Indy Rock Darlings

My heart sank when I walked into Paul’s Place and I heard the not-too-delicate strains of the Beatles’ Twist and Shout’. My last experience with a Beatles cover at Paul’s Place hadn’t ended well.

The band was Triple 6 Poser, and the cover was good, but it wasn’t until they started on their next song that I began to relax. They introduced it by explaining that they had decided not to play ‘spooky, dull’ songs (which is a shame, spooky songs are rarely dull), but something more lively and energetic. It was a veritable noise-fest that began the gig with a bang.

The first Sapu Sapu was organised by Azmyl Yunor and featured Carburetor Dung, Spunky Funggy and Azmyl himself. The second instalment included less established bands, including one debut performance. Each band had brought along a contingent of fans, and the place was packed.

The second act was Azmyl Yunor. Azmyl has an indie folksy style. The songs are drawn from his experience busking and traveling, dealing with the grittier side of life. Few Malaysian song-writers tackle subjects such as KL’s homeless and poor.

‘I’ve Seen You Around’, the first song, was about a woman he had seen wandering around the city, checking the payphones for change. It was a maybe-we-could-have song. The missed love opportunity wasn’t dark enough for Azmyl. Nope, even if they got it together, the future he envisages is one where they inevitably ‘give it up’. All sung with a slightly deprecating smile, as though he doesn’t take the gloom all that seriously, humour underscored in the lyrics.

His other songs included one inspired by the problem of taking money from people worse off than himself (‘Charity Lane’) and the irrepressible ‘I just don’t know what to do’, chasing a girl, almost mystical in her inaccessibility: Azmyl is riding a train in a foreign land, but he doesn’t know where she lives. He ends up being caught for fare-dodging.

Next, Never Thought Of That made their debut, Subang boys who’ve been skipping school to make rehearsals for this gig. I suspect that they missed the irony in their intro: ‘Life’s full of sadness. Enjoy the show.’ The best of their songs was the last, ‘The Hatred Within’ where their attempt to drip vitriol succeeded. Rock and roll, mixed with the threat of killer M-16s.

Then Evert. Sigh. If you see Evert play, insist that the drummer take off his shirt. He’s very obliging.

Their first few numbers were instrumental. ‘Riverflow’ was crashing white water. A young, energetic river bursting through dams. The next number wasn’t one the drummer particularly liked, just another rock song, but it was all frenetic energy.

There were problems later on. The band’s lead singer recently left the country, and they played a few songs with the guitarist taking his place. It would be better if they stayed instrumental, at least until they can find a singer who matches the music’s quality.

Freelove were next, and they had problems, as the sound system started to give way. Freelove are a good band, but not that night. They played well, all ‘jerit sikit’, particularly ‘Datoi’s Song’, named after the band member that wrote it. And they played ‘Indy Rock Darling’, which is plain good fun. But their numbers don’t work when you can’t hear the singer.

The politics started with the next band, Ben’s Bitches. Ben is in your face. After haranguing the audience for keeping him in poverty, rather than rocketing him to the stardom he deserves, he launched into ‘The Fucked-Up Song’. Unsurprisingly, its main theme is that everything is fucked-up. Then onto a lust letter to Paula Malai Ali, followed by the hilarious ‘Peter the Pirate’, about a rather hapless VCD seller making a living dodging DBKL officers (‘DBKL, run like hell’).

Ben seemed to keep doing things the other band members weren’t expecting, but it all pulled together. A comedy routine with music.

There was just one thing about Ben that I found strange. He believes that the Democratic Action Party rocks. Now, I have little against the staunch and stolid DAP, but it takes a fairly vivid imagination to think that they rock. Lim Kit Siang in leathers anyone? Teresa Kok, the Goth?

Last up, was the only band that managed get the audience jumping, Carburetor Dung. Still, thankfully, stuck in Seventies Cockney punk full of rage and angst, bypassing the Eighties’ bloodless materialism and the Nineties’ feel-good compassion.

Politics infuses their songs, but rather than espouse a party or creed, they asked the audience to think about why they might be voting. Whatever happens, one thing, maintained Joe Kidd, would remain constant: ‘Oppression’, title of one of their older, most popular songs.

‘Hantu Raya Putrajaya’ evoked a ghost living in the shiny halls of Putrajaya, ‘Don’t know’ focuses on the realisation that problems are one constant around the world. Carburetor Dung: The world stinks, jokers run everything, so pick up a guitar and yell your lungs out. At the very least, you won’t make things worse.

And that was Sapu Sapu 2. We drank the bar dry. The sound system crackled and popped in all the wrong places. I was told the toilets at Paul’s Place are getting better, but didn’t have the nerve to try them. It was a rock’n’roll evening. Looking forward to the next one.

First Published: 08.04.2004 on Kakiseni

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