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One of the many things that I’ve enjoyed about this year is being able to attend three amazing concerts in a period of six weeks. With Sigur Rós to start the trend, and Blur following five days later, the latest show I’ve seen took place almost three months ago, but only makes it to the surface of this website now, thanks to the power of distraction. However, the inadvertently late post has not diminished the overall effect that night had on me.
Since being nixed in 2012 on account of the shortage of acts, one of Jakarta’s biggest annual music festivals, Java Rockin’ Land, finally materialised this year. The news came shortly after the forced cancellation of Lady Gaga’s scheduled appearance by acts of corruption and thuggery at play, and the world-wide criticism of said controversy. Whether or not the latter caused the former, I cannot say definitively, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Even though this year’s celebration was met with noticeably smaller attendance, Java Rockin’ Land kicked off with much aplomb on June 22, cause it coincided with the anniversary of Jakarta’s cityhood. I attended solely to see a long-time favourite band of mine, and those present during their gig that evening were regaled with fireworks and a performance that is nothing short of spectacular.
My friend and I headed to Ancol’s Pantai Carnaval after a late dinner, well ahead of Collective Soul‘s 11:00 p.m. slot. We, along with two other friends, were regrettably late for Ed Kowlaczyk’s show back in 2011, and the memory of that — along with the titles of the three songs that we missed, as a result — still lingered closely in our minds. The experience does not bear repeating, and were relieved when the road leading out of the capital was clear, and well out of the way of any anniversary festivities.
Unfortunately, we still lost our bearings, and spent an extra few minutes searching for the beach. Consequently, we missed the beginning of their 90-minute set. We entered the correct beach grounds, and immediately recognised the raspy voice of Ed Roland permeating through the salty air, followed by even an more familiar melody. “Just follow ‘December’!”, I half-joked to my friend. We endured the security process without incident, and jogged the short distance from the festival entrance to the main stage.
The part of the stage closest to the entrance was the left, and it didn’t take much effort to meander through the loose horde of fans that have had an average of about ten minutes more time with Collective Soul than us. We settled somewhere right in the centre of that portion of the crowd, between a sea of bodies and giant speakers that resonated so loud that I thought my heartbeat synced in rhythm with its movements. It was there where I realised how wind can skew the perception of vocal quality, because Ed’s talent as a frontman only reinforced the many reasons the American band propelled into post-grunge stardom since their inception twenty-one years ago.
Established in Stockbridge, Georgia, in the United States, Collective Soul took off as a three-piece ensemble in 1992, some time after Ed’s array of musical endeavours in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The band’s first foray into the public scene, funnily enough, was long before anything had been attached to their name. The 1993 song, “Shine”, was written and recorded as a demo, with the help of musicians that Ed had enlisted. He had no intentions of forming anything out of the brief collaboration when he passed the tape out to anyone willing to play it. The song took to one of the radio stations in Florida, and Ed was thrust into the limelight. Quickly, he recruited Ross Childress to lead guitar, Shawn Evans to the helm of the rhythm on the drums, and his heartthrob of a younger brother, Dean, on rhythm guitar, making the first official line-up of Collective Soul. They signed to Atlantic Records.
The rock band was not without several changes to their assembly in their two-and-some decades. Aside from being in a contract with their fourth record label, their eight studio albums, twenty-two music videos, twenty-nine singles, and seven chart-toppers have felt the creativity of eight talents. But by around 2012, Collective Soul steadied itself with Joel Koesche on guitar, Will Turpin on bass, and the Roland brothers an ever constant presence of the group. Drummer Johnny Rabb joins as a touring drummer, and he was present that night.
Despite the occasional blockade of industry standard camera flashes and bodies, I was within reasonable distance from the stage to gather a sizable collection of clear photographs. When I was setting up to take my first capture, I was horrified to find out that I had forgotten my memory cards. With only my camera’s memory to rely on, I had to be extra careful with what shots I was going to keep, and which I would discard. All in all, I only had room for slightly under ten photos, which were split evenly between all the members of the band — well, except for Rabb. His positioning towards the back of the stage, along with the unpredictable movement of the audience, made it impossible to focus.
