Up, up and away!

Ever since I heard about No Black Tie two years ago while I was still in Australia, I told myself that if ever I return back to Malaysia, I will make an effort to go there and check out the live music there. Besides, it has been a while too that I have been wanting to check out the indie music scene in the country, so it was a good opportunity for me to stop by On The Up last night.

No Black Tie was a small bar hidden at a back street in the KL city, and the crammed interior was tasteful at best. The slim bar works its way to the back, where dim lights compromised with the black surrounding, giving just enough light to guide the fans to their reserved seats. At the back, three orange lights punctuated the platform that was the stage, anticipating to shine their light on the five featured groups for the night.

Around 9.30PM, Brian took the stage and introduced the first band of the night, Free to Fall – an all-girls’ band from Klang. They had an entourage lining the staircase up to the second floor, and they reminded me a lot of a milder version of Letters to Cleo. Their easygoing beats and perfect female vocals worked well with their simple lyrics of boys they like, just like how every guy bands would sing about girls they like. They were quite a typical indie pop girl band, singing away about being saved and finding freedom. Not really outstanding, but they were good enough to kick start a good night ahead.

Next up was Apple Juice, a male band with a female vocal. They kicked off their set with their own rendition of Fly Me to the Moon, but did not really capture the crowd. It did not really impressed me too, because I remember Brian saying, “no covers, just originals tonight” from the performers, so they kind of hit off the wrong note there.

But luckily, they kind of made up after that with their versatile song choices. The lead’s throaty voice brought the listeners from Lounge music – which was boring to say the least; they looked like a bunch of resident musicians you see at hotel lobby lounges – to a more catchy Blues beat, before moving on to the conventional Pop. Maybe it was just me, but for some reason, the group portrayed a cocky kind of aura throughout their set. Not that I have a problem with that, but the lead was after all good with her voice so I guess it is no sin to feel confident about yourself.

The crowd was beginning to buzz with heightened conversations and booze by the time the third set came on. Najwa Mahiaddin had already made it in the indie scene when she stepped on the stage carried by the hearty applause. All she had to do that night was turn on her charm and she would already have the entire crowd eating at the palm of her hand.

Najwa was like a storyteller in the form of a singer. She told stories about a French guy named John Pierre, and a girl called Alice, spending sweet and memorable times at the cafe sipping coffee and eating crossaints, as well as about a little boy who lost her mother during the war. She also reminisced the time when she missed a lover while studying in Melbourne, and about finding love at last.

Her songs were the kind you would listen to when you cannot sleep at night, and it was only you and the moon and the Godsent voice of this songstress. The moment she played the piano and sang with her immaculate voice, the crowd just stopped and listened. Nobody dared to breathe or move as everyone was so captivated by her voice. As if a shift of the pinned and needled leg would make one miss out too much of her. When her last note echoed off the wooden walls around us, the crowd burst for an encore.

She made the RM10 spent that night – RM2 for every act – worth every cent’s while.

Wrapping up the night was the quirky Jazz group, Seven, the only all-guy band for the night. The lead already had us at his Afro-do, but his drunken humour made us want more from them. Intoducing their band as “five members with two imaginary friends”, they wowed the crowd with their funky beats that always find a reason to jazz up every song after a languid start. I would say they were the most fun band to listen to that night, as the lead cracked jokes in between songs, and even during songs, as he bravely admitted a cheesy one he wrote when he was 16 – and boy, was it really cheesy – and one he wrote after an inspired sex-making session. Not to mention that he was already drunk when he went on stage, and even raised his bottle of Heineken to cheers with the crowd too. And to pull off a set without going off key throughout intoxicated, it was not bad. Not bad at all.

All in all, it was quite a nice experience for me. I have always liked going to music events, so it was definitely my kind of way to have a good time. And to know there is a place like you would usually see in television shows, where music fans gather at tables with drinks with a small stage up front big enough to hold the performers in a tight grip together, here where you are and where you can visit from time to time, it brings a smile to my face knowing that there is an underground music scene alive still, despite the immense overshadow of commercialism.

Peyton Sawyer once said kids went to concerts and acoustic shows in search of hope in music. That night, hope was very much alive in every passing second and every beating heart and every exhaling breath.

On the Up is a monthly music event organised by Time Out KL at No Black Tie.


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4 Responses to “Up, up and away!”

  1. det Says:

    oooh…nice closing quote. you did justice to the gig, peanut 😉 sweeeet.

    ..but i don’t think the afro dude was really drunk. just happy to be on stage performing! haha

  2. Celeste Says:

    Cookie, is that you? O.o

  3. det Says:

    who… me? cookie? what you talkin about? heheh..

  4. ivan Says:

    loved that place after playing there. esp the ambience.

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