Man at His Best

Opinion: In Search Of The Perfect Gig Venue In Singapore

Hold on to your book loans and get ready to mosh.

BY Jonathan Fong | Apr 18, 2017 | Music

With ever-rising rental costs and the struggle to make bar sales turn a profit, it’s no surprise that we have yet to find our very own bastion of indie rock refuge in Singapore. Every major city has that one recognised place that you know you can check out on any given night to discover a gem, a budding talent or an electrifying act on tour. Nostalgic punters will cite the former Home Club (now Canvas) as the closest thing we had to that for a brief period in the mid- to late-2000s.

There certainly are plenty of shows happening, with promoters and organisers diversifying their selection of venues. New space The Annex, the Esplanade’s new standing, mid-sized venue, provided a near-perfect setting for the launch of local beatsmith, Intriguant’s debut album in January. Older spaces like the Substation and the Aliwal Arts Centre remain go-to venues for shows that cover less mainstream genres. But as a reflection of all things DIY, bands are booking smaller venues such as Lithe House, Analog Factory and The Music Salon—all three of which double up as recording and rehearsal spaces. Club and pub venues still pop up from time to time too: Hood Bar and Switch are two recognisable drinking establishments that feature Chinese indie bands, while club Millian featured a roster of touring Japanese bands for a few months.

In keeping things fresh to impress your average scene kid, nothing screams, “Hey hipster, 500 cred points!” louder than converting an old warehouse/industrial space into a word-of-mouth, secret-flyer-gig lolocale. Enter Mettle Work and Decline, tucked away in Geylang, that have fast become the cool, underground spots to feature DIY touring bands and rising local talents.

The award for coolest gig venue, however, goes to the fine (hur hur) folks at the National Public Library.
As part of LASTPLAY—the highlight event in NLB’s youth-centric arts programming—the Central Public Library opened until 1am with musical performances and cool craft activities to accompany your late-night browsing and book loans. Who would have thought that the very same place where librarians shushed you for whispering and waved critical fingers at ringing mobile phones hosted the sensual electronic stylings of Vandetta, the dangdut disco frenzy of Nada and the riotous rock of Esquire favourites, Forests (who, we’ve been told, will be aptly tearing it up in the children’s My Treehouse section). Hands and voices were raised as people celebrated this very rare opportunity.

While we wait for the next establishment to step up and reign in the land of indie rock cool, keep an eye and an ear out for more unusual gig locations and check them out with an open mind. Only as venues continue to develop and refine their brand will the possibility of amassing loyal support follow, and that can only happen when folks seek out fresh experiences. Let’s hope the punters and the performers can find the next club (or venue) to call “Home” soon enough.

This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, April 2017.