Friday 25 December 2015

CONCERT REVIEW / METAL HISTORY: Soreang, West Java, 1 April 2012 (show cancelled by police)

Adam (Humiliation vocalist) and John Yoedi during the festival which was cancelled by the police @ Soreang, 1 April 2012. Humiliation played their set and the police closed the show just as Outright was ready to start performing.
Only a few minutes later we all watched in amazement as young fans in OUTRIGHT tee-shirts swarmed out of the side entrance all with very sad looks on their faces. The word passed around at lightning speed that the local police had cancelled the rest of the festival. A few policemen could be seen here and there within the compound and a macho police voice sounded over a megaphone. We congregated under the side entrance porch for a long time as people did not want to disperse quickly.

As we climbed uphill and the rain grew harder and harder, Bobby Rock (Bleeding Corpse vocalist) had a difficult time controlling the van amidst the traffic. He used a dry cloth to wipe the inside of the windscreen on his side while I wiped the windscreen on the passenger’s side of the van with the same cloth. Bobby did very well to stay calm and to drive carefully and skillfully. We finally turned right into the venue’s car park at around 2.30pm or 3pm. The rain was still very heavy and Bobby parked the van close to the back entrance of the venue. Although many high-school aged metalheads ran past the front of the van towards the back entrance we were all older and wiser and we chose to stay in the van until the rain lessened. A POISON song was playing from Bobby’s homemade mp3 collection. I thought the song was “Every Rose has its Thorn” but I realized it was not this song because the familiar chorus never came! [Author’s note: The actual song was “Something to believe in”.]
After a fifteen minute wait, and with the rain still heavy, we [Bobby Rock, Popo Demons Damn, John Yoedi, and me, Kieran James] all made a quick dash to the back entrance of the venue. The porch was full of high-school age metalheads and punks queuing to enter the venue. We followed Bobby and Popo inside walking in single file. As they were able to call us “special guests” we did not need to pay an entry fee. We walked through the crowd to a back stairway which led to a dressing room on the second level about eight metres wide and three metres deep. This room had windows looking out on to the venue below. The room had doors on each side and on the far side just outside the room itself there were three chairs on the stairs’ landing looking out over the hall below. When we arrived a band was playing, then there was a break, and then another band played. There was a stage at the opposite end. The hall itself was around 25 to 30 metres long and around eight to ten metres wide. It was hot inside with no fans or air-conditioning. The crowd was around 200 to 400 people, mostly of high-school age. Punks made up nearly 20% of the crowd with metalheads making up the other 80%. The punks were there to see Bandung hardcore band OUTRIGHT and Bandung skate-punk band TCUKIMAY at this mixed-genre festival.
Adam's mother, Adam, Kieran James
John and I took seats on the stairs’ landing overlooking the hall while Popo, Bobby, and Dimas disappeared in order to prepare for the DEMONS DAMN performance. Adam [the HUMILIATION vocalist], a cheerful, young, handsome guy in white tee-shirt, came to greet us. He has thick, wavy but short hair and I mistook him for Deank [the bassist for DESPAIR]. Adam was very happy that Busuk Webzine had sponsored his band for its festival appearance. I felt much rewarded to see Adam and his mother’s happiness and their warmth towards John and me. I thought that sponsoring a young band’s show was an excellent way to build up and encourage death-metal musicians in Indonesia and contribute to the building of the scene there. As it turned out, the local police cancelled the festival before HUMILIATION got to play its set. For a time Adam was very angry and disappointed that HUMILIATION could not play its set especially because John and I had travelled a long way for the festival. However, we do not at all regret sponsoring HUMILIATION. As I posted on Busuk Webzine, Adam is a young guy and he will be able to perform with his band in many shows in the future.
John and I decided to go downstairs and mix and interact with the young metalheads in the crowd. There was a break in the performances and the high-school age death-metal fans at the back were busy taking group pictures of each other. They were really enjoying the social and community aspects of the festival and clearly they had waited a long time in eager expectation for this festival to take place. We had advertised the festival as a News posting on Busuk Webzine several weeks before it took place and the News posting at one point entered the Top-10 most viewed pages’ list. We should point out that HUMILIATION is a popular young group with our interview with the band for a long time remaining in the bottom half of the Top-10 most viewed pages’ list on Busuk Webzine. [Author’s note: Although it comes from Soreang, the band is associated with the Bandung Death Metal Syndicate (BDMS) community group and it released its debut album Savor of Human Destruction in January 2013 with Iwan’s Extreme Souls Production (ESP) record label.] One of the reasons we chose to sponsor HUMILIATION for the festival was the number of page-views gained by the band’s interview on Busuk Webzine.
