Words by Cheryl Lee Yesudas. Photos by The Wknd.
This year, Rockaway sold nostalgia – and boy, did it sell.
Last weekend’s showcase catered to a completely different demographic than the first installment just under a month back which featured The Scorpions, The Darkness, Wolfmother, Wings and Muzza’s Mayhem. The line-up this time around was definitely dominated by pop-punk and alternative rock, with the whopping total of just one heavy metal band. They made no bones about aiming for 90s kids, and they didn’t miss their mark, with high profile anniversaries, reunions and collaborations all around.
However, this edition of Rockaway wasn’t just a throwback to the late 90s – the main line-up was near identical to the ones we caught in 2011 and 2012, with Hujan x Radhi OAG forming a faux-supergroup for the night, and Edwin Raj of They Will Kill Us All fame coming onboard with Toko Kilat this time around. One Buck Short, Butterfingers and Zainal Abidin also celebrated notable anniversaries at the festival – fifteen, twenty, and thirty years in the industry respectively.
We were also treated to a number of collaborations that we’d never even thought to dream up. Kyoto Protocol had local legend Man Bai onstage to lead a headbang-able version of “Kau Ilhamku”. Guitar virtuoso Bumblefoot joined the Deja Voodoo Spells alongside their 11-piece all female The Book of Spells Orchestra. Nu-metal poster boys Pop Shuvit had a guest in the form of David Kennedy, former guitarist for Angels and Airwaves (AVA) who performed their originals to perfection and performed a couple of AVA numbers as an added bonus for the crowd.
Fans more than their tickets’ worth with The Get Up Kids and Taking Back Sunday taking to the stage and giving Malaysian fans a taste of their glory days. The audience wasn’t too happy with Third Eye Blind’s mix of old classics juxtaposed with tracks from their new album, though, being very vocal about only wanting the former.
It wasn’t all reunions and 90s fanservice, however. Math-rock heavyweights Dirgahayu killed it, with their drummer Sawaki Seikan playing one of his last shows with the band. Trendy Indo indie-pop band Changchuters blew us away with their larger-than-life stage presence. New kids on the block (relative to most of the other bands on the lineup) Son of a Policeman gave Rockaway a taste of Coachella with a coloured powder/beach ball war during their latest single “Euphoria”, but it did feel a little too gimmicky. Last but not least, Daarchlea, a Muslim-metal band, was one of the most notable acts in the mix – especially in their all-black ensemble topped with songkoks!
The bands that were assigned to Stage 3, such as The Summer State, Pitahati and Speedwitches, faced quite a number of technical issues which caused a massive dip in crowd energy. Every band took a good half hour between sets to set up, causing a big delay in the programme. Killeur Calculateur and Kyoto Protocol’s sets were drowned out by music emanating from other parts of the festival. Fuad took a casual jab at the sound issues by complimenting One Buck Short’s music, and received a hearty response from Mooks on the other stage.
No Rockaway writeup would complete without Butterfingers, though – their extremely hyped-up reunion was probably the main attraction. Butterfingers were a tease throughout their entire set, which was sadly cut short due to delays in the program and venue restrictions. They didn’t play the tightest set, but did play some of their biggest hits including “Girl Friday” and “Vio-pipe”. Emmett bid the crowd to sing along to almost every song, facing the mic to the masses. We only heard him sing half the set which was disappointing to say the least. We can only assume that they were baiting for an encore by not playing “The Chemistry (Between Us)”, but the encore never came.
However, the highlight of the entire event had to be Zainal Abidin’s set – he got everyone on their feet dancing foolishly to his classic dangdut/reggae vibes, and managed to make 90s kids dance sober to music before their time.
All in all, though, while Rockaway wasn’t bad, it wasn’t that amazing either: we had expected a lot more from the bands and the festival as a whole. We’re probably going to remember this Rockaway as just Rockokay, but that’s just us. Maybe.
Cheryl Lee Yesudas pretends to give the people at The Wknd deadlines when she is not playing the bass for one too many bands. You can find her dad-dancing in the corner of many gigs.