Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Not A Fest XV

With Rumah Api on hiatus til its legal problems are sorted, the gigs that were scheduled there have to find alternate venues. Many of them have been reassigned to Penvia Studios, far from anywhere worth seeing and my own grim residence. The area, where a church recently drew protests from Muslim residents for displaying its crucifix outside, can euphemistically be described as "kampung". Or as my Malay buddy Azri bluntly put it, "These are rednecks." I drew some unfriendly stares as I made my way to the venue (and I wasn't even wearing this shirt); I wondered where the fuck I was when it started drizzling and a woman in a hijab eyed me coldly from the back of a moped. I finally found my way to the spot and back to civilization, and I've never been so happy to see kids in patch jackets.

The venue itself  is actually a practice studio, which frequently double as performance spaces in South East Asia. As usual, the gig started late; but after my adventure trying to find the place, I was happy to just sit at a mamak and catch up with everyone from the scene. The recent raid on Rumah Api was very much on our minds as the cops drove slowly past us, scoping out the assembled black t-shirts and putting everyone on edge. I have to wonder if the authorities are holding on to Rumah Api's PA and backline less because of their supposed investigation (unless the cops are investigating how to become sound engineers) and more to let the blowback over the raid die down before RA resumes putting on shows. For a spot that serves as the unofficial centre of KL's crust and grindcore scenes, RA engendered a lot of good will from disparate sources, at home and throughout the world. I'm sure the last thing anyone in power wanted was for RA to storm back a few days after the arrest, both more strident and more popular than ever.

WWHIRR's three members were caught up in the raid; it's hard to imagine their music being even angrier. I've lost count of how many times I've seen them, and if I'm being honest normally I'd be sitting down for most of their set. But tonight they're a reminder of everything that's at stake, and even their power violence screeds against tofu are welcome.

I'm trying to think if I've ever seen a Japanese band give anything less than 110%. Certainly Rocket put everything they had into their psychedelic garage rock - and if the vocalist never quite seemed in tune or particularly good, well, at least he made up for it with sheer verve. 
Sydney's Bastardizer were one of two Aussie metal bands on the bill (the other being Sewercide, who I missed while doing an interview but heard were excellent). They play a rock-inflected style of black/thrash - which is normally not my thing; but these guys distill everything that was great about early Kreator and Bathory down to headbangable anthems, and are a lot tighter than bands of this style usually are (safe to say they've spent their time in the rehearsal space wisely). The guy who gets up on stage at every metal show to headbang with his shirt off was front and centre, but got upstaged by a kid who dropped down on all fours to hesh out in front of the band.

Johor's Bad Idea call themselves "alco-weed charged Ian Mackaye worshippers" (aware of the contradiction, one only hopes). I can appreciate the band's stripped down efficiency and their singer's flexibility as he arches his back and screams; but they sound like a lot of Dischord records I never bought or cared about.  And I can't say I care about them now.

Flipout A.A.'s stripped down fastcore turned the crowd into a sweaty mess (not that hard in this part of the world, but still). Their freneticism was entertaining, but the most impressive part of their set was seeing their bassist holding his instrument up with his teeth - a PSA for dental care if there ever was one.

Two more Japanese bands were booked for the night (Life and Reality Crisis), but the fest started late (of course), and my ride home had to leave early. The last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in the middle of nowhere. I never thought I'd miss the mad dash to the train from Rumah Api, but it was better than having to take a cab back from the outskirts of town. Let's hope things return to normal soon.