The Gig Is (Not) Up.

May 27, 2008

Rock never die.

A friend of mine used to say that back when we were in school, hanging out at the 9th floor with his guitar in hand.

Last weekend I witnessed this fact when I went to watch my friend Nigel play at the Esplanade. It was a reunion of his old band, Steel City Skies, and also a set by his new band, If.

Now, the first thing I noticed when I got there was the crowd. There was Nigel, playing his heart out like he was rocking to a thousand-strong crowd at The Brixton Academy when in actuality, I could probably count the number of people there with my fingers and toes. What struck me though, was also the age group; there were men and women in their 30s and kids that were probably barely 10 years old. Granted, there were a few teens but not enough to constitute any sort of young-ish crowd.

Strange? I thought so.

In any case, I watched on as they played and then Bhaskar did a solo set, during which time I had a kid run past me being chased by his dad. Only difference? I knew the guy.

The dad, not the kid.

There he was, beer in hand, grunged-up berms and a Jason Newsted undercut circa 1989.

And carrying his kid in his arms.

His kid!!!??

I had definitely seen the dude before and I think we even moshed once at a Boredphucks gig at Moods back in the day. He still looked the same, albeit a little older, heavier and more creased (if ever a human being could be creased.)

But that wasn’t what scared me.

What scared me was that he seemed to be looking at me too, and what scared me about that was that it looked like he had the same thoughts about me I was having about him.

We had grown.



In that moment, we both turned away, ostensibly to revert out attention to Bhaskar’s singing but more, I think, to avoid the inevitable “meet, greet and talk shit about the old days thereby making us feel older” process.

As Bhaskar finished up and Nigel and the boys came out to play out their last few songs, I found myself getting back into the music and thinking – maybe it wasn’t so bad. I mean, we just went away and got older but the situation’s still the same, right? True, we weren’t crowd surfing at Moods but here we were, at yet another gig, listening to another local band rocking out another local set.

And we were enjoying it.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of my heroes once, a musician named Henry Rollins, and he told me that he wants to rock till he ceases to exist. He told me he’d stopped getting tattoos just so that when he’s 60, he’s still got space for more.

I totally dig that.

I guess whatever the age, whatever the situation, we should always find time to rock out. Nothing beats live music and I will continue going to gigs whenever I can, not only to support the local bands, but to be a part of the immortality of music; and whenever I’m a at a gig, all I need to see are the old familiars looking back at me and I’ll know my friend was right all along.




(cue guitar solo)


A Classy Affair.

May 15, 2008

There have been many memorable firsts in my life. My first kiss. My first fighting fish fight. My first durian (and my last). Last week, I experienced another first.

My first beer in a cinema.

And like they sing in Sweeney Todd, “God, that’s good!

How’d I end up with a beer at the movies? Well, my wife (bless her soul), gave me a surprise on my birthday. She bought me tickets to a Golden Village Gold Class movie theatre. They cost 30 bucks apiece but boy was it worth the moola.

Now, we’ve all heard about the reclining chairs and the concierge service but have you heard about the blanket?

Yup, that’s what I said. B-L-A-N-K-E-T. Blanket.

As I walked to my seat, lo and behold, there it was. A nice, comfy blanket that covered you from head to toe as you luxuriated in the plush recliners. For some reason, cinemas in Singapore are always too cold and this one was no exception. But it had the blanket – and that made all the difference (my toes are curling just thinking of it.)

Now, I’m a big fan of the movies and going to the cinema but this was ridiculous. We ordered chips, sticky date pudding, ice cream and beer – oh god, the beer. Ostentatious? You bet your ass it was. Check out our table at the end of the evening:

I thought that I could never go back to the common seats ever again

However, midway through the movie, I had what alcoholics call, a moment of clarity (strange though, seeing as how I was inebriated.) I was thinking that this experience was kick-ass but somehow, it didn’t feel like a true movie going experience. The movie was great (Iron Man – wonderful) and everything was peachy but I found myself having a strange memory in my head that I couldn’t get rid of.

When I was eight, my uncle brought me to some of the dingiest movie theatres in Singapore and that’s where I got my cinema education. One particularly dingy one was in Hougang. It’s not longer there and a condo stands in it’s place now but back in the day, it was one of the dodgiest cinemas I’ve ever been to. The seats were made of stretched PVC and they creaked like hell. One time, I put my feet on the floor and stepped right into a puddle of piss. Occasionally during the film, the speakers on one side would crackle and the sound would disappear from them.

