With the dust settled, the controversy surrounding the lineup well and truly burried, and all gear packed away along with our suncream and expectations, Ben Liew delivers his verdict andÂ shares his experiences bouncing from stage to stage and jostling for room at Sunburst 2009. Mic check….Â
I LOVE MY JOB
The glaring sun couldn’t stop the show from going at the recent Sunburst KL International Music Festival 2009. Waking up just in time to get there for the media registration (the Sun Gods couldn’t penetrate my heavy curtains) I was amazed at the number of cars parked outside. It was barely past noon but already the burger, kebab and fishball gerais were up, as were the t-shirts taukehs. I creamed my Kelisa into a nice shady spot and joined some friends for a picnic outside the Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort.
After savouring the greenery and a RM2 burger, the gates finally opened at 2pm. I went in, gliding through the tight security with an OJ Simpson smile and waving at the horses in the stables along the way. The concert area was humongous! This was, after all, a field meant for the art of horse riding. In the grand scheme of things, I was probably an ant. Another music journalist out here doing his job, trying to make sense of the situation before heat-induced craziness took over.
Despite its size, there was little cover from the sun. There were stages, tents, arenas and stalls but the heat seemed inescapable. Soon I found myself hiding inside the air-conditioned SpeedZone Tour 2009 tent. 3 unsuccessful spot-the-difference games later, I realised that this was ridiculous! I was here to rock out to some awesome bands, NOT to find a missing tyre on an F1 car. “Argh!” I burst out screaming into the field like Jonathan Davis with his kilt on fire.
FUN IN THE SUN – HEAT, MUSIC AND KEBABS
With a borrowed umbrella in one hand and a cold cup of beer in the other, I managed to catch a few songs by They Will Kill Us All. Facing the full fury of the sun, the poor post rockers were literally being roasted on stage and wearing sunglasses helped only to make them look cooler. Still they marched on gallantly and drew the early main stage crowd.
I took a short breather and bought a kebab from Warong Che Amat, one of the many caterers present that day. Chowing down, I waited for Hujan to come on at Livesounds which was a smaller, shaded stage (there were 4 stages at Sunburst). Soon, frontman Noh made his appearance to the adoration of his fans – the Raingers. With his shaggy hair flopping in the wind, Noh and bandmates enticed the crowd through songs like ‘Ah Moi Chantek’ and ‘Dugaan Aku’. Halfway through their set, Noh poked fun at Bunkface who was setting up at the opposite stage. The cheeky singer requested Bunkface to give them a chance to play an extra song, adding that they would do a Bunkface cover.
Before Hujan’s final chord faded, Bunkface’s young frontman Sam replied through his microphone, “Bye, bye Hujan!” The vibrant pop punk quartet immediately gave Hujan a run for their money and won over most of the Raingers, turning them into pogo-ers. Belting out hits like ‘Situasi’ and ‘Silly Lily’, Bunkface was the first band of the day to create a mosh pit. It was good to see foreigners and locals moshing together, circling around and picking up fallen comrades. I found an Aussie lady’s nose stud on the ground later and returned it to her. She said Bunkface reminded her of Frenzal Rhomb minus the onstage pot smoking.
With much publicity surrounding them, Russian Winters was one of the more anticipated acts. However, the band from Perth, Australia quickly melted under the Malaysian heat. The band’s pop rock tunes fell on deaf ears as people stared from a distance and wondered who they were. I looked around for the Aussie nose ring lady but she was nowhere to be found. So I headed off after two songs from Russian Winters and, after misreading the schedule, came back just in time to miss local favourite ska group Gerhana Ska Cinta. “Argh!” I screamed once again to the vacant stage like Jonathan Davis missing his dentist appointment. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten sucked into those bottle games at the Tuborg beer garden. How hard could it be to hook a bottle with a fishing rod?
THE NEW, THE OLD AND THE WTF?
Among all the bands that played on the main stages that afternoon, only one could withstand the heat with military gusto. Controversial Chinese math rock trio Nao had recently beaten other bands at the Road To Sunburst to win a spot on the main stage. I’ve been following their progress as a band since their days playing at the Street Roar Festivals and Cheras’ Kaki Corner. Before this, the band had an additional guitarist and their songs had lyrics. Although their musical direction has changed to solely instrumentals, they are still known for being vocal on social and anti-racial issues. Through their funkoid metal riffing and thunderous double pedalling, Nao commanded the crowd to stand ground. This was a band that did not need to prove their worthiness to play at Sunburst.
Following Nao was an oddly placed Cosmic Kitchen from Ireland. They looked a lot like the lost cousins of Fleetwood Mac with their bright colours and psychedelic rock. Their opener had a long jam intro and a chorus that went, “stone, stone, stone…” They were as groovy as the evening sky, but I wasn’t riding the same wave.
As dusk turned into night, I was all grunged-up to see a matured Butterfingers open with their classic ‘Vio-pipe’. It brought me back to my days of liquid paper graffiti on school desks. The rest of their set consisted of newer songs that showed that Butterfingers were still an evolving band.
Before the butter melted, I dashed back to the smaller stage to catch my favourite feathered electro hip hopstress Arabryd. Already halfway through her set, spunky Arabyrd was getting down and working the crowd. Although she didn’t need much help, I joined in the fun anyway and switched from grunger to hip hopper, bouncing to her hyper rhymes and big beats.
The wildcard of the night was Indon electro misfits Agrikulture. Campy lead vocalist Irfandy aka FanDFMC in his neon green shorts, yellow T-shirt, pasar malam tiger print jacket and blue cap proclaimed, “Kami band electronic paling bahaya di dunia!” WTF? Clearly, this was one of the more “happening” bands at Sunburst that couldn’t care less about how they came across, which made them even more happening.
