Gigging in ‘Hard’ Mode
A couple of weeks ago, French alternative rock band Phoenix performed live for Love Garage 2014, and it was a concert that I almost missed. Tickets for their much anticipated show had been on sale since the end of 2013, and I found myself somewhat deliberately waiting for the last minute. It was only when I was standing in one of the city’s popular bookstores actively promoting the event with a friend who reminded me moments before, that I decided to do something about it. Looking back, I’m glad I went, because it made me realise that I have never watched any of my favourite musical groups without my behaviour being dictated by modern day’s digital reality, and the rainy night of January 17 offered precisely that.
Ever since the start of the year, Jakarta had been riddled with heavy downpours — lately, to the point of flooding — and post-precipitation temperatures in the low twenties. However, the morning of the event itself met with calm weather, which aroused suspicion in the minds of more cynical concert-goers, and the question of safety for all attending in the event of rain. By mid-afternoon, the large cloud that had accumulated over the general area in which the show was to take place seemed to refuse to budge, and I had to accept the reality that I was not going to return home dry.
The Real Thing
After a filling dinner and a post-meal coffee, my friend and I made the approximately ten-minute walk to the open-air parking lot of eX Plaza. There were many milling around the lobby, and the queue leaked well beyond the doors of the mall into the rain-drenched drop-off. One by one, we exchanged our vouchers for proper tickets, then ventured outside into the late Friday night. We meandered through clusters of youngins forming lazy lines and soaked scalpers seemingly desperate for a little extra pocket change. Holding my friend’s large umbrella, we braved the elements for a spot at the security check-point. The crew were brisk, knew what they were doing, and despite the drizzle, we didn’t have to open the umbrella for the duration of the process. However, when we emerged from the ticket scrutinies and camera inspections to get a good look at the crowd gathered, we knew we had arrived way too late for a decent standing position. We still attempted to squeeze through the throngs of people, but the amount of equipment being wielded by those around our general area, we only managed to penetrate through two or three rows before meeting an impermeable layer of heads and shoulders, with absolutely no view of the stage, whatsoever.
Up until this point, the light rain had been our main contender. But, just minutes before the concert was due to start, the light caresses of water graduated into heavier pelts, forcing many — including us — to hastily tuck away our gadgets en masse. The arrival of Thomas Mars, Laurent Brancowitz, Deck d’Arcy, and Christian Mazzalai onto the stage only but forced the cheering collective forward. Moments later, the gig kicked off enthusiastically with a performance of “Entertainment”, causing the crowded lot to quickly transform into an ocean of bouncing umbrellas.
Somewhere in the beginning of the concert, I was able to get a glimpse of Mars himself through the curvatures of two poncho-covered heads. Despite the harrowing state of the weather and the gradual wetness making itself known on my clothing, I went for my camera and took a photo of the stage, knowing that the rain would prevent me from repeating the gesture for the rest of Love Garage 2014. It is the only visual documentation I have of both the band and the underlying purpose of that entire evening.
Love Can Save the Universe
While I was able to keep track of the setlist through their songs, I was largely unable to see the performance taking place a stone’s throw away. My friend and I were also taking turns holding the umbrella, while I was trying to keep my belongings dry. By the end of the evening, I was completely soaked, except for a small part of my upper left side that remained unscathed, which is where my camera and phone were tightly tucked. I was lucky to not have suffered any material damage, as a result.
There was no encore that night. The weather forced Phoenix to cut their show short out of safety concerns, but I fully understood the move, whether the event organiser was thinking about the welfare of their guests, the audience, or both. Yet, as I switched from watching the large television screen projecting the action onstage to stealing occasional glances at the disco ball situated above the crowd while it reflected a combination of stage lights and lightning, I couldn’t help but notice the almost “analog” circumstance in which all of us found ourselves. Without the instantaneous ability to tell others that we were doing at that very moment, we had no other choice but to fully dedicate our attention to the present.
Someone I know likened that night to the concert-going culture of the 1990’s, and since I only started this hobby a handful of years ago, it is something I wish I could have experienced myself. That particular slot in Love Garage 2014 may just as well be the closest I will get to doing so. I also knew very little about the creative thought behind the philosophy of the festival name. But, as the people huddled underneath a plethora of umbrellas while Phoenix rocked everyone’s soaking wet socks off — some even linking their umbrellas with others to create a larger provision of dry shelter — I realised that having no distractions was the romance itself. It was a truer, connection to others that was unassisted by technology, and it felt very, very lovely.