Sunday, April 29, 2007

In Da (Indo) Club

I found about the concert through the radio station where the SLO and I do our biweekly English program; there was a giant poster hanging on the wall and, after noticing that one of my favorite Indonesian pop songtresses would be performing, I wrote down the time and date and location and decided to go.

So that is how, on a Saturday night, at eight p.m., the advertised starting time, the SLO and I found ourselves wandering around the sixth-floor parking lot of the local mall, searching for evidence of a concert about to start, or, indeed, any sign of human life at all. When we finally found the cafe entrance, tucked away behind a huge “NO PARKING” sign and the bright red van parked in front of it, the eager, friendly, polite, bleached, pierced, Mohawked employees, after enthusiastically shouting SELAMAT PAGI, good morning, at us, and igoring my rather feeble and confused protest that wasn’t pagi, morning, but malam, night, told us that the concert would begin sebentar lagi, or in just a second. So we found ourselves some steps to sit on and began critiquing the short skirts and three-inch heels of the girls who arrived after us.

By ten p.m., we realized that, like dummies, like fools, like total Indonesia neophytes, we had been duped. Concerts, apparently, are not like movies, which start ten minutes early, but like meetings, bus departures, and, indeed, everything else in Indonesia: they start when they start. Indonesians call this jam karet, or “rubber time,” as “just a second” gets stretched into ten minutes, thirty minutes, an hour, two hours, never. But we’ve learned, this year, the fine art of hurrying up to wait, so we were content to use our time to not only speculate what would happen if the girl in front of us bent over in a skirt like that, but also to drop 100-rupiah coins off the side of the building to see what, or who, we could hit, wander onto the seventh floor and into a group of teenage boys, post-birthday party, who were eager to show us what, exactly, they were doing, or maybe just wanted to do, in the elevator, and, of course, grow increasingly more annoyed with the employees’ constant shouts of SELAMAT PAGI. ("But...but...but..." I wanted to say, "it’s not morning! Stop it! I don’t understand!")

Around eleven p.m., finally, the show started. The first singer, Rio Febrian, was fairly uninteresting, musically, but was one of the most performance-happy lead singers I’ve seen in a long time. He strutted and preened and emoted and mugged for the many cell-phone cameras shoved at him, all with a giant grin that said, “Look at me! I’m a real rock star! Don’t you just adore me?” I usually frequent indie concerts, at which the lead singer looks far more likely to break down and cry, whether over the indignity of performance or the cruelty of society and/or women, it's unclear, so the contrast was somewhat, well, adorable. I thought about throwing my panties on stage to show my adoration, but was too pressed in by the crowd to even breathe deeply, not to mention strip and toss.

Perhaps the crowd was just drunker by the time the second singer, Bunga Citra Lestari, arrived, or perhaps she is more popular, but as she skipped onto the stage in a tube top and tiny miniskirt, suddenly the audience surged forward and I had elbows in my stomach and back and a camera resting on my head. (Note to the man standing behind me: I know my head may make a good stable platform, and maybe you thought I wouldn’t notice, but, please! I can feel that.) Her set, like her skirt, was short but sufficient; she danced around rather awkwardly, smiled a lot, sang her two or three popular songs, as well as a few American ones, invited a flamboyantly gay man to join her in a romantic duet, and, in my favorite moment of the evening, looked momentarily nonplussed and faltered in her singing as she looked into the crowd to see a tall white girl mouthing the words to her hit song. (This seems impressive on my part until you consider that those words were “Apa kabarmu? Kabarku baik-baik saja,” or “How are you? I am fine.”)

As Bunga took her final curtseys and pranced off stage, a strong techno beat began and one of the employees climbed up to the stage to shout, one more time, SELAMAT PAGI! (By this time, though, it technically was morning, so I felt less annoyed.) Taking this as their cue, all the other employees jumped onto the tables and bar and began dancing; the other concert-goers followed suit, as the SLO and I stood, mouths agape in amazement and amusement. Could this really be Indonesia, all this drunken dancing, all this hip-swivelling, booty-shaking, bumping and grinding? Or, more to the point, could this really be Semarang? Nice, innocent, conservative, Muslim-majority Semarang? And ha! Does that guy in the loafers really call that dancing?

Figuring we couldn’t embarrass ourselves more than the guy in the loafers, we shrugged off our shock and joined in, though still giggling at some of the dance-floor of drunk Chinese-Indonesian men. So now I can say, with perfect honesty, if you ever get to chance to visit this particular cafe, the tempat party, or party place, of Semarang, do. You’ll have a pagi to remember.


Th. said...


I wish more foreigners had the decency to keep their lyrics to “How are you? I am fine.”

Anonymous said...

i tend to feel like an old pro when it comes to going to shows. and yet i still end up getting to the venue far too early!

The Dancing Newt said...

jam karet, or "rubber time" that the literal translation? I think I wanna use it.