Imagine living like a king someday
A single night without a ghost in the walls
And if the bass shakes the earth underground
We'll start a new revolution now
King for a Day, Pierce the Veil
On Saturday, 12 November, SMU rejoiced as it saw ESCAPE! 2022, one of SoundFoundry's (SF's) SMU-wide semiannual music festivals halted by the pandemic. This year’s iteration was held at *SCAPE, and sported a fantastic lineup of student-led bands spanning a diverse array of genres and styles.
Left to right, top to bottom: Joseph and Annissa, vocalists, & Yao, saxophonist; Patrick, guitarist;
The Pontiac Bandits, a Brooklyn Nine-Nine-themed funk band, opened the night. Staying true to funk’s bassy underpinnings, they grabbed the attention of the audience with mesmerising basslines and a fantastic brass arrangement.
They began their set with the Brooklyn Nine-Nine theme (of course), before they segued nicely into Silk Sonic’s Fly as Me. As the lead singer recalled a comment comparing their aesthetic to the legendary Stevie Wonder, they coolly performed his celebrated Superstition. This was followed by a hilarious mashup of his Sir Duke and Thomas the Tank Engine’s theme song that worked… somehow!
Of course, they would be remiss not to play some classics from the great age of funk and R&B. From the zany to the sexy we go, as the band breathed life into Bill Withers & Grover Washington Jr.’s suave Just The Two Of Us. Denying that disco was dead, they moved on to Earth, Wind & Fire’s September, bringing the groovy 80s back to Singapore. They concluded with an innovative funky rendition of the I Want It That Way from the Backstreet Boys. Despite some initial struggles with the tempo from the crowd, they were singing along perfectly by the end of the song as if it had been a Pontiac Bandits’ original. All in all, The Pontiac Bandits’ set was right, proper funky fun.
Left to right, top to bottom: Timothy, guitarist, and Jeslyn, vocalist; Kai Hee, drummer; Tim Long, bassist; and Hua-En, keyboardist.
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” sung the great Lenny Kravitz. Thus, did it fall upon Angry Dumplings, the next band, to bring this funky groove to a satisfying close. The good dynamic of the leading guitarist-singer duo was complemented by the great performance of the rest of the band. With their mix of disco, R&B and indie covers, they kept *SCAPE chill for the next half hour.
Bringing disco fever back to life, they opened their set with Gloria Gaynor’s famous I Will Survive–performing it with all the defiant spirit of the original–followed by the R&B classic Mr. Telephone Man by New Edition. Lewd jokes and laughs broke out as they then played Come Inside of My Heart by the Filipino indie rock band IV of Spades.
Towards the end of their set, they slowed down the pace with a contrasting pair of ballads. The first was a dulcet performance of Bruno Major’s sensual Easily, which brought to life the song’s on-the-rocks romance. The second was an indie rendition of Radiohead’s self-loathing Creep, which made an effective juxtaposition of genre against subject matter. Lastly, the band ended off with Mediterranean Baguette, an Angry Dumplings original. It was a memorable way to close out their set, for sure.
Left to right, top to bottom: Annissa, vocalist, and Joshua Ang, violinist; Jon Teo, guitarist; Mandy, keyboardist.
But our trip through time was not yet complete, for Cassette had come to the fore. A self-consciously retro pop-oriented band, Cassette hearkened back to a time when hairspray and harem pants were the order of the day.
With the 80s’ top of the pops, Cassette brought us back to the youthful era of our parents. Off to Boogie Wonderland we went as Cassette began their set with Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Piling on the cheese, the drummer and the lead singer then performed Jefferson Starship’s anthem Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now in a duet. Thereafter, things took a more heartfelt turn. The lead singer performed Michael Bolton’s How Am I Supposed to Live Without You in a loving tribute to his mother. This was accompanied by a famous mandopop ballad, 輸了你贏了世界又如何 by 優客李林 (Losing You, What Does It Matter if I Win the World? by Ukulele). This tug upon our heartstrings was completed by Aerosmith’s famous ballad, I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith, which proved to be a crowd favourite.
Chi Mun, drummer
But what ultimately made the 80s was its unremitting cheer, and so Cassette rounded off their set with an awesome performance of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. With much fervour, the entire band led us through a start-to-finish singalong of this evergreen anthem, steadily amping up their stage energy as the song reached its crescendo. From the first chorus all the way through to the end of the song, the entire room was jumping up and down along with the band. Certainly, there was no better way to end their set than with this fantastic love letter to the totally tubular 80s
Left to right, top to bottom: Adrian, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist; Keagan, drummer; Russell, bassist.
Cassette had left us in a partying mood. Well, who knows more about partying than pop punkers like Hotdog? From their irreverent meathead attitudes to their nasal vocals Hotdog was just the band to turn the party atmosphere up to eleven. Covering such pop punk mainstays as Green Day and blink-182, Hotdog brought punk’s brand of fun to *SCAPE.
