners were prominently in the English alternative rock genre, jazz and R&B lovers who enjoyed last year’s roster surely found gems in acts like Masego, Alina Baraz, and Jmsn. 

Folk and indie pop provided many fun moments as well, with the likes of Honne, Gabrielle Aplin and Clairo taking the stage. It was also very refreshing to hear Asian acts like Adoy and Charlie Lim, it’s a trend that I’m in full support of, as we need more Asian talent on the Wanderland stage. 

Then there was the local talent. OPM was beautifully represented with styles ranging from jazz to alternative rock. The inclusion of Sandwich was a brilliant move. For me, it gave me the same nostalgic feeling when Wanderland brought back bands like Death Cab for Cutie, and Nada Surf (which has been missing for a few Wanderland years now), and it’s a chance for a new generation of fans to discover Sandwich’s music. 

Wanderland has always flourished by having their finger on the musical pulse of the Filipino youth. With this year’s festival, they took a giant leap forward, and it’s exciting to imagine what’s next. 

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back to the long magic-filled days of Wanderland 2019. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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A post shared by Jeeves De Veyra (@venividiburp) on

DAY 1

1. Intertwined

One of the highlights of Wanderland every year is the Wanderbattle where up and coming and unsigned bands get to battle it out. This year’s winner was Cebu-based rock outfit Intertwined and their hometown fans were truly happy that Manila finally got a taste of their funky brand of music. However, they also get the difficult task of being the first band to play under the scorching afternoon sun. Fortunately, the 12-piece band was up to the challenge and Intertwined's kind of music can make you get up and dance and be all sweaty. Early Wanderers did just that. Words and Picture by Ida Torres

DAY 1

2. Autotelic

In the middle of their set, Autotelic frontman Josh Villena shared that they actually joined Wanderbattle a couple of years ago and didn’t win. Co-vocalist and keyboardist Kai Honasan said that performing at Wanderland this year is the best ending to that story. And it really is. This indie-alternative rock band is part of the recent “renaissance” of Pinoy rock bands and seeing how people responded to their hits like "Takipsilim" and "Laro," it’s easy to understand why they’re one of the darlings right now. Ida Torres

DAY 1

3. Reese Lansangan

Speaking of darlings, Reese (like the chocolate) Lansangan (like the street) also heralded the female-singer-songwriter-with-a-unique-voice trend (think Moira dela Torre, Clara Benin, etc.) a few years back and now she’s back on the Wanderland stage. The crowd’s energy level wasn’t as high but that’s more due to her kind of music than to her actual performance. Still, she got everyone standing and swaying and singing along (well, the parts that are for sing-along at least) to hits like "Grammar Nazi" and "Islands." Musically, listening to Reese is always a treat not to mention that her backing band is made up of the likes of Josh Villena (who had to rush from the other stage) and Gabba Santiago of Tom’s Story. Ida Torres

DAY 1

4. Charlie Lim

Charlie Lim from Singapore may not be a household name (just yet) but he does have a small following among indie lovers who go beyond the local scene or the American/European scene. His whole backing band looks like a bunch of math-loving geeks but once they started playing and Charlie started crooning his jazzy R&B songs, you’ll wonder why it’s the first time you’ve heard of him. This is actually his third time playing in Manila and we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last. Those who were hearing him for the first time slowly made their way to the Globe stage, mesmerized by both his voice and the band’s proficiency. Mark our words, he’ll be back (next artist in Karpos Live maybe?). Ida Torres

DAY 1

5. Unique

What a difference a year makes. Last year the crowd was going wild for IV of Spades as they got Wanderland dancing to their, errr, unique brand of '70s and '80s-tinged rock. A few months later frontman Unique left the band and started his own solo career which has been met with praise by true-blue fans but also got mixed reactions from the band’s fans. Well, life goes on and this time it was Unique that took to the main stage. Compared to last year’s performance with IVOS, his music is a little more subdued so you couldn’t expect the same energy from the crowd. But he still got people singing along, although they still reserved the loudest singing when he sang the IVOS hit Mundo. Instagram.com/wanderlandfest

DAY 1

6. Joan

"Oh, hey, it’s the long-lost Hanson brother." "Wait, are they playing music from the '90s?" "Oooohh, they sound like Lany!" These are thoughts that will probably go through your head if it’s the first time you see and listen to Joan. The two-piece pop rock band can’t help but be compared to that other extremely popular band that Karpos keep bringing back to Manila. But their music is pretty danceable and singable all on their own, even if you actually don’t know any of their songs. They’ve had a couple of hits already, with "Take Me On" and "Love Somebody Like You," but they have yet to hit their stride. But they have a lot of possible hits in their arsenal and both can be quite charming on and off the stage (they watched the rest of Wanderland with the crowd and took pictures and talked to fans!) so expect them to get bigger in the next few years. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 1

