Urbanscapes 2014: Of Silver Dreams, Impaled Brains And Letting Go

Last update: 11/12/2014

By *Jason Chan

GENTING HIGHLANDS, Dec 10 (Bernama) -- The Urbanscapes 2014, held at the Horse Ranch in Resorts World Genting on Dec 6, was a myriad of moments - moments of creativity, humanity and absurdity.

This year’s line-up encompasses more than 30 musicians, visual artists and creative collectives across three stages. Thirty-minute sets by local and regional acts filled up the first half.

The Cotton Field Scarecrowes proved themselves to be really good at performing tunes of melancholy and regret. Vocalist Johann Sultan howled and growled as the band played ‘Boat Without a Sail’.

Hameer Zawawi, programmer-turned-musician played songs you’d want to listen when you’re angry. Cashew Chemists, a band from Singapore, belted uplifting songs about broken hearts that made you reminisce.

Ali Aiman, frontman and keyboardist of his band invaded your senses with his unusual mix of musical genres in ‘Every Little Thing’.

His fingers travelled as smoothly across the keyboard as Chopin on piano. He ended his set with a cover of ‘Get Lucky’ which amplified the energy of the crowd.

Overwhelmed By The Audience

One of the three solo female acts, June Marieezy, who hails from the Philippines, casted rhythmic voodoo on her audience the moment she stepped on stage.

Her limbs took on a life of their own as she hummed and wailed into the microphone. She told the crowd that her set would be shorter than planned and urged them to "stop & be thankful".

Jagwar Ma’s electrically-charged set with tracks like ‘Uncertainty’ and ‘What Love’ was also well-received. Listening to their synth-heavy and distortion-heavy sounds faintly felt like listening to robots sending a distress signal.

First time performing in Malaysia, Local Natives were overwhelmed by the reception of the crowd.

Songs performed include ‘Breakers’, ‘Colombia’ and cover of a Talking Heads’ ‘Warning Sign’. Fresh from ‘Ceilings’, frontman Taylor Rice declared how delightfully surprised he was to watch the audience correcting him at times when he got the lyrics wrong.

The crowd was noticeably alive throughout, pumping fists, umbrellas and bottles.

Beautiful Moment

One of the most anticipated acts of the night, Kimbra stepped out in a coat, overly-embellished in gold and white spikes. She performed Teen Heat before taking off the coat and unveiling a metallic mini-dress underneath.

Kimbra was a manic snow princess on stage. She smiled widely above at times and moved like a rebellious doll from a music box.

Her love of being onstage was far from understated. Kimbra tried to get the crowd to dance during ‘Madhouse’ but unfortunately, most of the crowds were too inhibited to let go.

A beautiful moment during her performance of ‘Settle Down’ was her beckoning to a butterfly that just happened to flutter into the spotlight.

The crowd cheered as she exclaimed, "Saya amat gembira berada di Kuala Lumpur" (I'm very happy to be in Kuala Lumpur). She ended her set with ‘Miracle’ and the people struggled to settle down.

The light to heavy showers throughout the second half of the day hardly dampened the spirits of festival-goers.

Exploring The Possibilities

Zipping from gig to gig, you may stumble upon the Market of Experiences hosted by The Generalist, a collective of makers from Singapore who intended to ‘reframe human experiences’.

There were 9 experiences in total. Tablinstruments aimed to explore the possibilities of recycled materials. Plastic forks, paper plates, conductive coins and clips were hooked to a transmitter to produce a relaxing ambient soundscape, open for anyone to toy with.

There was also a movable library where every passerby was entitled to one free book. Let Go wanted you to detach yourself from reality by taking a water balloon, writing what you would like to let go and throwing it at a handmade banner (that says ‘LET GO’).

Another admirable feat is the Pipe-O-Rama, a real-time emulation of the Super Mario Bros’ classic video game- there’s a trampoline, a cube marked with a ‘?’ and game character cookies.

Biji-Biji describe themselves as a platform for youth to explore sustainable design concepts. Their impressive cavalcade of art installations included a bicycle which pumps water into a storage structure composed of discarded objects (painted in fire engine red) and a geodesic dome where visual projections changed in shape and colour in response to claps or screams.

The dancing water installation played with strobe lights and sound frequencies – water appeared to move slower than it actually was.

Malaysian Flavours

Aside from floral-printed clothing and daft-looking tattoos, festival grounds were also littered with cubes of murals prepared by local artists such as Orkibal and Jojo Yusof.

If you’re not up to fork out dollars for churros, paninis or rocky road bars, you can stop by the Memory Bites project.

The Kitchen Table, a restaurant based in Petaling Jaya was graciously giving out free samples of coney dog paus, Oreo nachos and bite-size ice kacang cones. The intention of the cooks was to evoke familiar Malaysian flavours in unfamiliar forms.

One of the most compelling parts of the day was being acquainted with the cultures of the Democratic Mayor’s Republic of North Bangsar, a town where intellectual thoughts are prohibited in accordance with Thinking Act 2015.

Layers and layers of satire are what make up the foundation of the town square. The town’s emblem is of a brain impaled by a dagger and the white of the town flag is said to symbolise the best state of mind – blank.

As one approaches the guarded entrance to the two-storey structure, a sign can be seen that reads ‘No Outside Thoughts Allowed’. The Mayor (fondly known as Jon Mayor) can be seen at times riding his white-maned trusty steed named Pony Eusoff.

Influential Presence

Jon Mayor’s truly influential presence can be seen on the white walls of the building in cigar ads (‘Open wide, you know you want a Mayor’s in your mouth.’) and posters that riff on popular films such as ‘The Silence of the Brains’, ‘The Godmayor’ and ‘Him’.

It is not often that one gets to play a tourist roaming about a republic set in the future. Caricatures of politicians are placed on each side of the prison bars at the local penitentiary whilst Halloween Billie Fine Art exhibits some splendid works (one is of a marker scribble saying ‘ART’).

If you choose to drop by Uncaring Pharmacy (bar-macy), ingestion of their remedies must be taken with caution- side-effects include multiple personalities who can dance really well.

There’s also the North Bangsar Zoo which boasts the very rare invisible white leopard, absent panda and an actual live male chauvinist pig.

As you tread on the way out at the end of the night, there may still be unseen features and facets of the festival that will elicit double-takes of the head.

At first, second and maybe even fifth glance, Urbanscapes 2014 may seem like a sensory overload of sorts.

The thing about Urbanscapes is that the air of the whole thing is so addictive that you always leave wanting more.

(*Jason Chan is a writer for Ignite Magazine from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus).