I just finished writing the story about my experiences with Asian Kung Fu Generation and Straightener. Too bad it was written in Indonesian, so a lot of people (including the bands themselves) won’t be able able to read it. That’s why I decided to try translating my story to English, hoping that this story can reach more people worldwide. Because my English skill is limited, please pardon me if this story got some horrible train-wreck chaotic grammar or writing style. Enjoy.
The day was Thursday, 19th December 2013. I looked at the city through the rain-soaked windows of my office while cursing myself.
Why did I foolishly choose to ride cycle to work today?
It was the day right before one of the most important trip I would take in 2013. I have to be ready at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport by dawn, yet it was past 8 PM and I was stuck waiting for the rain to stop in the office. That, and another 15 kilometers bike ride from office to home. I just couldn’t let the weather (and my own stupidity) thwart my chance to enjoy Asian Kung Fu Generation and Straightener concert the next day.
Here’s a slice of introduction before we go further with my story.
Asian Kung Fu Generation (also known as Ajikan or AKFG) and Straightener are two bands from the country of cherry blossoms, Japan. These two bands play alternative rock songs with some elements of indie, punk, and rock n’ roll.
The first time I heard about Ajikan was when I’m still in second grade of Junior High-School. It was the time when Naruto was so popular among anime fans in my school. I usually got my latest update of Naruto from my cousin, who collected the pirated copy of the VCD. Starting the 26th episode, the anime got a new opening song called Haruka Kanata by Asian Kung Fu Generation. That first time I listened to this song? I fell in love with it. After finding the mp3, I played it repeatedly using my home’s computer.
My interest in Ajikan became bigger after I met some friends in school that also love anime and Japanese music. We even perform Haruka Kanata in the school festival at the end of our Junior High-School. Surprisingly, the responses we got from the audience were amazing, considering that Japanese music was not really popular among Junior High-Schoolers at that time.
Several years after knowing about Ajikan, one of my friends lent me a CD called Nano-Mugen Compilation 2005. At that time the only bands I knew were Ajikan, Ash, and Ellegarden. That album was where I first heard about Straightener. Their song in that album, called White Room Black Star, was the first Straightener’s song I ever listened to, and remain my favorite up to this day. After White Room Black Star, I started looking for more songs from Straightener.
After being a fan of Ajikan for 10 years, I always dreamed of watching them live. 2013 was a great year because at the middle of the year, Ajikan did a European Tour which marked their first time touring outside of Japan. After that tour, I always hoped that they realize the number of fans they got outside of Japan and I hoped they start doing more international tours to other countries, including Indonesia.
Then, in the middle of October I heard a surprising news. Ajikan and Straightener will be doing an Asian tour, and Singapore will be one of the countries they visit. Of course I got very excited with this news. I always expected Ajikan to visit Southeast Asia sooner or later. At least they will visit Singapore first, just like other Japanese bands I know. But Straightener? It never crossed my mind that I would be able to watch Straightener live on stage without having to go to Japan. This opportunity is definitely not to be taken for granted.
After going through a tedious and annoying process of buying the ticket from a website which monopolize concert ticket sales in Singapore, I finally able to get the ticket with the help of a friend. I began to make plans for my trip. My plan was to depart early morning from Jakarta to Singapore the same day the concert would be held. Then after the show, I planned to spend the night at the airport, waiting for my early flight to Jakarta in the next morning. Before leaving, I also made a plan to meet and watch the show together with some fellow members of Fans Club Asian Kung Fu Indonesia (FCAI).
But before I could proceed with all of those plans, I needed to get home first.
No matter how bad the weather was.
Finally the rain had stopped. Long story short, I finally got home. I packed my things and slept. After some three hours sleep, I had to wake up and get ready to go to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Since I already did online check-in and I only brought one backpack without any extra luggage, I don’t really need to hurry. But unfortunately, the ticket I had did not mention anything about which terminal I should be leaving from. Twenty minutes before my plane took off, I was still waiting in the wrong terminal.
Eventually I realized my mistake and immediately took a cab to the right terminal. Even after arriving there, I still got stuck with one thing and another until I finally able to get on the plane right before take-off. Because I almost fail to make it to the plane, I didn’t met with anyone from FCAI, who are supposed to be in the same plane as me. But I did not really think about it that time. What’s important was: I’m inside the plane that almost left me because of my own stupidity.
