Ont Road

Ont Road

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Recall Noise Stage @ Aramai Cafe & Lounge, Labuan, Malaysia

Recall Noise Stage @ Aramai Cafe & Lounge, Labuan, Malaysia

NO GOOD - Photo by Awang Sulfallah (Link to all photos at the end of the article)

Malaysian readers can skip the education lesson in the first two paragraphs.

Labuan is probably the most overlooked and forgotten state in Malaysia. Even Perlis is more remembered, even though it is significantly smaller, it benefits from being in West Malaysia, where for many, the country starts and ends. Labuan, alongside Sabah & Sarawak sit across the sea on the northern side of the island of Borneo, a part of Malaysia that gets forgotten about, and still today there will be people reading this who had no idea. Labuan is unique as it is an island itself, just north of the independent country of Brunei, which is wedged in between Sabah & Sarawak. The island itself shares a similar history to the rest of the Malaysian states, of foreign occupation, interference, and plunder. The British themselves used it to tap into (steal) the coal reserves to fuel its expanding empire, and as an important naval base for its operations in the South China Sea. Since independence, and the formation of Malaysia, Labuan has enjoyed the relative fruits of this federation, and has gone through peaks and troughs on the road to generally positive development, but most importantly a stabilisation and unity of the different cultural groups that live there, which is a central tenet of the nation's founding philosophy. 

Politically, the island has always voted for the ruling UMNO (Centre-right pro-Islamic party), likely due to the ethnic make-up of the constituents. However, like voting patterns across in the peninsular, the voters shifted to a more right-wing & nationalist alliance, Perikatan Nasional (PN), in the last General Election, as voters got fed up with the corruption and incompetence of UMNO. This political earthquake not only shook the nation into accepting a coalition unity government of the centre alliance & UMNO, but also has ramifications for Joe Punk in every state up and down the country that has a PN MP, as the political pressure put onto civil service institutions to purify the country from evils associated as an enemy of political Islam has intensified, and this will become evident later in the article.

This event was being organised by the CONFINED SPACE and NO SOLUCION collectives, a bunch of punks and alternative people who are mostly native to this island. They informed me that Labuan has always had, an albeit small, alternative & punk scene, and that in the early 2000s it was at its peak. However, people got older, gained responsibilities, and a lack of youth enthusiasm, led to a decline over the years. Despite this, the old guys are still around, and in a post-Covid world, collectively decided to pool together and attempt to resurrect it. You can tell that these people are serious about their intentions, as the quality of the bands on the bill would likely garner the attendance of several hundred people in West Malaysia. Not only that, the artwork, the social media participation, the stage backdrops, the countless hours spent liaising with the authorities, finding a venue, booking a whole hotel for bands & attendees, as well as finding all of their own professional backline setup, all go to show how dedicated these volunteers are. 

You see the police themselves are really not bothered about these kinds of things. They are working class people too, the island is small so everyone kind of knows each other (or at least their families), some of them even like this kind of music, and it is well known that some of the police in Malaysia have even organised DIY hardcore punk shows themselves in more moderate political states. The problem lies in the power of the political institutions here, who often make questionable decisions on the back of a minority of the people. As a result of this dynamic, the police on the island were forced to act against the event. In order to please their masters, the promoters had to come up with elaborative ways to make it seem like something was being done, a paper restriction of the time that bands were allowed to play, and a flyer of fake band names; all of which were not duly followed and were merely there as a token of appeasement. The festival itself attracted more people from outside of Labuan than locals, so the social & economic impact here far outweighs any overly sensitive cultural concerns, normally reserved for other parts of West Malaysia. I have posted the real band names and fake band names lists below, so you can marvel at some of the translations & creativity. My favourite being No Good, who are from Kelantan, being named Budu, a famous delicacy from that region.