The strange thing was, there I was, in my recliner, in what might possibly be the most comfortable movie going experience of my life, and I was thinking about that stinky, sticky cinema in Hougang. Even stranger was that I was thinking how great it was.

I must’ve been drunker than I thought

In any case, regardless of my sobriety, my conclusion is this:

Gold Class is brilliant but nothing beats the feeling of being in a real cinema in joined-row seating, where you can literally hear how the person next to you is breathing. At the end of the day, I think cinema is a living, breathing entity and what infuses the experience with life are the people who go there. With Gold Class, although you get your arm space and leg room, the whole deal is not as communal an experience as cinema should be in my head.

And I’ve always believed that movies are communication from people to people and more importantly, shared by the people.

But of course …

… a little beer at the movies never hurt anyone either, right?

This is my first Gold Class experience but I assure you, it won’t be my last 🙂

Thanks, baby! You da bomb!

Do You Believe In Magic?

May 6, 2008

I believe in magic.

Not the David Copperfield, Criss Angel (Mindf–k), David Blaine type of trickery. That’s illusion. What I’m talking about is magic. defines the word “magic” as “a quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight.” 

That’s the magic I believe in.

Now, before you start thinking that I’m gonna go all mushy and gooey over the milk of human kindness or some such crap, I’m going to say this – that’s not magic. Hardly. That’s human kindness and goodness and although it’s magical, it’s nowhere near the kind of magic I’m going to talk about in this post.

The magic I experienced this week, happened in a small electronics store in Vivocity. While my wife and mother went wild, bonding over antique tiffin carriers at Tangs, I sneaked out to spend some quality time looking for a proper home theatre system for the new house.

As luck would have it, some roadshow at level 1 was drawing everyone onto the 2nd floor walkway and, fed up with jostling my way through the human sea, I ducked into the aforementioned electronics store and there It was.

Pure magic.

I know what you’re thinking – the dude has finally gone off his rocker; they’re just headphones!!

Just headphones? Oh, how wrong you are. These weren’t just any headphones (and to get real techie on you) these were Active Noise Cancelling Headphones.

Now, I don’t know if it was the crowd or the louder-than-life host or the drumline that was going on downstairs but the moment I put on those babies, everything faded away to nothing and all that was surrounding me were the sweet strains of Liz Phair. I swear, if I closed my eyes, it was like Liz was singing just for me, right into my ear. Nothing else mattered.

That, folks, is pure magic.

Now, I’d seen (okay, heard) Active Noise Cancelling in action before. I remember I was on a train and my friend J-Boss said to me: “Les, you gotta try this shit out. It’s amazing.” Then he slipped a pair of headphones onto my ears. There was no music pumping out from them. Then he looked at me and said: “Ready? Check this out.” He put his hand on my right earpiece and the last thing I hear is a ‘pop’.

Then I went deaf.

No, it wasn’t AFI blasting out at full volume as I had suspected.

It was nothing.

I couldn’t hear the train, I couldn’t hear the guy beside me talking to his friend. Hell, I couldn’t even hear J-Boss telling me how cool it was. I could see all this happening, but I couldn’t hear it.

Needless to say, I freaked out – as we all do when faced with the magical.

That was my first brush with magic. After that, there were several more occasions – at Jay’s shop with the Airplane Wind Tunnel Experiment (a long story for too short a time) and while shopping for Sennheisers with Periwinkle.

I don’t know about you but noise is something we take for granted in today’s world. Recently in the news, there was an article about how the noise level in the world is increasing and how it’s getting harder to find quiet spots anywhere. In our little red dot of an island, that’s almost an impossibility.

That’s why when a device comes along that allows me to have The Killers give me a little private concert in my ears on a crowded rush hour train, I’d say that beats David Copperfield walking through the Great Wall of China while David Blaine levitates over his head and Criss Angel bends a set of steak knives with his mind, hands down.

Needless to say, magic doesn’t come cheap and no, there is no happy ending to this story. Want it as I did, I didn’t buy the headphones. But I think that’s a good thing. Like the definition of magic, the headphones made the listening experience “seem removed from everyday life“. If I bought this piece of magic, it would be a part of my everyday life.

What use then, is magic when you can get it anytime you like?

So I will admire the magic from afar, like all great things. And I will continue to use my cheap-ass earphones and live in the ordinary. I won’t even try to figure out how Active Noise Cancelling works. I’ll just know that it’s magic and it’s there. Like the author Tom Robbins once said:

“Logic only gives man what he needs …

… Magic gives him what he wants.”