Emotional Therapy Airwaves

If only for one night, life’s problems could disappear: creaky knees, credit card bills, demented, PMS-ing partners. If only for one moment, music could be the elixir for all the soul’s insatiable yearnings. For the lucky few who caught Double Take at Alexis Ampang recently, it seems the impossible wasn’t too much to ask.

After all, guitar virtuoso Roger Wang and vocalist Mia Palencia have been turning airwaves into emotional therapy for the past six years. Like any good addiction, it sucks you in, and you won’t want to get out. Their music is one that plays on long after the last note is sung, long after the last harmonic rings. I thought the night would never end.

(This was before Fate the Sadist led me to a ridiculous 2am traffic jam, with a date anguished by sambal petai gone wrong. A gaseous incident later, the harmonics died.)

Saturday’s gig started late, with an ensemble of music lovers, chic couples, and diners who refused to budge or pay the cover charge in attendance. I don’t know what eventually happened to the latter, but I wish to believe they were ambushed by a ferocious army of Furbies later that night and inflicted with hives till kingdom come.

But I digress.

After breaking the ice, Mia and Roger warmed up with a jazzy number. I admit, Mia’s huge hoop earrings – the size of my fist – were more than a little distracting at first, but once you train your eyes to focus on the space in between, you can actually see her lips moving.

Being a shameless, despicable, uninspired fellow guitarist, I planked myself right in front of Roger and stared. My furtive mission: to steal a few slick moves from the guy who turned down my request for lessons made 2 years ago at the Sunrise Jazz Festival. (So what if he lives in KK and I, in KL? Great teachers make great sacrifices.) Alas – his fingers moved so fast; my eyes hurt.

As the brains behind Double Take’s music, Roger combines fingerstyle guitar, jazz, blues and a gamut of other influences into his playing. Natural harmonics, percussive thumps, walking basses and syncopated beats punctuate the air each time he plays. Soon, the floor beneath me glistened with a pool of drool, which gathered as I watched Roger juggle the rhythm, harmony and melody in one complex solo arrangement.

My only consolation: I have five years to catch up.

With a generous serving of grace and humour, the Sabahan duo charmed the crowd through a repertoire of originals like ‘Baby I Need You Now’ and ‘My Baby’, to evergreens like ‘Time After Time’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, and ‘Don’t Know Why’. Mia’s goal for the night seemed to be getting the crowd to sing along. No thanks Mia – we didn’t pay RM30 to listen to a croaking zoo.

In particular, I loved the wistful renditions of ‘Mr Bojangles’ and Carole King’s ‘So Far Away’. Never mind the fact that Mia is not of legal drinking age – her maturity shines through in the way she carries herself and breathes her own interpretation into the songs.

Another memorable moment was at the beginning of the second set, when Roger performed one of his “funny songs”. This time it was the ‘Icky-Yucky Sushi Song’ (to the tune of ‘Sukiyaki’, of course). It was a rare opportunity listening to him sing and interact with the audience, as he is usually hidden behind the frame of his Maton or Yamaha. Watch out ladies, this guy’s a natural.

Roger also took the chance to introduce his new toy – a Porch Board. Simply put, it’s a wooden floor board that goes thump-thump whenever you step on it, akin to the sound of a bass drum. It complemented his set-up well; adding depth, colour and drive to the music.

During the encore, Mia finally managed to get the crowd groovin’ and croonin’ to ‘Saving All My Love For You’ and ‘You’ve Got A Friend’. If sales is any indication of audience approval, well, copies of their debut album sold out long before the night was through.

Looking back, Saturday’s show captured for me a renewed faith in friendship, living and yes, love. Maybe the wine helped, but I believe it was really the encounter of “two beautiful people making beautiful music” that transformed an ordinary outing into something truly magical, gas or no gas.

First Published: 04.08.2004 on Kakiseni

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