Wala Wala is considered to be one of the more prominent live band café bars in Singapore. The two-storey bar is an iconic feature at Holland village and boasts of live performances from some of the finest and most established bands in Singapore. The Unxpected, a 5-piece band that plays mostly radio friendly rock and pop hits, plays there every Saturdays.
Wala Wala’s live performance area situated on the second floor has a capacity of about 50 people. It has a cozy ambience, with high chairs and tables close to both the stage and bar area, although it got a little cramped as more people arrived. There was also soundproofing all over the ceiling and walls of the café, to dampen any unpleasant resonance, which might affect the performance.
The sound system in a live rock performance is very crucial, as compared to other forms of musical performances, as almost all the instruments would be electrically amplified. On the stage were two guitar amps and a bass amp. The Marshall guitar amp had a microphone pickup while the other two were lined out into the mixer. Each musician also had a vocal microphone. All these inputs were balanced on a mixer, equalized and output to four speakers mounted to the ceiling on the borders of the stage. Three JBL stage monitors were also present so that the musicians can hear themselves.
The band soon arrived and started setting up the sound system, testing the microphones and adjusting the balance on the mixer. Then, they opened their set with a song requested by my friend, Worn Me Down by Rachel Yamagata. Although they already did some preliminary adjustments, the balance of the lead singer, Shirlyn, and the other musicians were slightly off as she was quite soft in some parts while the bass was overpowering. This was quickly settled by doing more adjustments as the song progressed. Despite this, the band was very tight and entertaining.
Shirlyn could be heard very clearly even over the volume of the rest of the instruments. She had a beautiful voice with a husky low range and a very sweet head tone. She sang with an American slang and one could hear the strong rock roots in her singing style. Even though her voice was not loud, it cut through the band like a bell. I suspect that this was a result of good equalization on the entire bands sound. Frequencies that would interfere with the singer’s voice were probably cut back on other instruments to allow her voice to cut through more.
I noticed that all the musicians had a microphone and they used it to sing backup vocals. This blend of the lead singer’s melody and 4 other backup melodies created a very nice harmony, nicely complimented with the different instruments; 2 guitars, a drum set, keyboards and bass, being played at the same time.
The two guitarists worked together very well, complementing each other in their harmony. One of the guitarists even sang lead in a song. I have always been amazed by how anyone can play an instrument and sing at the same time. I could never multitask like that, but that may be because I am not a seasoned enough player to be able to change chords without even thinking about it.
The drummer, Brandon Khoo, is a familiar face in the local music scene, playing in several bands and having master classes open to the public. His technique and unique drumming style proved a great pleasure to watch. Looking at the drums vibrating as they were struck brought my thoughts back to the tutorial where it was demonstrated to us that sound can be produced by a vibrating object, in this case, the air in the drums vibrate when they are struck.
The keyboardist, had a perpetual bored look on her face while playing. This was further magnified when she took the stage to sing in her first lead song. Her facial expression lacked the intensity and interest of the previous lead singer, and our attention was drawn away from her to Shirlyn although she was doing backup vocals this time.
The bassist at first was loud and a little jarring, but with further tweaking of the mixer at the start of the set, he attained a better balance by being less prominent.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed the set by The Unxpected. Coupled with the atmosphere of a live audience and the good ambience at Wala Wala, it was a great concert experience. I also managed to apply what I have learnt in the module and observed things that I normally would never have noticed.