Gig Bites

Because I’ve had the curious problem of not being able to write about each new music event I’ve attended because I’m hung up about not having written about the last one, here are some quick memory-filing notes about the last bunch of events I’ve been to, just to clear my mental RAM in preparation for Good Vibrations and Mosaic. (And in April, All Tomorrow’s Parties!)

  • Eclectic Method (Zouk, 10 Nov 06): After two years of waiting to see them, I was bitterly disappointed. Too much lazy use of catchy crowd-pleaser beats like from Drop It Like It’s Hot as a substitute for doing stuff that was actually interesting.

  • Gamelan Shokbrekker (Esplanade, 25 Nov 06): The bare bones breakdown is that it was a collaboration between an Indonesian gamelan orchestra and Norwegian free jazz musicians, but the incredible synergy the performers managed to create between their different musical styles is really just something you had to be there to understand. (If you’re interested though, try the recordings here from their 2006 London Jazz Festival performance.) I love Mogwai and all, but don’t underestimate the intricate mesmerizing wall of sound a determined gamelan orchestra is capable of. Gig of the year for me.

  • Kid Koala (Red Dot Design Museum, 20 Dec 06): About four times as crowded as his first visit here, and not even half as good. Still, his inherent adorability always makes me want to get all Elmira on his ass.

  • DJ Kentaro (Ministry of Sound, 8 Feb 07): His On The Wheels Of Solid Steel mixtape’s been one of my iPod stalwarts since its release, so I was pretty excited to see him. He was brought in as part of some HP promo event presumably intended to demonstrate how technology brings da world togetha, so there were performances by various artists going on sequentially in Singapore, KL, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and linked by live video hookups between the various countries. Unfortunately through cluelessness I think we must have managed to miss the live transmissions of both the performances we were there to see (Kentaro and Hifana), so thank God Kentaro came on again after the live transmission was over and did another set, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Hip-hop, old and new drum’n’bass, club salsa (I think it was, but all Latin music sounds the same to me so I could be wrong), Coldcut’s Timber (wish he’d also shown the video though), bits of that organ sample, everything got seamlessly and effortlessly mixed with just the right amount of turntable pyrotechnics. And all for only about 30 people on the dancefloor. Party on, Singapore.

Barely Legal Party People

I’d always been quite pessimistic about throwing parties because I felt my friends were a little too disparate to be able to mix properly, and half of them would spend the party thoroughly hating the other half. Thankfully, I don’t think that happened on Saturday, when over 30 people turned up for my Barely Legal party over the course of the night.

Some came alone but ended up staying much longer than they originally intended, because they were enjoying themselves. Some of my oldest friends talked happily to people I’d only just met when they turned up at my door. Some people I’d never have expected to hit it off told me later how well they’d gotten along.

Despite explicitly stating in the invite that people only had to bring their own drinks, so many bottles of wine and hard liquor were left (even after the drinking) that the flat is now stocked with more alcohol than we can possibly drink by ourselves. The solution to this problem, clearly, is more parties.

The next party location of the evening was DXO, where Kid Koala blew my already sky-high expectations out of the water. It wasn’t just turntable wizardry or amazing musicality that made his set so wonderful, it was also the obvious joy he took in every note of the records he was playing, yelling “FIAH FIAH BOMB!” right along with MIA, rapping along with everything, getting the crowd to clap rhythms during a transition, dropping Weird Science (!!!) and generally being incredibly endearing.

My favourite Kid Koala tracks aren’t his more typically Ninja Tune style ones like Emperor’s Main Course, so I’m glad he only did a little bit of that one. What I really love is where he takes something you think you know, and then shows you the vast universe you never knew it contained. Drunk Trumpet is the obvious example here, and let me tell you, however cool you thought it sounded on record, it’s a million times cooler live when you see how much he’s lovin’ the groove.

What I really want to write about, though, is what he did with Moon River, because it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard in a club. I’m not familiar with DJing techniques so I can’t give that sort of a description of what he did with it, but essentially it looked like he was quivering the record for tiny distances and at high speed. It didn’t sound like scratching at all but some hallucinogenic tremolo, like the way you see the air shimmer and swim just above the ground on a blazing hot day. It was incredibly evocative, and I will never forget it.

I’ve always been a bit nonplussed when people cite DXO’s lack of crowds as a downside to the place, because to me it’s a total plus. How is it a bad thing to have the opportunity to watch Kid Koala DJ from the empty platform only metres away from him? How is it a bad thing to be able to see every tiny move of a master turntablist close-up because you don’t have to jostle with other people in the stupid narrow space of Phuture? (So yeah, if you were at DXO on Saturday, that lone girl on the platform for the second half of his set was me.)

After the set he came down and stood in the crowd to watch the next DJ, so of course Jeremy and I had to go over to talk to him. I wanted to tell him that watching him was a musical – not just clubbing – treat. I wanted to tell him that those five minutes of Moon River alone had entranced me more than an entire DJ Shadow gig. (Anyone seen Shadow’s Live! In Tune And On Time DVD? Pretty cool, huh? Well, I was at that gig, and I’d give it all up for what I saw at DXO on Saturday.) I wanted to say all this, but out of fear of raving incoherently, all I did was thank him for coming, and tell him I’d been waiting years to see him. (But if you ever read this, Kid Koala, now you know.)

We had originally planned on continuing to Zouk for James Zabiela after Kid Koala’s set, but this plan got thwarted firstly by the next DJ being pretty good (first time I’ve heard Lady Sovereign played in any club here!), secondly by pretty blah reports coming from our girl in Zouk, and thirdly and most emphatically by beef kway teow and prata in Geylang.

An awesome night.