Man at His Best

Esquire Experience: Neon Lights Festival 2016

Indie music, rain, and mud–loads of it.

BY lee kerr | Dec 3, 2016 | Music

Let’s get something straight. Outdoor music festivals are never meant to be a clean affair. I learned that the hard way, sadly *bidding farewell to my beloved Birkenstocks*. That aside, it was definitely a delight to catch this year’s Neon Light Festival at Fort Canning National Park, Singapore last weekend. 

A total of 150 artists and 25 music acts drew over 15,000 attendees. Everyone braved the heavy downpour and gushy mud in their barefoot glory, just to catch their favourite artist in action. Aside from the multi-genre music performances, there were also art showcases, light installations, side-splitting comedy, gripping spoken word, gourmet grub, and also kid-friendly activities. Here are some of my festival highlights:

Day 1 – Saturday

Lucy Rose

The UK indie/acoustic artist charmed the crowd with new and old material. Listed as one of the outstanding female vocalist by The Independent, it was definitely an honour to watch her performed live.

Gentle Bones

A music festival is never complete without local talents. Joel Tan aka Gentle Bones serenade our hearts away with his popular track “Elusive” and more.


The celebrated British indie rockers took the stage and delivered an exceptional performance that got the crowd hooked with numbers like "Cassius" and "Red Socks Pugie", despite the unpleasant weather. 

Neon Indian

Neon Indian ended the first day with a stylish set that was marred by a slight technical glitch. Despite that hiccup, the modest crowd was grooving to Alan Palomo’s unique and specific electro-mangled sound. The energy from Palomo’s twist moves on stage proved an adage: “The best is always saved for last”.

Day 2 – Sunday

Blood Orange

New York-based multi-talented singer Dev Hynes, widely known as Blood Orange, was the first performance I caught on the second night. Watching him live was truly a different experience, compared to just listening to him on the records. His tracks complemented perfectly with the digital backdrop–Skyline of New York City and contemporary dancers dancing. The new wave soul artist performed a nine-song set where he played material from the album ‘Freetown Sound’, including my personal favorite, ‘Best to You’.


The dreamy Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna took the stage in an outfit worthy of the R&B goddess and captivating us with her smooth vocals. Performing various numbers such as "Crush", "Mountains" and "Live Your Life", she also pleased the crowd with her rendition of Malay song, "Terukir Di Bintang".

Sigur Rós

The much-anticipated Icelandic post-rock band, Sigur Rós emerged to wrap up the event with their hypnotic atmospheric soundscape, accompanied by spectacular light installations and theatrical displays. The band drew such a massive crowd that made the vast space felt intimate and Jónsi Birgisson’s impressive falsetto bewitched everyone. Aside from the music and the on-stage installations, how can you zone out from watching Jónsi making his guitar wail with a violin bow?

There I was standing in the middle of the crowd, trying to decipher how people resonate with lyrics that are foreign. Then I realised what made music so great; a band of trio like Sigur Rós conjure music legions of people can relate to.  I believe that’s the ultimatum of music – being able to bring joy to listeners and convey emotions that no words can describe.