ARTS AND MUSIC FESTIVAL Urbanscapes took a huge gamble on hosting its event up at Horse Ranch, Resorts World Genting, this year.
Previous instalments were held in and around the Klang Valley — the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in Sentul, Padang Astaka in Petaling Jaya and the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang, scene of last year’s caterpillar rash incident.
This year, though, judging by the look of the many happy people who streamed out after a whole day of arts and music, it is fair to say that Urbanscapes’ bet has paid off.
Venues make or break festivals. The cooler air and lush backdrop meant last year’s experience remained a distant memory.
The festival grounds were book-ended by two main stages, and in between, stood “North Bangsar”, a contained venue-within-a-venue conceptualised by comedian Kuah Jenhan.
A highlight for some, the North Bangsar space was an approximate recreation of Bangsar, complete with its own Uncaring Pharmacy, Halloween Billie Art Gallery and Thevi’s Corner.
Kuah himself drew plenty of attention as “Jon Mayor”, the leader of his small kingdom, going around on a pony, named Pony Eusoff.
Grub served at Urbanscapes certainly did not disappoint. Comfort came by way of cornflake ice cream and hearty beef goulash, while Peruvian bites and chilli keropok kept snackers happy. Sponsor Nandos set up a huge station where festival goers could play games to win chicken meals.
What’s an outdoor festival without flower crowns? The Market of Experiences had that covered, with its DIY booth by Singapore florist With Every providing enough fresh flowers and twine for the hordes of flower children.
The market also featured tarot poetry and experimental gastronomy, as well as the most whimsical offering — Dispensing Strangers, a booth where an illustrator would paint the images of participants, who then answered some questions about themselves and received a picture of a stranger in return.
Social enterprise Biji-Biji Initiative’s water-centric funhouse attracted the crowds. The upcycling crew showcased their system to reuse water in homes, which by night, was transformed into a colourful art installation with lights and projections.
Music was certainly the biggest draw. This year’s line-up was a good pick-and-mix of Malaysia’s most exciting sounds. Many turned up early to catch acts like the proggy post-rock band Dirgahayu, OJ Law and Ali Aiman.
And then, the 1990s returned. The Lemonheads tore through their hits for a nostalgic audience before dusk fell, spurring sing-alongs like It’s a Shame About Ray and My Drug Buddy in the rain.
As the evening settled, crowds gathered around the main stages for the headliners, who delivered polished, tight sets. Local Natives were on fire with heartfelt lyrics and anthemic choruses, while Kimbra impressed with her show-stopping performance.
Then when all was done, zorb balls deflated and the giant letter blocks put away, happy but exhausted attendees retreated back to their rooms in the highland resort or headed back to the city.
This article first appeared in #edGY, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 15 - 21, 2014.