British Summer Time 2014 Gig Story

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Fans gathered in their masses

Choosing which festival to go to this summer was not a difficult task. While the prospect of catching three of the Big Four and some of my favourite bands – Mastodon, Gojira, and Carcass among others – at Sonisphere is extremely enticing, I had to give them up to witness the band that started it all: Black Sabbath. I have been listening to them since my earliest exposure to rock music, much thanks to the game Guitar Hero for featuring ‘Iron Man’ – still one of my all-time favourite songs. This year’s British Summer Time Festival featured the genre pioneer as the headliner (the 4th of July entry of the festival was even promoted as ‘Black Sabbath Time’ due to the matching initials).

Motorhead is also playing, which is another decisive factor that made me go. I bought the ticket for their February show, which was unfortunately cancelled due to Lemmy’s health issues. Since there was no sign of the show being cancelled this time around – Motorhead pulled a set in Coachella earlier this year – it was wise to have faith that the 68-year old rock & roll lord will grace Hyde Park with his repertoire of songs that have consistently capture the original Motorhead sound throughout the band’s 40-year career. Indeed, the newest album ‘Aftershock’ retains the aggressive, in-your-face, no-frills rock & roll that the band has been known for since their debut album.

BST is my first festival experience outside of Indonesia. I’ve attended several Indonesian music festivals like Hammersonic and the ‘Java Trinity’ of Java Jazz, Java Rockinland and Java Soulnation. But none serves the authentic festival feel that I witnessed on concert DVDs: wide-open field, thousands of tents set up for camping, and humongous headliner stages. To be fair, BST did not fully deliver those expectations either, the camping part being non-existent. And maybe that’s not what they aim to do anyway. The fact that the festival is open for free on a lot of days, installs rides like the ferris wheel and the waveswinger, and holds a freaking Zumba class made BST more like a town carnival rather than a music festival. Perhaps the closest Indonesian equivalent to BST would be PRJ (Pekan Raya Jakarta or Jakarta Fair), Jakarta’s people party adorned with booths offering traditional food, handy crafts, and clothing.

Having the festival in the middle of the city is such a convenience. I saved up on travel and accommodation (camping) expenses. If I had decided to go to Sonisphere, I would have to buy train and coach tickets and book a camping spot (plus having to bring my own tent, food, drinks, etc). To attend BST, I only had to take a short tube ride to Marble Arch station, walk into the park and enjoy the shows, and then hop on a tube ride home. A really nice perk for a festival that boasts such an impressive line-up.

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Sebelas tigabelas

Another great thing about the experience is that I went there with Seringai’s very own Arian13. It is interesting to note that Seringai has been accused of sounding too similar to Sabbath and Motorhead a number of times, perhaps throughout their whole career. So in a weird way I’ll be watching two legendary bands who’s music is the reason that the guy-beside-me’s music exist.

We arrived at Hyde Park at 1pm, while the door opens at 1.30pm. Upon exiting Marble Arch station, we saw hordes of black t-shirt-donning folks flocking towards the main gate. There were some people wearing cool stuff, like a really old Motorhead t-shirt. Turns out t-shirt-watching would be our favourite past time during the festival.

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Proper British summer time

Security wasn’t as tight as I had expected. According to the BST guidebook, we are not allowed to bring any food and drinks (even the containers) into the festival. So I gave up the idea of bringing a huge plastic bottle that I can fill with water from the many water fountains within the park. When the dude was checking my bag, which was over-packed with a pair of jeans, a jacket, a t-shirt, a small towel, some tissues and loads of medications (Tolak Angin), he only glanced inside it for two seconds then he let me in. Quite worrying, to be honest, as someone might bring a dangerous object. This proved to be true as when The Libertines played the next day (5th of July), some fans lighted flares in the midst of a packed and chaotic crowd.

Thank God none of that happened on the 4th of July. Upon entering we were able to walk around the spacious park, browsing the food stalls and merchandise booths and familiarizing ourselves with the stage locations. There were six stages in total, though the acts that we wanted to catch all play at the Main Stage. Bo Ningen was playing at a smaller stage just before Soundgarden’s set, but because the whole area was packed at that time (not as spacious as when we entered) we could not catch them. We shouldn’t be surprised, but because we were glued to the stage and weren’t observing how the number of crowds escalated quickly, we haven’t had an escape route planned (more about this later).

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Festi-vibe

Anyway, let’s talk about the main acts of the day. Soulfly was the first band to hit the main stage. Arian told me that he watched them live back in Jakarta, which he thought wasn’t that fun. According to him, the lead singer and guitarist Max Cavalera doesn’t always play correctly. He told a funny story that when Soulfly played Jakarta, the sound engineers were so excited that Max Cavalera is playing that they cranked up their guitar sound so high that it overpowered the others. Turns out Max’s playing was not that fantastic – messy, in fact – so highlighting his guitar wasn’t such a smart move. Soulfly played ‘Arise’ at Hyde Park, which is one of my favourite Sepultura songs. Igor Cavalera, the ex-Sepultura drummer and the brother of Max, was drumming for Soulfly that day and was wearing a blue Hawaiian (Brazilian?) t-shirt. Two Cavaleras on stage was quite a sight.

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Crowd, bloody crowd

Arian and I watched Soulfly from behind the fourth barrier. We thought that beyond that barrier was the VIP section. But then we saw a bunch of people trying to walk around the barrier and found that it wasn’t actually a VIP section. Since Motorhead is playing next, we prepared to seek a nice spot that is in the centre and not too far from the stage, just behind the second barrier.

Anticipation for Motorhead was quite tense. I didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t seen many recent live videos of them. And I was quite surprised that they played Coachella earlier this year, considering how Motorhead’s music might be foreign to the Coachella type of crowd. Then again, we’ve seen better surprises this year in the form of Metallica whiplashing sceptics and critics through their fantastic performance at Glastonbury. I was hoping that Motorhead would do the same too, unleashing a powerful hard rocking feast that only they could serve.

And serving the feast, they did.

Seeing Lemmy onstage was such a great privilege. His voice was raspy as ever, his signature Rickenbacker (Rickenbastard, to be exact) 4004LK sleek and beautiful, and his fellow Motorhead Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee played fantastic as well. When the huge stage screen showed Lemmy’s face, I could see so many wrinkles on his neck, which made me respect him even more for still wanting to give fans a great show even at the age of 68.

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Rickenbastard

Motorhead played a combination of their old and new tunes. Highlights include ‘Stay Clean’, ‘Lost Woman Blues’ (a great song from their latest album), ‘Overkill’, and obviously, ‘Ace of Spades’, which actually sounded interesting. It was still the fast, relentless song that all metalheads love. But on that day, the song seemed rather casual, as if it wasn’t played as aggressive as how it should be. Lemmy and the rest also seemed to be enjoying their performance casually, as the bright summer weather uplifted everyone’s mood on Hyde Park that day.

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Woohoo

Arian is a big Motorhead fan. The band is also one of the reasons why he came to London. While to him the show wasn’t Motorhead’s best performance, he was pleased that he got one thing off his bucket list.

The next band to play was Faith No More. I don’t really listen to them (I didn’t explore beyond ‘The Real Thing’). But it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

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Seating party

After Lemmy and co. had finished their set, Arian and I were just sitting on our reserved spot (in the center, behind the second barrier). Still in the Motorhead mood, we were just busy talking about the show we had watched (it was Motorhead after all). Suddenly, a lot of dudes in Fantomas, Tomahawk, Mr.Bungle and all the other acts that Mike Patton is (or was) involved in started to appear. A bunch of pretty girls also showed up, which is a rather odd sight at a metal show. Then the few empty spots around us, which gave us some leg-rooms to chill out, were filled with people trying to secure a good view. As we were starting to get in the way of other people, we stood up. The stage was completely different now. The stacks of black Marshalls were replaced by amps covered in white sheets. And pots of flowers adorned the entire stage. Seems like I’m in for a treat.

When those guys came in, clad in black clerical shirts, they really own the stage, especially Mike Patton. With an imposing pose, he opened the show, uttering lines from ‘Zombie Eaters’ accompanied by the clean guitar intro. Then the song exploded, and everyone is singing. The crowd was more alive than Motorhead’s, which is a good and a bad thing. For instance, I imagined how much more fun could Motorhead’s show been had the crowd been this participative. (I should stop comparing Motorhead’s show to FNM, I guess).

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The White Concert

A few weeks ago I read an article that says that Mike Patton is ‘the greatest singer of all time’, boasting an impressive six-octave range and ousting the likes of Axl Rose and Mariah Carey.  Some of his solo performance videos on YouTube show him performing a capella with the help of a voice processor and includes diverse vocal styles like rapping, screaming, and falsetto. This is also why FNM was able to attract such a diverse crowd: their music has a bit of pop, a bit of metal, a bit of rock, a bit of hip-hop. A bit of everything for everyone, basically.

