This is not a concert review, this is a story about how I met my long lost brothers and sister from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Four days of riding on the rock n’ roll train with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ended up being the most amazing and emotional journey I’ve ever experienced in my whole life. Since 2006, I’ve been waiting for them to come and play here. I still remember that moment when I listened to Grind My Bones (Howl Sessions EP, 2006) for the first time. That track was on a compilation CD I got from a cigarette company for their promotion, containing some great tracks featuring Seether, Rooster, Oasis, BRMC, and many other great bands. That was my first experience listening to the true soul of psychedelic rock n’ roll from BRMC.
I was surprised when some rumour went around saying that BRMC was going to play here in Indonesia, so I dug up some information from random people that love this band as well. That’s when I met Arsianty Andhany (Shanty), turned out she’s an administrator of BRMC Indonesia on Twitter and Facebook. I talked a lot about the band and the rumour about whether they’re gonna come here or not. I asked her if I can volunteer to become an administrator too for the Twitter account of @BRMCIndonesia and she said yes.
From her too, I got a chance to introduce myself to Ian Ottaway; the mentor, life advice-giver, a lover and a fighter kind of guy, and the spiritual tech manager for BRMC. He’s a really great guy with a dark sense of humour, and I didn’t know that so many fans of BRMC are friends with him for a long while now. Maybe I’m late, but since the first time I talked to him, he helped me through a lot and I’m not just treated like a friend, but more like a brother.
The promoter called 3HUNDRED (3H) based in a beautiful city of Bandung announced that BRMC was going to play in town on December 1st. I was shocked and excited at the same time, knowing that my heroes were gonna be here in my country. I confirmed the news to Shanty and she said that it’s true and she too was very excited about it. Since that day, we’re trying to make BRMC Indonesia account more alive, posted everything we heard about BRMC. And then one day, 3H send us a direct message on Twitter and asked us if we can help them. Of course we said yes, and they wanted us to help them with selling some of the tickets and promised us four access to the meet and greet with the band. That was a real deal.
I, personally, represented an online men’s magazine called TalkMen.com as a journalist and 3H promised me an interview with the band. The offer made me very happy, but I had to keep my hopes low, so I wouldn’t be disappointed if I couldn’t receive all of the passes. I was just thrilled that they were going to visit us here in Indonesia, the South East Asia region which is far, far away from the land of Uncle Sam. That’s why I sold the gig tickets with pleasure, just making sure that I’m really part of them. We only sold 44 tickets, but when I told Ian about it he said that he really appreciated what I and Shanty had accomplished.
Once the day came around, a gloomy Sunday of December 1st. I went to Bandung from Jakarta – the capital city of Indonesia where I live and work – on Saturday night and crashed at my friend’s place with my photographer from Talkmen. I came earlier to the venue on Sunday at 12:30 PM, hoping that I could see the band or at least hear them during their sound check. And then at 1:30 PM, people from 3H told me that I’d get my chance to interview all three of the BRMC personnel at 3 PM. I panicked because I wasn’t prepared for this, mentally. I had the questions, but I’m sure that I was gonna choke when I would try to talk directly to Robert, Peter, and Leah. My stomach didn’t feel right, my was head spinning, I didn’t know what to do to make myself calm and how to hide my nerves.
3H people called me and said that I got the first turn of all the other journalists to do an interview, so I followed them to the artist room. I walked pass the stage and saw some guy administering the check on Rob’s Epiphone Rivoli. Fuck, the holy bass is here! Still I couldn’t believe my eyes, I arrived at the stairs, and I knew I was so close to the band. In the first room, I saw their tour manager Jon Dunleavy wearing a Manchester United jersey. He smiled at me while I tried to take a look at the room, and then I saw the slightest shadow of Robert Levon Been. “Holy shit!” I said to myself and took three steps back, and Rob was there standing, then he said “Hi man” and tried to shake my hand. I reached his hand while trying to hold my fucking tears back, but I couldn’t help myself. I fucking cried – my very first tears such a long long time, – when I ended up hugging him as a long lost brother; finally meeting each other for the first time and said “I love you, man!”. Never before, in my whole life, did I feel the pieces of peace and warmth as such. I couldn’t see Rob’s face but I’m sure he laughed in a friendly way, while trying to calm me down. The 3H people said “Come here, Etam. The rest of the band are in the next room.”