While taking the occasional photo, my friend and I took note of some of the interesting people standing around us, including one girl who shouted, “We want more!” long before the appropriate time, causing many people to glance quizzically in her general direction. There was also another guy standing near me, who had such a malodorous presence that I almost swore his lack of underarm deodorant — or shower — was deliberate move. I am aware that smelly people are unavoidable in a concert setting, but regardless of how many gigs I’ve attended over the years, I can never get used that. Eventually, the stench grew so pungent that my friend and I had no other choice but back up several steps.
The World I Know
After the cheerful number, “Better Now”, a fireworks display took place well outside the beach area. The timing was impeccable, too, because it started just right after the the song ended. The band had the best view of the spectacle unfolding, and Ed directed the crowd to marvel at the lights. He made it known that he was aware of the celebration going on in parallel with their performance, and joked that it was part of the show. His statement met with sincere laughter and an even more enthusiastic united request to return to the setlist. While it was short-lived, the quiet moment of reverence and unidirectional gazing at the sky made that large concert — set in an enormous grassy area with the ocean beyond — feel really intimate.
The band’s stage presence and energy was demonstrative of their veteran status in this generation’s crop of musicians. A smattering selection of their discography, catalysed by Ed’s voice held so much power and command that it managed to blanket the audience — who seemed to be mostly in their late twenties to early thirties — with an experience that embodies the band’s very name. I romanced the idea that everyone watching waxed nostalgic to their high school, college, and other moments in which Collective Soul’s songs stood relevant, a united reminiscence that brought on… a collective soul, if you may.
The one-and-a-half set ended but all too soon. It was indicated by the introduction of one of the band’s greatest hits, and one of my all-time favourite songs, “The World I Know”, off their 1995 eponymous album. Gentle acoustics brought the jumpy crowd down to a mellow level. Then, nuanced repetitions of a vaguely familiar riff became crawled closer to the heart of the settling audience, before the song itself was acknowledged. Fans belted out the lyrics in unison as the strings swelled in tandem with the emotion of all those around the stage. Minutes later, the song ended, and the four retreated backstage for a momentary breather.
The time taken between the end of their set and their return barely felt like eternity, because they bounded back into the beautiful lights, and kicked off their encore with “Counting the Days”. The shared energy between band and fanbase only seemed to increase by the time Collective Soul slowly segued into the last song for the evening, “Shine”. The song was lovingly dragged into a seven or eight-minute presentation, and incredibly fitting in greeting the early hours of Sunday.
As the festival’s main stage gradually became devoid of people, my friend and I decided to stroll through the field to see which acts were playing late shows. About a stone’s throw away from the main stage, American indie pop band Hellogoodbye was just setting up. We agreed to stay put to see their performance. My friend is a slightly bigger fan that I am, but I was enthusiastic just the same, because I’m aware of their happy music.
The four-piece group showed incredible rigour from the very beginning, but unfortunately, the response level was less than ideal. As the band progressed through their set list, people were dropping by and leaving, and the state of the pocked assembly bordered embarrassing. One cannot help but notice the sparseness. So, my friend and I insisted on seeing through their entire set. As people slowly left the festival grounds, she and I moved closer to the stage. They traveled a long way to make a show, so they’re going to get an audience, damnit.
In their defense, the music festival started in the thick of Saturday, and many of those who were around for the first round of shows were exhausted by then. Also, Hellogoodbye were given unfortunate time slots for a band that has visited Indonesia more than once, and I’d like to think that frontman Forrest Kline and guitarist Andrew Richards were fully aware of the situation, when they were simultaneously hyping the sea of faces that staring back at them. I hate to say it, but it was almost as though irony was having fun with their band name.
They were incredibly good sports throughout. By the end of their 75-minute set, we were leaning against the metal barriers placed immediately in front of the stage, and after their show, some of the members returned. Then, in a moment completely unexpected, I saw Augie Rampolla leap off the stage, approach our side, and scoop about three or four of us into a group hug. He thanked us, and I reciprocated. Shortly after, we took photos with a shirtless Kline.
We officially met a band.
My friend and I left the beach after that and rode back to the capital, grateful for the host of pleasant surprises that unfolded on that weekend.