Oh well, shit happens.
Arriving in Changi, I did not think about anything else and just went straight ahead to the immigration, and then searched for a seat to rest a little bit. I didn’t know how long I was sitting, but when I realized it’s time to move, the friend I supposed to meet with told me that she’s already waiting at the venue. After that, I immediately left Changi for the venue.
Later I finally met with my new friend at a fast food restaurant near the venue. We chatted a little bit while waiting for…gosh I didn’t even know what we were waiting for at that restaurant
Because the venue was still empty without any queue, and it’s still another 8 hours until the show started, me and my friend decided to walk around the venue area for a while. While we were sightseeing around the area, rain suddenly started pouring heavily. So we decided to return to the venue against the heavy rain. Over there, we started waiting around like some lost kids. Not so long after that, Kiyoshi, the drummer of Ajikan, suddenly walked in front of me with someone that looked like his manager. Everything happened so fast that it took me a while to realized: the drummer of Ajikan just walked in front of my very eyes.
Then, I got an idea to wait in front of the venue building, hoping that the other members will appear as well. While waiting, we met a woman from Philippines who came to watch Ajikan too. Her dedication amazed me so much, because the distance between Singapore and Philippines is quite far.
Suddenly, from the direction of the hotel next to the venue, I saw Gotoh, Kita, and Yamada along with the manager I saw earlier. Dazed with not believing who I just saw coming to my direction now, me, my friend, and the lady from Philippines, along with 2 other guys sitting nearby, stood up hastily and prepare various things for signing and taking photograph. Me myself already prepared a marker and my Sol-Fa CD cover which I bought from Indonesia, in case something like this happen.
At first, the manager forbid us from approaching Ajikan, but casually, Gotoh just said “It’s okay …”. After asking for signature, my friend asked me to help taking her picture next to Gotoh, but I was so excited and nervous that my hands couldn’t stop shaking. Failed to take a proper picture, I could only say “I’m shaking”, making the crew, staffs, and Ajikan members burst out laughing. Gotoh just replied in the same cool manner as before, saying “Don’t be, don’t be”.
After getting my Sol-Fa CD cover signed, I backed away a little because I don’t want to disturb their preparation. While I retreat myself, Gotoh came to me and asked, “do you want to take photo?” Surprised with his offer, I reply excitedly “Of course!” and finally manage to secure a photo with Gotoh and Kita just like the picture below.
Even though it only happened in less than 5 minutes, it was an unforgettable experience for me. I’ve been listening to their songs for almost 10 years, and it never crossed my mind that one day would be able to meet them. After interacting directly with Ajikan and saw their kindness to their fans, my respect to them (especially to Gotoh and Kita) got even higher than before.
Not too long after that, other fans started arriving and queuing in front of the venue door. While waiting in front of the door, I met with a fan from Australia who planned to record some kind of short movie about the Ajikan show here. Through him, I got the information that the fans who came to that show wasn’t only from Singapore. There were fans who came from Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Australia.
After waiting for several hours, finally the venue door was opened. The first thing I did inside was visit the merchandise booth. After buying a Straightener shirt, I took my position in front of the stage and get ready for one of the best concert I’ve ever watched.
Before the show started, the promoter announced that it was forbidden for the audience to record or take picture during the show. On one side, this was a very good thing to hear. The audience can enjoy the show without fearing that their movements might damage someone’s recording device. But on the other hand, it quite saddened me, because after the show there’s no way for me to relive the concert through YouTube. Therefore, I intend to enjoy this concert to the fullest.
After waiting for the preparation on stage (which only took a brief moment, something I never experience when I watch concerts in Indonesia), the concert opened with a performance from a local band called Aspectrum. To be honest, at first I felt a little bit skeptic with the opening band, especially after seeing that their members were still very young and looked inexperienced.
But I really learned the meaning of “don’t judge book by its cover” here. Aspectrum surprisingly managed to make the venue react lively.
Beside feeling skeptical to the Aspectrum, at first I also pitied them because usually the opening band for an international concert is not really responded positively by the crowd. But once again I was wrong. The audience look very excited with the band performance. Surprised and happy expression could also be seen on the band members face as they saw the ultra positive response from the crowd. In my opinion, Aspectrum successful performance was realized thanks to the positive spirit from the main vocalist who tirelessly jumped and ran around the stage while always interacting with the crowd. Kudos to Aspectrum for giving a surprisingly good performance. It was a perfect warm up for the next two bands.
After Aspectrum finished singing 5 songs (which amazingly they manage to finish within 20 minutes), Ajikan’s and Straightener’s crews started preparing the set for Straightener performance. Once again, the preparation was finished in a very short time, even though the amount of tools and instruments they need to prepare was greater compared to the one prepared before Aspectrum performance. After that brief prep, Straightener got up on stage and start singing A Long Way to Nowhere.
Judging from the audiences’ response and some comments I heard in the crowds, it seem like there were a lot of people among the audiences who never heard of Straightener before. Even so, Straightener manage to make the crowd jumped around to the music (or maybe it’s just me who jumped around, to the point that I started to get dizzy while thinking that everyone else were also jumping around). But even with the unfamiliarity, the crowd seemed to enjoy the show very much. On another note, sometimes I felt uncomfortable with the crowds’ obsession with hand clapping (which happened almost at every part of the concert).
After singing 10 songs, Straightener ended their show with one of their hit, Melodic Storm from Dear Deadman album. The Straightener show itself already made my journey to Singapore felt really worth it.
But of course there’s more to come.
During the Straightener’s show, my heavy backpack really made it hard for me to enjoy the show fully. So, while waiting for the crew to prepare the set for Ajikan, I asked one of the audience that I met in front of the venue to put my backpack in front of the guard rail. After that, I waited for the crew to finish their preparation.
Again with the speed of work, which again I say, was beyond belief, the stage was ready. Less than 2 minutes later (which felt like an hour), the main show for the day, Asian Kung Fu Generation, entered the stage. Without wasting time, they started the show with the first song from Magic Disk, Shinseiki no Love Song. Special for this show, Ajikan brought an additional member which is Simoryo from the chef cooks me.
In the middle of the show, Gotch (Masafumi Gotoh) as the frontman of Ajikan, started talking while scratching his head. The bottom line of the things he said is about how everyone in the venue came from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different beliefs, and different nationalities, but that they all had one common thing…
“We all love music!”
With that Ajikan continued their show with more spirit than before.
After singing 9 songs with various new and amazing arrangements (DAT REWRITE MAAAN!), Ajikan returned to the backstage. And just like every great concert, the crowds started cheering for encore. Without delaying much further, Ajikan return to the stage once again and start singing the final song in the show, which is also my first Ajikan’s song ever, Haruka Kanata.
After the show ended, a lot of the audience stayed inside the venue. Some just chatted around with friends they only met when there’s a concert, and some were checking out the merchandise booth. After most of the audience already left the venue, I gather around with other Indonesian fans. After I got to know some of my new friends (that got separated before the show), we hang around near the back door of the venue, hoping that we can meet Ajikan and Straightener for the last time.
After waiting for several minutes, the ones that came out were the crew members who said we were not allowed to take pictures, and only allowed a handshake with the band members. After that, members of Straightener started to come out hastily, walking to the hotel next to the venue. Few seconds after that, members of Ajikan started to come out as well, also in hurry. While the crew told the fans to not waste anymore of the band’s time, Kita from Ajikan once again showed his kindness by stopping and asked if any of the fans are interested with signature. After being told to catch up with the other members, he left after saying thanks to the fans.
That farewell from Kita marked the end of my meeting with the two bands I still can’t believe I managed to watch so soon in my life. I didn’t even need to travel too far too watch them. After the back door meeting, me and my new friends started walking to the nearest MRT station to return to Changi. There were a lot of stories after that, but none of them have any direct relation with Ajikan and Straightener show. Everything else were our own conversations about how awesome the concert was.
I just hope that after this concert, these 2 bands are willing to visit Indonesia while bringing their other friends such as The Hiatus, The Starbemz, Husking Bee, and others. Dare I say, I even hope I can have the chance to see a reunion show between Ellegarden and Beat Crusaders with the bands above.
Oh well, a man can always dream.