Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Trends in Southeast Asian Cover Bands

Warning: this post contains some terribly low-quality photos taken on my Motorola cameraphone.

Friday night was my last night in Yogyakarta after three weeks of language training. Some of the people staying at the homestay where I had been living were going out to a bar in the city's downtown called Bintang -- which also happens to be the name of the most famous Indonesian beer.

The Bintang Bar was a fairly typical ex-pat bar. It was pretty crowded with a lot more white skin than you would see anywhere else in Yogya. There were some Native American headdresses adorning one wall and the air was thick with clove cigarettes -- tasty little things those...

Pretty soon after we arrived, an Indonesian band took the stage. I had been told that it would be jazz or blues, but their first song was instead a pretty serious Pearl Jam cover. No problem, though, because we were digging it. Then they gave us "With or Without You" -- including the spontaneous Bono transition that is not found on The Joshua Tree but rather on later live recordings! Impressive! (The guitar part was played accurately, although the tone on the guitar was nothing like Edge's, so I can't say that it was nailed.) Other hits included The Cure's "Friday, I'm in Love," the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" (what a good song that one is), "Paint it Black" and "Message in the Bottle." Not a bad selection, huh?

As we headed out to get back to the homestay, we discovered a huge crowd listening to the band from outside the bar! While the ex-pats lived it up at the Bintang Bar, the Indonesians were filling up the Circle K parking lot across the street to take in the tunes!

The next morning, I flew -- bright and early -- to Singapore. (I needed to leave Indonesia in order to renew my visa.) That night, I met up with a Moonshine Show listener with whom I have corresponded over the years but never thought that I would meet, since he lives in Singapore. With a friend of his, we went out for some rather good beer at a brewpub along the redeveloped Singapore River.

From the brewpub, we made tracks over to a crowded ex-pat bar called the Crazy Elephant, where the service was bad and so were the dirty jokes being endlessly projected on television monitors around the bar (e.g. "Why do women like elderly gynecologists? Because their hands shake uncontrollably."). The mixed band on stage was pretty good. The lead singer, Jeanne French, could really belt them out, and the lead guitarist had some really nice, clean chops. There was a drum solo and maybe even a bass solo, too. The material included "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Hey, Bo Diddley!" and "Me and Bobby McGee." Dancing couples added some additional value; flirtatious ex-pats less so.

We left to catch some jazz music next at the Bellini Grande. After sitting through 30-40 minutes of a DJ spinning and projected Bond girls dancing on the screen behind the stage, the band took the stage. Well, again, this was not jazz. The opening number was "We Are Family." Most of the dancers cleared the floor, despite the band's encouragement to dance. There were some apologies at my table, too. When the guy in the Batman T-shirt busted out "Mony Mony," we started making our move to get out of there.

We ended up at the St. James Power Station, a converted electricity plant that now hosts seven, eight or nine different nightclubs. (The taxi driver nonetheless did first take us to the power company corporate offices before we corrected him.) We took a cool little tour through a skywalk where we could see what was going on in several different clubs, and we opted to go into the one where there was Latin music playing.

The band on stage was from Paraguay, and they were bringing the party to Singapore. Two energetic female singers and then a male MC to totally bring the party to the stage -- all three of them would get to dancing, bringing up various audience members for support. The band was solid and kept the time well. Although they took a break soon after we got there, we stuck around for their second set, which started to get a little schlocky with "Tequila" and "The Macarena."

At 3:30 a.m., we hit a random corner for some congee and pork products. Mmmmm! Delicious, delicious stuff. We had seven or eight small plates in front of us, and we would take a bit of food, mix it with a bit of rice porridge and let the goodness land in our stomachs! A wonderfully Singaporean end to a very fun night in Singapore.

No comments: