Live Music

A great thing about living in the city is that there is music everywhere! If you ride the public buses – buskers board the bus, no matter how full it is, equipped with an electric guitar and an attached microphone and belt out a few numbers. Beggars cruise around at lights strumming ukuleles. And in so many bars and restaurants across the city, you can find people way too talented to be playing to an empty room.

The great thing about musicians in Jakarta is that, no matter how talented they are, they are willing to share the stage with anyone from the audience; they are happy for you to request the cheesiest songs, to ignore them completely or sing along drunkenly. Between sets the musicians sit with you and have a chat, ask you questions about your life, what your favourite song is – and it’s often bewildering when you come from a culture where the musos are way too cool for school, no matter what dive they are playing in.

A classic thing about the live music scene is that everyone knows the same songs in English; I don’t know what the radio stations play but it must be a lot of 80s. If you go out to see “Live Rock” you are guaranteed to hear at least 4 Bon Jovi classics. Indonesians aren’t afraid to enjoy the cheesiest romantic ballads of all time so another certainty is a lot of Bryan Adams requests. I heard him so often that I bought the Best of Bryan Adams without even thinking. Luckily the CD only cost 7,000 rphs (the joy of living in a country where everything can be pirated!). If you go to a groovier place, you might be excited to hear a few new tunes – Bob Marley, Cold Play, Pearl Jam and even a bit of Radiohead. But they usually only know Creep.

The point is, the live music scene is really fun in Indonesia. The musicians are super talented, harmonies beautiful, the crowds get into the music, support the band and their drunken (or more often, very sober) friend who has decided they want a chance to sing. I love that the songs are often corny and romantic and sung in a funny accent. I love that when Indonesians tell you what their favourite band is, it is often “Mr Big”. I love that Mr Big came to Jakarta and still pulled a big crowd who knew all the words to more than just “To Be With You…hum hum hum”. I love that when Arrested Development came we could walk straight to the front of the stage cause no one was that in to them. I love that when you are in a big crowd, it generally doesn’t matter how far back you are because you are guaranteed to be taller than 90% of the population and the likelihood of a girl getting on her boyfriends shoulders is less here – well I have never seen it…maybe it’s out there somewhere?

I love that when the show stops, Indonesians are already over it – we stand there calling for an encore, knowing that is generally what an international band expects, and what we want – but the Indonesians are on their Blackberries planning the next part of the night. I love watching the band decide to do an encore anyway. Come to think of it, I love that 4 songs into a great show, the Jakartans are already over it and on their Blackberries – using Yahoo Messenger again, chatting about god knows what, but definitely not related to the show.

So in the time in Jakarta we have frequented lots of great places to see music. Unfortunately BBs in Menteng closed – that was 4 floors (about) of amazing musicians – reggae, blues, rock, acoustic – such a mad and fun place. We go the Trip in Kemang on a Friday or Saturday, or Elbow Room and Bar Code,( in Kemang too – there is a theme here – too much macet = always in Kemang!). Loca café has an amazing songstress on a Monday night (Kemang) and Tea Addict has live music on a Friday night (yes, Kemang).

Then there’s always other great ways to see music. Lots of festivals like the Jakarta Blues Festival, Soul Nation, Java Jazz, Java Rocking Land. Visits from international acts like Belle and Sebastian, Arrested Development, Slash (missed it), Mr Big (missed it), the Vines, Wolfmother….on and on.

And we have found a great Indonesian Reggae band that we love, Cozy Republic, so we follow them around a bit – lots of fun, good energy and great people.

So yeah, to live in Jakarta is to embrace your love of romantic ballads, to accept that people who tell you they are huge rock fans will say that their favourite band is Extreme, or Nora Jones. They don’t seem to have that belief that to be a fan you need to know more than one song (like in Australia where to be a fan is to own every album, to know the words, to know about the band, where they are from, some gossip, some history – this is not important here). There is nothing here that is in the category of ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’ – anything goes!

It’s brilliant and hilarious!