Downstairs John asked a high-school metal-chick to take a picture with some of the high-school fans. One of these pictures appears on Busuk Webzine. The crowd is aged 12 to 16 and most fans wear tee-shirts of respected Bandung death-metal bands UNDERGOD and JASAD. The choice of tee-shirts shows the desire to support and respect the death-metal scene from the nearest major city Bandung. Slowly the barrier between us and the high-school crowd broke down and more and more people wanted pictures taken with me and John. We gave the metal-chick our Busuk Webzine URL address and we hope that the website can also become known among the high-school death-metal crowd of Bandung and West Java. It is unusual to see a Westerner at an underground death-metal festival out in the countryside areas. I think the crowd was pleased with my presence because my presence reminded them that as metalheads they are part of a dynamic global underground-music scene which has touched every corner and country of the world.   
We were very hot and sweaty by this time so we went outside. The rain had nearly stopped and outside the countryside air was very crisp and refreshing. The venue compound was around 40 metres by 40 metres and it sloped gently downwards to the roadside and we could look across to the mist-covered mountains in the distance. People grouped together in their twos, fours, and sixes and many young metalheads sat down along a curb alongside the far side wall of the compound. Apart from the senior Bandung contingent of travelling metalheads and friends, most of the locals were of high-school age.  The punk-rockers tended to congregate together but there was an overall atmosphere of goodwill and friendship at this mixed-genres festival. John and Glenn of BLOODGUSH began talking; Bobby, Popo, and Dimas were there, and I chatted about punk rock with band-members of TCUKIMAY. Glenn was wearing his new long-sleeved BLOODGUSH tee-shirt with the red logo font and magnificent power-metal style artwork. Glenn is an interesting character – like Bobby he is a brutal vocalist but a gentle character offstage. He has a shy smile and a soft yet deep speaking voice which is a little difficult to hear at times. I also had a picture taken with another legendary Bandung death-metal vocalist, Amenk of DISINFECTED, famous for his duck-walk and jug-of-beer-sharing onstage. Through Popo’s interpretation, I told Amenk that I enjoyed his guest vocals on the track on BLEEDING CORPSE’s debut album The Resurrection of Murder. Amenk’s death-metal denim vest doubles up as an actual motorcycle jacket and he is one of those old-school hard-nuts of the Ujung Berung [East Bandung] death-metal scene who has devoted himself to death-metal with complete integrity for as long as anyone can remember. I talked with Man of JASAD’s brother Iwan of the famous ESP record label. He told us of his plans for a split DISINFECTED / MOTORDEATH album for 2012. [Author’s note: His plan was for the HUMILIATION full-length debut album to be released around April to June 2012 but its eventual release was delayed for six to eight months.] He also announced that a full-length debut album from BLOODGUSH was also to be released by ESP in 2012.
John Yoedi and Glenn Bloodgush
During this time I also had my picture taken with a group of young punk-rockers. My friend Lord Butche, vocalist of punk-rock band THE CRUEL, was not at the festival and the JASAD guys were yet to arrive at this point. The headlining bands were scheduled to be JASAD and DISINFECTED. I enjoyed the fantastic atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support as everyone exchanged the latest death-metal news and gossip from Bandung and beyond. Of course Daniel [guitarist of TURBIDITY and BLEEDING CORPSE] was among the senior Bandung travelling contingent and he was as usual enjoying this kind of atmosphere.
The festival was due to start again and people had mostly disappeared indoors again to see the popular Bandung hardcore band OUTRIGHT [the “HATEBREED of Bandung”]. Some metalheads, including most of the senior Bandung contingent, had remained outside gossiping and networking in the cool mountain air. As expected, some traditional Indonesian “arak” wine was passed around and I became immediately drunk. Only a few minutes later we all watched in amazement as young fans in OUTRIGHT tee-shirts swarmed out of the side entrance all with very sad looks on their faces. The word passed around at lightning speed that the local police had cancelled the rest of the festival. A few policemen could be seen here and there within the compound and a macho police voice sounded over a megaphone. We congregated under the side entrance porch for a long time as people did not want to disperse quickly. Bobby and Popo joined John and me and some of the young crowd recognized Bobby as the vocalist of BLEEDING CORPSE and many more pictures were taken.
Bobby Rock and Kieran James
I think Bobby wanted to at least give the young fans some pictures from the festival given that it was going to be a disappointing day overall for them. Bobby is a humble giant [183 cm. tall] and he never tries to attract attention to himself at a death-metal show. He happily merges into and mingles with the crowd in his capacity as a fan. He may have the rock-star look and swagger when walking down a Bandung street but at a show he merges into the crowd and does not want or clamor for any attention from the teenage fans. He is a wonderful ambassador for Ujung Berung and Bandung death-metal with his calm nature, humble manner, cheerful attitude, and generosity of spirit. John and I have benefitted from the kindness and helpfulness of Bobby and Popo and this couple is certainly wonderful company. They have a great sense of humor and they exude natural warmth which is always a surprise to outsiders. John has told me that he expected Bobby to be arrogant because of his status in the death-metal world and his brutal onstage persona but he found this not to be the case at all.
