Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Part 2 - The Thong Thing

Okay... I took quite a while to publish part 2 of the Miri escapade as I've been very busy. I've also got some raised eyebrows in the process. LOL.

So let's pick up where I left off... David & I got up on the 2nd day of the festival to go meet the boys for breakfast. Imagine our surprise when, as we opened the door to our room, a greyish/blackish thing dropped on the floor. After two simultaneous whadahellizzat's from the both of us, we kicked it around some and realized that someone had hung a pair o' thongies on our door knob! I can't imagine what she must've been doing outside our door. Well, actually, I can. Eeww! Jun Lin remarked that we must've been so hot on stage the night before and someone must've put that out there, as a token of gratitude perhaps? Well, thongs are generally not my thing. I'd much prefer cash, diamonds or a recording contract. Heck, even a simple, "hey, I really enjoyed your performance. can you please sign my programme!" would've been sufficient.

Anyway, having recovered from that strange morning surprise, we went down to catch the last half an hour of the breakfast spread [um... those of you who were there would know it wasn't much of one]. After breakfast, Day 1 festival performers were due for their press conference. So after rounding up 6 of 7 band members [you know who you are that slept through it but i will be kind enough to not mention your name on this post! but everyone can IM me and i'll tell you.], we went to the function room assigned for the event. There in the room were the members of KCP4, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Lluis Coloma himself, plus me, David & the boys in the band [the ones who actually got up for it. you can tell i will never live this one down.].

There were some 15 or so members of the press in attendance and, MIJF Organizing Chairman, Sarawak Tourism Board's Michael Lu wasted no time in opening up the press conference. The bandleaders/spokespersons were asked to speak a little bit about themselves and their bands.

Our turn came after Lluis Coloma's and David's preamble will go down in MIJF history as a classic anecdote. Somewhere in his intro, he makes reference to me and says... "For those of you who do not know, Junji & I are a little bit of a couple". Gulp! Five kids down and he still thinks we're a little bit of a couple! I dread to think how many kids we'd end up having then if we were a bit more than that. Well, needless to say, that little bit of a booboo sent the rest of the room into fits of laughter. Later on in the night, them folks from DDBB were asking him if he was out of the doghouse yet! Fortunately for him I'm not vindictive. Well, maybe just a little bit [all pun intended].

Anyway, after the initial introductions were made, the floor was handed over to the press and the first few questions were directed at The Dirty Dozen. I guess being from Amerika Syarikat, they were more interested in them. Biasa. Then some questions were thrown at Lluis Coloma. Also biasa. Then KCP4. Triple biasa. By this time, Jezza, probably feeling that the homegrown talents were being ignored, started asking David some questions like what he thought of the local jazz industry... has the jazz industry grown or improved in the last few years... etc. As a result, I think the press got more information than they bargained for as they got a dose of the local jazz muso sentiment in the process. Can't help it folks! We've not been known to dwell in grey areas. Black is black, white is white. We call a spade a spade.

In fact, as it turns out, the sentiments raised were shared by some of our foreign counterparts as well. I won't go into any more details but, suffice to say that, the ties that bind got tighter between us, festival participants, and by the end of that press con, there was a oneness for our common purpose. A respect and a sincere hope for one another's continued success in all their endeavours.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and exploring the town in search of some decent local fare. Our Liaison Officer, Aline Jee, was a bright & cheery Kuching lass who really went over and above her call of duty by taking charge... from arranging [or should I say, fighting for, our shuttle ride] to patiently taking us to town, helping us order at the restaurant, the handicraft centre, to Bintang mall for coffee and some miscellaneous buys and then [again] fighting for our ride back to the hotel. What is it with hotel shuttle service in Miri??

The shuttle finally came and we reached the hotel just as sun was setting and the hotel grounds were once more teeming with people antsy for the festival to begin. We decide to go back to our rooms to chill & cool down before heading out to the Pavilion.

By the time we made it out of our rooms and into the Pavilion, Orak Naa Naa were just about 2 songs away from the end of their set. They were a gentle duo and I found the music spiritually moving & immensely calming.

Next up was The George Washingmachine Quartet. From the first time I saw him, I kept thinking that he reminded me of someone. It was needling me no end. I finally realized it when I came back home and was uploading the pics. He's like a better-looking Drew Carey! He was pretty comical too. During their performance, he quipped that their cd's were available for sale outside and that theirs was special because they were re-writable! Funny.

Their set was followed by the robust sounds of Habana Sax from Cuba. It made me feel like I was in the set of The Buena Vista Social Club [minus the singing]. You could feel their sound all the way down to your bones and cartillage. So full. So rich. Then, the boys danced too! Baila, baila! And they got the women in the audience to get up & do their thing on stage. Did they ever! You can search you tube for some clips. Am too tired to copy links for you. Sorry la.

The DDBB finally closed the night with a powerhouse of a set that even included their version of Stevie Wonder's Superstition! By which time, everyone was on their feet and grooving to the beat. Even my little bit of a husband was moved to git up & git down!