I swiped my tears, smiled in happiness and followed them, and I saw Peter Hayes standing with a cigarette in his mouth at the other side of the room, he didn’t see me coming. I let myself in and said slowly “Hey… Pete”. Peter turned around and said “Oh, hi man” while offering his hand so I could shake it. I ignored his hand and went in to hug him too, Pete seemed surprised but I’m sure he just knew how much I wanted to show him how much I loved their pure essence of soul and rock n’ roll. I saw Leah Shapiro sitting on the bed, I said “Hi” and shook her hand because I was hesitant to hug her, but she smiled and offered me a drink. So I took a can of Sprite and seated myself across from them to start the interview. Still feeling nervous as I was trying to control myself, I started the interview with a simple question about the tour.
Me: “How’s the tour treating you so far? Are there any weird moments you can tell me?”
Pete: “It’s all weird. (laughed) it’s all very unnatural.”
Rob: “We tried to find a normal day, normal moment, but it’s all different. The whole places we’ve never seen before, you know. All of these stuff in Asia; here, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, there’s a feeling here that unlike anywhere else in the world. There’s a lot of good people on the road. And we’re going to Bali tomorrow, so..”
I interrupted: “I’m gonna follow you.”
Rob: “Oh yeah? That’s cool!” (laughed)
Me: “So what do you expect from your fans in Indonesia?”
Peter: “I uh.. we don’t tend to expect too much. It’s just thankful to get here, honestly. You know, if there’s five people coming, we’re cool with it. If there’s more, yeah, you know..” (laughed)
Me: “I promise you, it’s gonna get crowded.”
Peter:” The first time we arrived in this city, from a lot of stuff we’ve seen, we notice that somebody sprayed something on the walls.”
Me: “Let The Day Begin?”
Rob: “No I saw “Whatever Happened To My Rock n Roll”.”
Leah: “There’s “Let The Day Begin” too? We’ve gotta see it.”
Leah: “If you pass them, could you take a picture or something? Somebody who cared enough to spray them, saying something.”
Rob: “It means a lot when people do that, you know. We used to got into spray tagging and put stencils everywhere we could, and some fans do that as well. At that time, we didn’t have much money to promote our record out, so it’s like a good way to get the name out of it.”
Me: “I’m curious about one thing, do you guys still listen to new bands? Like going to record stores just to find some inspiration from the new names?”
Leah: “I have a, to be honest, a hard time for keeping track of everything, especially when we’re touring. Rob is really good when he does it, you know, keeping track. Well, usually finding them in festivals or while we were touring is always a great experience.”
Me: “I watched this Pearl Jam interview with Judd Apatow. The guitarist Mike McCready said that you guys are his favourite band right now.”
Peter: “Yeah.. it’s a very cool thing to hear, you know. He was a guitarist from Pearl Jam?”
Me: “Yes he is.”
Peter: “It’s always a nice thing, you know, when another musician gives you a little bit of a, what do you call it, um.. shout-out (everyone laughed). We’re trying to return the favour, you know. There’s a certain places and factors for them to say “Hey, here’s the band that maybe you haven’t heard of” to their fans. We’re trying to return the favour, we’re trying to do the same, because that’s the whole process of music. Word them out, let people know. And try not to be selfish with that, right? That’s an important part.”
Rob: “I’ve made a joke about that as I saw the guy with a bootleg T-shirt of us in it, that they should put an original t-shirt on the bootleg (Leah laughed). But I made it on a cheeky funny way cause it’s actually, it’s really sweet that he’s going on the stage in front of all people. It’s very cool, it’s so nice when you supported the band.”
The people from 3H tried to cut the interview as they made a deal with the journalists to give them 10 minutes for interviewing the band. So they started waving at me from the door to give me some kind of signal to stop interview. I said to the band that I should really get going but Peter and the rest of them tried to be very cool about the situation.
Peter: “What, are you finished? Any questions there?”
Me: “Yeah.. I still have some, but..”
Peter: “Don’t worry about it. Take your time. It’s okay, take what you need.”