I went back inside the hall where everyone was busy packing up gear and exiting now the show had been cancelled. I met Adam and he expressed his disappointment that HUMILIATION would not be able to play. He apologized to me although there was no need to do so because the police’s cancellation of the festival was obviously not an event within his control. I tried to comfort and encourage Adam by telling him that we will see him perform again at another show later. John had told me that Adam’s mother was there to watch her son play. I asked Adam that we could meet his mother. She was seated in a parked van at the rear of the compound near the back entrance of the hall. Although it was now raining she came out of the van for a picture with Adam and me. She is a policewoman and wearing the uniform but she did not have the power to stop the police from cancelling the show. She was very proud of Adam playing for HUMILIATION and receiving the sponsorship from Busuk Webzine. She was distressed by the cancellation of the show and earlier she had been crying. I think our sponsorship of HUMILIATION’s gig was a highlight in the short life to date of Busuk Webzine.
Kieran James and Amenk Disinfected
Most of the metalheads had quietly dispersed by this time. Even the punks left quietly without a fight and without any harsh words. In the climate of modern Indonesia (which is really still a police-state but just with outward democratic form) the police will always have the last word and it makes as much sense opposing the police as it does hitting your head against a brick wall. The police all entered the back entrance and came out a few minutes later. There must have been around 20 or 30 of them. The senior Bandung metalhead contingent was dishing out and eating noodles on the back porch as this was happening. They adopted a look of nonchalance as if the festival was already naturally winding down and they were making preparations to go. The 20 or 30 policemen stood as a group in front of their van which was parked in one of the back corners of the compound where they could watch both the side entrance and the back entrance. All the police were male and most were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. They stood in stiff fashion, almost like death-metal fans posing for a picture, with significant empty personal space between them. All the policemen had very serious facial expressions which to me suggested guilty consciences since they had no valid reason to cancel the festival. Usually police walking around and guiding traffic in Indonesia look cheerful, chat with the civilians, and try to build rapport. Here we saw the opposite situation with very stern faces. The police had a somewhat arrogant and idiotic appearance as if the younger and junior ones among them did not really agree with what they were being asked to do.
Kieran James with the punk rockers
The metalheads behaved very well, departed very slowly and casually, and avoided eye contact with the police. They left slowly so as to “save face” and self-respect by keeping up the appearance that they were leaving voluntarily rather than being forced out (much like Western CEOs who “pretend” to resign out of their own choice when actually they do not have a choice). The police allowed them this dignity and no-one was manhandled by the police. I was disappointed because I had travelled 5,000 kilometres from Australia to watch an underground West Javanese death-metal festival and now the police were seizing this opportunity from right underneath my nose. There was no logical or valid reason to cancel the festival. The high-school crowd was well-behaved and just enjoying harmless fun. Later Man [the vocalist for JASAD] told me that the police were nervous because of the recent chaotic demonstrations about petrol prices in Jakarta. He also said that if he had been present at the venue he could possibly have negotiated with the police and then the final outcome might have been different. It is important to mention that this was not the city-police from Bandung but countryside police from this region three hours out from Bandung and countryside police can be expected to be more socially conservative and risk-averse.
The bands whose gigs were cancelled included: OUTRIGHT (hardcore), HUMILIATION (death-metal), DEMONS DAMN (death-metal), TCUKIMAY (street-punk), JASAD (death-metal), and DISINFECTED (death-metal). It was a very strong line-up of bands for a countryside festival and the local crowd missed the chance to see some excellent bands from a mix of genres. Bobby’s van, containing Popo, John, Dimas, me, and one or two others, was appropriately the last car to leave the compound, the police vans obviously being excluded from this calculation. People were angry in their hearts but they adopted the philosophical attitude that this was just part of life in modern Indonesia. People’s spirits slowly improved as we drove along the beautiful, hilly countryside roads. Mist hung over nearby mountains and light rain fell on the rice-fields and the orange-roofed houses of the kampongs [villages].
Man Jasad, John Yoedi, Kieran James @ hot-springs
We drove on further up into the mountains and then parked in the parking lot of the hot-spring swimming pools which are a popular tourist attraction in the Bandung region. This is a usual location for metalheads after shows in this region but this night we all ventured there a little earlier than planned. There are two huge swimming pools which combined are around 50 metres long and 20 metres wide. Around the pools there is paving and beyond that places to sit and talk under cover and many tents. Most of the senior Bandung death-metal contingent from the festival was there. Everyone wanted to relax and unwind after the distressing experience with the police. Although I had given the police some harsh stares they had all avoided my gaze. In my view, the police had been “grandstanding” – they wanted to be the stars of the afternoon rather than the headlining bands. Therefore, I ironically labeled the Busuk Webzine News Item about the festival as “West Javan Police” so this label appeared [at one time] alongside all the band names down the right-hand side of the website home-page.
Man of JASAD was there at the hot-springs, along with his brother Iwan [ESP], and he came over to chat with us. The big, broad-shouldered guy from the TCUKIMAY punk band pointed to the forest and the mist-shrouded mountains, around 200 metres higher than us and also around 200 metres distant, and said it looked like a classic black-metal scene (Norway van Java). Before the twilight disappeared totally I took a picture of the forest and the mountain and we have used it alongside black-metal band interviews on Busuk Webzine. During this time, Dimas and others took scary posed death-metal pictures of each other and John and I enjoyed relaxing chats with many of the metalheads. However, when originally writing this one week later on 8 April 2012, I could not remember who had been talking with whom. I do remember talking to people I did not usually get to talk to and people who knew me even though I might not know them. I do remember Daniel being there and the band members from TCUKIMAY. As is his style, Man walked around chatting to the various groups but he did not stay very long with each group. Man confirmed with me that the police had been nervous after the chaotic Jakarta demonstrations but, as usual, the cancellation ultimately happened because of money issues with the police pressing for more money. Most things in Indonesia, no matter who is involved, can be solved when more money changes hands. Western liberal-democrats might label this as police corruption and they would be correct. However, Indonesian history progresses according to its own dynamics and consistent with its own internal logic. Although I think the police were wrong to cancel the festival, I respect the fact that they used no physical force against anyone. However, they took harmless entertainment away from the high-school crowd and perhaps that crowd returned to their neighborhoods and graffitied on some walls, kicked some chickens, and bullied some younger kids! In a sense the police must accept some responsibility for any violent or anti-social actions conducted by the metalheads after the festival back in the kampongs because the festival should never have been cancelled.
Popo Demons Damn, Bobby Rock, John Yoedi
We said farewell to the other Bandung metalheads in the hot-springs car-park. I had been slightly worried that John or I would become detached from the group and Bobby would leave without us. It had been very cold at the hot-springs, perhaps 12 degrees Celsius, and John had been lent a hoodie. Being from the hot climate of Balikpapan in East Borneo he was now learning how cold the nights could be in the West Javanese Mountains and even, to a lesser extent, in the city of Bandung itself.
We drove down the mountains on the roads back to Bandung. The roads were filled with pedestrians and motorcycles enjoying the nighttime markets and Bobby consistently had to be very careful in his driving. While still outside Bandung a motorcycle clipped the left side of our van causing a minor accident. Everyone got out of the van and Bobby and Popo talked to the two motorcyclists, coming to certain agreements. John and I stood together under the front porch of a nearby house which looked abandoned apart from some faint light shining through the makeshift curtains. In Australia you would not want to stand on the front porch of a private house uninvited but the concepts of private and public space are less fixed and more fluid in Indonesia. We were still in the mountains and it was still cold although now perhaps it was closer to 16 degrees Celsius than to 12 degrees. John took the opportunity, as usual, to enjoy a cigarette. It appeared that the two young motorcycle guys had a good attitude and were apologetic. The “good attitude” test is always vital in Indonesia. The conversation between the motorcyclists and Bobby and Popo switched from animated to casual and friendly. Soon we were on our way again and we reached Bandung around two hours later.
This day, Sunday 1 April 2012, was Popo’s birthday. We celebrated her birthday at a roadside food stall in Bandung. At this stall, like in Singapore, all the food available is displayed and then you can all help yourself. We were tired and after the meal Bobby dropped John and me off at the hotel. The time then was around 11pm. Just before this we had driven through the historic red-light district in Bandung and we had invented new brutal band names such as PROSTITUTE CORPSE! I can’t recall whether it was this night or another night but Bobby has a homemade collection of 1980s songs which includes many hair-metal ballads and even pop hits. On one occasion we all joined together in singing the beautiful chorus of the 1980s pop hit “Ordinary World” by DURAN DURAN! It is true that there is an “ordinary world” out there we all have to find. The vocalist Bobby Rock from the brutal death-metal band BLEEDING CORPSE has his softer side and I’m sure that this softer side is very appealing to Popo. The death-metal life holds in balance the forces of violence and self-control, gentleness and strength. However, I don’t expect we will get a cover of “Ordinary World” by BLEEDING CORPSE or HYDRO any time soon (“obituary world” perhaps)! [by Kieran James aka Jack Frost. This review is also published in the book Struggle, Anger Hate in the Indonesian Underground by Jack Frost which you can buy from Sofyan Hadi of Death Vomit band.]
Popo's birthday party @ Common Room Network Foundation, April 2012. Left to Right: Bobby Rock, Popo Demons Damn, Butche (The Cruel), Man Jasad.

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