Real Names

Fake Names

First on the bill were ANGEL FALLS (Melodic Metal - Labuan), who have been playing for 18 years, and still feature five original members, which is some serious dedication! They did a good job warming the crowd up and getting them into the groove. In terms of the crowd, I'd say throughout the event there were probably around 200 people in attendance (including bands and volunteers), which is the minimum benchmark the promoters were hoping for, and hopefully can double that number in the future as people become more exposed and accustomed to what is going on there. 

Next up was TRANSIT OI (Oi - Labuan), which as a smart move by the promoters, because anyone who knows Oi bands in Malaysia, knows that they (not all) and their entourage like to get drunk, so having them play early on ensures that they are still in a fit state to perform. Like many Oi bands here in Malaysia, they honoured their forefathers and played an ACAB cover (All Comrades Are Brothers wink wink), yet it was refreshing that the bands own songs were a deviation from the classic slowed down Eastern Oi of the region, and they were faster, more aggressive, and punishing. Their entourage were also in full force in the pit, some of them literally giving the boot to each other. Prior to them starting to play, I had a friendly 10RM wager with the person next to me that they would play a Cocksparrer cover, and low and behold, three songs in, out comes 'We're Coming Back', and they said afterwards that they were pleased to see the only white man in the crowd dancing and singing along to it (I wonder who that was?). They also told me that the reason they were called 'Transit Oi' is because they have had so many different members, which is some Nostradamus wisdom at conception, having the foresight to know this was going to happen. Funnily enough, the lad I had a bet with wasn't to be seen for the rest of the night. I hope he wasn't hiding in fear of his debtor. 

It was then time for the first of the Sabahan bands, SUICIDE CLUB (Hardcore Punk - Kota Kinabalu), or 'Cat Lovers Club' as the fake band names flyer translates to. They were brilliant! Fast, aggressive, and raging - all wrapped up in under 20 minutes, just how hardcore punk should be. The singer caught up with me after the show and recalled meeting me previously at Real Shit in Georgetown two years prior. He remembered me feeding him (and everyone else at the venue) Langkau (distilled Sarawakian rice wine) and he (or his friend?) being passed out on the stage, whilst headlining band SIAL were playing. I caught up with him (and other members of the Sabahan entourage) during the evening Maghrib prayer break, on the rooftop of the hotel over the road, and it was great to make some connections with the KK No Future Punks, as I plan to visit there and review some gigs in the future. 

SUICIDE CLUB - Photo by Awang Sulfallah (Link to all photos at the end of the article)

The night part of the gig started off with THE DOER OF THE ACTION (Screamo - Labuan) - As well as the usual array of alternative music fans (there were even people whom had travelled from Brunei too, whom I met at my first show in Miri to weeks prior), there were also a few random & casuals in attendance, which is always a fun thing and great for exposing what is going on to a wider audience to help the scene grow. First there were a group of local people, one of whom I had a friendly chat with on a dating app a week previously, in which I told her about the show - I don't think they would have been there otherwise, and that was the promoter in me, pedalling the show to strangers on the internet. The second was a local DJ and his sister (who is an alternative music fan) who had met a Scottish engineer in a bar earlier that night and dragged him along - it was nice to chat to someone from my home island, and it was clear he was an alternative music fan too as he had a Nirvana tattoo on his arm. Speaking of arms, check out this random pairing of patches on someone's battle jacket in the picture below. The band themselves were lovely, I really do enjoy screamo, and this one had the added particularity of having a singing drummer, which was a welcome change from the norm. 


The event then kicked into full gear with TRAUMATIC DISORDER (Grindcore - Kota Kinabalu), or 'Mind Health' as the fake band name flyer calls them. This music was certainly not friendly to the mind, it was fast, heavy, and all over the place - just like any good grindcore band should be. The venue itself had a standard bar cum club vibe. The promoters had their own stage banner, posters on the wall, and a dark lighting set up, to give it the noisy live event feel. The owners and their staff were friendly and were always happy to come serve you beer at your table. That was another good thing for us oldies, there were tall stools to sit on in the back half of the room, when you didn't have the energy to stand or dance. 

Speaking of dancing, and actual dancing, not just moshing. ORANG PLANET (Planet People or 'Earthers' as their fake name 'Orang Bumi' translates to - I am sure the authorities loved that one as Bumi is a shortened version for Bumiputera, a term given to the 'native' Malays which means 'Prince of the Earth' (Post Punk - Kota Kinabalu) turned out to be the surprise highlight of the night, and certainly from their name, artwork and vision, convey a completely polarised opposite point of view to the Malaysian states Bumi privilege cartel (sorry for hijacking your introduction to make a long winded political point). They played a style of post punk that is rooted in the 1980s synth /goth movement, like those bands that actually made dark sounding music danceable. I wasn't alone here; there were many other people at the front swinging and shaking their hips too. 

ORANG PLANET - Photo by Awang Sulfallah (Link to all photos at the end of the article)

The last band I saw, and the band I was most looking forward to seeing (aka the only band I had heard and seen previously), were NO GOOD (New Wave Post Punk - Kelantan). I had seen them previously in front of 5000 rowdy & energetic people at Bukit Jalil national stadium during Rock the World Festival, so it was nice to be able to see them in a more intimate setting, and a kind of show that the band are not averse to playing, given their punk rock roots (some of the band members are old friends with some of the promoters). They were incredible once again, and as previously witnessed, there were plenty of moments where the crowd singing in unison became louder than the singer. That was a great way to end the night for me, and a great way to help the organisers get Labuan back on to the alternative music map of Malaysia by having such a well-known and popular band playing. 

As a point of note, IBLISS (Stoner Rock / Doom - Kuala Lumpur) headlined the show, but I was too tipsy and tired by that point, so I made a swift Irish exit back to my hotel.   

Thank you to @confinedxspace (IG handle) and the @no.solucion (IG handle) collectives for organising such an amazing night, making me feel welcome, briefing me with information, and introducing me to a wide range of people. It was great to make new friends from Labuan and Kota Kinabalu. I look forward to visiting Labuan again as a regular visitor, and for RECALL volume two. All photos from the event can be found here.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Ont Road x Apathy and Exhaustion - Clowns, Mannequin Death Squad, Daves @ The Key Club, Leeds, UK, 20/07/2023 - Collaborative Live Review

The internet can be a wonderful tool for bringing people together. Case in point tonight. Here I am sat at NORTH BAR in Leeds, with one casual acquaintance, and one person who I didn’t know. Our shared connection? We all like punk rock, and all used to knock about in Manchester in the early 2000s. Tony, back then was known for running ROADKILL RECORDS in the Northern Quarter, and he was a regular DJ on Thursdays during the student night at JILLYS ROCKWORLD. Andy from TNS RECORDS was also at the gig, and reminisced how we used to be able to have a good night out there and get drunk for 8 quid. Contrast that to the modern day, where it’s possible to pay 8 quid for a sole pint in some places. Tony was supportive of my old zine WATERINTOBEER, and would always let me sell copies in his shop. Then for nigh on 20 years we stayed casual acquaintances on social media, and had the odd passing conversation at 1 or 2 gigs since then. We were joined by his friend Dave, and enjoyed a couple of pints whilst discussing the news coming out of the ANTI-FLAG camp, and the ethical considerations of whether to go see TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET in Leeds next weekend, whose singer has also had some accusations of a similar nature made against him. That’s a topic that warrants a whole new article in itself. I'd like to welcome Tony on board for collaborating on this article (his words are in italic), and thank him for agreeing to do it on my spur of the moment thinking during the gig.

So this is a new one for me. I’ve not overly tried my hand at live reviews before, and find my comfort zone is more typically record reviews. And it’s a new one for me for another reason. This is a collaborative review with Lukas Schwarzbrennan of Ont Road (formerly Water Into Beer fanzine). Bit like a crap version of a split 7in, minus the administrative effort.

