Apart from its to-die-for chicken rice, breathtaking caves and ancient temples, Ipoh has relatively low entertainment value. “About 60% of the population here are old folks, retirees. And most young people migrate to KL when they’re 18,” commented a friend of mine who was born and bred in Ipoh. Still, the party scene in Perak’s capital was maturing with clubbers looking for new sounds to get down to. So while the rest of KL was getting over their post-2manydjs blues, I packed up my traveling medicine and it was road trip time again!
Not knowing what to expect after receiving an invitation from the Eclectic Botz to attend their show, I asked some Ipoh-mali people at the JUICE office about the venue. Apparently since opening about 2 years ago, Barroom had quickly risen and was leading the game. The game being the Ipoh Garden East night scene.
Yes, Lim Kit Siang’s stronghold has turned into the town’s party central and looked very much like Bangsar in its heydays. Upon arrival (record time of 1 hour 43 minutes in my Kelisa), I noticed that most of the pubs and clubs looked new. Also parking was free, thanks to Uncle Lim.
Barroom’s set up was massive. They had a canopy that stretched out to the streets and combined with newly-acquired Club 9 next door, the venue looked ready to rock harder than an ice-age frozen banana. There was even someone praying to the Gods (for no rain and lots of booty no doubt) with joss-sticks and sticking them into the ground at all 4 corners of the outdoor tent. Well, the rain never came and the chick factor was memorable but something else messed up the night which I shall reveal later.
I hit the party at about 9.30pm. It was still early but the crowd had already begun to trickle in. The first part of the night consisted of female DJs Sabrina and Joanne spinning radio-friendly R&B tunes. Not my cup of tea (or white coffee) but it was a good warm up for what was to come.
Though they were fit to enter any club in KL, the crowd had a laidback fashion style. There were a bunch of ladies who looked like they belonged in Barsonic. With Buddy Holly bullrim glasses, schoolgirl skirts and neckties and chin piercings, they stood out from the plain black dress leng lui-s but were nothing over the top. That’s modesty for you. Something KL people should take note of next time they go around prancing in tiny over-priced outfits.
I started talking to random people, asking them about the club scene here. Many of them had spent time in KL either working or studying, and had gone clubbing. And if there’s one thing they love about KL it is clubbing.
There was a sense of curiousity amongst most of them, probably sparked by this ‘banana’ of a journalist who looked Chinese but spoke nothing beyond “lay ho mo?“. But it was true that Ipoh people were hungry for new party music. Most of them had not heard of electro and just identified that sort of sound as “KL dance music” or “new techno”.
Meanwhile, inside Barroom and Club 9 things were getting heated. Ipoh and KL DJs including Digital, Liquid, Double D and Ken were spinning non-stop rnb hits. But it was time to bring it to the next level. Outside, another DJ Ken (not the same as the one inside) was slowly giving the tracks a mix up. The music grew louder and dirtier and the crowd, who by this time had enough Dutch courage to dance, started moving.
Just before Eclectic Botz came on, the police suddenly put a stop to things and we all had to move inside. Looks like permits and harassment by the authorities were as big a problem for nightspot operators here as it was in KL. Not even the presence of RELA officers and still burning joss-sticks could stop this downer.
Whatever! The show continued inside. It was Saturday night and no one could stop this party. Packed like an overflowing can of curry tuna, Eclectic Botz which consisted of DJ Jonvu and MC V-Chai thumped up the volume regardless of any boys-in-blue who were still lurking about.
Jonvu who was a former JUICE DJ Quest finalist was on total form despite still recovering from a nasty gallbladder op. He knew his sh!t and what the people wanted. Dropping tunes like ‘Nasty Priority’, ‘Funkanomics’ and ‘Disco Ballistic’, he got the crowd bopping and pumping until 3am. And when these people lost it, the quiet mountainous town was suddenly transformed into an underground party joint! Whatever reservations they had went out the window as girls took to the tables, chairs and whatever higher ground they could find that offered them more space to pop their bodies to the music. And the guys? Well, let’s just say they’re a fun-loving bunch that loved their beers.
The party ended lacking a bang. The music just faded down. Apparently the cops were still around and making a fuss. When I got outside, I could see why. Most of the other clubs were dead without a soul on a bar stool. Could it be that this so-called raid was insinuated by rival clubs?
I spent most of Sunday morning to evening recovering from a massive hangover and a rather embarrassing game of strip-chor tai ti. After filling up on more chicken rice, visiting some caves and temples, and desperately trying to find my centre by feeding fishes and terrapins, the time had come for me to leave.
It was around 11pm and the highway was dark as the blackhole of nu rave. I wondered if the crowd would have reacted the same way if it was another DJ spinning instead of Eclectic Botz. Even more mind-boggling was the fact that with today’s online connectivity, so many people in this town still looked towards KL for guidance, at least in terms of dance music.
I was told that Ipoh started as a village on the Kinta River and was overshadowed by the then-bustling mining town of Gopeng. Well, it looks much brighter now. I guess some people came back with a bit of fire. Or at least some cool tracks.