Sweltering heat radiated into every empty space of Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club’s polo pavilion from the skies and bodies as crowds herded together for long anticipated Sunburst Festival 2009 on the 21st March. Unlike last year, the festival was really ‘sunburst’, leaving everybody unevenly tanned and burnt red by the end of the day. Similar to last year, in terms of price, venue, and concept of the festival – a full 12 hours of nonstop music, food and games – many things were equally as different this year. With the addition of the Silent Disco and Speedzone to the site, there were of course, also a new range of bands selected to perform this year, including international acts N.E.R.D and the more than a decade old hardcore band Korn. However, along with the newbies were also few repeats, like Malaysia’s favourite indie bands such as Estranged, Gerhana Ska Cinta (Edy-fronted), Meet Uncle Hussain and Hujan along with crazy spinner Twilight Action Girl.
With the promising Malaysian talents sneakily placed at the beginning of the schedule to kick start the day, masses of local teens that dwelled in the usual lairs of the Malaysian local indie scene made their way to Sunburst before the clock ticked towards , ready for action. The field was soon filled with a collage of different races and age – the older ones were there for the beer sponsored by Tuborg, really. Games like the infamous, body-bashing rodeo and sumo wrestling, everybody found some way to entertain themselves throughout the day if they weren’t into the ‘music’ part of the event. A large graffiti wall was spray painted along a stretch of the field, to the delights of the artsy-fartsies.
I met up with Jarrod first, followed swiftly by some teachers here and there and finally Maisara turned up with the ticket for Syamel (oOoo :P) and the announcement that she was not heading away, but instead joining us for the day. Whoopidoo! Haziq, Chaom, Mel and Azam joined us after Jarrod went back into the gates to start his shift as journalist for JunkMag. The four boys left to Bukit Bintang for a while (only god knew why) and left Mai and I alone once more, to wait for my editor to arrive with my media pass.
Sunburst begins (late, per usual) with a twang of guitar strings. With the inexplicable decision to pull KL band, Pesawat, out of the afternoon schedule, Pineapple Concerts were not able to place them into the evening and night slots as well, much to the disappointment of their fans. In addition to the minus-side, this was not the only mishap occurring with the organization of Sunburst Festival this year. Erykah Badu had a last minute cancellation, along with previously stamped on rumors of Coldplay attending the event. Better planning for the next year perhaps, Pineapple?
A.P.U (Aseana Percussion Unit), gave us a funky start, introducing Sunbursters to the traditional Malaysian percussion group who were followed swiftly by rockers, They Will Kill Us All and Hujan. Despite the late starts and sudden pullouts, the schedules pretty much stuck to the original timetable, and no bands were missed due to misconceptions and muddle-ups of the schedule. Thumbs up on that point!
After almost a year of disappearing from the music scene, Hujan’s comeback to Sunburst proved the statement ‘Hujan dah turun’ wrong. Despite the sudden downturn that plunged towards their musical path, it is clear that Hujan was very much missed. Attendees parked themselves around the Livesounds stage, steadily singing along – and enjoying – tunes like “Ah Moi Chantek” and “Bila Aku Sudah Tiada”. Hopefully, this shows that Hujan is once more creeping back into the music scene healthily, and perhaps will start performing frequently once more. However, due to my editor's late arrival (Grr, Adeq!), I only managed to catch the last song by these all-time favourites of mine. :( "Bilaaaa aku sudah tiadaaaaa". Was so annoyed that I missed them! After a whole year of missing out on their gigs, I put my whole excitement on their performance at Sunburst... only to miss it! I frigging wore a Hujan t-shirt, as well, for christ sake!
While waiting for the next act, another local favourite, Meet Uncle Hussain, to come on, Mai and I went to find a place to stash our bags away. Walked past a graffiti booth to find an afro-ed guy waving at me, and realized I had seen him in some previous gigs before this event. So what more could go my way? We stored our bags by the booth, along with the rest of the crews' stuff that were strewn along the ground under the shade. So.
Meet Uncle Hussain went from small stage to big, contradictory to Hujan, who had the chance to nail the Sky stage last year. This year’s Sun stage became playground for Hussain as they plunged their way through five of their well loved songs, inclusive of their only English track “Milk in a Bottle”. Absolutely lovely song, it's a pity it's not that popular.
Surprising everyone was Australian band, Russian Winters, who had many ‘Who the hell are they?’ responses as Sunbursters saw their name on the schedules and lineup. Well, now we know. A group of four humble hunks playing mellow alternative rock that ranged from sounds like Coldplay to New Order (of whom they covered a song from); these guys were exploited of the fame they deserved. Maybe unfamiliarity took hold of the crowd, as the enthusiastic level was low during their performance, with only a handful dancing to their tunes. The lack of crowd participation however, does not disown the fact that they were indeed a solid band with fresh sounds to our forever criticizing ears. Jarrod, Maisara and I were absolutely into their music, dancing to their songs as the songs got dancier and dancier towards the end. There was a time when we walked away from Russian Winters and then they started to play the New Order cover song, which had us running back towards the crowd to dance. Hahaha!
