i had the privilege to be allowed in and around the venue during the sound check, thanks to wong and the KNUKE guys. the venue’s about the size of laundry or the sheffield corporation. the stage wasn’t raised as much as one liked but this meant better photographs, if you are in the front row, that is. the setting up of the drumkit and the backline went swiftly and the bands got on with their soundchecks, with najib making sure everything was right from his FOH console.

the doors were open at half six yet there weren’t as many people as one would like. nevertheless, the first act got onstage on time. myo’s the frontman for oh chentaku, who’s currently based in switzerland. he did a fantastic acoustic four-post-hardcore song set with the latter half accompanied by fariza lisz on the electric violin. two local acts got onstage thereafter, the first being torrents, an unsigned five-piece from blackburn who captivated the punters with brit-rock tunes reminiscent of the jam. their manager was passing around free copies of their sampler CD. then it was the paris riots, which gave a rocking great show despite the singer doing a jim morrison of sorts.

estrella got onstage to a rapturous audience (mainly of the male variety in the front row *wink*), kicking off with my morning. this was one tune from the record which originally didn’t really take my fancy, possibly because this was them being ‘alternative’ without their trademark bossanova. however, i’ve made a point before of how a live rendition of a tune (anything from rock kangkang to, err… dangdut) is always better than a recorded one, and this time i was somewhat pleasantly surprised as mat’s clean tone on his tele sounded way better than the overdriven one on the record. liyana interacted well with the crowd (everyone sang along to ternyata somewhat loudly) and the band pretty much played their entire catalogue of eleven songs, plus a new untitled track. estrella’s percussion components of pito and jeff got things in full swing on more upbeat tunes like foolish senses and their new single, some space. estrella ended their set with a resounding rendition of stay – you’d think the audience was pogoing to a punk act.

i’ve waited to see these guys for a good ten years. i was first introduced to duan (by the six degrees of trabye method) at a gig in OU in january ?1998/9. the gig (of 10-20 bands, you know how it is) started late due to a busted bass amp and someone had to drive to jalan ipoh to get another one from do-re-mi, or something like that. we only got back to the gig after dinner which meant i missed SCTS and LMB. now, ten years on, as promised, i stood stage left after being on my feet since seven (nothing really, i did twelve hours for pearl jam in ’06). they’ve been playing new tracks live for a while now, which would be on their next record (which they’re working on now). they got onstage and started their set with tet offensive. in fact, the first four songs of the set was identical to that of the one at ULU. they omitted faith, and i remembered ham telling me after the show that they didn’t want to be known as the band that plays faith all the time. think radiohead and creep – you know what he’s on about. it’s just fantastic to see these guys play their material effortlessly. ham was constantly animated and it was a joy to photograph the man with his ’72 tele custom. the highest point for me in their set was summary (a few people have been giving me some guff from a video of this part of the set which was pasted on facebook!). ham’s shaking of his left fist after twiddling the DD-3/flanger/whatever was a sight to behold, imho. and don’t let duan’s somewhat diminutive appearance fool you as this man’s got a fantastic larynx with a wide ranging frequency. lucky you was another favourite, and the entire set seems to be filled with them. they would’ve played an encore of two more songs if ham’s tele hadn’t gone all tali putus eeehhhh, and ended an incendiary set with renaldo moon. nine is better than five anytime.

one thing i have to criticise was the lighting for the estrella and SCTS bit of the show, as stage left (where mat and ham was) was very dark. photography aside, i thought not being able to see a member of a band onstage was really not on. the KNUKE gig at manchester was run very efficiently. there was a good crowd, although it felt a bit sparse (apart from the danial-incited pit in the middle) at the back when i turned around to take a photograph of the crowd during SCTS’ set.

have these two bands got the exposure that they wanted? in my previous post, i’ve written about the open mic nights that estrella played in london and brighton. it’s different for a band like SCTS, though, as open mics tend to cater for acoustic acts. whilst SCTS can still do mean acoustic versions of their material, this will never do justice to their original electric versions.

on a personal note, whilst i laud KNUKE for making the effort in bringing our local talent abroad, the onus at the end of the day lies with the bands themselves. we have seen malaysian bands make their own way playing abroad, may it be indonesia, thailand, or further away, like japan and canada. KNUKE is still relevant, provided bands are also willing to go the extra mile (this is no criticism of the two bands that came this year). if you want a local crowd, i reckon getting included in a local gig will mean actual exposure to a british audience. last year, there was already a genuine interest in j-rock/metal bands like MUCC and dir en grey. dir en grey actually played small club (like MOHO) gigs (not headlining, but does that matter at this stage?) organised by kerrang! magazine around the UK and ireland, and they are virtually unknown on these shores (but big in japan, in the non-condescending sense) and they do not sing in english. what they did on this UK tour was to tag on to some american/british bands as opening acts, and they got to go around the country playing their own material. festivals are another option, too. it doesn’t have to be glasto or reading (probably near-to-impossible, unless you get to play one of the dalam khemah smaller stages at 10 am) but getting yourself on one of the smaller ones (like this) held every summer still mean a mat saleh crowd of more than ten.

three factors come into play here – aggressive promotion by the bands of their material, contacts (bands/industry people do get a lot of these via the net with myspace etc) and of course, *ka-ching* money (which is where the sponsors like air asia x and 8tv can help out as they have done). just to cite one example, couple was given the opportunity to play festivals stateside a couple of years back. the only hurdle was, of course, financial.

bring the bands to the UK, but be sure they get a decent (not just token) exposure to the british music-listening public. the brits may be a hard crowd to please but it doesn’t mean you can’t impress them (not everyone’s a journo for the NME – last night’s manchester online radio broadcast of last week’s interview/acoustic sesh is an example). our bands can still come play the token gig(s) for the malaysian students as well whilst they are here, but if a malaysian crowd is all they get here in the UK, they are better off touring back home.

wanna up the ante? this is it.

estrella’s MOHOlive, manchester 5.4.09 set: their entire catalogue, plus one new untitled track

sevencollar t-shirt’s MOHOlive, manchester 5.4.09 set: tet offensive / wild child / the boohoorah theory / drones / fragile / summary / december / lucky you / renaldo moon

[photos of the soundcheck]
[photos of the gig]