One of the highlights of the FNM show was when Patton said ‘aren’t you all enjoying this great holiday?’ to which there was almost no response from the puzzled audience. ‘Oh yeah, this is the day when we kicked your ass!’ It was the 4th of July after all. Other highlights of the FNM show include the debut of two new songs.

Now comes the interesting part. Remember when I said that we didn’t prepare an escape route? It was here that we didn’t realise how packed the whole park was. After watching two shows in a row, we were thirsty and hungry. So we wanted to get to where food booths were. We thought it would still be okay to watch Soundgarden from afar and I was actually thinking that maybe we could catch Bo Ningen.

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Hungry and thirsty

Pushing through the crowd was no easy task. Add to that the fact that food booths were so far away from our sight (and they’re small) that it’s hard for us to determine which way we should actually go. After about 20 minutes of ‘moshing’, we were finally near the food booths. The next problem was choosing what to eat. Most booths have a long cue, except for a hot salad booth. They’re one of the cheaper options as well. Without hesitation, I queued for the food while Arian was sitting on the grass in between the occupied tables, guarding our bags and drinks.

The hot salad was an interesting meal. You can choose 3 hot vegetarian dishes to be packed away. Since I was hungry and wouldn’t bother inspecting every option in detail, I followed the recommendations of the cashier girl. I left the booth with two boxes filled with a mixture of coleslaw and two different types of African vegetarian curry. Arian joked how the queue was not long because it will probably give us diarrhoea (thank God it didn’t).

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It actually filled me up

As we finished our meal, we prepared ourselves for the main course of the day: Black Sabbath.

Just like the previous shows, we were able to get a good spot in the centre, as the transition between Soundgarden and Sabbath was quite long and a lot of people left the stage area. The sky was darkening and cloud was getting thicker. During the day the sky was bright and blue, absent of any clouds. I even said that it is rather unlikely for weather as nice as this to end in rain. No problem, though, as this kind of weather would suit the music better.

‘War Pigs’ opened the show. Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Tomy Clufetos (Rob Zombie drummer), and Ozzy Osbourne entered the stage. Huge screens are show images of notable world politicians, akin to the theme of the song.

‘Generals gathered in their masses.. Just like witches at black masses..’

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Mr.Iommi

My initial reaction was ‘wow, it’s so loud.’ It was here that I realised why the sound of the previous bands felt like they were held back from the reaching all of the audience. They were saving up powers for the main act.

The sound is just amazing. During ‘Black Sabbath’, for example, Iommi’s stroke of the infamous diminished fifth is really subtle, but still packs that eerie punch. Geezer Butler’s solo that led to ‘N.I.B.’ showed the legendary bassist at his technical best as well as the crunchy bass tone that many modern stoner rock bands adhere too. Even Clufetos’ drum solo saw the drum gains upped a few decibels, which made his solo so powerful.

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Mr.Butler

Ozzy is as interesting as ever. He did all those weird jumps and addresses the audience in awkward ways. Criticise him as you will, but the man still delivers a stunning vocal performance.

I was hoping they’d play ‘Electric Funeral’, my favourite Sabbath song after ‘Iron Man’. I think that they could have substituted ‘Rat Salad’ with it. Nevertheless, the set was great as they played their best songs plus two new songs off the new album. Speaking of the new album, it was also on that day at Hyde Park that they received an award for having sold a million copies of ‘13’, an impressive feat in an age of declining record sales.

Black Sabbath ended their show with ‘Paranoid’. After ‘Children Of The Grave’, during which a moshpit occurred, all four members thank the crowd and left the stage. Fans were getting paranoid because they should not leave without playing ‘Paranoid’. The period in which the stage was empty was rather long and looking back it should be understandable considering how old those guys are.

Nevermind that, they eventually hit the stage to play ‘Paranoid’. The crowd went wild. The legendary band unleashed their trump card. It was such an epic closing.

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What they showed on screen after the show

To me, the whole day was great, but it’s just Sabbath playing ‘Paranoid’ at the end that really sums up the experience. Sheer epic.

Arian and I then jumped on the tube alongside other pleased, black t-shirt-donning fans.

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Happy faces

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Bo Ningen live at Rough Trade East, London (17/06/14)

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Bo Ningen is a weirdly unique band. They were formed after four guys from Japan met each other in London and chose the city as their base. Their music is extremely challenging to categorise. Some call it jazzed-up acid punk, ‘Krautcore’, and ‘East Electric Psychedelic’, whatever the hell that is. And one of my friends thought that the band consists of savage, brutal ladies.

Despite the stigmas surrounding Bo Ningen, I was only able to appreciate the oddities after witnessing them perform live. In reality, all those oddities are just side dishes to the main course: a species of rock that is completely untamed onstage.

From outside Rough Trade East, an independent record store in Brick Lane, East London that was used as the gig’s venue, a bunch of crazy noises can be heard. Relentless noise feedback and distortion roared through the open door. Entering the store that was mostly dark, my attention was drawn towards four longhaired figures, each of them in black robes, enlightened by purple stage lights. They were Taigen Kawabe (bassist and lead singer), Kohhei Matsuda, Yuki Tsujii (guitarsits), and Monchan Monna (drummer).

I came ten minutes late. Bo Ningen had played two or three songs. I wasn’t able to stand by the stage, as there were lots of people in that area already. Instead, I stood behind a shelf of records, which was just about two and a half meters away from the stage. I could still see the whole stage, though. This venue is really good for small, intimate gigs.

My first impression about the performance was the heavy reverb that enveloped the entire store. I think the reverb really livened up the songs that I normally just listen to on recording. The vocals, in particular, became more powerful. Taigen Kawabe’s vocal style includes wails, screams, and normal, mid-tone voice. The transition between reverbed and non-reverbed vocals was seamless that he was able to showcase his vocal versatility effectively. On the song ‘Slider’, for example, after the verse that was sung normally, the chorus got so reverb-heavy that it created this awesome sci-fi atmosphere. Before the last two songs, Taigen, trying to catch his breath after an intense display of his vocal skills, greeted the audience in a rather fluid English complemented with a thick Japanese accent. He thanked the audience for coming to the gig, promoted their new album, and asked if anyone’s interested to chat and hangout after the gig. Not many people responded, so he just blasted off talking in Japanese, which I assume is not understood by most of the audience. Then again, almost all of their lyrics are written in Japanese.

Language barrier was not really a big deal for Bo Ningen. Their music could attract all sorts of people anyway. Aside from the usual hipsters who are regulars of the record stores, there were dudes in office shirts and people who exit the venue mumbling ‘glad I watched them’. I think the use of foreign language actually reinforces the eccentricity of Bo Ningen’s music that people find fascinating.

Bo Ningen pulled an engaging 30-minute set. Fun songs like ‘Koroshita Kimochi’ stirred the audience to dance and headbang frantically. The single ‘DaDaDa’ from their latest album that was released a few weeks ago was well received by the audience. There was an interesting moment nearing the end of the gig. The band improvised upon a riff. While Taigen is playing the main riff, guitarists Kohhei and Yuki launched these crazy psychedelic noises that really pierces your ears. They even played around with the tempo, showing that while at first listen their music might seem to be just random, chaotic noises, they are actually built upon fine musicianship with tight rhythm and chemistry.

Over-the-top stage antics are also another thing that Bo Ningen is known for. Taigen pulled really weird faces that made him look like a monkey. At one point, he walked down to the audience while lifting his bass up in the air. Then he went up one of the amplifiers to the point where his head is touching the ceiling. He also swung his hand around a lot. Guitarist Yuki spun his guitar and rolled up the cables on stage (to save time packing up their gears, I believe). These weird gestures may be quite hard to understand. But it is through their lively stage antics that Bo Ningen was able to transfer such immense energy to the audience, in addition to the music.

After the gig is finished, the store lights were turned back on. Taigen immediately went down and stood by the stage, ready to greet fans asking for a photo, signature, or those who responded to his earlier call to ‘come and hangout’ with him. The queue was quite short. Only three people were in front of me. When it was my turn, it felt rather weird. A few minutes ago, this guy was like a beast in a trance. Now, he’s giving friendly smiles and looking kind of like a Japanese comedian. Aside from taking pictures with him and having my copy of ‘III’, their latest album, signed, I gave him the ‘Spacerider’ CD by the Indonesian stoner rock band, Suri. There are great instrumental and drone tracks on that album that I thought the Bo Ningen guys might like. We chatted a bit about the gig and the Suri CD. ‘Suuuri’, he tried to pronounce the band’s name. As there were other fans waiting in the queue, I had to end the conversation with Taigen, which had lasted for about three minutes. That’s fine, because the main thing is that I finally got to experience how fun a Bo Ningen live gig is, and I thanked Taigen for this opportunity.

