The year of the horse may have passed, but you should always leave room for its foals.
Don’t play the fool now, Foals is here to stay.
By Gabrielle Ang for Carpe Bloom, our penultimate piece on GARDEN BEATS 2020.
EVERYTHING NOT SAVED WILL BE LOST: Lead singer and lead guitarist of Foals, Yannis Phillipakis.
Sunburn hurts. teamCARPE had spent a long day at the Garden Beats Festival on leap year this year, and I was just relieved that the sun had set after dinner. For one, I had rather stupidly decided to wear a $7.95 fluorescent tube top with army-green trousers for the sake of making a statement in the name of festival fashion, exposing my entire back and shoulders to the awfully mean sun without sunblock, because for some reason I thought a rhinestoned face locked down with setting spray and antiperspirant on my underarms were enough to get me through the dry heat. My second issue was that I was carrying two bags in the heat of the afternoon while the rough straps of heavy bags full of equipment chafed against my skin, as I snapped photos of the surroundings and interviewed artists and audiences alike. I felt like a rotisserie chicken in a blacklight rave.
After interviewing my last few audience members about their outfits, our editor-in-chief, Athena, bequeathed a task onto me.
“Gabs, can you go down to the festival stage and get some photos of the audience bathed in smoke and purple light?”
I gladly obliged, and made my way to the front of the audience in front of an empty, but beautifully-lit stage, capturing the dreamy violet mist that swirled around them.
Two photographs later, the stage lights dimmed and the crowd got exponentially bigger. Unbeknownst to me, I was in the front row of the headliners’ set. Not just any headliner, but FOALS’ set. I had never heard any music from them before in my life- I only expected something along the lines of fellow Brit alt-rock band Royal Blood, who was my only mutual in common with them on Instagram. Admittedly, I felt like such a poser as I vibed and bobbed along to the music, with my camera out and my phone ready for this assignment when I realised that I was the only team member who had a good view of the band which meant that I was going to stay longer than the purple lighting did. And being a gig-goer that broke her thumbnail once after getting flattened by three people in a moshpit- it was a Forests show by the way, I happily obliged.
I had been stalking (or, researching on) Foals on Instagram a few days prior to the assignment, and all I knew was “British rock band”, “Royal Blood follows them” and “Wow they took a picture with Courtney Love? I have a poster of Courtney Love on my wall and did a whole assignment on her.” but I was absolutely ready to photograph everything that happened in the mosh pit and on the stage and mosh if I had to without breaking my lens- although, this is rarely allowed at big music festivals in Singapore because of security concerns.
The energy in the crowd was extremely high and that night saw the entire festival’s biggest crowd- many came to the Festival for the purpose of seeing Foals alone, and fan favourites were chanted in the air, audience members crowd-surfed as the audience threw a giant, banana-yellow inflatable Havaianas flip-flop around the pit. People chugged their beer cans while throwing their arms around each other and screamed every lyric they knew, just in tune with the band. Somehow, despite the large venue, it still felt as intimate as all the smaller gigs I’ve been to- or maybe, it was because I was at the front.
I was surrounded by dedicated fans that knew literally every single word to the lyrics of “My Number”, “Mountain At My Gates”, “The Runner”, “Exits” and “Like Lightning”, to name a few. They also featured loads of songs from their newest album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. I made attempts to sing along to choruses, predicting every one of the words that were at the end of each line based on how well they rhymed with the previous line with a 50% accuracy rate.
And every one of the songs in the setlist was a total banger. With groovy bass riffs and memorable guitar parts as well as sing-along worthy lyrics, I was one hundred percent getting my LIFE from the band even while I was taking every opportunity to snap photos of frontman Yannis Phillipakis (he was the nearest to where I was in the audience), who had a commanding, yet extremely relaxed stage presence- he promised the audience “some good f*ckin’ rock n’roll” and good f*ckin’ rock n roll it was- he even succeeded in making the whole audience squat at one point. In my long history of going to gigs, no one has ever made an entire crowd of hundreds squat on the lawn of Fort Canning Hill. Except Yannis, because he’s Yannis Phillipakis and Yannis Phillipakis gets what he wants.
The rest of the members also actively engaged with the audience, such as drummer Jack Bevan, who tossed his drumsticks into the crowd for lucky fans to catch.
I knew literally none of the songs, but somehow this was still a great experience- the crowd was relatively friendly and non-violent, thankfully, compared to many other rock gigs where pushing, moshing and walls of death happen more than occasionally. That’s when I realised that these guys were performers and were unlike certain rock stars who strutted around the stage while relying on shock tactics to engage the gigantic festival audience. Somehow, this show had made itself relatively cozy and not very painful. I didn’t find myself pushed up against a barrier like in many big gigs even when Yannis came down from the stage to engage with members of the audience, and the band had successfully caught my attention with great music and amazing attempts to connect with the audience. Talk about charisma.
The show ended off with a bang, and unfortunately, no encores were played this time. Sad. By then, the band’s rugged charm had already rubbed off on me and on all the other concert-goers.
While I was updating our folder of media coverage, a few friends texted me saying “I can’t believe you went to Foals without knowing any songs!”, I fired up my Spotify app and decided to download a whole lot of songs by the band, adding them to my heavier alt-rock personal playlists. I was genuinely amazed and bewildered, because they sounded just as good- or even better- live. Now I completely understood why the band had such a dedicated following that would do the squats in the middle of a gig for minutes on end. I thought, maybe, to emulate the experience, I should be doing home workouts and squats to their music if I ever thought my glutes needed to have a better shape. Maybe it’d be less painful to exercise then.
That night I learned that if it’s Courtney Love approved, it’s probably amazing and you should totally squat to it.
Don’t be a fool. Instead, add an “a” and take away the “o”. And in the words of Stan Twitter: Stream Foals.