NERD SAYS SO
Finally, it was time for first of the 2 headliners to come on. NERD stormed the stage like a SWAT team under the cover of a smoke screen. Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley led their band through a rip roaring set but it was Pharrell’s interaction with the crowd that’s really the story here.
It all started with the man laying down a couple of NERD rules which could be summarised to:
1.Â Â Â Let’s have fun.
2.Â Â Â Every girl should let the guy beside her carry her on his shoulders.
3.Â Â Â There should be more crowd surfers. At least 5 for each song.
4.Â Â Â You paid good money to watch NERD so you can do whatever you want (within reason).
During ‘Break Out’, a mystically soulful tune, Pharrell invited a lucky girl to come onstage. And there she remained until the end of the set, bopping along to her idols. She was not the last though. Pharrell selected 8 or 9 male fans to come up. Dressed in hip hop fashion, they blended right in and, standing behind Pharrell, they looked like his posse alright!
As this was the first NERD concert in Malaysia, the alt hip hop crew took us through some old favourites (like ‘Lap Dance’ – minus the female vocals) and some new bouncy tunes (‘Everybody Nose’ – a song that Tony Montana would be proud of). They even performed an unreleased polka punk song that sounded a lot like a crunked up Weird Al.
What came as a shocker happened about only 3 songs into the set. Pharrell told the band to stop playing. He turned down to the front of the stage and said, “Look! Stop pushing people back! We’re not playing if you push people around.” Apparently a photographer had been pushing people back from the front of the stage. Later, Pharrell stopped the music once again and told the photographer to either “take pictures or get out of the way”.
The amount of power Pharrell had disturbed me. Was he being a diva? More importantly, are Malaysians ready for this kind of unorthodox behaviour? This sort of living large and doing whatever-the-hell-you-want is so out of contrast with our docile society. The whole time NERD was playing, I felt uneasy, as if a riot would break out if the slightest thing went wrong. Malaysians have been waiting a long time for a rock ‘n’ roll saviour to changeÂ our rigid social climate. Could NERD’s visit be a sign of changing times?
Fans didn’t bother with cultural differences, especially female fans. During the last few numbers, the girls filed up onstage one after another. I counted 20 of them. One girl in particular, couldn’t stop taking photographs of Pharrell, which pissed him off. He told the girl to put her camera away or else she would have to leave. He said this repeatedly. I counted 4 times. “Okay, you gotta leave,” said Pharrell, “cause there are lots of other girls that would gladly take your place if you don’t stop taking pictures.” After much begging, Pharrell let the girl stay “as long as she put her camera away.”
NERD closed their set with a short cover of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’. Pharrell uttered the final “Thank you” and with that, threw his arms up in the air and was rushed by the girls onstage. Their screaming bled into Pharrell’s mike and reminded me of the movie A Hard Day’s Night. Except instead of dividing the groupies between four Beatles, there was just one lucky Pharrell.
You got to give it to them. Nu metal fans are loyal to the bone and when it comes to Korn, they turn it up a notch – I spotted a couple of guys in the front who wore Halloween masks since 2pm.
Opening with their keyboardist/DJ playing some drum loops and a short midi intro, it wasn’t long before the full band burst onstage with Fieldy slapping his bass like a mofo and a puggy-looking Jonathan Davis swinging his dreadlocks. The nu metal pioneers played their newer stuff (with the exception of ‘ADIDAS’) for the first half of the set before JD finally spoke.
“First of all, I’d like to apologise that it took us 15 years to come here. And I promise you that it will not be another 15 years until we come back!” He continued, “We’re going to play some old sh!t for you, is that okay?” The crowd cheered. “I take that as a yes! Argh!”
Full of testosterone, Korn rammed the audience of more than 10,000 with classics that made them who they were. This included ‘Clown’, ‘Freak on a Leash’, ‘Somebody Someone’, ‘Blind’ and ‘Got The Life’. During ‘Faget’, the crowd reached an ecstatic high as JD broke into the spoken word part of the song ending with an invitation to suck what was under his kilt. Davis also came out with his bagpipe at one point and played a minimal melody that sounded like a cat begging for mercy.
It was good fun and although their set wasn’t as electric as NERD’s, Korn had the best audience of the night. Every single Korn fan had memorised their lyrics, both old and new sh!t. But what can you expect from people that have been waiting for 15 years to see their favourite band?
RAKAN JOGET ANDA
Later on, Twilight Action Girl took the decks and partied on with those who couldn’t get enough. “Kami bukan band, kami Twilight Action Girl. Rakan joget anda!” opened Ribut 10:59 just before spinning OAG’s classic ’60s TV’. Through their electro and indie mashings, TAG tried to rival NERD with girls dancing onstage, but the numbers weren’t as impressive. Good try though.
I left the TAGers to their closing ritual and went for my last drink at the Silent Disco area. Downing a cup of Jagermeister, I was ready to leave. I passed by the sleeping horses and the almost non-existent security, got in my car, passed the keys to a sober friend and closed my eyes.
If all music festivals were to go this way from now on, I would be a happy camper. Now what are the chances of stretching the next Sunburst into a 2 day event? J
Sunburst KL International Music Festival 2009 went down in history at Bukit Kiara Equestrian & Country Resort on 21 March 2009. Huge props to Pineapple Concerts for making this happen! See you guys next year! Check out our gallery here.
Images Pineapple Concerts + FotoworX