non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand

Southeast Asia Tour Diary 5: A mosquito’s respite between Temerloh and Mentakab

Leaving Bekasi by BusDeparting Java, we land back at KL mid afternoon and receive a text from our friend and host Joe Kidd. There has been a death in his family today and he needs to return home swiftly. We catch a taxi quickly back to his house and find our more about the tragic event. Joe needs to return the family village this evening. It is a terrible event to have happened and the priority of our planning seems inconsequential to Joe’s need. Our first assumption is that the planned trip up north is cancelled, and Joe’s plan to take us to visit his family home, sample fermented durian, and then go further north to the beach will be canned. However Joe and I-Lann have held onto our needs and have already begun making plans for others to step in and ensure all goes ahead.

The first of the ring-in’s is Fendi, bassist for the veteran Malay punk band Carburetor Dung. He arrives at Joe’s and swoops us up and were off across town to the venue, Myevo.

We arrive at the venue. Up three stories to a show in full swing. Comadre, from the US, are on stage and the crowd’s singing along and dominating the stage Southeast Asian style, making movement a challenge for the band and increasing the temperature of the room significantly. Comadre are popular in KL with the audience singing away to almost all of their tunes. They come off stage looking as if they had just climbed out of a swimming pool.

The next band play and we prepare for our set, getting changed in the sauna and applying makeup. The show wasn’t so easy, it’s interesting that sometimes on stage you can’t hear anything despite the fact that you know it’s loud++, and this was true of tonight, totally playing by Braille. That’s simply one of the hazards of playing without a sound check, but we flew into KL late so what could we do? We performed ok, received positive feedback afterward, but it wasn’t our tightest show and personal expectations are the thing that need to be wrestled with.

We finish playing, drenched, and clean ourselves up while the last band performs. After midnight we return to Jalan Ceylon for a meal of Roti Chennai. Chrissie asks Fendi where his favorite place to play is, and he says the venue where we are going tomorrow. Sounds promising, he tells us it is known as ‘The Oven.’

Waking slowly, we have a gentle Sunday morning, in no particular hurry, supping on toast and coffee. We head to the bus terminal to get our ticket to Mentakab, we don’t leave till later in the afternoon so down time for talking and learning about the Malay way regarding death, family structures, and the co-existing tension between traditional Malay cultural practices and Malaysian Islam.

This is our last chance to hang out with I-Lann, she is off to Japan midweek for an exhibition opening that she has artwork in. We head to a Chinese restaurant and she introduces us to Bitter gourd curry and Nasi Kerebu – blue rice, insisting that we try and find Nasi Kerebu up north as that is where the meal is traditionally from. Good food is such an essential part of the rock n roll trip.

bus windowWe finish our meal, get some fruit for the journey that tastes like it has been kept in vinegar and flavored with salty/sour/chilling seasoning, actually very good. The bus ride time to Mentakab- wah, like the scene from Star Wars film of young Vader racing at speed through the desert, except here we’re speeding on concrete slabs through remnants of Malay jungle, dynamic terrain with low hanging cloud, terraced hills and occasional villages, a full-bodied experience.

Termerloh car parkThe journey takes about two hours. We are meet by Dean at the Termerloh terminus and then taken to the studio, to The Oven’, officially known as Arjuna studio, situated in between the cities of Termerloh and Mentakab. This is the industrial section of town, on the horizon are massive chimney stacks spewing steam or smoke, the sound of bats fill the car park, and the bulky bodies of trucks wait till activity the next morning. There is an all pervading haze over everything.

Photo by Anok Pakcik Abu

Photo by Anok Pakcik Abu

There are five bands tonight on the line-up, four local acts and us. It seems one of the bands Pulled T maybe be the local favorites, playing a pop punk/Ramones styled sound. The other group are of an intense and brutal grind-like style, dual vocals with one of the singers having a particularly full-on vocal style, very high pitched squealing delivery but a sense remains that it is very controlled. A super enthusiastic crowd, mosh the entire time with many moments of abandonment to safety displayed on the dance floor. A couple of guys kissed the concrete floor several times with the backs of their heads after getting slammed particularly effectively.

Chrissie at Arjuna, Photo by Anok Pakcik Abu

Photo by Anok Pakcik Abu

We’re on fourth. By the time our time to play arrives, simply standing in the room induces sweating, it’s so hot! We play a full set, which is great after the recent short sets, and the audience takes the prize for being the most ballistic we have experienced to date, bodies flying through the air, it’s a watch-you-teeth-night otherwise there will be some microphone dentistry going free of charge. Chrissie has a minder on her mic, to deflect the flying bodies or catch and retrieve the mic when it vacates the stage. And it’s HOT! There’s a couple of fans, maybe more for psychological or aesthetic purposes rather than effective temperature control, for that you need to be within a meters vicinity of the fan, however we appreciate the effort none the less. A very satisfying show, cheers Arjuna.

There’s another classic midnight dinner at the local street-side restaurant of Roti Chennai then we’re taken to our accommodation across town to one of the guy’s homes in a block of flats. We’re thrilled to get a bed, but it’s mosquito central. The roti chennai appear to not be the only midnight feast.

In the morning we get our itchy-selves into the car and return to the bus depot for our Monday bus ride to holiday. We had originally planned that Joe would be with us on this leg, now that he’s not we realise that we’re not quite sure what happens next… we know that we’re to catch a bus to somewhere, meet someone, and then??? Our plans haven’t (really) failed yet so we trust the process. We catch a bus to Kuantan where we are to rendezvous with a bloke call Aiye.

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