7. Gabrielle Aplin

Brit Gabrielle Alpin came into the stage showered with love by the Wanderland crowd. Early evening made for easy listening to her tunes – folk interspersed with synth, piano, and/or hard guitars. Her voice reminds one of the quality of Sarah Maclachlan’s, able to reach high notes with precision and emotion. Favorites in her set include "Miss You," "Panic Chord," "Please Don’t Say You Love Me," and her beautiful performance of "Waking Up Slow." Alpin was all smiles during her set, even donning an Elton john-inspired sparkly jacket at the end of her set, to the delight of the audience. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 1

8. SG Lewis

Slowing things down was SG Lewis. In his set, the multi-instrumentalist and producer had the crowd vibing to his electro lounge sound, especially in songs like "No Less" and Yours." Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 1

9. Honne

Honne returns confident and assured in their sophomore performance in Wanderland (and their third in the country). It was a sing-along party, as the wanderers sang along to almost all of their songs, including crowd favorites "Good Together," "Crying Over You," and "Location Unknown."

Notable parts of their set included their performance of "Woman," prefaced with a dedication of the song to International Women’s Day. There were also multiple shoutouts to the Philippines and their Filipino fans, with vocalist Andrew Clutterbuck exclaiming, “We absolutely love Manila! We love the Philippines! We can’t say away for long!”

Their set ended with a thankful rendition of their hit song, "Day 1," with the crowd shouting lyrics with gusto to the loved-up band. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 1

10. JMSN

Bluesy tunes peppered with synths described most of JMSN’s set. His vocal prowess, including occasional vocal pyrotechnics, had the audience cheering, especially in songs like "Power," "So Badly," and his rousing finale, "Cruel Intentions." Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 1

11. Two Door Cinema Club

Announcing their participation to the festival with a shoutout in their Instagram about unfinished business in the Philippines last year, Two Door Cinema Club sauntered onto the Wanderland stage with swag in spades. Led by vocalist Alex Trimble, their showmanship was undeniable with Trimble giving his all in their danceable songs like "Undercover Martyn," "Bad Decisions," and "Changing of the Seasons," among others.

Two Door Cinema Club also added a layer of polish to their performance by utilizing the lights to their full advantage, supplementing their performance with a frenetic light show matching the driving beats of songs like "Are We Ready," "Do You Want It All," and "Something Good Can Work," to name some.

Addressing the crowd, Trimble expressed their gratitude, saying, “We’re so lucky, it’s because of people like you that we get to do what we love doing, [and] I hope we can come back, but until then, here’s one more Manila,” before ending their set with their song, "Sun."

And so, with Trimble framed in smoke, hunched down on one knee, crooning into a microphone about sending love to someone far away, we said a poignant adieu to day one of Wanderland 2019. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

1. Nathan & Mercury

The runners-up in the Wanderbattle had the challenge of opening the first-ever second day of Wanderland. The early birds were fewer this time around and so the band had to use their funky, danceable brand of jazz to get people pumped up for the rest of the afternoon and evening. They looked like they were having a lot of fun and that energy became contagious. They’re still a relative newcomer to the music scene and so people may not know their songs yet by heart but they did dance and swayed along to the music. It’s actually hard not to get up and dance when you start hearing them play. Instagram.com/wanderlandfest

DAY 2

2. Dayaw

Wanderers were treated to a fusion of world beat, jazz, and rock when Dayaw took to the Globe stage. If the previous band made you dance, then this one made you want to dance even more wildly, with their blend of indigenous and modern. It looked like the first time for some of the younger ones to hear this kind of music and based on their reaction, it may be something that they will be looking for in the next few Wanderlands. The members of Dayaw are actually from various other world music groups so you could say it’s a super group of sorts in that genre. Ida Torres

DAY 2

3. Clara Benin

Aside from the first two bands (and The Kooks later on), the theme of the second day of Wanderland seem to be more of the chill vibe. Clara Benin is more of the sit-down-and-soak-up-the-sun-and-the-music kind of artist. And if you like that kind of music, then her set was a treat for you. It also gave the people the opportunity to sit back and relax and absorb the energy of Wanderland. As always, Benin’s songs made people close their eyes, lovers hold hands and even embrace, and for those who can, sing along to her ethereal music. Ida Torres

DAY 2

4. Adoy

It’s the first time that Karpos brought a Korean artist to the Wanderland stage and Adoy was the perfect band to let people know that Korean music is more than just K-pop. Despite the fact that they experienced several technical difficulties (the first time, but not the last, for this year’s Wanderland) during their set and that their audience interaction was limited due to language barriers, it was a pretty good debut for the self-proclaimed commercial indie band. They made up for the issues with great shoegazing music that probably made people google for their songs and for other possibly good Korean indie bands as well. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

5. Mac Ayres

Mac Ayres started his set with introducing himself and his band before launching into a performance full of soul, R&B, and jazz. In stripped shorts, cap, and ankle high socks, Ayres surprised with his silky-smooth singing, and the delicious rhythms of his music. Sunset on Day 2 came sexy and sweet thanks to the singer, with sing-along songs like "Easy" and "Slow Down." Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

6. Sandwich

Rocking out is what Sandwich does best, and the group led by vocalist Raymond Marasigan didn’t disappoint with its performance. A welcome rock punch to an otherwise mostly jazz- and R&B-filled night, fans had a great time singing along (and dancing) to songs from their extensive repertoire like "Selos," "Procrastinator," and "Manila," to name some.

