My friends and I have wanted to attend the Malasimbo Festival after we heard of the first one. In a sense attending this year’s festival has been a year in the making. We weren’t able to score tickets for last year’s event, so the moment the tickets were announced for the 2013 festival back in November 2012, Facebook wall posts were made, countless chat and text messages were sent, tickets were booked and there we were on that Sunday afternoon, wet from the intermittent rain showers and freezing in our summer-wear, but very pumped up, walking to the Malasimbo jeepney station from white beach.
On its third year, the Malasimbo music festival is held on a grassy, terraced amphitheater atop Mt. Malasimbo in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. The organizers had made arrangements with the local jeepney drivers, so there were shuttles (PHP200 roundtrip, roughly a little over 4USD) to and from the venue and the different assigned stops throughout the island. From the white beach station, the trip took about 5-10 minutes.
This year’s festival was headlined by legendary reggae musician Jimmy Cliff and soul singer Joss Stone. We were attending the festival’s final day, which was the day Joss Stone was performing. We weren’t sure what to expect. We’ve heard rumors of how wild the Malasimbo music festival can get. Conversations shared with attendees of the Saturday show detailed a 5,000 strong crowd, blatant pot-use and crazy partying. They were estimating a bigger crowd that day.
We arrived at the venue a little past 6:30 PM. We followed the big round lanterns they strategically placed on certain points from the jeepney drop off and walked downhill to the ticket inspection booth. The round bubbles of light gave a whimsical vibe to the place. It reminded me of the Cheshire cat’s mischievous smile.
Past the ticket booth, you will see different art installations along the path to the stage. I suppose it would be better to see some of these installations in daylight. At night, some of them took a really eerie quality, again adding to the dreamy (even trippy) vibe that the venue provided, which I suppose is part of Malasimbo’s charm.
We found a good spot maybe twenty feet from the stage and laid out a sarong, which my friends and I sat on, on top of the grass that was still wet from the drizzle earlier. Some of the attendees brought their own blankets or banigs. There were also small banigs for sale at the event’s merchandise booth which was a good sell to some of the attendees who did not have anything to lie down on the wet grass.
The band Yolanda Moon, a local indie band, was performing. I’ve seen them play before at saGuijo. Their performance felt different here. It definitely felt… bigger. I think that’s the best way to describe it. I think it had something to do with the venue. As the band played, I looked around and did some people watching. The crowd at the event was a a weird mix of people and ages. From the young high-school looking group, passing around a joint between themselves, to the group of thirty-somethings to our left and a family (yes, a family) to our right. I remember that there were passengers of the jeepney shuttle who looked to be in their fifties. Dare I say it? Original hipsters! Hippies?!
After Yolanda Moon’s set, one of my friends and I went looking for the rest room, which we were expecting to be porta-pottys, but turned out to be real, built (and clean!) toilets, manned by crews ready to assist anyone who needed help.
On our way back, we checked out the merchandise. They were selling souvenir shirts (PHP300) and hoodies (PHP600)—which seemed to be a best-seller due to the unexpectedly very cold weather—along with the banigs I mentioned earlier and other trinkets.
Along the way are concessionaires that sold (expectedly overpriced) drinks—alcoholic and non—and food. We also walked up the hill to check out the various art installations. The installations were a varied lot. I’m not certain there was a theme to the art.
We got back to our spot as Similar Objects played his set. To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of Similar Objects. They played a combination of trip hop and dub step, which was not something I usually favor. Not to say it wasn’t good. I’m sure it was, it just wasn’t my thing.
The next performer, Quest, was a surprise to us. You have to understand that we bought the tickets at the early bird rate, before the line-up was even announced. We made a gamble and hoped for the best. To be honest, when we found out the line-up, there was a lot of head-scratching that went on as we tried to figure out who the other artists were, but we all agreed to keep an open mind. I digress.
Back to Quest’s unexpected performance. We only know one song that Quest sang: the positivity-charged, “Sige Lang,” which was what he closed his set with. His set brought everyone’s levels up. He had such great energy as he performed that he got people chilling out on their blankets up on their feet dancing. I’ve not been turned into a fan, but he definitely earned my respect. Props to you, man!
After Quest left the stage, as is the usual practice, technicians came on the stage to do a quick sound check and instrument set up. This was the set-up leading to Joss Stone’s set and from my observation, what usually takes around ten to fifteen minutes lasted around an hour and a half. Yes. That long. The crowd was getting impatient. There were some tsk tsk-ing going on, but there were also… bongos!
Bongos and dancing! And crazy foreigners trying to bless people with a coconut leaf! I saw some people irritated with these kinds of antics but I thought it was a little funny. The guy was obviously drunk (maybe a little high) and he was obviously having fun. So whatever, we will all forget this tomorrow.
Finally, Joss Stone was on the stage, and everyone cheered. There is one song that I associate with Joss Stone and that is “Super Duper Love.” I downloaded her music before the event to prepare my ears, but didn’t really get to listen to most of it. Joss performance was a great one. She has this charming way about her and whatever frustration the crowd felt because of the long wait, immediately washed away as she started to sing. She also interacted with the crowd well and got everyone back to the high energy level that Quest had everyone on earlier.
There was an endearing moment when a bug got inside her maxi dress and she tried to shoo it away and looked a little panicked. She later giggled her way out of it and sang another set of beautiful tunes. There was something Joss said that night that I agree with. She said, “Love music. It will love you back. Guaranteed!” And that is true. I’ve proven time and again how big an impact music has had on my life and my perceptions. It always amazes me how music can mirror back your emotions to you and how easily it can make you happy and sad. Joss’ music that night made me happy. It made the crowd one. And come to think of it, this is what festivals like this should be about: to bring a crowd together, musical preferences be damned.
My friends and I made our way back to the jeepney station after Joss’s set. It was already 1:30 in the morning and we were supposed to leave aboard the 8AM boat back to the Batangas pier later that day. The party wasn’t over, though. There were still a lot of people left at the Malasimbo amphitheater, ready to party until 6 in the morning.
Farewell, happy people. It’s been a good night.