After that last performance of the night, everyone went to grab some grub and, either we were extremely famished or the cook was feeling better and consequently, the food wasn't too bad. Can't say the same about the music from the lounge band right upstairs though! Really choke-inducing proportions. David couldn't stand it much longer so he went up to the room with a faint promise to join us once that band stopped and the jam session got started. "Call me when it starts", said he.

So after we finished our food, Julian & I made our way up and the George Washingmachine dudes were already in the thick of things. Unlike the previous night when there were a handful of people, that night the lounge was packed and Julian & I managed to get a seat right at the back. Needless to say, the crowd that was there was loud & mostly in a drunken stupor. No one was really listening. You could tell because in between solos, no one clapped. I was getting annoyed. The last straw was watching one of the go go girls from the band pulling on her already skimpy top to show one of the foreign musos the sequins that "she herself sewed on". As a matter of course, she also showed her boobies in the process. I thought of finding the thongs from the morning and giving it to her so she can sew on some more sequins. Ish!

Anyway, that just about spoiled the rest of the night for me. Julian and I moved up closer to the stage to appreciate the band's efforts. But the crowd was even louder there than they were at the back and a short while later, the guys themselves decided to get off stage and drink instead. It was the better choice for that given time.

Meanwhile, I decided that I was heading up so Julian did the same. Lucky for me as David had, by then, fallen asleep and if I had taken any longer, well, I may have been in, ahem, a little bit of trouble getting in. And that would've been, err... a little bit of a problem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This site is ready for CPR!

CPR = Creative Post Resuscitation

Hi folks! It's me once again. Yes, I'm still alive, albeit a bit of a zombie given the numerous things I do in my pursuit of happiness [read: jazz]. Just got back late last night from the Miri International Jazz Festival. Hence, I have something blogworthy to post :). So I am going to attempt to give a play-by-play account of the week that's been.


Our flight to Miri was scheduled to leave at 7:25 a.m. on Thursday, 10th May. That meant only one thing. Sleep was out of the question. All of Wednesday was spent doing last minute errands, paying bills, meetings, collecting our t-shirts [designed specially for the gig], shopping for food to keep my kids from chewing on the furniture while we were away and all that kind of stuff. So by the time we reached home around 9 p.m., there was the frenzied attempt to pack
and post the weekend gig at TTR!

Julian Chan arrived before midnight to get a ride with us to the airport [and use our free wi-fi]. After I was done packing, I turned to the laptop to get my work done. Finally finished around 4 something and was ready to post when my internet connection died. #&$#%! I decided to hit the shower to cool myself down [both literally & figuratively].

Around 4:30 I give David a wake-up nudge. Surprisingly, he got up within the second nudge. By 5 a.m., Vincent Ong arrived and both he and Julian were sitting in the living room when I came down. Now, I don't know how many people are like me but, everyday, a song [usually a standard tune] will get stuck in my head and I'll be humming & singing it for the most part that of the day. So today we're off to a jazz festival and what song was I singing? You To Me Are Everything by Rick Astley!?!?! :( :/.

Hmm... if I were superstitious, I'd have taken that to be not a very good indication of things to come. However, I could've very well been singing that about jazz which would make it totally relevant. [A feeble attempt to redeem myself of my pop inclinations.]

We arrive at the airport at 6:15 or so where two other band members were waiting, Charles & Eddie. Nope. Not the "Would I Lie To You Baby?" Charles & Eddie. Wong & Wen. [Just laughing my brains out as I type this. Imagine if there was another muso named Huat who joined those two... They can call themselves Huat Wen Wong! rotflmao!!!]

Anyway, I checked everyone in then we headed to McD's for some breakfast. Budget airline grub didn't seem exciting enough compared to pancakes & syrup! Yum.

The flight left as scheduled and we were finally heading East. Time to take a nap.


We touched down around 9:10. Julian, who I surmised nurtures dreams of hosting a travelogue, has taken the task of videotaping our exploits. The rest of us ham it up while the welcoming committee are outside wondering whether immigration has detained the locals! Aih!

One by one we're out and our cameras are clicking away while bags are being loaded onto the bus. The boys pose for a photo.

Err... anyone seen David?!?

...and out he comes cooly carrying two cornetto's.

The ride to Park City, Everly Hotel took all of 10 minutes or so. Hands are extended in welcome. Introductions are made and we sit around the lobby waiting for our room keys. David & I get room 425. I'll get back to that later.


The first day was intended to be a relaxing day for us. After lunch we took a walk to the Pavilion where the main stage was. I'm immediately taken with the room. A circular building surrounded by doors. Huge dome right above the main stage. Hmm... Wonder how that will figure with the sound. Speaking of which, there were tons of equipment! The place was littered with black boxes of different shapes and sizes. It looked like more than enough to power up Dataran Merdeka. But then I realized that there was outdoor sound to be done as well.

