What Went Down: Good Vibes Festival @ Sepang Go Kart Circuit

source: Good Vibes Festival

With only 4 international headliners, the inaugural Good Vibes Festival (no association with Oz’s Good Vibrations, mind you) was consequently a smaller scale music festival. Make no mistake though, these bands were the crème de la crème of the modern rock canon; ‘90s Gods The Smashing Pumpkins & Ash, the early noughties’ renaissance men Modest Mouse, and future rock’n’roll Deities Japandroids. Curiously, even with the hype being centred on the fact that this was the first time all 4 performed in Malaysia, Good Vibes had an unabashedly local flavour to it from the very moment you stepped onto festival grounds and traded a MyTeksi app for ice-cream potong.

This #lokalah (to be obnoxiously internet culture about it) flavour was probably due to the fact that prior to Ash’s set, which was at 7.30pm, the lineup consisted of a carefully curated selection of local indie acts. OJ Law had the unfortunate job of starting the day on the Red Stage, but that didn’t deter him from putting all his soul into his emotive vocals and groovy indie tunes – ‘My Life As a Film’ was made for a festival setting. Around this time – 4pm to 5pm, the sun’s peak hours – most of the crowd were more comfortable lying on the grassy plain, some shaded by the numerous installations there that included anything from a reverse bungee jumping contraption to Heineken Star Club (oddly where we encountered all the scenesters… well not so odd considering the beers).

Despite that, acts such as Pastel Lite and The Impatient Sisters still managed to get the early worms up on their feet and dancing to 2 very different (good) vibes at the Blue Stage. The latter’s transition from sibling trio to full-blown band saw full fruition there as their usual intimate sets translated perfectly on the big stage. Ever endearing – but never sterile, just listen to the lyrics carefully – Soraya, Kina, and Adik sung a birthday song in Malay and ‘Selamat Hari Raya’ among their expected favourites; ‘Forever I Know’, ‘Comets and Stars’, and new track ‘Kawan’.

Pitahati continued on the Blue Stage later while Liyana Fizi, who looked impossibly beautiful on a blazing hot day, crooned the fans by the Red Stage. JUICE, at this time, decided it was high time we checked the aforementioned Heineken Star Club. Although it wasn’t packed yet at this hour, we were impressed by the setup; a double storey installation that wasn’t so much a stage but a club in itself (hence the name). The promise of beer led us to stay a tad longer than planned, luckily for us we only missed 1 or 2 songs from Kyoto Protocol, who was indubitably the sole local act that day that had a crowd reaction comparable to the coming international bands later. Really, even random white dudes were singing along and responding to Fuad’s call-and-response. Tenderfist was on at the Red Stage during all this, while we weren’t there, we can quote M.O.I.S.T’s frontman Jarrod on what it was like; “It’s difficult to stay still for Tenderfist’s set (so dan-cey!), but I tried valiantly.”

A short break followed suit to pay respect to Maghrib prayers – there was even an erected tent doubling as a prayer room just by the entrance for the pious of the festival lot. To those who came early, it was a much needed break before the real sh!t went down. We took time to replenish our depleted energy at Good Bites, which despite having numerous bespoke food stalls, Sushi King still had the best offer.

With apologies to Monoloque and Deer Society, the hour from 7.30pm to 8.30pm belonged to Ash. Not all at JUICE grew up with Ash, but nevertheless we knew them well-enough to feel a pang of teenage nostalgia as they played perennial favourites ‘Kung Fu’, ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, and ‘Shining Light’. It was a great performance (even without Charlotte) that was made especially memorable by the gimmick in the beginning (at least we think it was); the band stopped halfway during ‘Meltdown’, bowed, and left the stage due to some sort of power outage before coming back 5 minutes later declaring they won’t disappoint when everyone had waited 18 years for them. True gentlemen, Tim and co. gave the crowd a real farewell bow at the end of their 1-hour set.

With a 30-minute window in between, we headed back to Heineken Star Club. Packed to the rafters by this time, Bunga and Chaseylain of Twilight Actiongirl brought a little bit of their glory days to the festival. There was barely room for us to manoeuvre inside, so off to the Silent Discotek we went. Deciding that someone might Insta-video us dancing to nothing, we stayed for a total of 10 minutes. Just in time for the only dilemma of the festival; Japandroids or Modest Mouse?

Suffice to say, JUICE opted for Japandroids (we’re one to support newer acts). Delivering a high-octane performance that eclipsed their set at Laneway, which was error-prone, the duo mustered a mosh pit purely out of sheer rock’n’roll. If only there were more festival-goers at the Blue Stage! Regardless, the band got people oOo-oOo-oOo-ing to their minimal stadium rock anthems such as ‘The House That Heaven Built’ and ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’. To the joy of many, and confusion of ours, Brian King proclaimed that they were going to sing a song that they missed during their set at Laneway earlier this year, ‘Continuous Thunder’, but we could have sworn we heard that before. Memory lapse or not, the song was ironically the only quiet moment before the storm of guitar riffs and drums beat us to euphoria.

If we thought OJ Law had the unfortunate job of opening the festival, it was because we had not gotten to the point when They Will Kill Us All had to play right before The Smashing Pumpkins. There was almost a conscious decision to wait all other happenings around the festival to stop before Billy Corgan and his racial and gender ratio-correct new bandmates got on the Red Stage to a roaring crowd of 8,000 people.

It was an apt response to a band that in hindsight is probably above Nirvana in the higher echelon of ‘90s bands. Their set itself was a strange balance of the amazing (“Holy crap, it’s The Smashing Pumpkins live!”) and the boring (“Holy crap… what’s with the overextended jam sessions and solos?!”). Fortunately, the former outweighed the latter in the grand balance of things, c’mon now, it was The Smashing Pumpkins live in Malaysia, what more can you want? Adroitly, Billy knew when to self-indulge and when to entertain, he opened with a triptych of nostalgia – ‘Tonite Reprise’, ‘Tonight, Tonight’, and ‘Cherub Rock’ – and only then he forced upon his fans Oceania and all the guitar solos time could afford him. And when his personal satisfaction was sated, we got the obligatory favourites again.

‘Today’, ‘Ava Adore’, and end track ‘United States’ were as adept as the new band could possibly be live, and that was the only time us Malaysians got to watch The Smashing Pumpkins ever. So personal opinions of how their performance was aside, F-you guy who threw a bottle at Billy during ‘Today’, we had a smashing good time.

Good Vibes Festival went down on Saturday 17 August ’13 at Sepang Go Kart Circuit.