Imagine this: organising a two-day music festival for 15, 000 people, bringing some of the biggest acts from around the world not just to impress Malaysian standards but an international one, while working with vendors to provide the best experience for everyone, VIP and general. A festival that brands itself as ‘Good Vibes’ has that promise of deliverance to upkeep, and we all know the wrath of the internet. Sunday brunch plans are a stark contrast (and suddenly, we’re glad).
The Good Vibes Festival 2019 is set to take place on 20 and 21 July 2019 at The Ranch at Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands. Headlining acts announced as part of the first line-up include hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd, Grammy award-winning R&B singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar, and the American ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex. Setting sights further this time, the festival grounds will be expanded into an adjacent field housing the new and improved Electric Fields; the festival’s fully fledged third stage.
GVF, as its fondly called, is a homegrown festival now in its sixth year. To compare it to the likes of Singapore’s Laneway, or other festivals like Ultra (and for the internet trolls, Coachella), isn’t unfair, but impossible. What makes GVF, GVF, is its love for locality. Malaysian acts are also put in the spotlight, where this year we’ll see BATE, RYÖT JONES, Midnight Fusic, The Impatient Sisters and more. Even Korean acts Dean and Rad Museum have signed on.
Warming up for the biggest year of Good Vibes Festival yet, we speak to organisers Future Sound Asia’s founder and director Ben Law for a look behind the scenes of Malaysia’s top festival.
With Good Vibes Festival 2019 a month away, what are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to seeing how the new, expanded festival layout will turn out and how fans will react to it – the expansion is a major step moving forward for Good Vibes Festival and we hope everything works out well!
Managing expectations can’t be easy for the team. How do you cater to what people expect while being realistic?
We always strive to do the best we can and give people what they want, but of course there will always be challenges or setbacks along the way. We’ve found that being transparent and honest about what’s happening, and taking responsibility for any mistakes or shortcomings, goes a long way towards earning goodwill and faith from festival goers.
Festivals recently have had some, let’s say, ‘bad luck’. Thoughts?
Running a festival is never easy, especially with challenges that are unique to Malaysia – we always have to be aware of how to balance our content with the sensitivities and realities of living in a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-racial society. We do our best to work closely with the all relevant authorities and agencies in order to ensure that everyone can have a safe and fun experience at the festival.
What’s been a memorable and challenging moment for GVF so far?
The most memorable moment was definitely selling out the festival two years ago, in 2017. It was a huge achievement for us and vindication that we were doing the right thing.
What was probably the most challenging was actually the year before that – in 2016 – which was the first year we moved to Genting and expanded to a two-day festival, but still didn’t hit our targets and almost pulled the plug on the whole thing. Fortunately, we stuck to our guns and sure enough the festival was sold out the next year.
All festivals have their own forte. What would you say is GVF’s?
I would say that GVF stays relevant with current trends in music, and our lineup is a reflection of what our demographic – young, trendy, mostly 18-25 years old – wants in a festival. Anyone can probably start a festival but to sustain it takes experience and keen insight into what works and what doesn’t.
How would you describe GVF’s celebration of Malaysian culture?
We always try to inject some Malaysian culture into certain aspects of the festival, such as the festival artwork, local performers, on-ground and content — for example, last year we had local photographer Daniel Adams who was conducting his Batik Project at the festival — but at its core GVF represents Malaysians of all races and backgrounds coming together for a common cause: the love of music.
What would you like to try and bring to do to future GVF editions?
We’d like to feature more art pieces or installations by local artists at the festival. We actually did have an art installation for the first ever GVF but have since focused more on the music and other content for the festival. However, this year we’ve commissioned two local artists to create art installations at the festival and hopefully we’ll expand on this in the coming years.
Flags, big signs and people sitting on shoulders — acceptable or avoid?
Try to avoid anything that would block other people’s views – be a considerate festival goer! And always be safe.
Lastly, if you’re heading to the festival this year you should…
Plan your festival weekend accordingly, be prepared for rain or shine, and most importantly get ready to have fun at the biggest and best GVF ever!