#NOSHOTS: Past Music Festivals (…Asia)

When I was seven or eight, my brother took me to Stadium Negara to see Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine perform. I had been to concerts before – heck, Sudirman once pulled me up on stage during one of his performances, and I was just three years old – but this was, back then, the big time. This was *gasp* an American band, live, in KL, with all the bells and whistles and top-notch production values and pyrotechnics and exposed thighs and expensive individually air-conditioned seats. Not that I knew the difference at the time, of course. I just wanted to sing along to ‘Conga’ and eat my kuachi.

I’ve been to, oh, a few more shows since then. Things have changed, of course; the concept of the ‘concert’ isn’t as awe-inspiring as it once was, and as grateful many KLites are to have the likes of Paramore grace our shores with arena spectacles, many more people get excited at the prospect of attending all-day/weekend music festivals, with a smorgasbord of talent to choose from, multiple stages to rush, and an exponentially higher number of exposed thighs on display. And that’s a good thing; massive music festivals in Malaysia (that don’t die out in ignominious fireballs of controversy after a couple of years) have been a long time coming, and they bring with them not only multiple headline acts but also open up the market to singular concert series and smaller, more intimate showcases. Everybody wins. Right?

There’ll always be detractors. People bitch about the logistical nightmare of getting to a venue a state and a half away from downtown, the price of beer, the sometimes-sketchy sound systems, and sometimes-sketchy sound systems competing with each other sketchily across stage placements that seem designed to drown each other out. Still others complain that the artists they came to see only performed their ‘festival sets’, which are inferior by several orders of magnitude to their ‘arena sets’. They complain about the mud, or the heat – or the hot mud, in the cases of those unfortunate enough to have tripped and fallen on their faces in a highly viscous puddle during the opening hours of a day-long festival.

Chill la, bros.

When I went to that Miami Sound Machine show in 1986, there were two concession stands outside the stadium: one for really expensive band merch (30 ringgit for Gloria Estefan glo-sticks! Yay!) and one selling packet drinks and prawn crackers. The sound, while all the way live, was decidedly mono in actual quality. The fireworks made everyone choke. What I’m saying is, these things take time, and it takes a hell of a lot of support from people who want to see these things get better year after year. As it is, we’re being visited by a lot of the world’s best musical acts at the top of their game because, the state of the tour industry being what it is, the best ones are the ones who haven’t yet become bloated and cocooned in their own sense of badassery, are still pretty affordable to book, and hey, bonus! They rock out during each and every one of their sets. We’re getting an honest-to-goodness Grammy winner this year who won their Grammy this year. Last year, we had the standard bearer of their genre perform for us in the rain, and the fireworks and smoke machines didn’t blind us all! On a more local/regional front, I attended a brand new hip hop festival organised and produced by locals, for locals, featuring acts from Malaysia and our neighbouring countries. And it was off the hook. A Singaporean – a Singaporean – friend threw up her hands and lamented, “Why can’t we have something like that?” That, my insecure Malaysian friends, is what we call progress.

(Oh, and PSY, dudes. Minus the yee sang.)

I don’t know of as many new musicians as I used to, so looking at a festival lineup on a Facebook flyer isn’t as pants-wettingly exciting for me as it would be for many others. But I get it. We’re heading in the right direction. We’re getting more of what we’ve been asking for now than we’ve ever had before.

I’d love to hate on you young people, but I have better things to do with my time. Congratulations. Music festivals are the future, and I’m glad to be around to see them make their annual mark on our collective consciousness. Now if the Raising the Bar people would get Sean Price, Lil B, and Curren$y headline next year’s festival (and have my group open for them), I’ll be all good.

Go loco, kids.

Sudirman was not amused when the idiot three year old he pulled up on stage knew none of his lyrics. The kid got a free vinyl anyway. True story. www.about.me/wordsmanifest