Wild, loud and weird: that’s what makes Bo Ningen such an amazing act live.

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Bo Ningen adalah band yang unik dan aneh. Mereka terbentuk setelah empat orang dari Jepang bertemu di London dan menjadikan kota tersebut sebagai markasnya. Musik yang mereka usung sangat sulit untuk dikategorikan. Ada yang menyebutnya jazzed-up acid punk, ‘Krautcore’ dan bahkan ‘East Electric Psychedelic’, apapun itu. Dan salah satu kawan saya mengira band ini beranggotakan perempuan-perempuan cadas.

Dari berbagai stigma yang melekat di band ini, saya baru mampu menghargai betapa keanehan itu mampu mendobrak eksistensi mereka di kancah musik setelah menonton mereka live. Sesungguhnya keunikan-keunikan yang saya sebut tadi hanyalah hidangan sampingan dari sajian utama mereka: suatu spesies rock yang tidak jinak di atas panggung.

Dari luar Rough Trade East, toko musik independen di Brick Lane, East London, yang dipakai untuk venue gig, bunyi-bunyian bising itu bisa terdengar. Feedback dan distorsi ganas menggelegar dari dalam. Memasuki toko yang sudah hampir digelapkan seluruhnya, perhatian saya ditangkap oleh empat sosok gondrong berbaju (berjubah?) hitam yang disorot oleh lampu ungu di atas panggung. Mereka adalah Taigen Kawabe (vokal dan bass), Kohhei Matsuda, Yuki Tsujii (gitar), dan Monchan Monna (drum).

Saya datang sepuluh menit telat. Dua atau tiga lagu sudah dimainkan. Saya juga tidak bisa berdiri di dekat panggung karena sudah ramai sekali di situ. Alhasil, saya berdiri di balik rak CD sekitar dua setengah meter dari panggung. Pemandangan masih bagus, seluruh panggung bisa saya lihat. Venue ini sangat bagus untuk gig-gig kecil yang intim.

Kesan pertama yang saya dapat adalah reverb yang menyelimuti seluruh ruangan. Menurut saya, reverb saat live benar-benar menghidupkan lagu-lagu yang biasa saya dengar melalui rekaman saja. Vokalnya, terutama, menjadi lebih kuat. Gaya vokal yang diusung oleh Taigen Kawabe mencakup lengkingan-lengkingan tinggi, scream dan nada-nada tengah. Transisi antara vokal yang diberi reverb dan yang tidak sangat mulus, sehingga ia bisa menunjukkan fleksibilitas vokalnya sebaik mungkin. Pada ‘Slider’ contohnya, setelah verse yang dinyanyikan secara normal, pada chorus vokalnya jadi menggema-gema dan menciptakan atmosfir sci-fi yang keren. Sebelum dua lagu terakhir, Taigen sempat menyapa penonton sambil ngos-ngosan akibat ekspresi vokal yang intens. Dalam bahasa Inggris fasih berbalut logat Jepang yang kental, ia berterima kasih kepada penonton, mempromosikan album mereka, dan mengajak ngobrol-ngoborol setelah gig. Tidak banyak penonton yang meresponinya, maka ia hajar aja ngoceh dalam bahasa Jepang yang sepertinya tidak dimengerti sebagian besar penonton. Meski begitu, hampir semua lirik mereka ditulis dalam bahasa Jepang.

Faktor bahasa tidak menjadi kendala besar bagi mereka, sebenarnya. Lagu-lagu mereka yang sangat unik mampu menarik perhatian banyak kalangan. Terbukti dari hadirin gig yang bukan hanya hipster-hipster yang memang biasa nongkrong di Rough Trade, namun juga terdiri dari pekerja kantoran dan orang-orang yang meninggalkan sambil berkomentar ‘keren juga mereka, tidak rugi saya nyoba nonton’. Penggunaan bahasa asing malah memperkuat keeksentrikan dari musiknya yang juga terdengar ‘asing’.

Gig yang berdurasi sekitar tiga puluh menit itu diisi oleh lagu-lagu andalan Bo Ningen. Nomor-nomor seru seperti ‘Koroshitai Kimochi’ mengajak penonton untuk berdansa dan headbanging liar. Single ‘DaDaDa’ dari album terbaru mereka yang baru dirilis beberapa minggu yang silam diterima dengan semangat oleh penonton. Mendekati penghujung gig, terjadi momen menarik ketika satu band berimprovisasi seputar riff. Di saat Taigen tetap memainkan riff utama, kedua gitaris meluncurkan bebunyian psikedelia yang memekakakan telinga. Mereka juga bermain-main dengan tempo, menunjukkan bahwa meski musik yang mereka hasilkan terdengar kacau, bising dan hanya sekedar bunyi-bunyian ngasal, keempat personil tetap disatukan oleh chemistry dan ritme yang kokoh.

Aksi panggung mereka sangat atraktif. Taigen kerap membuat ekspresi muka lucu seperti memonyongkan bibir dan melayangkan tangannya kesana-kemari. Kadang-kadang ia terlihat seperti monyet. Ia juga sempat turun ke penonton sambil menggotong bass-nya lalu naik ke atas ampli hingga kepalanya menyentuh langit-langit ruangan. Gitaris Yuki memutar-mutarkan gitarnya dan bahkan menggulung kabel (supaya hemat waktu beres-beres, mungkin). Gestur-gestur aneh ini sulit dipahami. Namun dengan itulah mereka mampu memberikan energi luar biasa kepada penonton, selain melalui musiknya tentunya.

Setelah penampilan mereka selesai dan lampu-lampu toko dinyalakan, Taigen langsung turun dan berdiri di bawah panggung untuk meladeni penggemar yang minta foto, tanda tangan atau sekedar meresponi ajakannya untuk ngobrol-ngobrol. Barisannya cukup pendek. Saya menunggu tiga orang bercengkerama dengan Taigen sebelum akhirnya bisa mengobrol dengannya. Aneh juga, karena baru beberapa menit yang lalu ia adalah sosok yang ganas dan seperti sedang trance, namun kini ia senyum-senyum bersahabat dan gelagatnya mirip komedian-komedian Jepang. Selain berfoto dan meminta CD terbaru mereka, ‘III’, dilegalisir, saya memberi Taigen CD ‘Spacerider’ oleh band stoner rock Indonesia, Suri. Di album ini terdapat nomor-nomor instrumental dan bahkan drone, yang mungkin sesuai dengan selera Bo Ningen. Kami ngobrol-ngobrol sedikit mengenai gig mereka dan CD Suri yang saya berikan. ‘Suuuri’, ia mencoba melafalkan nama band tersebut. Karena masih banyak penggemar yang mengantri, saya harus menyudahi sesi obrolan yang berlangsung kurang lebih tiga menit ini. Tidak apa-apa, karena yang terpenting adalah sudah bisa merasakan keseruan live gig-nya Bo Ningen, dan saya berterima kasih kepada Taigen untuk pengalaman perdana ini.

Liar, keras, dan tidak jelas. Inilah yang membuat penampilan live Bo Ningen keren.

Old Faces/New City: A Trip To Newcastle

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Old faces/New city

Sebulan yang lalu saya pergi ke Newcastle. Ya, memang sudah cukup lama dan baru niat dan sempat untuk menceritakan pengalamannya sekarang. Kata orang, cerita harus dituangkan segera setelah kita mengalaminya, saat ingatan masih segar. Mungkin jalan-jalan ke Newcastle ini sangat berkesan sehingga ingatan saya masih lumayan lah untuk menceritakannya.

Jadi beginilah ceritanya.

Saya sempat berencana untuk mengunjungi beberapa kota di UK selama liburan Paskah. Kota-kota tersebut antara lain: Bath, Oxford, Brighton, dan di manapun Stonehenge berada. Intinya tempat-tempat yang ada unsur wisatanya. Namun akhirnya, dengan keputusan yang mendadak, saya pergi ke Newcastle yang minim obyek turis. Mengapa? Ingin mengunjungi teman-teman. Dua orang teman, tepatnya.

Bersama Weellsen yang lagi menginap di kost-an saya, kami membeli tiket bus London-Newcastle sehari sebelum berangkat. Harga tiket bus jauh lebih murah dibandingkan kereta, meski perjalanan jadi lebih lama. Perjalanan bisa ditempuh selama 2 – 3 jam dengan kereta, namun bus membutuhkan waktu 6 jam. Kami memutuskan bahwa lebih bijaksana untuk membuang waktu daripada membuang uang.