This is the first time this kind of thing happened to me. I was kind of confused but I still managed to throw them another question. I said to 3H that I just need one more question to ask.
Me: “Okay, so when you created the music video for Hate The Taste with TransistorSix, I’ve seen on their Facebook page that Rob gave some statement and ended it with, I quote, “Long live psychedelic rock n roll and death to all DJ’s”.”
Peter: “Woah Robert? That’s… rocked! Ho ho ho!”
Leah: “Death to all DJ’s?” (Peter still laughing)
Me: “No, man. That quote made my year. Really.”
Peter: “During the video?” (he looked at Rob)
Rob: “Not during the video. On their website, cause they do like authentic, old, analog for all the visual stuff. So I meant for technology in general. In the mean time I use all that shit and I’m guilty of it. I DJ sometimes just for fun.”
Leah: “DJ’s like.. they changed a little bit. I mean I used to party with a DJ in it. But nowadays..”
Rob: “I always make fun of them whenever I can, cause that’s easy target and such a funny thing. Because robots are taking over this whole industry, so they deserved to get a little bit of shit for it. Those guys from TransistorSix were really into the old stuff. They took time to like, process. They took the real process and real time rather than use Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, they really know how do it.”
I got my second warning from 3H and some guy entered the room and I said to the band that I should really go. Rob was still being cool about it.
Rob: “No no. Keep going. What’s the next question?”
Me: “I really should get outta here, man.”
Rob: “No it’s alright man. We’re gonna do a couple more. (He said this to the guy who just entered the room) We have time here. We’re not gonna go anywhere.”
Me: (In my confusion, I had to throw my final question) “After this show in Bandung, are you gonna do an adventure in Bali? I saw your photo in Cambodia with motorcross suit.”
Leah: “Well, we’re gonna fly there tomorrow and I don’t know if we have a lot of time in this tour. But we’ve some great things in Cambodia. We stayed three days in Cambodia seeing jungle, all the great view. That was so incredible and it would be amazing if we can do that again in Bali.”
Rob: “We were trying to do some trip in Japan, on bike, all of us. We visited Mount Fuji too, Japan is a great place to explore. Here will be wonderful. We’re gonna stay a couple of days in Bali. Gonna try to make some time whenever we can to explore. Riding bikes is the best way to travel.”
A woman called Muli who was responsible for 3H entered the room; I felt guilty cause I didn’t follow the 10-minutes rule.
Muli: “Excuse me. Sorry, I had to cut this interview cause there are seven other journalists waiting out there.”
Peter: “Do they have to go?”
Rob: “Yeah cause we still have time to do this.”
Me: “Rob, it’s okay. Really.”
Muli: “He’s gonna meet you again at the meet and greet session later. Cause he’s the ambassador of BRMC Indonesia.”
Rob: “Oh really? Make sure you come here again later so we could hangout again, alright?”
Me: “Of course Rob, it’s an honour to meet you.”
I asked them if I could take a photo and they let me do just that. Afterwards, I hugged Rob, – surprisingly – Leah, and Peter said “Alright man it’s been nice. See you again later, yeah?” when I hugged him. I walked out of the room and screamed very loudly: “OH SHIT I JUST MET MY BROTHERS AND SISTER!” Some people from 3H behind me where laughing. But that experience alone; receiving their hospitality, how they always smiled and were warm the whole time, was the best moment, and the most emotional shit I’ve ever felt in my whole life.
The Meet and Greet session was held one and half hours after my interview, so I killed the time by meeting some great people. My friend Shanty who was still nervous about the meet and greet walked around the venue with that nervous look on her face. When the interviews with the journalists were finally finished, it was time for me to meet the band again. I felt better this time around, as my nerves subsided so I could control myself more efficiently, since my very first time meeting them had happened earlier that day. Six of us walked to the artist room behind Muli, but none of us talked too much.
I didn’t know if I was an expressive sort of person or not, but the meet and greet didn’t happen as I had expected. From all the six people that were lucky to get a chance to be a part of the Meet and Greet with BRMC, I’m the only person that hugged the band. But it went well, we took some more photos, and Shanty gave the band some scarfs made from an Indonesian cultural linen called Batik. Rob was very happy accepting the gift, and I think this was my chance to give him something. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get them something, but I brought something for my brother Ian Ottaway. I gave it to Rob, and said if he could give it to Ian. Rob opened the gift, and said “Oh, hoho shit!” when he found out that the gift from me was a brass knuckle Ian always wanted.
