The Listening Party

Open Mic Night @ The Bee

[By AARON LIM]

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For some unknown reason, I have always put off going to The Bee’s Open Mic. Well, there are certain prejudices and nasty peer reviews, i.e. expensive menu items, an unfriendly crowd and forgettable acts that have to be confronted.

Why do people even choose to go to The Bee? According to its website, it’s the neighbourhood’s “cosy and friendly hangout” spot. Well, the bar stool I sat on was pretty damn cosy. The cosier spots (sofas) were all taken by what seemed to be regulars. I spotted Jennifer Thompson, one of the veterans of the Malaysian music industry, chatting with Reza Salleh, a singer-songwriter and also the person you had to register with to actually perform for the open mic.

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Event details stated that it starts at 8. I estimated 9pm arriving time would be a safe bet. I was surprised to find the event well underway by the time I had arrived. Really good first impression. I settled in and started to pay attention- but it all sort of went downhill from there.

So what is up with all these instrumental rock bands?  Isn’t this supposed to be the breeding ground of the future of Malaysian music? Did the audience even care about the local scene? Well at least the people on stage looked like they were enjoying themselves. I sipped my pot of earl grey, which costs RM9. Singing-guy-with-a-guitar types abounded, looking like photocopies of each other, mumbling into the mic although I thought that guy who performed Little Talks was pretty good- but then again it is one of my favourite songs.

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The crowd seemed happy talking amongst themselves. Clapping as each act ended and going back to their conversations. I made eye contact with this pretty girl. The place was mostly filled with young professionals and college students. Is this how they spend their weekday nights? Smoking cigarettes and talking enthusiastically in dim yellow lighting? Maybe they were there to see The Metaphor, who were up next. Did the alcohol they were sipping made it more enjoyable? I really do not know.

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The energy of the room bounced up from there. I paid rapt attention. They looked like the passionate musicians you normally see in music ads. They sounded good, in an instrumental kind of way. I’m always puzzled by instrumental music. Don’t get me wrong- I love a little J Dilla or Nujabes I could vibe to, but instrumental rock? Sounds weak. It’s like putting a gag over an angry protester, with only his flailing arms to discern any meaning behind his protest. Instrumental rock bands can only make me feel some type of way that is impossible to describe. Maybe somewhere between annoyed and confused. What’s the point? Where’s the message? I don’t feel angry or masculine. It’s so abstract you just have to define it for yourself. Elise, our editor, compared it to abstract art where the viewer is forced to derive its meaning for themselves. I thought that was a pretty good comparison. Or maybe I was overanalysing.

After their set was over I started a conversation with the lady right in front of me, who was wearing a crewneck with a Hanuman graphic which I thought was mad disrespectful to Hindus. Her lack of interest in talking made me more annoyed. I left her alone. Are all of them like that? I scanned the crowd hoping to make more eye contact and, possibly, conversation. Nope. They were all huddled in their tiny groups

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The Metaphor, one of the two featured acts of the night

The energy of the room dipped to a new low, like an asthmatic runner struggling to finish his final lap. The music now resembling a low drone, meshed together like a cacophony of instruments blended together.

I sipped what was left of my tea and strolled out. I heard nice things about Raising the Bar that is regularly scheduled at The Bee- and also Wolf Down will be stopping by Kuala Lumpur for their South East Asia tour. Till then.

 

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