Sebenarnya tidak membuang waktu banget, sih. Perjalanannya cukup seru karena saya bisa memandangi banyak turbin angin raksasa yang keren banget, padang luas dipenuhi bunga rapeseed, dan sempat melihat secuil dari kota Sheffield, Leeds dan Durham. Enam jam tidak terasa terlalu lama.

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Turbin bersaudara

Sesampainya di Newcastle, saya telepon teman saya, Ais, untuk mengabari bahwa saya dan Weellsen telah tiba dengan bijaksana di kotanya. Ais bilang bahwa ia sedang berada di rumah temannya dan akan menjemput kami dalam 15 menit.

Di sekitar stasiun bus yang sangat kecil itu, tidak banyak yang bisa dilakukan selama menunggu. Hanya ada bowling alley dan gedung besar yang disebut ‘Centre For Life’ yang berisi banyak restoran. Apakah gedung itu dinamai atas dasar ‘food = life’, saya kurang tahu.

Ais tiba setelah 15 menit. Ia berjalan kaki dari rumah temannya. Menurutnya, di Newcastle apapun bisa ditempuh dengan berjalan kaki. Klaim tersebut saya nilai selama empat hari berada di kota ini.

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Life yandri.

Karena saya dan Weellsen belum makan, Ais menyarankan beberapa pilihan restoran yang ia suka. Dari antara pilihan itu, saya pilih yang paling murah. Kan katanya Newcastle murah banget, jadi saya penasaran. Berjalan sekitar lima menit dari Centre For Life, kami sampai di toko roti Chinese kecil bercat pink bernama Jasmine. Selain roti, katanya mereka juga jago bikin noodle soup. Saya pesan beef noodle soup dan memang benar, nampol banget. Dagingnya tebal namun halus. Kuahnya sangat gurih berkat kaldu daging yang kuat. Mienya juga kenyal dan, yang paling penting, banyak. Plus, chilli oil yang mereka sediakan juga mantap: pedas dan tidak terlalu berminyak, malah rasanya agak mirip sambel terasi. Meski tidak semurah yang saya bayangkan, semangkuk dibanderol seharga £5, namun oke lah dapat value for money.

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Pinky and beefy

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Enak, soub

Di London, apa lagi di Central London, makanan seharga £5 sangat langka. Dan gak akan bikin kenyang. Saya pernah makan ramen di Soho dan demi bisa membayar £5 doang saya pilih pendamping ramen yang paling murah: remah-remah tempura. Saya usahakan kenyang karena kenyang is a state of mind.

Namun harga makanan di Newcastle sama dengan harga-harga di daerah saya di London, Harrow, yang terletak di Zone 4. Selain beef noodle soup di Jasmine, saya sempat makan bebek, babi panggang, kangkung dan cumi pakai nasi di restoran yang saya lupa namanya di Chinatown dengan total harga £10 per orang, mirip dengan restoran Chinese, Jade Garden, dekat kampus saya. Harga makanan di supermarket pun tidak terlalu berbeda. Saya sempat beli nasi biryani dengan chicken tikka dari Tesco seharga £3-an, sama dengan harga di Tesco-nya London.

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Babi dan Bebek

Jika harga bukanlah suatu perbedaan yang besar antara kedua kota, ukuran kota-nya lah yang sangat terlihat berbeda. Satu hal yang kerap saya ulang-ulang saat menjelaskan pengalaman saya di Newcastle adalah betapa segala sesuatu bisa dijangkau dengan berjalan kaki. Klaim Ais benar. Di London, kalau saya ingin pergi belanja makanan segar di Borough Market saya harus naik tube ke London Bridge. Kemudian jika ingin mengunjungi toko-toko plat harus naik tube lagi, selama 20 menit, ke Camden Town. Dari situ, kalau ingin ke Chinatown harus naik tube lagi selama 10 menit ke Leicester Square. Rute yang aneh memang (bawa-bawa sayur mayur segar ke toko plat lalu akhirnya ke Chinatown), tapi intinya saya tidak akan mengunjungi semua tempat itu di hari yang sama. Lain halnya di Newcastle, saya bisa dan bahkan sempat melakukan itu.

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Hei, kamu

Setelah sarapan di Chinatown, teman saya yang satunya, Gupita, mengajak kami ke Grainger Market. Cukup jalan selama kurang lebih lima menit, kami sampai di sebuah pasar indoor yang menurut saya mirip dengan Pasar Modern BSD. Di Grainger Market tidak hanya ada sayur, buah dan daging segar, namun ada juga toko game antik, toko plat, toko memorabilia film dan komik, toko baju-baju ala ITC, dan masih banyak lagi. Gupita menunjukkan toko favoritnya, yaitu toko buah yang memberi diskon gede-gedean untuk mahasiswa. Saya sangat menikmati Grainger Market karena variasinya dan kerapihannya. Jalan-jalan ngasal melewati blok-blok di dalam pasar itu seru karena bisa menemukan toko-toko aneh tapi asik.

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ITC Newcastle

Tidak jauh dari Grainger Market ada sebuah daerah bernama High Bridge Quarters, tempat toko-toko vintage berderet. Ibarat Brick Lane Market-nya London versi Newcastle. Mekah-nya hipster. Weellsen senang sekali di sini karena bisa belanja baju-baju gaul nan modis sementara saya hanya mengecek price tag untuk mencari barang yang harganya manusiawi. Ada satu: kaos hitam polos.

Tempat-tempat lain yang kami kunjungi adalah kampusnya Ais, kampusnya Gupita, kafe QB buat minum teh dan makan kue, kafe Pitcher & Piano di pinggir kali buat ngebir, Millennium Bridge, kost-annya Ais, kost-annya Gupita, toko komik Forbidden Planet, dan Grey’s Monument. Semua tempat itu kami kunjungi dengan berjalan kaki. Benar-benar sekecil itu Newcastle. Saking kecilnya saya jadi merasa aneh. Rasanya seperti terjebak dalam sebuah kotak kecil. Seakan tidak punya ruang gerak yang luas dan kebebasan untuk berjalan kemana-mana tanpa bertemu tempat yang itu lagi dan orang yang itu lagi. Sebenarnya ironis juga saya mempermasalahkan hal ini. Di London bisa berjalan kaki ke semua tempat adalah suatu kemewahan. Kadang hidup menawarkan kesederhanaan di saat kita sudah terbiasa dengan yang ribet-ribet.

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Kalau lebih niat, foto ini bisa terlihat rapih dan artistik

 

Di Newcastle banyak sekali orang Indonesia. Sebenarnya kota-kota UK lain juga banyak. Namun karena ukuran Newcastle kecil, orang-orang Indonesianya jadi lebih keliatan, lebih mudah berpapasan di tengah jalan. Dan lebih dekat satu sama lain. Berbeda dengan London yang sporadis.

Saat kami berada di Newcastle pun sedang diselenggarakan turnamen futsal antar pelajar Indonesia se-UK. Ais sempat jadi wasit dan Weellsen sempat berniat ikut-ikutan main di tim London. Saya nonton doang.

Acara Indonesia manapun tidak lengkap tanpa hadirnya makanan Indonesia. Di jam makan siang, banyak booth yang menjual beragam macam masakan Nusantara dibuka. Saya beli (dibeliin sama Weellsen) nasi goreng dan ayam rica-rica yang unik rasanya. Bumbu rica-ricanya tidak pedas, malah ringan dan segar seperti salsa.

Makanan enak, harga oke, jarak antar tempat yang dekat, apa lagi yah yang menarik dari Newcastle?

Oh iya, Newcastle juga adalah kota party. Inilah keunikan lain yang berkesan dari kota ini. Menurut Aryo, bekas kakak kelas saya yang kini kuliah di Newcastle, kota ini punya klub terbesar di Northeast England, bahkan hampir menyaingi klub-klub besar ternama Inggris. Saya tidak mengunjungi klub itu. Malah saya lihatnya banyak sekali klub-klub kecil dengan jendela besar yang memamerkan seluruh isi klub dan hampir semuanya punya tata lampu dan musik yang katro. Katanya setiap Jumat malam kota ini bersik karena orang-orang yang berpesta dan gila-gilaan. Alunan sirene mobil polisi berpadu dengan dentuman bass dan teriakan jiwa-jiwa yang menanggalkan kesadaran.

Kalangan anak Indonesia di sini juga gemar party. Selama tiga malam saya di sini, selalu ada alasan untuk party. Malam pertama ada party. Malam kedua nyaris ada party. Malam terakhir, ya jelaslah ada party. Hebat juga orang-orang di sini kuat dan rajin untuk berpesta.