Not much to do after that recce except chill by the beach or pool, explore the city [half a day would've been too much for that] or go shopping. Needless to say, we opt for the last option under the excuse of looking for black jeans to go with our tees. We took the hotel shuttle to a place called Imperial Mall. The driver said he'd pick us up 2 hours later. Got the jeans 2 hours later together with some brewski for the R & R.

We stood outside to wait for the shuttle pick up which was supposed to be there at 5:45. By 6 he wasn't there so we drank a couple of brewskis in the heat. Ran in to grab another 6-pack. At 6:30 we decided to give the hotel a call. The guy at the concierge said that the driver was at the same spot at 5:45 but we didn't come out. Really? So I told him we've been sitting out there, 3 cans down and never saw the shuttle van. He tried another one. He said the driver was there from 5:45 to 6 and we didn't come out! Well, I sure wonder what HE was drinking cos he'd have to be stoned out of his brains to miss us!

Anyway, we decided to cab it back to the hotel and realized that Miri is a very expensive town. We forked out 24 ringgit in total for two cabs for a ride that would've taken us from KLCC to The Weld! That could've been another 5 cans of Tiger! Ish!

Finally back at the hotel, we all converge in room 425 for happy hours. Julian is red-faced in no time. It's the Chinese thing. About half an hour or so, we head down for dinner. Oh, the hotel food is another story altogether but I shan't bore you with details. Bore being the operative word.

By this time, most of the other performers have arrived and, though no one is officially introduced, most everyone knowingly exchange nods & smiles & the usual pleasantries. Some seem aloof, some are immediately warm. We were happy & LOUD! Maybe a little too happy for some people's liking. I think though that that has been a trademark of ours. Wherever we go, whatever we do... you hear us laughing LOUDLY. We're a happy band :).

After dinner, I could barely keep my eyes open so I shower & hit the sack. Tomorrow's a long day. Day 2 Performers' Press Conference, Tagging, Sound Check for Day 1 Performers and all that jazz...

MIJF 2007 DAY 1

The hotel is a hive of activity. Hotel guests are all over the place. The media is all geared up for the first press conference. Merchandise stalls being set up. It's got a really festive air about it.

Thomas, our tenor player, arrives at 10 and joins us for breakfast. Rehearsal for horns is set for after lunch at room 425. Meanwhile, 4 of us decide to go to the gym for some light workout just to get our muscles pumping while David & Thomas decide give theirs a rest.

After lunch rehearsal turned to before lunch to avoid the after food sleepiness that usually creeps up. So here they are at room 425.

Cut to sound check at 3:30. The place is all set. The clutter of the first day is gone. Levels are taken. Adjustments are made. The guys are sounding great. The sound engineers, Niall [front-of-house] & Greg [stage sound], have done a marvelous job. Time for a short rest before our set.

Our call time was set for 7 backstage so the guys were back in 425 by 6:30. In their brand new embroidered David Gomes Sextet t-shirts. I thought it looked cool. A lot of other people did too.

Together we all walked to the venue. When we got there, the place was fairly empty. My heart came down to my knees. I thought, oh no... here we go again. Is this another case of the locals being bypassed in favour of the international line-up? I prayed not. The backstage people assured me that it would fill up in no time as the crowds were outside eating and drinking. I chose to believe them.

Luckily, they proved right. Soon enough, there were people coming in and by the time the emcee opened up the set & Charles started his drum intro to the first song, there was enough of an audience to feed off from. And they were a great audience. More so because 60% of our material that night are David's original compositions that have not been recorded nor performed much outside of KL. They loved every one of them! By the time I came out to sing, the audience was well & truly warmed up which made it a whole lot easier for me to reach them.

When the band took over again after 3 of my songs, the crowd was no less enthusiastic than before which really brings me to the conclusion that these people truly know how to appreciate good music. KL audiences could learn a thing or two from here.

Of course we couldn't let a whole hour go without David singing. And when he finally did, the room was just overawed. Wah! He can sing too ah?? Aiysey!!

One hour went by in a jiff and, before we knew it, our set was over. The adrenaline rush needed some calming salve which came in the form of some ice cold golden liquid.

Meanwhile, the outdoor stage kicked in with Son2Nos, a Brunei-based group, while the crew got the main stage ready for the second band, KCP4. They are really KCP5 but Charlie Mariano couldn't join them for this trip, hence the downsized band name. This is an amazing group that bridges two musical worlds, creating a beautiful blend of East & West.

Next up was Lluis Coloma who was hot on the trail of their popularity at last year's MIJF. And, boy, did they get the house a-boogie-oogie-ing!! Very infectious. I myself felt like Happy Feet.

Then it was time to get down & dirty with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Man! These dudes have got it so down pat that you just know it from the moment they hit their first note!! Everyone felt liberated.

From start to end, Day 1 of the festival was nothing short of invigorating. You just couldn't get enough of it. And so a handful of us found ourselves jamming well into the wee hours of the morning. By the pool, in the moonlight and at the lounge. Finally, David & I decided to call it a night at 5 in the morning!!! Tired but happy.

PART 2: THE THONG THING [to be continued]