“You are a god! You are a freaking god!”
The yells of adoration for Bon Iver, led by their vocalist Justin Vernon, reverberated through the crowd of captivated fans at Wanderland Festival 2016.
They had waited long for this. Too long. But Bon Iver was there, finally, in the flesh, in front of all of them, singing the lyrics of the songs they all know too well. The exact poetry of words that either healed them or broke them in the past.
The emotions were high in the field that night. That much was undeniable. There, under the perfectly sequenced lights of Bon Iver’s set, all feelings left high and dry, confessions never told, love never returned, were all acknowledged and given the spotlight it deserves. No, that hour-long set didn’t seem to be entirely just about the band; it was also about the people who were there. Sure, they were on the stage, but it was about us.
“What might have been lost,” Justin asked the crowd to sing this one line over and over, louder and louder than the last. The stage exploded in lights, and the people did, too.
When Bon Iver left the stage, they left everyone in pieces. Everyone.
That was a turn of events that was all too suddenly (wonderfully) intense. The day started out just like how Wanderland Festival usually does—light, happy, full of good vibes. Bands Oh, Flamingo, Jensen & The Flips, and Cheats, a local band that’s been making a name for itself around Asia, took the main stage first kicking off the festival, followed by many other known names here and in the international scene.
Panama took the stage in the afternoon, a two-piece electronic band from Sydney. Of course they played their hit song, Always. And of course people danced. They were followed by San Cisco, an indie pop band from Australia, whose set was a breath of fresh air. Under the heat and humid of the onset of summer, San Cisco was cheery and breezy—a fantastic reminder that hot summer days also mean great days relaxing by the beach.
At the Globe stage, on the other hand, electronic musicians were the kings of the deck. There spun Curtismith, Commandeur, Chad Valley, and Blackbird Blackbird, where electronic music fans partied while they played.
And leading up to the highlights of the night—heating the main stage were CRWN and Jess Connelly, a favorite tandem in the local music scene (and with justifiable reason), and The Naked and Famous, an indie electronic band from Auckland. The Naked and Famous’ songs Girls Like You, Hearts Like Ours, and Young Blood, were obviously crowd favorites.
When Death Cab for Cutie took the stage, hearts went wilder than ever. Ben Gibbard is still as phenomenal as ever, moving across the stage with his guitar and even taking multiple selfies on fans’ mobile phones.
I first saw Death Cab for Cutie back in 2012, their first-ever show in Manila. I’ve been to a lot of shows since, even festivals abroad, but they still are, by far, the greatest performers I have ever seen on stage. The first time will be most special, but I’m glad that four years after, they are still the fantastic live performers their Manila fans know them to be.
DCFC’s set was a perfect balance of intense and raw. Intense in massive songs like I Will Possess Your Heart, but so raw in songs like I Will Follow You Into the Dark. But sometimes it was both at the same time, like in their finale number Transatlanticism. And that will always the best part of watching them live. That will always be how their fans will remember them.
I bumped into a friend a few days after Wanderland, and we both couldn’t stop raving about the acts. After several minutes of professing our favorite moments of the fest, we both hit a stop. The two of us were obviously thinking the same thing. “Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie…” I trailed off. But as if reading my mind, he continued, “How does it get better than that?”
The next acts would have some very large shoes to fill. But as someone who has been to Wanderland Festival the past three consecutive years, I stand witness to the fact that the acts the fest bring in do get better and bigger each year. It is a music festival Manila should be proud of—there is so much potential here.
So how does it get better than Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie, two massive names in the worldwide indie music scene, co-headlining such a young music festival in Manila?
That would be so hard to top, my friend and I both agreed. But when I think of all the talent out there—the endless list of indie music gods—and the fans who will never tire of screaming their lungs (and feelings) out to their songs, the thought makes me nothing but ecstatic of all the years to come.
Till the next Wanderland!
Wanderland Music and Arts Festival