Demikian pengalaman saya di kota baru ini. Saya dan Weellsen meninggalkan Newcastle di hari Sabtu pukul jam 10.30 pagi di kala kota masih tertidur. Sepi sekali jalanan. Hanya ada tukang-tukang bangunan yang sibuk dengan tugas mereka. Kita menuju stasiun yang kecil itu dan naik ke bus yang membawa kami kembali ke ribaan metropolitan London.

Sepuluh menit setelah cabut dari stasiun, kami melewati sebuah bukit di mana ada patung malaikat besar berdiri gagah. Angel Of The North, namanya. Ais kerap mengajak kami untuk pergi ke situ dan berfoto-foto, namun tidak jadi karena malas/hujan. Yah, setidaknya kami sudah lihat lah simbol kota yang kelihatannya ingin menyambut dan merangkul setiap pengunjung.

Sekian dan terima kazeh, Newcastle.

 // 

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Same people/Different photo

I went to Newcastle a month ago. It has been quite a while and it is only now that I have the time and motivation to write about it. Some people say that it is best to pour out a story as soon as you experienced it, while it is still fresh in your head. I guess this trip to Newcastle left a strong impression that my decent-enough memory can still tell the story.

So here’s how it went.

I had a plan to visit some cities in the UK during Easter break. Those cities are: Bath, Oxford, Brighton and wherever Stonehenge is. The touristy places, basically. But then, I decided to go to Newcastle instead. And Newcastle has very few tourist attractions. So what drove me to go? Well, I wanted to visit some friends. Two friends, to be exact.

I bought two London-Newcastle-London bus tickets a day before the trip. One is for Weellsen, who was staying at my flat and wanted to visit Newcastle as well. Bus tickets are far cheaper than train tickets, although it meant having a longer journey. A London-Newcastle train journey would take about 2 – 3 hours, while a bus journey would take 6 hours. We decided that it is wiser to waste time rather than money.

In fact, we weren’t really wasting our time. The journey was fun because I got to see awesome, gigantic wind turbines, gaze at fields filled with rapeseed flowers and even caught a glimpse of Sheffield, Leeds and Durham. Six hours did not feel that long.

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And it was all yellow

As soon as we arrived at Newcastle, I called my friend, Ais, to come and pick us up. He told us that he’s currently at his friend’s house and will meet us in 15 minutes. There weren’t a lot of things to do around the bus station. There was a bowling alley and a huge building called ‘Centre of Life’ that is filled with quite a lot of restaurants.

Ais arrived after 15 minutes. He walked form his friend’s house. He said that anything in Newcastle could be reached just by walking. Throughout my four days in this city, I was curious to see if his claim was true.

Weellsen and I hadn’t had any meal. Ais recommended several restaurants. I chose the cheapest option because he said that Newcastle is a really cheap city. So I’d like to see how cheap is it.

After a five-minute walk from the Centre of Life, we arrived at this small, pink Chinese bakery called Jasmine that apparently also serves good noodle soups. I ordered a bowl of beef noodle soup and it was amazing. The beef was thick yet tender. The noodle al dente and they put a lot of it. Plus, the chilli oil was great: spicy, not too oily, and it even taste a bit like sambel terasi. Even though it wasn’t as cheap as I expected, with a bowl costing £5, I did get value for my money.

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Bridging the earth and sky

In London, especially Central London, food that costs you £5 is very rare. And it won’t fill you up. I once had a bowl of ramen at Soho and to be able to pay just £5 I ordered the cheapest topping: tempura flakes. I forced myself to feel full because being full is a state of mind.

Food prices in Newcastle are similar to prices in my area, Harrow, though, which is located in London’s Zone 4. Aside from the beef noodle soup at Jasmine, I had a chance to eat roasted duck, crispy pork, stir-fried kangkong, deep-fried squid and rice at a restaurant in Chinatown that I forgot the name. The meal costs £10 per person, which is rather similar to Jade Garden, a Chinese restaurant near my campus. Food prices in supermarket are also not different. I bought a box of rice with chicken tikka from Tesco, which costs around £3, the same as what London’s Tesco charge you.

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Crispy and quite spicy

If prices aren’t that big of a difference between London and Newcastle, it is the distance between places that is actually the significant and apparent contrast of the two. One thing that I keep emphasising when telling about my experiences in Newcastle is how everything is within walking distance. Ais’ claim was right. In London, if I want to buy fresh food from Borough Market I had to take the tube to London Bridge. Then, if I want to go to my favourite record stores I need to take the tube again, for 20 minutes, to Camden Town. From there, if I want to go to Chinatown I have to take another 10-minute tube journey to Leicester Square. It is a rather weird journey (bringing fresh vegetables to record stores before finally going to Chinatown), but the point is I will not go to all those places on the same day. In Newcastle, I could and actually did that.

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Walking is mandatory/Driving is a choice

After a breakfast at Chinatown, my other friend, Gupita, took us to Grainger Market. Just by walking for about five minutes, we arrived at this indoor market that I think looks like Pasar Modern BSD (Google it). Grainger Market does not only offer veggies, fruits and meats, but they also have an antique game shop, record stores, film and comic book memorabilia stores, clothing stores and a whole lot more. Gupita showed us her favourite shop, which is a fruit shop that gives huge discounts to students. I really enjoyed Grainger Market because of its variety and orderliness. Wandering aimlessly through the blocks within the market is a rewarding experience because I got to encounter interesting shops.

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Did not buy anything, though

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A blast. Not from my past, though.

Not far from Grainger Market there’s this place called High Bridge Quarters, where all the vintage stores are. It’s Newcastle’s answer to London’s Brick Lane Market. The Hipster’s mecca. Weellsen was really happy here cause he got to shop cool clothes while I was just busy checking the price tags to see if there’s anything affordable. I found one item: a plain black t-shirt.

Other places that we visited were Ais’ campus, Gupita’s campus, a café called QB where we had a nice tea time, a bar called Pitcher & Piano by the River Tyne where we had some fine pints, Millennium Bridge, Ais’ flat, Gupita’s flat, a comic book store called Forbidden Planet, and the Grey’s Monument. All of those places we visited by walking. Newcastle is that small. It is too small that it felt weird to me. It felt like I was trapped in a small box. As if I don’t have a lot of space and freedom to roam around without meeting the same people and places again. To be fair, it is ironic that I even complain about this. In London, to be able to walk everywhere is a luxury. Sometimes life offers you simplicity when you are too adjusted to the complicated.

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Trafal… I mean, Grey’s Monument

There’s a lot of Indonesians in Newcastle. Actually, there’s a lot in other UK cities as well. But because Newcastle is small, the Indonesians are more ‘visible’ and the chance of bumping into one on the street is very high, which also made them close among each other, though, unlike London that’s more sporadic.

While we were at Newcastle there was even a futsal tournament between Indonesian students in the UK. Ais refereed several matches and Weellsen attempted to sneak in to the London team to play. And I just watched.

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Ballin

Any Indonesian event would not be complete without Indonesian food. During lunchtime, a lot of booths that sell various Indonesian foods were opened. I bought (Weellsen bought it for me) fried rice with ayam rica-rica that is quite unique. The rica-rica was not spicy. Heck, it was light and fresh like salsa.

Good food, good prices, good distance between places, what else am I missing?

Oh yeah. Apparently, Newcastle is a party city. According to Aryo, an old acquaintance who is now studying in Newcastle, this city has the biggest club in Northeast England that even rivalled the famous, big-name British clubs. I did not go to that club. I only had a chance to pass through a lot of small clubs that have huge windows that showcased the entire club and most of them play crappy music and use crappy lighting. Supposedly every Friday night this city is very noisy because of all the partying. The sound of police sirens blends with pounding bass and the voices of the souls that distanced themselves form sobriety.

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Duality

The Indonesian kids here also love to party. During the three nights that we were here, there was always a reason to party. There was a party on the first night. There was almost a party on the second night. And on the last night, there was a party, obviously.

And so that is my experience in this new city. Weellsen and I left Newcastle on Saturday at 10.30 am, while the city was still sleeping. The streets were quiet. There were only a couple of construction workers busy with their job. We walked to the station and got on the bus that would take us back to metropolitan London.

Ten minutes after we left the station, we passed this hill where a huge angel figure was standing proudly. Angel Of The North was its name. Ais kept on telling us to go there to take pictures with it, but ended up not doing that as we were lazy/it was raining. Well, at least we saw the symbol of your city that looks as if it wants to greet and embrace every visitor.

So yeah, thank you Newcastle.

