August is the Cruellest is played to the projected background video of a 1980s national day parade. The images of an older distant Singapore and her people, decked out in red at the old national stadium fades into sepia hues of psychedelic overlays and distortionary editing. The music is uncharacteristically calm for Leslie Low but it quickly takes flight into jarring discord.
Where a talented attempt at fusion eclecticism was made earlier, with a Chinese flute and a guzheng, there is now only the characteristic screams of protesting guitar amps that one could mistake for mere noise.
The audience previously composed of mildly apprehensive bobbing heads is now an expectant bunch. Catharsis is imminent, we all know.
Somehow music is strained out of the noise. And somewhere along the way, Dharma jams a metal rod through his guitar strings and strikes at it furiously, only to be outdone by the intensity of Vivian’s drumming. There is anger, there is angst, and Leslie’s face is crumpled by an emotion too profound to be expressed by mere lyrics.
The video of national day fireworks is quickly drowned out in a roar of dissident noise. It wouldn’t be far from reality to imagine audience members unnervingly recalling a distant time where the police would have already raided the compound.
It has been 24 hours since. My heart is still pumping out the adrenaline and my left ear is still ringing with the permanent hearing loss from a cathartic yesterday.
The Observatory is the best goddamn band in Singapore.
Photo borrowed without permission from The Observatory Facebook.
P.S. Try spotting me and a less-than-entertained Joel