There is no embarrassment in admitting that two weeks later, you’re still recovering from Urbanscapes. After all, if the music festival scene is one that is still blossoming steadily into the Klang Valley landscape, then Urbanscapes is a jungle that has long taken root. It’s the weekend festival for all things creative, where practically the whole city shows up, rain or shine.

Epic party = long recovery periods necessary (© Paulius Staniunas)

Although the stage lineup might be what first gets everyone talking about the 10th Urbanscapes, it is only at Padang Astaka that the complete outdoorsy symphony reveals itself: poetry, design, food, arts, fashion, and consumerism — all demanding your attention. The weekend is quite a summary of what the folks of Klang Valley are up to and into these days.


Sigur Ros did not disappoint (© Iz Mady)

Sigur Ros! A brilliant 90 minute set worth the price of entry alone.

Sigur Ros. Yuna. Sheila Majid. Trees & The Wild. White Shoes & The Couple Company. Can we go back to that first one? Sigur Ros! A brilliant 90 minute set worth the price of entry alone. I overheard people debating whether they wanted it to rain (again) for their set (“It’ll add to the mood!”).

The rain, however, did little to camouflage the many faces wet from tearing up. I’d like to think that they, like me, were overwhelmed from making the connection between that very moment & the parts of our past that Sigur Ros kept us company through. It was unreal.

All lit-up onstage: Yuna (© Paulius Staniunas)

Yuna played a lot of songs and demonstrated some sense of glee interacting with the crowd, especially in peppering her banter with Bahasa after touring in US for so long. Sheila Majid, a surprise last minute entry to the festival, seemed just as pleasantly surprised to be there. “When I was asked to perform, I tweeted asking what would ‘young people’ want to hear from me?” she said, before proceeding to perform the songs that people replied with. Her seasoned years of showmanship made for thoroughly entertaining in-between song banter and amusing references to her age gap, such as “This next one is a slow song; it’s not meant for you, it’s meant for me,” delivered with a smile and a hand to her chest.

Sheila Majid sang songs tweeted to her at @sheilamajid (© Iz Mady)

Others on this year’s line-up: 

Quite simply, the most refreshing yet. There is no doubt that Urbanscapes went out of their way to pull off that sort of diversity too. The distinctive windmill of the Green Stage attracted the widest range of performers, some curated under the umbrellas of Kakiseni, Poetry Cafe KL, and The Wknd Sessions. There was Hong Kong’s moody 9 Maps, the kind of band to listen to in your room with the lights off. The dramatic collective of Projek Disko Baldi came armed with costumes, props, even rap verses.

When it was Arianna Pozzuoli’s turn on Poetry Cafe KL’s stage, it was commendable how the Canadian dealt with music interfering from other stages by speaking with it instead of against it. My personal favourite of hers was the one about romance as told by a pair of mismatched socks. The sole local on Poetry Cafe KL’s lineup was memorable Fahmi Freakmie, who introduced himself calmly before violently delivering love poems for the girlfriend who is now his wife. Ever-catchy Froya went very well with oversized mid-day bubbles floating across the field. Francis Wolf was flanked by not one, but two ukuleles. The Wknd Session’s stage had gems like Monoloque too.

Projek Disko Baldi onstage, wearing shades (© Iz Mady)

Favourite new finds of the fest: 

Charlie Lim, an exciting new singer-songwriter voice out of Singapore (you may have caught his gig in March at The Bee).

Britain’s DJ Goldierocks, who completely held her own in the all-male DJ line-ups at The Deck.

Indonesian band The Trees & The Wild, an unassuming Indonesian band that drew a larger and larger crowd with every song. They made interesting music decisions and their enthusiasm was contagious— it’s always a delight to see the chemistry in a band that arises when they are completely enjoying themselves onstage.

The Urbanscapes experience:  

Striking a pose at Urbanscapes — Hello, Alang! (© Paulius Staniunas)

As with every Urbanscapes, walking around meant spontaneous reunions with people you haven’t seen in forever. People-watching was also a thoroughly entertaining experience. I appreciated the strong presence of art interwoven throughout the festival, such as three simultaneous paintings live in action under OJ Law as he sang.’s Kotak Malaysia collaboration with Team Loli took the form of a ‘live’ vending machine dispensing hugs, fistbumps, or high fives when solicited with tokens. A welcome addition to the festival were the booths specifically devoted to upcycled products, environmentally-conscious consumerism, and creative charity. EPIC Army’s furniture-making workshops were great fun, and all furniture made at the festival went to the Orang Asli community.

Despite the size of the field, stage logistics combined with Malaysian timing resulted in several audio ‘overlaps’, and rustling crowds waiting for Volkswagen stage acts to finish their set before Next Stage performers could begin. People eager for Tenderfist had to wait for Love Me Butch to finish, and people awaiting Indonesia’s White Shoes & The Couple Company had to first wait for Sheila Majid to wrap up. The Green Stage received audio overlap from all directions, stages and booths, which was especially a problem when The Impatient Sisters drew a large crowd.

The Impatient Sisters — hipster faves (© Prakash Daniel)

Vendors appeared to be wrestling with stages for the attention of festival-goers. That was a shame. I found myself wishing that it could have been more of a symbiotic relationship between the two. The link between vendors and performances were sorely missing, such as maybe alerts around the booth areas when bands were coming up next, or — as is festival norm — screens flanking the main stage with an up-close view of the performances. Then people wouldn’t be faced with the dilemma of leaving the comfort of the beer garden, bean bags, or ad hoc picnic spots to make their way through the muddy field — which over the weekend, rapidly turned into a swamp. The weather and mud demanded the sacrifice of a few acts such Shelah‘s as well as Kakiseni’s own curated dance performances; they succumbed to “technical problems,” cancelled before they even began.

Nonetheless, the 10th chapter of Urbanscapes continued to provide that outdoorsy feeling still out of reach for local music festivals (which usually take place in a mall or stadium. Moving venues from KLPAC to Padang Astaka just gave it more of a hari sukan vibe than ever before. We were all sunburnt, stylish, and exhausted (I fell asleep with my entry wrist-band still on).

All that was missing was a Milo truck.

The Spacemen: Official Urbanscapes photographers

(© Paulius Staniunas)


Paulius Staniunas: Day 1 (Daytime), Day 1 (Night), Day 2 (Daytime), Day 2 (Night); Prakash Daniel; Dedy Andrianto; Iz Mady; Tania Rahman; Jeremy Choy

Urbanscapes took place 24th-25th Dec 2012.
All photos in this post courtesy of Adrian Yap | Urbanscapes.