All those joyless souls lamenting the cancellation of Halsey’s set must have eaten their words after the two-day Neon Lights Festival has come to an end. Despite invariably being plagued by wet weather and technical difficulties, the enthusiasm for a weekend of indie music and dancing appears to be at an all-time high.
Neon Lights kicked up quite a bit of controversy a few days before the festival when it was announced that the second-day headliner, Halsey, would no longer be performing due to “unforeseen circumstances” without giving further details. Halsey was also scheduled to perform at Hong Kong’s Clockenflap music festival on 22 November before Neon Lights in Singapore, but Clockenflap music festival was called off due to rising tensions in the city.
Following the news of Halsey’s cancellation, two other acts, DJ Hot Dub Time Machine and indie-rock musician G Flip were announced as the replacement acts. While the announcement saw many leaving apprehensive and negative comments threatening to refund their tickets, many applaud the organisers for handling the situation well.
On its first day, the festival received flak for technical issues that caused long queues and delays when headliners Mumford & Sons and HONNE were scheduled to perform. Although things seemed to get slightly better on the second day of the festival, most of the sets were still delayed for about 30 minutes due to technical issues during the first half of the day, but it certainly did not stop the crowd from keeping their energy going.
Over at the Bandstand, Luke Patterson of Clean Bandit thundered through the hits and a couple of sparky new songs during his DJ/MC set, getting a full house of crowd-goers up on their feet to chart-topping tracks like “Rockabye”, “Rather Be”, and “Symphony”. Much less diverting is instrumental band BADBADNOTGOOD, who unfortunately lived up to their name. A perfunctory banter halfway through their set aside, it’s a struggle to remember a memorable tune or a dynamic moment from the trio’s performance at the main stage.
Arguably the best performer of the night, headlining act AURORA took the stage at around 7.30pm, greeted by a few excited screams and packed grounds at the main stage. And it was of no surprise that they did: AURORA’s icy, pealing vocals coupled with her sunny personality was a sight to behold on stage.
Performing a good mix of old and new from her stellar repertoire of songs, the spirited singer made sure to inject some inspiring advice to the Neon Lights audience. Unfortunately, the almost-perfect set was interrupted on her last song “Running with the Wolves”, when the power on AURORA’s stage was entirely cut off, including all sounds from her band’s instruments.
As if she has been through such situations a thousand times, AURORA remained calm and collected, and even cheered with the crowd when her band name flashed back on stage after about an awkward minute or two. Seeing AURORA unfazed by the issue, the audience was vastly more engaged as they powered through the last song with sing-alongs and cheers with the singer and her band.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker). The “Gold” hit-maker was scheduled to play a 45-minute set, but ended it abruptly after 15 minutes due to technical issues. Responding to a fan who commented in his Instagram post that he “stormed off” stage, he provided further clarity on the situation: “@zannyleongie hi Zanny me too, stage had bad power so equipment kept crashing. I wasn’t storming off just wasn’t able to play music without my working instruments. Will come back soon and play a full set.“
The whole day seemed like it was one big buildup towards Hot Dub Time Machine’s set. Known for his “through-the-decades” set, DJ Tom Loud (Tom Lowndes) started his set with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, bringing Neon Lights’ eclectic mix of the young and young-at-heart together.
But nothing can compete with the passion and precision conjured by main stage headliner G Flip, who ripped through her sets masterfully with vigour. As the final act of the main stage, it was noticeable that there was hardly a crowd during her set. Yet, it was apparent that G Flip had an unwavering determination to keep the show going – she started the set with a powerful drum solo that captured everyone’s attention and soon filled the spaces in the crowd. The talented musician even played the drums and delivered steady vocals – all at the same time.
“My name is G Flip, in case you don’t know I am,” the humble artist would repeat to the crowd in between songs. “Thank you so much for sticking around and giving me a chance. We had the call two days ago, so we haven’t slept since we got here.”
Perhaps G Flip was short of a collaboration with K-pop sensation BTS and a shot at mainstream popularity, but that did not stop the up-and-coming artist from showcasing her musical prowess on stage. On top of hits from her debut album such as “About You”, “Lover”, and “Drink Too Much”, G Flip even treated the Singaporean audience to a cover of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, which was met with a much fuller crowd – this time, with approving nods.
As the final strains of G Flip echoed across the field at Fort Green, it’s hard to imagine Neon Lights Festival ever being this intense again.
Photos by Kenneth Power of the DANAMIC team.