Live Music Scene In Today’s Unprecedented Times

Attending live music events is a great way to let your hair down to the rhythm. Sure, people are quite familiar with concerts and big stage music festivals. How about we look into the equally gratifying smaller-scale local music events for a change? Or as the insiders like to call it, gigs.

Stage photo of small live music event.
Malaysian pop-punk outfit, Iqbal M getting ready to give it all out on stage at Indie Night Gig, Shah Alam, Selangor in January this year.
Photo by Author

The Front Row Seat: Live Music Event

I started going to concerts and gigs here in Malaysia around five years ago. When I entered college, I grew out of the painfully-introverted shell that I was in during secondary school. I’ve always found music as one of the healthier means for me to cope with the grittier things in life. A form of auditory escapism, if you will.

I’d say that I gravitate more towards gigs, as opposed to concerts. Personally speaking, gigs are more likely intimate in nature than the latter. I get to meet new people who are most likely to share the same interests with me. Going to local gigs also means that I get to uncover fresh, underrated music. This is because unsigned bands and artistes usually make their debut here before moving upwards for their next mainstream media breakthrough.

Record Scratch

Unfortunately, all this changed when the COVID-19 took the world by surprise during the first quarter of 2020. Containment and mitigation strategies are still in force in countries all over the globe. Our daily life ground to a halt since 8th March 2020 when our Malaysia government imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) nationwide. As of now, the nation is under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), where interstate travels are prohibited, schools are closed, working from home are permitted for only 30% of the working population in general, amongst other restrictions.

Stage photo of concert.
Internationally-acclaimed homegrown R&B singer songwriter, Yuna performing at Good Vibes Festival 2019, Genting Highlands, Malaysia.
Photo by Author

The music and entertainment industry is not spared either. During the onset of the MCO, shows were either postponed or cancelled. This unexpected turn of events left many performers and entertainers struggling to sustain themselves during this difficult period of time. Hypothetically speaking, online concerts and live-streamed music content are the way to go now. In fact, Malaysia’s very own songstress, Yuna is jumping on the bandwagon too. Others have also taken the liberty to think outside of the box by organising drive-through concerts.  But is this really the future of concerts and gigs?

Singing In Tune: Current State Of Live Music Scene Worldwide

The independent, or indie music scene in Malaysia pretty much works based on comradeship with people within the scene itself. It’s all about empowerment and providing the right platform for new acts to flourish. In most cases, these gigs operate on a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) basis. Nevertheless, the show still manages to run like clockwork. 

If there is one music event that drew my attention, it’s the Atas Angin Recovery Show. The gig was held at Bentley Auditorium on 10th October this year. I unfortunately couldn’t make it to the show though, due to work commitment. However I did manage to get in touch with the project managers.

What Went Down

Poster for live music show.
Poster for Atas Angin Recovery Show.
Photo credit: Arif Bam, project manager for Atas Angin

Arif and Baling both take the helm of Atas Angin. Atas Angin is a group of friends who are equally passionate about the indie music scene in Malaysia. They started this movement about a year ago, hosting gigs here and there around Klang Valley. They do this mainly on a non-profit basis, with the sole purpose of keeping the scene alive and going.

The Atas Angin Recovery Show managed to put together an impressive lineup. This included scene veterans such as BittersweetOh Chentaku as well as newcomers, Loko and the frenetically riotous Iqbal M. By the way, did I mention that this was a physical event? You heard that right, folks. Atas Angin Recovery Show was a highly anticipated Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) compliant gig, especially at a time when medium-scale events are taking place again.

What Went Down Inside A SOP Compliant Small-Scale Live Music Event

Live music event crowd.
Gig attendees enjoying the performances by the lineup at Atas Angin Recovery Show.
Photo credit: Arif Bam from Atas Angin

Of course, they thoroughly planned the safety measures and precautions for attendees. Safety is priority in enclosed settings. First thing first, they knew they had to outline a comprehensive SOP for the event. This was made possible by amending their event programme to comply with the SOP set by the Malaysian National Security Council.

They then sent their application for a permit from the local council, namely Petaling Jaya City Council. The time limit for events is between three to five hours only – as advised by the Malaysian National Security Council. Hence, they divided the lineups into two sessions, each for day and night all under a four-hour runtime.

Time To Boogie

For this show, Arif and Baling wanted to improvise on guidelines for decorum inside the theatre. Attendees would be prohibited from entering or exiting the hall during the performance. Loitering would not be allowed and strictly no smoking breaks.

One of the main concerns when hosting events in times of COVID-19 is to limit physical contact. The Atas Angin crew came up with a ticketing system for this purpose. The entire process took less than 30 seconds, including registration and tagging. This minimised any physical interaction between the crew and attendees.

Safe Space

Live music event crowd.
Markers placed on the floor to create social distancing grid, ensuring attendees maintain a safe distance from one another.
Photo credit: Arif Bam from Atas Angin

Apart from that, the team had placed social distancing markers across the floor. These markers formed individual boxes, ensuring ample room for audience members to move around and groove to the music. Additionally, they completely sanitised the air with disinfecting fog machines placed strategically all around the hall.

Crews were also present on ground to ensure that everyone adhered to the safety measures. Arif mentioned that all the attendees played their part so well, they hardly had to tell anyone off! 

Encore

Crew members for live music event.
Atas Angin crew ensures all attendees complied with the safety measures, thus making the event a success.
Photo credit: Arif Bam from Atas Angin

If anything, Atas Angin Recovery Show proved that the pandemic isn’t enough to break the spirit of music enthusiasts. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get to attend concerts and large music festivals anytime soon. But we can rejoice in knowing that local small-scale live music events, or gigs are here to stay.

With this out of the way, the team is now familiar with the SOPs of executing gigs amidst the pandemic. Head down to their Instagram page to see what’s buzzing. Interested in featuring your band (or yourself) on any of their upcoming events? Just reach out to them via their Instagram’s Direct Message to find out more.

In the meantime, for a brief introduction on the Malaysian indie music today, read here to find out more on Sara Cortez and her foray into the scene.

Izzat HAZIQ

About Izzat HAZIQ

Working as a writer with a digital agency, Izzat was trained as an English teacher, with a touch of creativity. Something that he picked up from his mother, who's an art teacher. He finds pleasure in all things related to pop culture and enjoys filmmaking too.

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