Thursday, December 20, 2012

Not A Fest III - Vaz, the Vaginors, Apparatus and more 12.16.2012

...a uniquely eclectic installment of Ci Chaan's monthly Not A Fest shows, held for the first time at the Black Box venue in KL's upscale Publika mall. I'd been to the Black Box once before, when Tools of the Trade were getting ready for their first European tour. Though a few people mentioned to me they preferred the intimacy of Rumah Api, seeing a show at the Black Box was a refreshing change. I'm sure all the drummers that evening appreciated the fancy Premiere drumset that was leased for their benefit.

The show started late - because of course it did - a fact that multiple people seemed to delight in pointing out to me, possibly just to see my reaction. It's clear that my constant harping on Malaysian tardiness has been noticed; it's also clear that none of it makes any difference. At this point all I can do is shrug it off. For once I was able to turn it to my advantage: wandering around the swanky mall, I found an upscale supermarket that makes fresh bagels every day. Real, honest to goodness, freshly-baked bagels: my Malaysian white whale. I snapped up the few they had left and made a mental note to return every chance I get. Now I just need to find a place that sells Tofutti cream cheese and breakfast will officially be a thing again.

The Abang Guard took the stage to signal the beginning of the event with their version of sax-led experimental rock. The band may not consider themselves either punk or metal, but there was something about them that brought Zeni Geva to mind, only with a tenor sax taking the place of the guitar. It had to be said, despite being their most notable feature, the sax was mostly buried for most of their set, peeking (and peaking) only slightly from the under the bass and drums. Their set seemed to be mostly improvised, but I couldn't tell how much - usually the sign of good improvisors. Not the John Zorn phreak-out I was expecting, but also not bad.

Shoegazers Stellarium (from Singapore) begin their set, as bands of their ilk do, with an all encompassing BWWWWWOOOONGGGGGGG. Armed with suitcases full of FX pedals (not an exaggeration), they're definitely fans of reverb and delay on instruments and vocals alike. Though they're much heavier than the average shoegaze band, Stellariam are still what the Wizard of Awesome calls "sitting down music." Crouched in my little corner, the cavernous Black Box space turned claustrophobic as notes melted into each other and echoed into infinity. The endless reverberation and ghostly vocals climaxed into a Who-style spazz out; at the end of the day, rock bands will be rock bands, "post" or otherwise.

Just when it seemed it was going to be a whole gig dedicated to beard stroking and head scratching, Appäratus showed up to give the night a shot in the arm and a kick in the pants. The band are local crust heroes, but I mostly know them as Pat from Atomicdeath's "other" band. As with most of the hardcore acts in the region, they're heavily influenced by the Scandinavian d-beat style. Their laidback stage presence is almost in direct contradiction to their destructive music - until their singer accidentally broke the mic stand. Whoops. Someone's not getting their deposit back.

With their jorts, leopard print jackets, and silly eyeglasses, Australian guests the Vaginors are proof that Williamsburg is a syndrome more than a geographical location. "Punk" in only the shallowest sense of the term, their set consists of a lot of jumping around and crowd-baiting sandwiched between complaints about the sound (which, strangely, didn't seem to affect any of the other bands). Two "songs" and getting water spit on me were enough to be somewhere else til they were done.

VAZ hail from Brooklyn, a place I called home for 8 years, and yet I'd never heard of them until this gig was announced. If anyone in KL is wondering how that could be, A) NYC is a fucking huge city, and B) I was never an Am Rep fan and kept most of those bands at arm's length. Thankfully, VAZ (whose drummer and singer/guitarist were in the seminal noisecore band Hammerhead) are heavier than their AmRep pedigree suggests, and their songs are furious and driving in a way that's reminiscent of the mighty Unsane. Breaking three strings and collapsing the drum set during their time on stage was proof enough of their passion and conviction. Not bad for three guys who look like they could be on either side of a PTA meeting.

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