Saturday, May 07, 2011

Watching Gruff Rhys Live

Yesterday I skipped BTC's sports club pilates class to go watch Gruff Rhys live at MAPS @ Publika in Solaris Dutamas. Getting there was a trial. We made a few wrong turns trying to get onto the right direction of Jalan Kuching and in the end ended up at the place where mum and I had gotten lost at last year while trying to find Solaris, Hartamas. Anyway what matters is that we ARRIVED and had time enough to grab a bite at Old Town Kopitiam (which charged us extra for food we didn't get! and not to mention the SLOW service).

So happens that we chose a table diagonally situated to where Gruff Rhys was eating with a bunch of other people. Kharlal and Nisha were trying so hard not to stare! LOL! (I was facing the other way, so if I turned to look, it would be so obvious! haha). Well, at least we were being discrete. Unlike another group who came a little later and sat at the table next to us - the ladies actually arranged their chair so that they were facing the headliner of the night! *double LOL!*

When we went in, I was a little taken aback as the place was pretty small and everyone seemed to be sitting on the floor. Kharlal and I were in our heels - to compensate (as much as possible) for the disadvantage of height in a crowded situation - and in the end we didn't need them.

There were two opening acts - Free Deserters and Couple. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't really enjoy Free Deserters. My comments would include:

  • The lead guitarist is shredding when there isn't a need to - it disrupts the audience from hearing the song itself
  • I never knew a Gibson Les Paul could sound that bad! (this was the second guitar after the lead guitarist snapped a string from his first)
  • At times, the lead singer faced his back to the audience (hmmm...???)
On the brighter side, I think their last song was more radio-friendly, hence more palatable to the greater majority of listeners out there. (Sorry, no idea of what the title was)

I would say Couple was better overall. Their set was more of the Indonesian pop rock genre, which of course many would find easy to listen and sing along to. We did not stay for their whole set, but from the little we managed to catch, their songs were catchy and their leader had stage presence. And their female guitarist had either a sunburst Gibson ES-335 or an Epiphone Sheraton (my eyes are not that trained to distinguish these two apart yet).

And then it was the headliner of the night - one man band Gruff Rhys! (or like the Malaysian style: Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals!) What a breath of fresh air! He had a table full of "equipments" which were things like an old-school metronome (named "Trevor", if I remember correctly), a turntable, analogue synthesizers and some electronic children's musical toys we used to play with in the late 1970s or 80s and that sampling module that does repeats (I think Roland/Boss has one of those in their product line).

Admittedly I didn't have time to do my research before attending this event, however the songs that I knew were Shark Ridden Waters and Vitamin K. It's amazing that he could sing flawlessly and play his "modified" guitar 'upside down' (he said because no one told him the right way to do it lol!) with just one or two of his gadgets as supporting background sound/music and sound incredibly COMPLETE. And I didn't know that that 'fading echo singing' ending some verses were actually done lock, stock and barrel by him - without any vocal special effects etc.!

Gruff Rhys and his table of wonders
Rhys did a couple of songs with just this ancient wave synth tuned to a certain key (according to the respective songs) and it created this noise which made it sound NOT like a one-man band! He also had this small toy keyboard (with about 2 octaves or so worth of keys) which had keys that would light up when you pressed them... And this pair of sticks with wires at their ends which made electric lightning bolt sounds, and some bright red and blue plastic gun-looking thing that produced a pre-recorded tune when triggered... he used all these with the sampler.

Gruff Rhys with his "thunder bolt sticks thingy"

Another shot with the sticks lighted up at the ends
I know, I know, I should be talking about the songs he played... but it was just so interesting to see his "theatricks", poker-faced jokes and his multitasking abilities! Ooh, and he performed some Welsh songs, which we all couldn't understand a word of, but sounded so serene and peaceful...

All in all, I had a good time. It's not everyday that one can see musicians stripping down their act to the bare basics and using 'items that we throw out' as musical instruments. This just shows that "Old is [indeed] Gold!"

My ticket and the chop on the hand all of us received!

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