Concerts and live music have never been my thing. It’s not that I haven’t been to a handful of events, but I am sure my count is much lower than most people my age. Yes, I skipped a few class periods (who needs geometry anyway?) to stand in line for concert tickets with my best friend when I was in high school (skipping pre-approved by the parents, of course!) and I’ve been to a few smaller, more intimate local band concerts, usually when A Seasonal Disguise is on the schedule, but concerts are not something I go out of my way to track down. I think I may have been scarred by my first concert and now have very little interest in that scene.
Recap of my first concert: New Kids on the Block played at the Boise State Pavilion, in the days before Taco Bell paid a huge sponsorship fee and got the building named after their middle-of-the-night, munchies fueled brand. I was in the 6th grade, pretty shy and introverted, thinking a good afternoon entailed a cozy blanket thrown over the heat vent and a book. One of my aunts, who I thought of as young and cool, got my sister and me tickets for our birthdays, which fall just a couple of weeks apart. The tickets were fantastic seats, on the floor, just a few rows from the stage- much nicer than a niece’s birthday called for! (Sorry niblings, no floor-seating concert tickets for you!) With my aunt as our chaperone, off we headed to see the ever-dashing NKOTB boy-band dance their way through the evening. While I loved their music, spending hours sitting in front of my radio with my finger hovering over the “record” button, just waiting to add the newest release to my mix-tape, in person, it was too much for my eleven-year old self. I mostly remember it being so incredibly loud that I couldn’t even tell which song was playing- the thumping of the bass and the squealing of the teenaged girls (okay, sadly, there were a lot of forty-year old woman who were there solo, also shrieking like adolescents) overpowered any music that was actually being made. This was not the night I had dreamed it would be. Maybe I was just too young or maybe my personality inherently leans away from such events, but either way, that first concert didn’t instill in me a love of live music. (It is also telling of my taste in music. I will be the first to admit I have none. I’d never make it as a hipster, as I don’t care who the newest unknown band is and I don’t follow music reviews at all- my review reading is saved for BookPage. I’m pretty content with what I know is terrible pop music, starting with when video killed the radio star and bumping right on up to it currently being all about that bass, with no room for our good friend, treble.)
Part of the draw of Thad’s joining the Foreign Service as the opportunity to do things we wouldn’t normally do, to travel to little known locales and to take part in experiences that are sometimes outside our comfort zones. So, while grunge rock was a huge part of my generation’s teenage years and with Seattle just a day’s drive away from home, it’s not that I never had the opportunity to participate in the scene, but either way, I didn’t. Yes, I know all the words to a number of Nirvana songs and I have a strangely odd amount of Kurt Cobain knowledge (that is mostly due to a student who wrote an entire multi-genre research report on him in one of my classes, which between helping him with research, proofing rough drafts and grading the final project gave me an oddly broad swath of Cobain knowledge for someone who is rather indifferent- thank you for that, Kevin H.) and can rattle off band names like Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots and I had a number of flannel shirts that would have camouflaged me well amongst the angst-y crowds. But, until a few nights ago, I’d never been to a grunge concert.
That is, until Grungezilla 2014 came along.
Now, maybe I can apply for my official “generation X” membership card.
Not sure what one wears to a grunge concert in Malaysia and without my old flannel shirts on-hand, I went with a sundress and sandals, but soon discovered by Chucks would have been more fitting. (Notice I didn’t say they would have helped me blend in. As the only white woman in the room, there was no way I was going to blend in with blonde hair halfway down my back and pasty white skin. A pair of black shoes with white rubber toes would not have fooled anyone.)
We stayed for three sets, with the middle being the best. There were a lot of covers, including some Smashing Pumpkins, with a few original songs thrown in, but overall it was just fascinating to see this Seattle-culture come to life in Kuala Lumpur. The venue was a small place, with the grunge scene being very much an underground happening. There were maybe fifty people there when we arrived, which translated to a mosh pit of four and a couple of head bangers whipping around near the stage. I had to laugh out loud as I watched two guys sipping on juice boxes towards the back of the crowd. Honest to goodness juice boxes- lychee juice, I believe. Take a moment to image yourself at a Soundgarden concert, Doc Martins laced up, flannel shirt tied around your waist and extra-eyeliner carefully placed to look haphazard. Oh yes, and a box of juice with a bendy straw in-hand. Hardcore, all the way.
The event may have been small, but I loved that the people there were willing to break out of the box and follow their bliss, even if their style isn’t hugely popular and recognition isn’t forthcoming. Some of the guitarists had some real talent and all of the musicians had a passion for their music, making the event a success, even if it wasn’t a packed house.
Grunge in KL may not be on everyone’s Saturday evening schedule and probably won’t be taking up a regular slot on my calendar, but it was an interesting way to round out a week and for a mere 15 ringgit, well-worth the investment.