Unloading History/Menggotong Sejarah (The Record Collections of Vivien Goldman)

viviengoldman

It was a grey Friday afternoon. I came to class expecting my weekly fix of British bass culture history.

Things were a bit different, though. A door at the back of the lecture hall was opened – turned out it leads to the car park. Some of the guys in my class were carrying boxes from a truck in the car park into an empty room inside the lecture hall. My lecturer was walking back and forth between the car park and the room, supervising the operation. Intrigued, I walk towards the truck to see what it’s all about.

There were still dozens of boxes inside the truck. I tried to lift one of them. It was quite heavy. Then I realized that I have been avoiding the gym for ages. I carried one box into the room, and then decided to just take photos of my classmates as they emptied the truck.

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Unload

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Stacks

The lecturer told me that those boxes contain the private vinyl record (and a bunch of other stuff) collection of a punk professor named Viven Goldman. I immediately Googled the name. Vivien Goldman is a music journalist from London who now lectures on Jamaican music and punk at the New York University. Goldman once released a post-punk album called ‘Launderette’ that was produced by Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. It’s a rare album, not many people have heard of it, but the songs are quite nice.

Apparently, Goldman’s collections were being kept in my campus before they are sent to the British Library. I am impressed at how the British people respect their history. Vinyl records, film tapes and especially books are highly valued objects. Even though these are artefacts on punk, a movement that marked a dark period in British history, those objects are still preserved. They weren’t seen as unimportant. They weren’t deemed as shallow entertainment. And I think that’s cool.

People who lived in the past may wish the events around them did not happen. But for people who look at those events from a historic perspective, they may not necessarily agree. We need a representation of the past that is as objective as possible so that we can analyse history and extract lessons from it. Preserving artefacts helps that process.

Unfortunately, there are people who can decide which objects are preserved and not. In Indonesia we know tales like the burning of Pram’s novel (an Indonesian author celebrated in the West but condemned in his native land because of his political views). The issue now is about how people in power can accept history as it is and to not distort the facts to their benefit. Those facts should then be given to the people who deserve it, which lead us to the next step in the process: access.

It is not enough to just preserve history when the public cannot gain access to it. Encouraging people to go to museums instead of shopping centres is quite an obsolete idea (in an Indonesian context). I think that curators of history also need to be creative in presenting their collection. Recently in Indonesia, there is an initiative to digitise antique Indonesian music records into an online library called Irama Nusantara (literally means ‘Rhythm of the Archipelago’). This movement was triggered by the public’s lack of knowledge on the richness of Indonesia’s music history, which actually tells us about the politics and culture of that time (Soekarno’s policy of banning Western music like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones that were accused as harbingers of ‘neo-colonialism’ and ‘neo-imperialism’ is one aspect of it). Considering how advanced information technology is now, there is always a way to access history.

Content and access are two elements that the British really take seriously when preserving history. Stepping our foot into the British Library or British Museum – a free-entry museum with a massive collection of artefacts – we can feel the passion that this nation has for history resonating at every corner of the building. We can understand how history is a highly valued asset to them. Carrying a few objects – just one box, actually – that would later go into the grand library is an amazing experience. I am looking forward to seeing those artefacts on display for myself.

That is all.

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Jumat siang yang kelabu. Saya memasuki kelas menantikan asupan mingguan sejarah bass culture Inggris.

Namun, Jumat itu agak berbeda. Pintu diujung aula terbuka – yang ternyata menuju ke tempat parkir. Beberapa teman sekelas saya sedang menggotong kardus-kardus dari truk di parkiran ke sebuah ruang kosong di dalam aula. Dosen berjalan bolak-balik dari parkiran ke ruangan itu, mengawasi prosesnya. Saya hampiri truk itu karena penasaran.

Di dalam truk masih ada banyak kardus. Saya coba angkat salah satunya. Berat. Saya teringat kalau saya selalu menjauhi tempat fitness. Setelah menggotong satu kardus ke dalam ruangan, saya memutuskan untuk foto-foto saja selagi teman-teman saya mengosongkan isi truk itu dengan mudah.

Dosen mengatakan bahwa kardus-kardus itu berisi koleksi plat musik dan berbagai benda lainnya milik seorang professor punk yang bernama Vivien Goldman. Langsung saya Google namanya. Vivien Goldman adalah seorang jurnalis musik dari London yang kini menjadi mengajar bidang musik Jamaika dan punk di New York University. Goldman pernah merilis album post-punk berjudul ‘Launderette’ yang diproduseri oleh Johnny Rotten dari Sex Pistols. Album tersebut cukup langka, tidak banyak yang tahu, namun enak juga lagunya.

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Gotong

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Tumpukan

Kata dosen, koleksi Goldman dititipkan sementara di kampus sebelum dipindahkan ke British Library. Saya kagum atas betapa hormatnya orang Inggris terhadap sejarah mereka. Plat, tape film, dan terutama buku adalah benda-benda yang sangat dihargai. Meski berbau punk, sebuah gerakan yang menandakan masa kelam di sejarah Inggris, benda-benda itu tetap disimpan. Tidak dianggap sebagai hal yang tidak penting dan tidak dicap sebagai hiburan yang dangkal. Menurut saya, itu keren.

Orang yang hidup di masa lampau bisa saja mengutuk peristiwa-peristiwa di sekitarnya. Namun bagi orang-orang yang melihatnya dari sudut pandang masa kini, mereka belum tentu sepaham. Dibutuhkan representasi sejarah yang se-obyektif mungkin bagi penduduk masa kini untuk melihat dan menyarikan hikmat darinya. Melestarikan artefak membantu proses pembelajaran tersebut.

Tentu ada orang-orang yang mampu menentukan mana benda yang patut dijaga dan mana yang tidak. Di Indonesia kita kenal perstiwa seperti pembakaran buku-buku Pram. Isunya sekarang adalah bagaimana orang-orang berkuasa mau menghargai publik dengan menerima sejarah apa adanya. Memberi publik apa yang sudah seharusnya mereka terima, yang membawa kita kepada tahap berikutnya: akses.

Sejarah tidak hanya cukup dilestarikan. Apa gunanya ia jika tidak bisa diakses? Wacana mengunjungi museum dibandingkan mall cukup usang. Menurut saya para gudang sejarah juga harus terampil dalam menawarkan akses. Belakangan ini muncul sebuah inisiatif bernama Irama Nusantara yang ingin mendokumentasikan rekaman-rekaman musik pop jadul Indonesia ke dalam perpustakan digital. Insiatif ini muncul akibat ketidaktahuan publik akan kekayaan sejarah musik Indonesia, yang sebenarnya juga bercerita mengenai kebijakan politik dan permainan kebudayaan (di antaranya kisah Soekarno melarang musik Barat ngak-ngik-ngok yang dituduh sebagai penyebar neo-kolonialisme dan neo-imperialisme). Mengingat betapa majunya teknologi informasi, akses ke sejarah bisa diakal-akalin lah.

Konten dan akses sangat diperhatikan oleh masyarakat Inggris dalam menjaga sejarahnya. Ketika menginjakkan kaki di dalam British Library dan British Museum – museum gretongan dengan koleksi yang luar biasa – kita bisa merasakan betapa berharganya pengetahuan lampau bagi bangsa ini. Menggotong beberapa benda – cuma satu kardus, sih – yang akan masuk ke dalam perpustakaan besar itu adalah pengalaman yang asik. Saya penasaran apa saja isi kardus itu yang akan dipajang nanti.

Sekian.

A Selfie With Emma

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Legalisir. Courtesy of Nicholas Ow

Starstruck. I think that is the most appropriate term to describe my feeling upon seeing Emma Watson waltzing down that carpet. Thank you so much, God, for this amazing experience.

A friend invited me to come with him to the UK premiere of the film ‘Noah’ on 31March 2014. He said that in order to stand at a good spot we need to at least arrive at the location two hours before the event starts at 5pm. That day I had a lecture until 4pm. I almost didn’t go as I thought I would end up not catching anything and just wasting my travel money. But I decided to go nonetheless, hoping that I could at least see Emma from afar.

From my campus to the location of the premiere, Leicester Square Odeon, it took around 40 minutes with three different lines. I ran on every stop. Finally I arrived at 5:10pm on the crowded location. I called my friend, who had been camping since 3pm, and he said that I might not get a good spot to watch the event. Almost every fence that separated the audience from the red carpet (blue carpet, actually, as its got a water pattern on it) was filled with people. There were a couple of vacant spot, but they were already approaching another street that wasn’t covered in blue carpet. Chances were that the actors and Emma (she’s in a league of herself J) would not go there.