Weirdly tedious fact alert: we both keep spreadsheets of “stuff”. Luke has a spreadsheet of all the gigs he’s attended. I think he was aiming for a 1,000 before he hits 40… I keep one of my record collection. Now that I’ve made us both sound like especially exciting people, let’s have a look.

We made it to the show in time to see the last four songs of the local support band DAVES, whom by all accounts hadn’t played any shows for five years, and by the crowd in attendance that night, nobody seemed that bothered about them. Despite that, they were probably there for a reason, and added an unbeknownst value in some way to the event.  Musically competent, but nothing to write home about.

So opening the bill we had a local band known simply as DAVES. Not “Dave’s Band”, just DAVES. Not to be confused with the vastly superior TOO MANY DAVES. Yes, DAVES. They had apparently been inactive since 2018 or something. I’d had a brief flick through the stuff on their bandcamp page the previous day, so I wasn’t expecting much.

Now, I don’t like to unnecessarily piss on anyone’s chips, but as is my duty as a veritable paragon of honesty (you’d expect no less at this stage, right?) and an Adonis (non-physical, obvs) of beautiful, naked truths… they were fairly shit. There’s no reason to be beating about the bush, here I’m afraid. Weak songwriting skills, and a bit slipshod; sadly not in an endearing way. Now you may say “everyone has to start somewhere, Tony!”, and you’d be right; I’d suggest a practice room. For a very long time. Fact is, these guys started somewhere a number of years ago, and stopped. And for some reason have decided to start up again. This, I’m sorry to say, is a terrible idea: grown men playing sub-Battle of the Bands standard garbage with a seeming lack of self-awareness. Having said that, there were a few long-haired young teenagers prancing about, so at least someone had a good time. However, I suspect this could have been their first time out of parental supervision…

Then it was time for the Aussies. Two touring Australian band, both from Melbourne, both on their own tours, yet joining together for the first night of the respective tours. 

First up was MANNEQUIN DEATH SQUAD, an interchangeable two piece, consisting of guitar/drums with dual vocals. This was a refreshing change to the norm, and would be pigeonholed into the post punk genre. They certainly covered a range of styles, and it was often unpredictable where the song would go next, and wherever it did go, it worked nicely, and none of the sections were overly done, nor were there any parts where the band were milking any specific section too much.  At some points I am hearing pop melody vocals akin to MICHAEL JACKSON or PARAMORE, and at other points the music is full force surf rock similar to AGENT ORANGE.There was a lot more going on than this, and it was overall definitely a thumbs up from me. I was easily able to picture this band playing at an introducing stage at any alternative music festival, and instantly being enjoyed by the crowd. 

Next up we were treated to a Melbourne two-piece called MANNEQUIN DEATHSQUAD, filling the main support slot. Neither of them are called Dave (it’s Ellie and Dan). For context, it’s a one female, one male duo sharing vocal duties, drum duties and guitar duties between them. Yep, they flip roles mid-set. Again, I’d had a flick through their bandcamp page the day before, and found something about their stuff that excited me, so I’d been pretty keen to hear more.

I’d like to take a moment to give a shout out to Dan’s stage make-up, which I am assuming is a nod to the photo on the artwork for ‘Goddammit’ by ALKALINE TRIO. Or maybe ERIC OZENE of THE NERVE AGENTS? Anyway, I thought it looked cool.

I was struck by the dynamism this pair brought to the stage. I suppose the risk with a two-piece is that the stage can be prone to looking fairly empty. In this case, MANNEQUIN DEATHSQUAD managed to fill it with an energetic and exciting physical performance.  Sound-wise, last night I was thinking these guys sounded somewhere between DISCOUNT, MASKED INTRUDER and 'Goddammit' era ALKALINE TRIO. Definitely one of the most exciting live bands I’ve seen so far this year.

CLOWNS is an interesting name for a band, it has so many connotations. I can imagine ALF STEWART standing at the back of the room, taking one look at the appearance of the band as they enter the stage, and him piping up with ‘Look at the way they're dressed, they look like a right set of Clowns, strewth!’ 

One of the key reasons I went to see them was from reading a bio that said they were on FAT WRECK CHORDS, and in addition I had some strong recommendations about how good they are, from a few friends. Tony also assured me that I was in for a treat, and I deliberately decided not to listen to them before the show, so that I would get the debut experience in the live setting. They were absolutely fantastic. After years of playing live they have got their shtick down to a tee, and their energy and enthusiasm is infectious, as was witnessed by some of the crowd enjoying themselves in the pit. I enjoyed every minute of it, and was pleased to have taken a chance on going to see them play live. 

On to CLOWNS, who I’m a big fan of, in particular since catching them live last summer with Manchester’s BRUISE CONTROL and local melodic hardcore act, WITHOUT LOVE (also at Key Club). It’s fair to say that they have been earning a rep as one of the best live acts on the global punk scene. They have all the hallmarks of a band that plays live regularly and practises a lot. Stupidly tight, ridiculously good.

I think it helps massively that they clearly have a lot of belief in the songs they are playing. Scathing social commentary and introspection play equal parts in the lyrical content. Performance-wise it’s all about thrashing it out, having a good time and emphasising inclusivity. Cases in point here are singer Stevie down in the crowd passing the mic and ensuring those aforementioned young teenagers are included; seeing the glee and excitement on their faces as this was happening made the night worthwhile in it’s own right. Weirdly it’s during the Clowns set that it becomes clear that one of these teenagers is in fact some sweat-drenched 50 year old dude that’s been flailing about for the entire night, and Stevie has his arm around him and he’s telling him he’s “got the energy of a 21 year old”. I dunno, I just think both those things are really cool. Maybe it’s because I’m running to fat and I’m 46 next week. Fuck knows.

Anyways, we’ve got a great set including more recent numbers (from the ‘Nature/Nurture’ LP), like ‘Prick’ and ‘I Shaved My Legs For You’ alongside older numbers such as ‘Euthanise Me’ (from ‘Bad Blood’). We’ve also got some new ‘uns like ‘Formaldehyde’ and ‘Bisexual Awakening’ that have been doing the rounds ahead of their forthcoming and highly anticipated (by me at least) 5th LP ‘Endless’ which is due to drop in October (via their own DIY label, DAMAGED RECORDS in Australia and New Zealand and FAT WRECK CHORDS for the rest of the world).

There seems to be a nice buzz about underground alternative bands from Australia right now, and both MANNEQUIN DEATH SQUAD and CLOWNS both deserve to be in that conversation.      

On this note, I'd like to suggest some other bands from Australia that are worth checking out, all of which sound pretty different: STIFF RICHARDS, CIVIC and PARSNIP (I will add in GELD here too). I hear there's a ton of great stuff over there waiting to be discovered, so it's an exciting time right now.

Check out Tony's blog here and indulge in his knowledgeable analysis of punk rock music.

Photo credit to Helen Oxley.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Spaced (Buffalo), live at Temple of Boom, Leeds, UK, 19/07/2023

Punk rock and hardcore never ceases to inspire and amaze me. The synchronicity is sometimes wonderful. A post that appeared on my social media timeline indicated that SPACED, a band from Buffalo, USA, was playing at Boom in Leeds, UK. I received an email from a friend a few moments later offering me tickets to the gig. Great! I am looking for something to do that night. I like hardcore punk music, I like the Buffalo Bills, both for 20+ years, sounds like a no brainier!

Boom, also known previously as the TEMPLE OF BOOM is a familiar haunt to me, but after arriving I soon realised that I haven’t been there since I left the UK four years ago. The interior felt all so familiar, but when I looked around I hardly recognised anyone. Back then I used to recognise everyone. Things have changed. I was happy to reconnect to the space in a physical capacity, and sit back and reminisce with a fresh pint of Brooklyn Defender. 

There’s a new breed of hardcore punk people, a breed unashamed of who they are, a young breed, a feeling of no judgement or care about what you are, just as it should be. Hardcore has become a lot more accessible thanks to the pioneering work of THE FLEX putting UKHC on the map, and bands like SLAVES, IDLES, and TURNSTILE garnering mainstream attention. It was as if every teenage mosher I had grown up with had been respawned into this environment, and it felt like nothing matters… who you are, what bands you like, what you wear, everyone was here and united because we are alternative freaks! 

I was excited about seeing a band playing from my American homeland BUFFALO, so I decided to wear my NFL Buffalo Bills hoodie and hat, and within minutes of arriving at the venue, some members of the band called me over to the merch booth for a photo. I talked about synchronicity earlier. This was the last night of their 3 week European tour, so it was an opportunity for them to reconnect to their homeland ahead of their departure back home, and an opportunity for me to wear my Buffalo colours and meet people from there. I told them the story about how I purchased my hoodie from a GOODWILL charity shop when I visited Buffalo back when I was a roadie on tour with HERO DISHONEST in 2004, when the guitarist would have only been 6 years old. 

The first band, local act IMPALE put on a good show and there was plenty of mosh, friendly fire / bump n grind mosh. It was refreshing to see the singer shouting out the gay community and everyone embracing it in a genuine way. They were followed by GOING OFF from Manchester. 

I ended up watching SPACED from near the front of the stage, and dancing along for all of their set. It wasn’t my intention, but the pit was accessible as it wasn’t violent. It was slam dancing, bump and grind, friendly fire mosh style - is that a vibe from Gen Z these days? If so, I fully embrace it. After a few songs the other guitarist dedicated a song to “The Bufflao Bills Mafia Guy” and said [Quarterback] “Josh Allen is the greatest of all time”. The set was capped off nicely with me joining them on stage for one verse to sing along to their cover of ‘Rockaway Beach’ by the RAMONES. Aside from the cover, they were super grateful and overwhelmed to get such a reaction as a headline band, and they played a nice blend of traditional hardcore, and hardcore punk.

On the way out of the venue, I heard their roadie shout “Hey Buffalo Bills guy, the band would like to give you a t-shirt”, to which I duly accepted and thanked them for coming from my adopted hometown to play in my birth town. It was a great end to an enjoyable show and experience, and hardcore is very much alive and well to take us into the next epoch of its existence. Boom is a welcome permanent part of the fittings here in Leeds, and I commend it for continuing to be a space for preserving the heritage of the scene, and giving us an alternative place to belong, and evolve. 


Monday, June 5, 2023

Gag (USA) / Neuroot (Netherlands) - Live in Kuala Lumpur, 06/05/2023

Q: What to do when there is two touring international bands playing in KL are playing at two separate gigs on the same night? 

A: Pick the one you want to go to the most, buy the ticket, and then come up with a secret side quest for possibly attending both on the same night!


The night started at CERO in Petaling Jaya, an established music & arts space, who are currently in their second or third different building. The gig had sold out well in advance, and it was pretty much a full house for opening act NO TITLE from Negeri Sembilian. The crowd were really into their mid paced party hardcore mosh style, and speaking of the crowd, it was a fairly young audience on this occasion, and for once I felt like I was in the top 10% of oldest people there. Next up were RECT from Kuala Lumpur, who brought their fast punky hardcore crusty style, and the crowd were once again 'going off' throughout the set - I enjoyed them too, and I'll be definitely going to see them live again. After their set, it was announced that PIRI REIS had pulled out of the show (rightfully so), due to an emergency family matter. Initially I was disappointed because I have been wanting to see their Skramz style for some time, yet in the back of my mind, I knew this would make the side quest a more likely scenario. The anticipation for GAG, from USA, was strong. Everyone was sat on the floor in front of the stage excited and eager for them to play. When they came out, and blasted into their first song, the pit went mental - bodies and limbs all over the place for the next 15 minutes of their blistering set of hardcore punk. There were absolute scenes! It's often quite difficult for non-punk / hardcore people to understand the concept of making the effort to go to a gig, for a 15 minute set, but when you enjoy and appreciate it, those 15 minutes take you through a whirlwind of emotions and energy, which is a rush of blood to the head and is cathartic in a way that drugs would make someone feel, without the comedown! And just like that it was all over, and it wasn't even 10pm yet!

Before I continue the story of night, I have to go into the back story of what happened to GAG on their SE Asia leg of their world tour, because it is testament to the spirit of punk rock that is some circumstances, the show must go on! The story might be slightly inaccurate in some of the details, as I heard it verbally from a friend of mine, but the general aspect of it is definitely accurate. So here goes, about a week before the KL show they were playing shows in Indonesia, and they received a phone call from the family of two of the band members who ae brothers, informing them that an immediate family member had just passed away. The two brothers then rightfully so, booked a flight home. The rest of the band, not wanting to cancel the tour, made some structural adjustments, swapping some instruments around, and then decided to ask the local promoters for the subsequent shows, to find someone who was willing to learn the songs at short notice, and step in to play bass for the different shows in different countries they had left on this leg of the tour. This is where Dean, who is one of the members of the  Alt+ collective that booked the show, stepped in, learnt all the songs, and did a sterling job playing live with GAG for their set in KL. That for me embodies the spirit of punk rock right there!

With the main quest completed, I decided to begin the side quest. Some friends of mine from Sarawak had travelled over for the show, so I offered my hospitality to them, and they happily obliged to join me. I booked a taxi, and we made the 40 minute journey to the other side of town, arriving at RUMAH API to find that there were still some bands left to play. We enjoyed a few beers & disco dances in the bar, and the first band I watched was SOUL SAVIOUR (an obvious No Use For A Name reference), whom I have been wanting to see for some time. They played classic mid 90s US punk rock, with a nod to the usual bands of that era, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Then we got to see the legendary NEUROOT from Holland, who are an anti-fascist punk-rock band who have been around since the 1980s! This was a great opportunity for a rare box ticking exercise, and they were relentlessly punishing throughout their set. What an experience to see such a legendary band here in KL! 


I went home very happy, knowing that I had managed to get to see both international touring bands, as well as some good local support bands. Perhaps in the future, the local promoters could have a bit more open dialogue about future bookings, so that this situation can be prevented in the future, gigs can be combined, and then all of the punks would be able to experience both bands, because let's face it, international touring bands from Europe & the USA are few and far between here, so best to try and maximise the experience for the audience (and the bands themselves) in the future. Despite it all, much respect and kudos for RUMAH API and ALT+ for continuing to bring in and book shows for international bands, despite the pressures, challenges, and risks that come with it. As a dormant promoter in the UK myself, I can tell you that what they have to deal with makes our role of booking &  promoting in the UK seem like an absolute breeze, so hats off and huge respect to all the people involved in those collectives. 

Plague of Happiness, No Good, Republic of Brickfields & Others, Live @ Rock The World Fest, Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 03/12/2022

Plague of Happiness

In their 20th anniversary of the Rock the World Festival, the promoters put together a stacked bill which encompassed a diverse range of styles representing some of the best artists that Malaysia has to offer, whilst still having a emphasis on the heavier side of the scene. I discovered this event at the last minute, and after taking one quick look at the line up, I decided this was a perfect opportunity to get a taste of what Malaysia has to offer, whilst seizing on the moment to see some bands I have wanted to see for quite some time. 

The event took place inside the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, where there were two stages set up sided by side behind one of the goals. The running track area was open for standing room, and all the seats were open for easy viewing. In the concourse there were tons of food & beverage stands, and merchandise / stalls from a vast array of vendors. I'd say this event was something akin to Leeds/Reading for the Malaysian scene, given the line up of bands on offer. 30 bands over 13+ hours, with a 10am start was going to be a massive slog, so I rocked up a bit later on to catch the first band I wanted to see. However, upon arrival, the bands were already two hours behind schedule, so there was going to be some catching up to do later on in the day.

