“You’re giving us the energy right now, that we don’t get everywhere in the world, thank you Manila!” Nico energetically shouted to the crowd.
Last Saturday at the Globe Circuit concert grounds, music lovers were in for a treat. Right off the bat I can tell you, Madfest2 showed improvement by leaps and bounds over their inaugural event, which was held last year at the MOA concert grounds. Some say experience is the best teacher. The organisers outdid themselves with a local line-up that was jam packed with outstanding well-known bands, to numerous to mention here. Nico and Vinz were the headliners, although up until this assignment, their music never crossed my radar. Not so with the near capacity crowd who were singing along throughout most of the setlist.
The festivities started at 3:00pm in the afternoon and continued through to the following Sunday morning with DJ’s spinning until the wee hours of the night, 3:00am. There was never a dull moment, the sets where short, fast and furious, staying almost right on the pre-planned timetable, just minutes off, which is almost unheard of at these festival events. Each band performing for 15 minutes or so, basically 3 songs, not much time, I’d prefer to see half the bands but twice the amount of time, 30 minutes each.
Basically, the stage was divided into two, so as one band was performing on the right, they would be setting up for the next group on the left, so it flowed quickly. The hosts of the event, periodically addressed the crowd throughout the day, and broke things up with various dance crews performing and some fire juggling, so there was a entertaining pace to the show.
The layout of the grounds was well thought out, with art exhibits at the entrance and rows of vender booths towards the back. The expansive grassy field directly in front of the stage is a huge plus at this venue. Many of the young folks took advantage of these accommodations and kicked backed enjoying the festival atmosphere. There was also an elevated VIP area off to stage left, however the food choices were limited and not gradiose by any means. Basically, a few international fast food chains but still an improvement over last year. The sponsor booths were appealing, from games to freebies and semi-air conditioned lounges, each vender brought something unique to the table.
A quick internet search, shows Nico and Vinz are a Norwegian singing duo, whose actual names are Kahouly Nicolay “Nico” Sereba and Vincent “Vinz” Dery. They originally went by the name Envy but so many of their fans just referred to them by their nicknames, they simply went with that. One of the first sites I encountered, listed them as a hip-hop group. I’m not a big fan of that genre so initially I wasn’t thrilled about the task at hand but I was pleasantly surprised as I continued my research. I wouldn’t describe them as hip-hop at all, although that genre is mixed into their hybrid style, it’s more of a rock-reggae-ska sound, think Bruno Mars meets the Police meets Johnny Clegg. Reminded me a bit of the collaboration between Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo a few years back, closer to R&B pop music with an African flair.
They first broke onto the music scene in 2009 and garnered international success in the U.S. in 2014, with their hit single “Am I Wrong.” It’s a catchy song with a beat they’ll sway a skyscraper. It has an uplifting message about following your heart, and it topped the charts in a total of 41 different countries.
The banter in-between tracks was insightful and interesting. Vinz shared some family history, that they both grew up in Norway’s capital, Oslo, immersed in African music. Vinz’s parents are immigrants from Ghana, while Nico is the son of a Norwegian mother and his father is from Ivory Coast.
He told of how the two bonded, and their journey in music so far, “We thought it would go a little faster than it actually happened right, remember this is 2009 and we were like by 2010 the whole world is gonna know who Nico and Vinz are!”
He modestly continued, “2010 came, nothing happened. We worked 2011, 2012, it took us four or five years to get our music off the ground, but right now we’re in Manila baby!” As the uproar in the crowd settled down, he finished with, “What I’m saying is…always keep pushing.”
Their on-stage presence and crowd interaction were sure signs that had put some effort into their craft. Certainly a couple of talented performers with a confident not cocky swagger on stage. A comfortable flow to the setlist and they kept the crowd smiling, changing things up with some unusual antics.
Nico went off stage to retrieve a surprise, a soccer ball and uniform shirt of the local football team. And the usual question, “Do you call it here, soccer or football?” He told the crowd he played as a youngster and then proceeded with a soccer skills competition, him verses Vinz. He was impressive, juggling the ball with his feet, like a professional player warming up on the field. But when he passed it to Vinz, who gave it his all mind you, but was no match to the far superior skills of his partner. When the ball tumbled off stage, they went into one of their hit songs, “That’s How You Know.”
They also held a dance off, to mix things up with Vinz going first. They both are accomplished dancers so they both did well and it was the crowds applause electing the victor, again it was Nico but not by a landslide. There was also fog cannons periodically firing at the front edge of the stage, glitter pyrotechnics from above and confetti cannons to end things off.
No band on stage, they were accompanied with programming and prerecorded music provided by a DJ who was also keeping the padding and click tracks all in order. There were two instruments on stage however, a harmonica, played by Vinz and a congo drum played by Nico. I’m a fan of live sound but here it didn’t really matter, it was their voices that were the stars of the show. The lead vocal duties were evenly balanced and each shined on their own. Most of the tracks have an infectious melody and upbeat lyrics but it was their well matched vocal harmonies that stood out.
When singing, rarely did they stay still for any amount of time, no mic stands here. You couldn’t miss their brilliant smiles from any vantage point of the festival. They’re in good physical condition and Vinz showed off his toned body, much to the pleasure of the young ladies in the crowd, removing his shirt during the last song. A solid hour of entertainment with some energising and uplifting music.
What stood out though, was how much they were enjoying themselves, you could actually hear a sense of jubilation in their voices. I’d rack this on up in the win column with well organised grounds, comfortable venue, quality sound, outstanding local bands, top it off with a headlining band who are on the rise. Keep and eye out for this duo, their innovative sound, and a kind of urban pop swagger will take them places. Odds are, they’ll continue producing some great music and the next Madfest will be even better.