Several gaps in the audience brought me to a pretty nice spot. I stood near a rock with the film’s logo on it. I thought the actors (and Emma) would take photos here. Even though I was not behind the fence, as there were four people in front of me, it was a decent spot to take pictures from.

Suddenly the security guards opened the fence left of me and let people walk through the blue carpet to get closer to the cinema. I managed to get close to the fence and eventually made it through. Finally I stood in front of the Leicester Square Odeon building with my friends who had been camping since 3pm. If this is not the grace of God, I don’t know what it is.

While we waited for the stars to arrive, an MC attempted to entertain the audience. He was quite fun. He asked a couple of questions to the audience members and rewarded those with good answers with exclusive movie merchandises. One of my friends, Mira, appeared on the screen that was on the cinema’s building when the MC asked her a question. She was not on the same group as I was but she had already camped since 3pm as well.

After that MC finished his task of interacting with the audience, another MC appeared. Was it really necessary to have two? This one explained the film’s trailers and tried to build the audience’s excitement. Not long after his speech, the stars, one by one in their own cars, arrived at the blue carpet.

The first one to come was director Darren Aronofsky. He was followed by Ray Winstone and his family. Then came Patti Smith. And Douglas Booth. And Logan Lerman. Jennifer Connelly. The list went on until finally Emma came second to last (the last was Russell Crowe). It turned out that they do spend a lot of time by the rock near I stood earlier. The audience around that area also got more time from the stars.

There were a few surprises on the blue carpet. Patti Smith’s involvement in this film is quite a surprise. The New York punk scene legend wrote two songs for ‘Noah’. Chills went through me when she responded to my shout. Hugh Jackman was present. He was the only guest that received a loud response from the audience. The guy next to me pulled out his X-Men Days of Future Past comic book when Jackman walked past us. However, he did not have the time to give autographs. I was very surprised when I saw Hillsong’s light engineer on the carpet. “Hey, this is the dude who borrowed my scissors last week!” Behind him were Hillsong’s keyboardist and our pastor, Gary Clarke.

Emma received a very boisterous welcome from the audience. Maybe even louder than that of the lead actor, Russell Crowe. When she approached my area, she decided to greet the press first. Then she was pulled by a crewmember to the ark-shaped stage to be interviewed by the MC.

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Can you spot Emma’s signature?

At this point, the situation was kind of chaotic. The blue carpet was stormed with so many guests, making it quite hard to determine who’s who and even harder to find those that are actually involved in the film. On the other side of the fence, the audience started to push each other. Next to me was a gate that kept on being opened and closed as people moved locations. Many people wanted to go after where the celebrities went.

Hearing Emma talk live is one of the highlights of the event. Her voice is so beautiful. She had a clean British accent and impeccable intonation when responding to every question raised by the MC. Passionate yet elegant. It felt much different from hearing her voice through TV, laptop, or even cinema speakers. It was warm on my ears. And it warmed my heart. #yeahson

A couple of the event hosts started encouraging (forcing) the guests to enter the cinema, as the show is about to start. Emma almost went into the cinema after stepping down from the stage. We shouted her name so that she would greet us for a while, sign some autographs and take some photos. I reckon it would be pretty tiring to sign hundreds (thousands?) of papers.

Emma stood less than a meter away from me. Between us were only the fence and one person. I gave her the film’s flyer for her to sign. I also managed to take a few shots of her. I tried to gain her attention by saying ‘Emma, a smile for the selfie please?’ but she was too busy giving autographs to fans, who at this point can be classified as savage. She did not stay in our area for so long. After the photo and autograph session ended, she hurried into the cinema.

While we were busy with Emma, Russell Crowe actually stood quite near to us. He was the last actor on the carpet being interviewed by the press. My friend really wanted to take a photo with him and get his autograph. But as soon as he was done with the press, he immediately went into the cinema. No photos. No autographs. The audience started to leave the venue as there is nothing more to look at.

‘Noah’ is a heavily debated film. On one hand, there are those that detest it. On the other, there’s us, who were willing to stand for hours waiting the arrival of the film’s actors. Almost all of the actors, including Emma, said during the interview with the MC that the message is one of the film’s strongest elements. Whatever opinion people have on this film, hopefully the message from which the story was derived can be presented well. I know that this is a Hollywood adaptation, but I hope it may spark people’s interest on the real story.

What a fun and interesting experience. Once again, thank you Jesus Christ for this opportunity. My hope to see Emma did not fail. I’m really grateful that I am crazy enough to take the train even though I was really late.

Moral of the story: lateness is subjective.

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A selfie with Emma

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Starstruck. Itulah kata paling tepat untuk menggambarkan perasaan saya saat melihat Emma Watson menyusuri karpet itu. Terima kasih banyak Tuhan untuk pengalaman luar biasa ini.

Seorang teman mengajak saya hadir di UK premiere film ‘Noah’ tanggal 31 Maret 2014. Dia bilang untuk mendapat tempat yang baik, setidaknya kita harus hadir 2 jam sebelum acara dimulai pada jam 5 sore. Hari itu saya ada kelas sampai jam 4. Hampir tidak jadi pergi karena mungkin sia-sia, buang-buang ongkos karena tidak bisa melihat apa-apa. Namun saya sikat saja berangkat jam 4.30 dari kampus, berharap setidaknya bisa melihat Emma dari jauh.

Dari kampus ke lokasi premiere, Odeon Leicester Square, dibutuhkan kurang lebih 40 menit dengan mengganti kereta dua kali. Di setiap perhentian tersebut saya lari. Akhirnya saya sampai pukul 5:10 di lokasi yang sudah sangat ramai. Saya telepon si teman yang sudah camping dari jam 3 dan katanya mungkin saya tidak dapat tempat yang bagus. Hampir seluruh pagar yang membatasi penonton dengan red carpet (blue carpet, sebenarnya, karena menggunakan motif air) sudah diisi oleh orang. Bagian pagar yang masih kosong hanya yang menuju jalan raya, yang sudah tidak dilapisi oleh karpet lagi. Kemungkinan besar para aktor dan Emma (she’s in a league of herself :)) tidak akan ke situ.

Beberapa celah di keramaian membawa saya ke tempat yang cukup oke. Saya berdiri di dekat sebuah batu yang dihiasi oleh logo filmnya. Pasti para aktor (dan Emma) akan foto di sini, pikir saya. Meski tidak berdiri persis di depan pagarnya, karena ada empat orang di antara saya dan pagar, saya rasa tempat itu baik untuk foto-foto.

Tiba-tiba dari sebelah kiri saya, petugas membuka pagar dan mulai membiarkan beberapa orang menyebrangi blue carpet untuk berjalan lebih dekat ke bioskopnya. Saya pun berusaha untuk menyebrang dan berhasil. Akhirnya saya berdiri di depan gedung Odeon Leicester Square bersama teman-teman saya yang sudah camping dari jam 3. Kalau bukan kasih karunia Tuhan, saya tidak tahu apa ini.

Sambil menunggu kehadiran bintang-bintang yang dinanti, ada seorang MC yang mencoba menghibur penonton. Cukup asik. Dia menanyakan beberapa pertanyaan kepada penonton dan memberi hadiah bagi yang jawabannya baik. Salah satu teman saya, Mira, nongol di layar yang dipasang di gedung bioskop saat diajukan pertayaan oleh si MC. Dia tidak satu rombongan dengan saya dan ternyata dia juga sudah mengantri dari jam 3.

Setelah MC yang menanyakan pertanyaan-pertanyaan itu, ternyata ada satu MC lagi yang memandu acara dari atas sebuah panggung berbentuk bahtera yang ada di depan gedung bioskop. Perlu banget pakai dua MC, ya? MC yang satu ini menjelaskan trailer-trailer yang diputar di layar dan berusaha membangkitkan semangat hadirin. Tidak lama setelah dia mengoceh, para bintang, satu per satu dengan mobil mereka masing-masing, tiba di blue carpet.

Yang pertama datang adalah sutradara Darren Aronofsky. Kemudian disusul oleh Ray Winstone dan keluarganya. Lalu datang Patti Smith. Dan Douglas Booth. Dan Logan Lerman. Jennifer Connelly. Daftarnya cukup panjang sebelum akhirnya Emma datang kedua paling terakhir (yang paling terakhir adalah Russell Crowe). Ternyata benar mereka menghabiskan banyak waktu di batu dekat di mana saya berdiri tadi. Orang-orang yang berdiri di daerah situ juga mendapat jatah waktu yang banyak dari para bintang.