It was a set filled with moments, as Marasigan peppered their performances with iconic comments like “We’ve been watching festivals since we were kids. Now, our kids are here” to “I miss the band scene” -- all of which had the crowd cheering at every turn. There was also a touching moment where they paid tribute to OPM greats Pepe Smith and Rico J. Puno before launching into "Betamax," a song about the good old days of OPM.

The set ended with a wild rock/dance frenzy of a performance of "2 Trick Pony," which also involved a dance off between special guests Enzo Hermosa (Cheats) and Eco Del Rio (Chicosci and Autotelic), to the delight of a crowd that chanted “we want more” when it ended. Instagram.com/_joyrodriguez

DAY 2

7. Clairo

It’s always interesting how lo-fi translates live. In Clairo’s case, it was at times polished and at times truly lo-fi, but overall still very laid back. With a performance that included her singing with only an electric guitar, to moments where she had the crowd dancing, Claire Cotrill aka Clairo worked the stage in front of an audience happy to see her.

“I was not expecting this crowd tonight,” exclaimed Clairo in the middle of her set, after a singalong of her lyrics in songs like "Pretty Girl," "Flaming Hot Cheetos," and "4Ever." Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

8. PREP

PREP’s Wanderland performance was a dance-filled affair from start to finish, with a bit of sexy thanks to some saxophone playing especially in their song, "Cheapest Flight." It’s hard to put a finger on what PREP plays. With band members coming from diverse backgrounds, PREP’s sound has elements of '70s funk and soul, and '80s-style city pop disco and synths. Their particular use of synths, for me, in songs like "Futures," or "Who’s Got You Singing Again" is what makes their "retro" music irresistible to this younger generation. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

9. Alina Baraz

Alina Baraz came on stage unapologetically sexy. And while her performance was mired with technical difficulties, the songstress with her two-man band kept the show flowing with just keyboards, drums, and her voice, lending an unplugged feel to her performance — raw and honest. With her songs ranging from the more electronica tracks like "Pretty Thoughts" and "Fantasy," to songs like "High," and "Floating" that had a more R&B bent, Baraz’s set was a showcase of her unique vocals. Ending her set on a high note, she sang her most popular song, Electric sans any technical difficulties, to an appreciative audience. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

10. Masego

It was late Sunday night and thoughts of the impending Monday would have clouded our enjoyment, if not for Masego. With a performance that won you over with his on-stage joie de vivre, he was fully committed to the moment. “You’re the best crowd on tour,” Masego shouted to the revved-up crowd.

Coming into and ending his set with a saxophone solo, the audience members lapped up his jazz-infused performances in songs like "Old Age," and "Girls Like Dance," his auditory treat of an improvised looped song, and big festival sing-alongs "Tadow," and "Lady Lady."

Overflowing with charm when he popped out to ask the audience, “Did you want another song?” Masego ended his set with "Navajo," and became a definite highlight to this year’s Wanderland. Jeeves de Veyra

DAY 2

11. The Kooks

Starting things off with the upbeat "Always Where I Need to Be" had the festival-goers dancing to The Kooks from the get-go. It was a great set from their repertoire including older songs like the feel-good "She Moves in Her Own Way," the chanting extravaganza that was "Ooh La," to newer songs from their new EP like the anthemic "All the Time," or the grunge-infused "Pamela."

“We didn’t realize how much love we have in the Philippines,” vocalist Luke Pritchard pronounced after a particularly uninhibited audience sing-along of "Bad Habit."

Since their big debut, the band’s repertoire has steadily reached new heights, especially in experimenting with their sound. While one hardly expected it to make sense when Pritchard asked the crowd, “How about disco?” before launching into their song, "Westside," it did. Their songs varied in style and inspiration, sometimes sounding like the Rolling Stones (who they opened for in 2018), then turning into something cutesy and pop like in "Junk of the Heart," or suddenly loved-up acoustic in "Seaside," all of which made their set feel like a rollercoaster, the good kind, where things never get boring.

Despite the late hour, the festival crowd chanted for an encore, of which the band happily obliged. Their first encore song was "No Pressure," a twangy summery track about being in the moment, which nicely set-up their much-awaited last song.

And so, with Wanderland’s traditional confetti blowing in the air, a crowd singing at the top of their lungs, and a band giving it their all on stage, the last line of "Naïve" was a promise fulfilled.

Wanderland Magic definitely didn’t let us down. Jeeves De Veyra