But first, a little bit of secondary school nostalgia. Hotdog began their set with the Phineas and Ferb theme song, telling the audience to yell out its iconic “Like Maybe!” to start it off! The ‘Dogs then took on early-2000s punk with a cover of All the Small Things by Blink-182, which had the room hopping mad. This only intensified as they performed Neck Deep’s December, the immature anger of a heartbroken young lad channelled into the crowd’s dancing.
A more contemplative mood settled over the crowd as the band performed an excellent acoustic cover of Avril Lavigne's Complicated. This mood was further deepened by Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends. I took part in the line dance that broke out in the song’s mournful initial verses; it was definitely quite the experience.
A technical difficulty intervened, preventing the lead singer’s guitar from working. No matter: The drummer performed an awesome drum solo to kill time as the guitar was being fixed. Once that was done, they immediately launched into Dirty Little Secret by The All-American Rejects, followed by We The Kings’ Check Yes, Juliet. Two hype men were plucked from the crowd to accompany the band as they shredded their way through the latter song–which they did with much enthusiasm. The ‘Dogs concluded with yet another Green Day song, When I Come Around, which had been the first song they had ever performed together as a band. A fun and fantastic performance as befitting pop punk, well worth the wait.
Left to right, top to bottom: Eddy, vocalist; Xiao Rou, vocalist; Edmund, guitarist.
The night took a heavy turn as the sole rock/metal band came onstage: Casual Corruption (CC). Comprising a dynamic vocalist duo along with the usual rock band lineup, the band owned the stage with their dominating presence. It was impossible not to rock out to their banging tunes.
Kicking off their set with Bring Me Back to Life by Evanescence, the band then performed Bring Me the Horizon’s (BMTH) angsty hit Drown, a 2000s British rock mainstay, to warm up the audience. Then, back to a metal classic they went with Metallica’s Sad But True which transformed the crowd into an undulating sea of headbangs and horns. This was followed up by a cover of the similarly headbangable I Disagree by Poppy.
What happened thereafter, however, was undoubtedly awesome. As the band performed BMTH/Babymetal’s Kingslayer, two halves of the crowd collided into each other in what was probably SMU’s first ever moshpit. The male singer even descended into the maelstrom, offering the mic to impassioned moshers and moshing alongside them.
Top to bottom: Charlene, bassist; Luke, drummer.
The set ended on a stunning crescendo with Pierce the Veil’s Kingmaker. This time, both singers went into the crowd, inciting further chaos and screaming out its pain-filled chorus in tandem with the audience. To borrow a metalhead turn of phrase, CC’s set had been absolutely brutal.
Left to right, top to bottom: Valerie (left), vocalist; Marcus, bassist; Zelia, violinist.
But the night must end on a light note, and thus came Rebrand to do exactly that. With their seven members including three(!) vocalists, they performed a wide variety of pop hits to round off the night.
They first performed the pop rock songs Ain’t It Fun and Since U Been Gone from artists Paramore and Kelly Clarkson respectively. Thereafter, things took a turn for the mellow. They performed this, ily, an original composition by lead singer Valerie, which had the room swaying along to its soporific rhythm. This was appropriately followed up by John Mayer’s sultry blues ballad Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer. All paid heed as its solo rendered in musical form the dying embers of a fading relationship.
Left to right, top to bottom: Jamie, vocalist; Joshua, guitarist; Theron,
vocalist and acoustic guitarist; Brendan, vocalist and drummer.
However, this mood was put on hold as they covered Taylor Swift’s energetic Enchanted. Screams erupted from elated Swifties in its first few bars, and the room was soon overtaken by their harmonised voices. But as all good things must come to an end, so did Rebrand end their set with a recognisable classic: Coldplay’s solemn Fix You. Raised hands waved steadily in the air as the crowd joined Rebrand in a calm singalong–a quiet ending to a very loud night.
After two long music-less years, this year’s iteration marks a roaring comeback for this long-awaited event. From their energetic performances to their relentless stage presence, SMU’s musicians have shown that their melodic spirits remain unquenched and undaunted. ESCAPE! 2022 definitely marks a worthy addition to the Starry Night musical tradition.
Credits: Thanks go firstly to Erina from SMU SF, for guiding me through the venue and getting me in touch with CC as well as Darius, SF’s photographer. Of course, thanks must next go to Darius for permitting me to use his photos in this article. Without your photos, this would have been a very boring read indeed. I would also like to thank Roy, a colleague from SMU Literati, for accompanying me to the gig and helping me write this piece. However, I reserve my warmest thanks for CC. You have all been such gracious hosts, and I am honoured to have been able to meet with you guys behind the scenes.