Other surprises sprouted from same stage as Nao stepped up to perform. An instrumental band from
Sun Stage held in store for us Gerhana Ska Cinta and Cosmic Kitchen. While GSC played familiar tunes, and spun everybody into the typical ‘ska’ mode predictable from them, there were thrilled whoops as Jo PureVibracion was featured for the last song, “Love”, to reggae-fy the performance. Having Jo attend was a good move, for Gerhana Ska is no longer the same since female vocalist Widy dismantled from the band; that lady had so much charisma and enthusiasm, it’s like the lack of her presence caused a lack of ‘oomph!’ in the recent GSC’s performances. Jo being there wrapped up their performance perfectly.
Dancing to Cosmic Kitchen was absolutely funky. I bumped into Miela again and was skanking with her (hehe). Saw Ms. Carr and Simmers on the other side of the crowds and cracked me up because people had formed a circle around them as they whirled around and grooved to the music. Lan Meet Uncle Hussain was with his gang of friends behind us, and I caught a sweet moment in the midst of his sakai-dancing when he took his girlfriend's hand and twirled around before kneeling before her. Hehe. Ala comey.. :P Was superbly pissed off with my camera for lacking storage space three-quarters through my recording of Cosmic Kitchen - I missed the final saxo solo!
After Cosmic Kitchen was Estranged, who did a pretty energetic performance. Their images are always changing; this time two of their members were wearing masks... Why, though? I was just glad Hanafi's drool-worthy face was still in full view, though I couldn't see much from where I stood for the skies were already darkening.
Besides Korn and N.E.R.D, another international act that blew fans away was Indonesian bomb, Nidji. Having been here in Malaysia to perform multiple times before Sunburst, Nidji once again did their part in stomping out the hypocrites who say “We don’t like Indonesian music” as everybody – metalheads and hiphoppers inclusive! - screamed their lungs out singing with the Indonesian ladykillers’ flamboyant tunes. Their hit song “Sudah” sewed through the hearts of many, sending those who have experienced heartbreak and separation (close) to tears. Nidji left crowds electrified and surging with excitement for the big acts ahead.
We officially cried to 'Sudah' :D
Butterfingers. The name ‘living legends of
After the lots of dancing and singing our hearts out, it was time to slip back into reality for a while. I went to change my t-shirt with Haziq as my escort to the toilets (haha). Toilet cubicle was gross as hell. I came out of the toilets with an expression that clearly spelled disgust, to find Haziq seated on the grass with the gang - being Syamel, Jarrod and Noh, his friend and a japanese girl called Yoko. A fun hangout with the crazies, Haziq and I were tormented by the gross images of piss and shit in our hair when Noh pointed out we were lying down where people walked to and fro from the toilets. ARGH! Went to grab food - Jarrod was shoving his 'free food vouchers' in our faces - and had a candy floss fight with Syamel. I was quite pleased to stuff his mouth with the candy, considering he would not shut up about asking where Mai was every bloody five minutes. HAHA! :P
We intended to head to the Silent Disco while Noh went to catch Maliq, but ended up sitting on the grass waiting for N.E.R.D to get on stage, and watched technicians on the Sky stage setting up Korn's equipments.
The night rounded to a crescendo of full bloom when N.E.R.D and Korn blasted on to the stages one after the other. N.E.R.D spun fans into hysterics and showed us what “f*ck the rules” was all about. After the continuous false alarms of lights suddenly bursting into full blare, N.E.R.D emerged from the shadows, sending already ecstatic fans to a state of madness. With absolutely vivid and polished performances, they were everything synonymous to confident. Besides just performing, Pharrell left his mark with the way he used his words, publicly humiliating – or shall I say, OWNING – a partypooping photographer who apparently was pushing N.E.R.D fans away from the barriers and stage. “You’re not security, you’re a photographer; you come here to take photos, not push away people who’re here to enjoy the show.”
You go, Pharrell.
N.E.R.D gave a handful of the squealing crowds a chance to join them throughout their performances, first boys, then the girls, while constantly accentuating on the need to see the fans ‘go wild’. This included wanting to see ten moshpits and ten crowdsurfers all in one go – with the clever bribe by saying that’s what was expected of the Malaysians. They gave us a full live demo of their new track ‘Popcorn’, that guaranteed people humming the tune, if not singing “Popcorn! Popcorn!” on the way home or during an N.E.R.D hangover the next day.
Korn brought the house down – metaphorically speaking – as the N.E.R.D crowd shifted to the neighboring stage, already so packed solid that it was hard to get through the tightly clumped together bodies. As Korn took the stage, the weak ones were shoved to the back mercilessly as hardcore fans moshed without relent to the long anticipated-for band. Some having waited since the upheaval of Korn’s music life for a chance to see them live, the band must definitely have been as blown away by us as we were by them to find the constant huge echo following up to every line Davis (vocalist) growled into the mic. Performing mainly tunes from way back oldschool – like the ever-amazing “Blind” – the nostalgia was uncannily fresh to the ears of us Malaysians. Korn never gets old! I’m suspecting a return from these kings, for Davis said it himself; “I apologize for having taken 15 f*cking years to come down here - but it won’t take another 15 years to come back again!”
The mood drastically tuned down when the show ended after an extended encore that was pleaded from the crowds as Korn left the stage. It was then that things started to make sense and reality hit us once more in the form of yawns, drunkenness and aching bodies. The field was now a litter land, with empty bottles, mashed food and plastic wrappers strewn everywhere across the green. DJs took over the stages after all the action, pulling the event into a surreal ending of bass beats and turntable whirls churning in our minds.