“Why did you buy this for him?” Rob said. “He told me to get that knuckle, in silver,” I replied. “Of course he did.” Rob laughed when he said that. “Oh, I wanna give you something too. It’s the last one.” And then Rob gave me his bass pick. I’m surprised and didn’t know what to say. I’m not sure if any sound came out from me or not when I tried to say thanks or how happy I am to accept the holy pick, but Rob just smiled.
We did a photo and autograph session, and got a chance to talk some more with the band. It didn’t feel like a Meet and Greet session, but more like a family reunion. Everyone seemed happy, including me. Things turned out even better when Rob asked me and Shanty: “Are you gonna go see our second show in Bali?” Shanty said that we really wanna go, but we were afraid that the tickets were sold out already because of the capacity, it happened to be very small for the second gig. Rob offered us something we never forget: “Write your full name here, and some of your friends, so we can put your name on the guest list.”
At the interview, I forgot the ask them about the setlist, so I asked about one at the Meet and Greet session. Rob gave me one, signed it, and wrote “Rough Draft” on the right corner of the paper. Leah signed it too, and asked if I wanted to get an autograph from Peter. I looked outside and noticed that Peter was enjoying his lunch at the time. I told her it’s okay because I didn’t want to interrupt Peter, but Leah insisted and went outside to give the setlist to Peter. He grabbed the pen and stopped eating, signed the setlist and offered something I can’t refuse.
“Do you need an access to the backstage, man? I’ll reach Jon right now so we can provide it for you.” Peter said. “It would be wonderful, but it’s not really necessary, Pete.” I replied. “No, no. It’s okay.” And then Peter went outside and I followed him with Shanty. “I don’t really know what to say, man,” I expressed how grateful I was to get the backstage access passes. Peter laughed and went to the other room. The thing is, he didn’t finish his lunch, so I ended up feeling really guilty about it.
Peter gave me two passes and said “Is this enough?”. I still don’t understand how a human being can be that generous. He’s a fucking rockstar and he treated his fans like his best friends. So I said to him: “Pete, it’s more than enough.” He smiled and said “Alright man I’ll see you on stage soon.”
The gates opened at 7:30 PM, and I was literally the first person waiting in line for the venue to open. Half an hour later, Muli from 3H asked me to come with her with five other people, who were at the meet and greet earlier. I wondered what was gonna happen next, so I said to her: “Muli, this is my first BRMC gig. I wanna be in the front row so I can enjoy the concert at the maximum amount of satisfaction, so please don’t hold me back.” She replied: “Don’t worry. I’m gonna give you something you won’t regret.”
Muli pulled six sidestage passes from her pocket and gave one to me. I already had a plan to use one of the passes that Peter gave me earlier to go to the backstage after the show, but I figured, why not go now. “This is what the band gave you. You guys are really lucky. But we have to wait until the second song to watch from the sidestage, so we’re not interrupting any of their preparation.” Muli said.
The Dago Tea House indoor venue was almost full before the show began, and it was getting crowded as the time was getting closer. Many faces, hungry rock n’ roll faces of different ages were there, waiting for their favourite band to come out to either make them dance, scream or sing along. I was so glad to see the situation, the place was almost full with hundreds of people. As we waited for more than half an hour, that’s when Rob came out on stage, followed by Peter and Leah. Everyone started with an applause and already screaming their names. Like usual, Rob made a heavy-buzzing thunder-like sound from his bass, and I swore I got goosebumps when I heard that sound. Leah started to play the intro of Let The Day Begin, that unleashed the atmosphere we would be submerged in!
Almost everyone started singing to the track that was originally created by The Call, and I couldn’t help myself as tears started to falling from my eyes as I sang along to the line “Here’s to preachers of the sacred crowds // Here’s to drivers at the wheel”. Second song was Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, the legendary track from their 2010 album. In the middle of that song, Muli called me and my friends to follow her to the sidestage.
It’s a completely different view from the sidestage, different sound as well. I loved it there, how you can watch them play closer, but of course it’ll be better to watch them from the crowd if you wanna pay attention to the sound. That was the first time I found out how busy the crew are, how the real situation is on stage. I felt more like seeing them as my best friends than my favourite band when I watched BRMC from that side. BRMC played some of their greatest singles in the beginning, such as Rival, Ain’t No Easy Way, Hate The Taste and Berlin after Let The Day Begin and Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. There was a moment when the crew panicked as they noticed that one of the spotlights caught on fire, which was caused by the heat. One of them told Rob about the situation, but he smiled, waved his hand, still continuing on to play the next song.
Returning was the song that made the venue quiet and oddly enough a resounding peace came over the crowd, as Rob lost himself in the feeling of the song. But the people went crazy when Rob released his rebel side by pulling the red barricade line, letting the front row crowd join the band on stage during Six Barrel Shotgun. Wild, is the only word I can find that could even counter the scene that was spreading out before us. Spread Your Love was the last track before the acoustic encore, where Rob and Peter played the bluesy tunes of Complicated Situations and Shuffle Your Feet. Peter smiled when he noticed that one of the people decided to crowd surf. BRMC closed the concert with legendary Whatever Happened to My Rock n’ Roll and then the eerie track from their latest album, Sell It.
After the show, Rob hung out in front of the artist room to talk to us. I asked him about the reason why he pulled the red line and let the crowd get on stage. “I just didn’t wanna let the security make this gig mean nothing,” he replied. Shanty talked about how often she talked to Ian Ottaway, same as me. And then Rob gave me a warning about the knuckle I gave him for Ian “That man is a lover and a fighter. Of course he asked the knuckle from you. If something bad happens while he uses that knuckle, you’re gonna have to be responsible.” I laughed when I heard that.
My first BRMC gig was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But the moment was not over, another great gig was waiting for me in Bali, where BRMC were gonna play their second gig on December 4.
The plane almost left without me when I arrived at the airport late, at 7:50 PM on Monday. I was going AWOL from my office, I didn’t care at all whether they were gonna cut off some of my salary or even fire me. Like some people, sometimes I discreetly scream about how life sucks; broken family, anger, complicated situations with friends, and now I found some little sparks of warmth and hospitality from my favourite band. I have to chase it until the end. “You’re about to meet the most well-mannered band in the world” said my friend Kitty Fisher when I asked about her experience with BRMC. That turned out to be very true.
Mantra Bar was the venue where BRMC were to play, located in an area full of tourists called Seminyak. I stayed for two days in a hostel called Guess House with my friend Rifat, and met some nice people while we were there. There was an Australian dude called Samual Mitchell, he was so into hip-hop especially the indie rapper Immortal Technique. He told me about the message Immortal Technique was trying to deliver, heavy stuff such as fraud of the government of the United States of America, and that day I found out that Bush was a grandchild of Aleister Crowley and Bin Laden was working for CIA. So, yeah some heavy stuff.
Shanty arrived in Bali on Tuesday morning and I met two crew members of BRMC who happened to be Micah and Adam, a day before the show. And I asked them where Rob, Peter and Leah were at the moment. Of course he didn’t know, they could be everywhere exploring the culture of Bali and the beautiful places around the island. I checked the venue, where there was a small bar covered in black, which seemed like a great place for some rock n’ roll. Too bad the ticket price was pretty expensive, some of my friends from the island said they couldn’t afford it. I wanted them to get onto the guest list, but it was too late and we just had our four names from the BRMC Indonesia group.
I went earlier to the venue on Wednesday to check my name on the guest list. Yes, we were there, another proof that BRMC is a combination of three great people. Me and Shanty entered the bar and found Peter standing alone near the stairs, we said “Hi” and he appreciated that I came to their second gig. Peter had excused himself to the nearest bathroom, and Rob ended up coming downstairs and said “Hey brother!” when he saw us. He hugged me and Shanty. Then I said “Thanks for putting our name on the guest list.” “Nah, it’s okay.” Rob replied. He looked around the bar and said: “We didn’t know that this town was so full of tourists. White, everywhere.”
Rob excused himself as well several minutes later, preparing for the concert cause the bar was almost full and it was already 9:00pm. I stood in the front row, getting ready to feel the real experience of being in a crowd. I was pretty sure it was going be wilder than before, since most of the people there came from different continents, Australia and Europe mostly. And there they were; Rob, Peter and Leah grabbed their instruments without talking too much and started the intro of Let The Day Begin. The crowd lost their shit, feeling thirsty for rock n’ roll tunes, that are simply not around too much these days. I got my first experience in crowd surfing when BRMC played Beat The Devil’s Tattoo as the second song. I believed the crowd chose me, as I was the only person wearing a leather jacket and singing every lyric of every BRMC song.
The setlist was pretty much the same with the gig in Bandung, except that the band changed Lullaby with Shade of Blue. I sang through the whole gig, screaming every lyric I remembered, even coordinated the crowd to sing along. I was on fire that night, not wanting to ever stop. Kitty Fisher described the spirit as “being in band mode, your on the go go go of things”. BRMC stepped off the stage after Spread Your Love, and the crowd started chanting “Spread your love like a fever! Spread your love like a fever!”. Peter came out with his guitar and harmonica, playing Complicated Situation. The riff “It’s a complicated situation // It’s a complicated situation, mama // I’m a complicated situation” made everyone sing along while enjoying their cigarettes and beers. A pure blues atmosphere continued on with Shuffle Your Feet after Rob and Leah joined Peter on the stage.
Dark ethereal environment with green lightning, made the bar seem sacred as BRMC played Sell It as the last song. I was standing in front of Rob, following every word that came out of his mouth. Rob put his hand in the air, and stopped playing his Epiphone Rivoli while singing the bridge part “I’m not proud too proud of it // I ain’t proud too proud of it”. I reached his hand, and he grabbed mine really hard like he was trying to crush it. I don’t really know how to describe that moment, but it felt like he transferred his rock n’ roll soul into mine. Fuck, I was even listening to Sell It when I was writing this paragraph.
The gig was over, and I saw Micah on the corner of the set. I asked him if I could get the setlist and I grabbed one from the drum kit. This was now my third setlist: Rob gave me the rough draft at the meet and greet session in Bandung and I got another one after the show in Bandung. I wasn’t going home after the show, so I waited for them to come downstairs. I saw Leah in her black hoodie walking in hurry so I didn’t try to say goodbye, she wouldn’t have heard me. Several minutes later, Peter came up and I approached him. He said “Hey man..” and hugged me. I was about to lose the presence of this brother in my country so I said I wish they would come here again soon. He smiled, hugged Shanty, and went outside, probably back to the hotel.
I waited for Rob, for almost an hour but I didn’t see him. Shanty said that there’s a rumour that the band stayed at the L Hotel, not too far from our hostel. We decided to leave the bar and went to the hotel, waiting for Rob. Thank God the rumours were true, a minibus came about 15 minutes after I arrived at the hotel, I saw Jon and Rob come out of it. I screamed from the other side of the road calling Rob’s name, he looked at us and waited. I hugged him and fucking cried for the third time, Rob tried calm me down by saying “It’s okay, brother.”
We talked about his trip in Bali and Ian Ottaway (“Oh, you don’t know how often I tried to bail him out of jail”), and he told us that he went to the hospital and almost died that morning. I don’t exactly remember what happened to him, but he said he was bitten by some kind of bug, that left red dots on his skin, blacked out, and felt unconsciousness-psychedelia from some kind of medicine the hospital had given him. It was pretty late and we didn’t feel right for asking him stay out there to talk with us, so we let Rob go upstairs to get some rest. Just when I was about to go, I turnrd back and looked at him for the last time, he called my name and asked me to come over to him. And then he gave me something I won’t forget: BRMC’s Specter At The Feast Tour All Access Pass. I didn’t know what to say, the only reasonable thing to do right there for me was saying “Awww Rob!!!” and of course one last hug.
I never considered myself having a great family before, but I think I have one now. Rob, Peter, Leah, and the crew of the band became a family that I have been wanting for some time now. Friendly, warm, humble, and more of those kind words that may not even bear a description make up a big percent of who they are. Too bad Ian Ottaway couldn’t make it here, but I do hope he is coming around next time.