Ada beberapa kejutan di antara hadirin blue carpet. Keterlibatan Patti Smith dalam film ini cukup mengejutkan. Legenda skena punk New York ini menulis dua lagu untuk film ini. Merinding juga saat ia meresponi sahutan saya yang minta foto. Hugh Jackman hadir. Ia adalah satu-satunya tamu yang mendapat respons yang meriah dari para hadirin. Orang yang berdiri di samping saya mengeluarkan komik X-Men Days of Future Past saat Jackman melewati kami, namun ia tidak sempat untuk memberinya tanda tangan. Saya sangat kaget saat melihat light engineer dari Hillsong ada di karpet biru itu. ‘Eh, nih orang yang minjem gunting dari gua minggu lalu!’ pikir saya. Di belakangnya ternyata ada kibordis Hillsong dan juga pastor kami, Gary Clarke.

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Horses.

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Hillsong London represent.

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Unce Upon A Time In Leicester Square.

Emma mendapat sambutan yang sangat ramai dari penonton. Mungkin lebih ramai dari sang pemeran utama, Russell Crowe. Saat tiba di bagian saya, ia memilih untuk menyapa para wartawan. Ia pun ditarik ke atas panggung bahtera oleh crew untuk diwawancara oleh MC sebelum sempat menyapa penggemarnya.

Kini, situasi menjadi agak rusuh. Karpet biru dihujani oleh begitu banyak tamu, sehingga cukup sulit untuk mencari mereka yang berperan dalam film. Di sisi lain pagar, para hadirin mulai dorong-dorongan. Di dekat saya ada pagar besi yang terus di buka-tutup saat orang mau pindah lokasi. Banyak yang berusaha mengejar ke mana artisnya pergi.

Mendengar Emma bicara live adalah salah satu momen terbaik. Suaranya bagus banget. Logat Britishnya jernih dan intonasinya tepat saat menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan dari sang MC. Bersemangat namun elegan. Rasanya jauh berbeda dari mendengar suaranya di film melalui speaker TV, laptop, maupun bioskop. Jauh berbeda. Lebih hangat di telinga dan, tentunya, di hati #yongskru

Beberapa petugas acara mulai menyuruh tamu untuk segera masuk ke gedung bioskop karena pertunjukan akan segera dimulai *cue pengumuman XXI. Gakdeng*. Seturunnya dari panggung, Emma pun nyaris masuk. Kami pun meneriakkan namanya agar ia menghampiri kami sebentar. Mungkin lelah juga ya, menandatangani ratusan (ribuan?) lembar kertas.

Emma berdiri kurang dari satu meter dari saya. Di antara kami cuma ada pagar dan satu orang. Saya menyodorkan flyer film untuk ia tanda tangani dan sempat memfotonya beberapa kali. Saya sempat bilang ‘Emma, a smile for the selfie please?’ tapi ia terlalu sibuk melegalisasir cinderamata para penggemar lain yang kini bisa disebut beringas. Sebentar sekali ia di bagian kami. Setelah selesai dengan sesi foto dan tanda tangan, ia pun bergegas memasuki gedung bioskop.

Sembari kami sibuk dengan Emma, ternyata Russell Crowe berdiri cukup dekat, sedang disibukkan oleh para wartawan. Ia adalah aktor terakhir di karpet. Teman saya ingin sekali berfoto dan mendapat tanda tangan darinya. Namun begitu ia selesai dengan para wartawan, ia langsung memasuki gedung bioskop dan hadirin pun bubar. Tidak sempat befoto. Tidak ada tanda tangan.

Film Noah ini sedang panas dibincangkan banyak orang. Di satu sisi, ada kelompok-kelompok yang menentangnya. Di sisi lain, ada kami yang rela berdiri lama menunggu kehadiran para pemeran film. Hampir setiap pemeran, termasuk Emma, yang diwawancarai oleh MC mengatakan bahwa pesan film ini adalah salah satu elemen terkuatnya. Apapun tanggapan orang akan film ini, semoga pesan dari mana ia disarikan bisa disampaikan dengan baik. Saya tahu ini adalah adaptasi Hollywood, namun semoga ia mampu mencetuskan ketertarikkan orang pada kisah sebenarnya.

Pengalaman yang sangat seru dan menarik. Terima kasih sekali lagi Tuhan Yesus untuk kesempatan ini. Harapan untuk bertemu Emma tidak sia-sia. Syukurlah saya nekat untuk berangkat meskipun telat.

Moral: telat itu relatif.

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The excitement.

 

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A selfie with Emma.

 

 

 

Raided/Diserbu

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 Some say that our nation experiences an inferiority complex. That we feel small in the face of other nations. That we tend to find reasons to remind ourselves that Indonesia is actually cool. We need reassurance. We’re not tired of debating our neighbors on who has accomplished more.

Maybe so. But that is not an excuse to not celebrate what our nation achieved.

Two years ago, there was an Indonesian film that raided cinemas and medias all over the world. An extremely insane action film. A film that wastes no time captivating audiences with a nice plot, as that time is better spent on wiping a corridor filled with savage thugs with a grenade planted inside a fridge . A film that, according to some, feels more like a video game rather than a film. A film that introduced us to characters like Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and his boss who delighted in his noodle before taking care of his hostages.

The Raid. Or its international version title: The Raid: Redemption. This year, the sequel will be released on the 11th of April, they said. Coming soon.

Yesterday, a friend uploaded a photo of The Raid 2’s banner displayed in Waterloo Station. It made me grew impatient, as the trailer I watched a while ago is fricking awesome. A couple of surprises were present. There are more artistic touches rather than just raw, visceral action sequences that dominates the first film, which should be interesting.

Seeing those banners for myself gave me chills. A simple yet ‘exhilaratingly exciting’ and ‘thrill inducing’ moment, just like what the banner says. There were lots of them in famous stations across the city. From Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road to Baker Street, those banners proudly present Iko Uwais, the main guy, surrounded by praises from various media. There is even a corridor in Baker Street station where the two banners are placed facing each other. Feels like I’m in XXI (Indonesian cinema chain).

Indonesian advertisements are a rarity in this city. Pardon me for grinning widely (which I guess was rather creepy, considering how no one smiles on the tube) at every stop at which I can see the banner. Even though I am far from home, I’m grateful to be greeted by a familiar embrace. Even if it’s from a brutal action film.

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 Ada yang bilang kalau bangsa kita mengalami inferiority complex. Bahwa kita merasa kecil di hadapan bangsa-bangsa lain. Bahwa kita selalu ingin mencari alasan untuk mengingatkan diri kalau Indonesia sebenarnya keren. Perlu reassurance. Tidak lelah kita berdebat dengan negara tetangga akan siapa sebenarnya lebih berhasil.

Mungkin benar. Namun bukan berarti kita tidak perlu merayakan apa yang bangsa kita raih.

Dua tahun lalu ada satu film Indonesia yang menyerbu bioskop dan media-media sedunia. Film laga super sinting. Film yang tidak menghabiskan waktu memikat penonton dengan ceritanya, karena sesungguhnya waktu yang ada lebih baik dipakai untuk membersihkan lorong berisi tukang pukul beringas dengan kulkas yang ditanam granat. Film yang kata orang lebih mirip video game daripada film. Film yang memperkenalkan kita pada sosok Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) dan bosnya yang dengan asoy makan mie goreng sebelum membereskan tahanannya.

The Raid. Atau judul versi internasionalnya: The Raid: Redemption. Tahun ini sekuel dari film itu akan keluar, katanya pada tanggal 11 April. Sebentar lagi.

Kemarin ada seorang teman yang mengunggah foto banner The Raid 2 yang dipasang di Waterloo Station. Saya semakin tidak sabar karena trailer yang saya tonton beberapa waktu lalu keren banget. Banyak sekali momen tak terduga. Kesan ‘nyeni’  ditonjolkan ketimbang murni menampilkan action seperti film yang pertama.

Saya pun merinding saat menjumpai banner-banner The Raid 2 itu sendiri. Momen yang ‘exhilaratingly exciting’ dan ‘thrill inducing’, seperti kata bannernya. Banyak sekali mereka dipajang di stasiun-stasiun terkenal di tengah kota. Di Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, dan Baker Street, banner-banner itu dengan bangga menampilkan sosok Iko Uwais yang dikelilingi kalimat-kalimat pujian. Bahkan, di suatu lorong di Baker Street, banner dipasang di dua sisi tembok yang berhadapan. Rasanya seperti di XXI.

Iklan atau pengumuman yang berbau Indonesia sangat langka di kota ini. Maklumilah saya yang nyengir-nyengir di dalam kereta saat banner tersebut terlihat di setiap perhentian. Meski jauh dari rumah, akhirnya ada suatu sentuhan akrab. Meski ia datang dari iklan film action brutal nan apik.