A perspective from the seats - early on when it wasn't so crowded

Before I focus in on a few of the bands that totally blew me away, I'll give you a run down of most of the other bands that I saw, and this should serve as a good starting point for exploring bands in the Malaysian scene further.


  • Triangle - A heavy new wave of hardcore, absolutely crushing impact, and mosh-tastic vibes.
  • Margasatwa - A hippy indie band fully embracing the vibes of the 70s.
  • Restraint - Straight up 90s New York style hardcore - Kuala Lumpur representing.
  • The Impatient Sisters - Feel good bubblegum indie pop.
  • The Padangs - Heavy as fuck modern & sightly experimental metalcore.
  • Pop Shuvit - A veteran new metal style band, enjoyable!
  • One Buck Short - Classic 90s punk explosion band that often support the bigger bands when they play in South East Asia.
  • Gerhana Skacinta - Traditional ska fused with Asian vibes - absolutely brilliant!
  • I saw many more bands, but it's been six months, and this time I didn't make any notes at the show, so my memory is a little hazy.
The first band which I was totally buzzed about seeing were REPUBLIC OF BRICKFIELDS from Kuala Lumpur. They are a veteran reggae band that have been plugging away for years on the scene. They were wedged into the line up perfectly in the middle of the day, for the fans to enjoy some relaxed vibes. It's not as easy for Malaysians (compared to Westerners) to enjoy the freedom and lack of judgement to be alternative, so to see these guys up there, loud and proud, with their long term contributions to alternative music scene, along with a large crowd enjoying the buzz, was a great feeling.

Republic of Brickfields

Next up on the hotlist is NO GOOD from Kelantan. A post punk band, emanating from Malaysia's most religiously conservative state, is quite the oxymoron. In recent years this band has exploded into the mainstream, and have become super popular in the whole of the music scene, yet they are still true to their roots, and still play the smaller punk venues in and around Malaysia, as well as the bigger gigs and festivals. What makes them unique, is not only do they sing in the Malaysian language, they sing with the dialect of Kelantanese, which makes them refreshing and interesting for the listener. They are all over NME Asia if you want to read more about them. When they hit the stage, the whole of the standing area erupted into a mosh / pogo, and all I could here was the crowd shouting back the lyrics to me, in the same Kelantanese dialogue. The energy sustained for their whole set, and the crowd were rocking to and hanging on to their every word. What a show! I was originally first planning to see them at a smaller punk show, but I wasn't able to make it at the last minute. However, I think I preferred seeing this as an introduction to the band, because it was an unreal experience, and great to see just how well loved they are amongst Malaysian music fans.

No Good

To top it all off, there was PLAGUE OF HAPPINESS from Johor, another band I've been desperate to see but couldn't make it work. They are the most popular ska punk band in Malaysia, and OMG, do they attract a crowd! It was paralleled to the experience during No Good. The whole place erupted when they started playing, and there was skanking in the whole of the standing area throughout their whole set. There really is no better feeling in live music than a full crowd of thousand of people, skanking and singing along in unison . It was a real treat to see them in this capacity, and I am looking forward to seeing them at a smaller show in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, on their upcoming Dominion tour. 

Adult Lemonade

So that was that. If you are interested & curious about alternative music in Malaysia, then I would fully recommend this festival. The bands play for no longer than 15-20 minutes, and it serves as a way to get a perfect introduction to what the scene has to offer. In addition to this, the ticket price was only around 100RM (£20!) which is incredible value for an event of this magnitude. Do note that there is no alcohol sold at the event (unless you find the secret vendor that sells 'Adult Lemonade'), so it's best to smuggle some in, as the security was slack, and there was no patting down the body on the way in. Recently, I was pleased to hear that Rock the World Festival will be returning in December 2023, and work permitting, I look forward to attending this amazing festival once again. 

Let's do it again!

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Manchester Punk Festival 2023

Manchester Punk Festival 2023

The Beltones

The crowd were too rowdy, the main performance was cut short, police were called to the venue, the offenders refused to leave, and subsequent nights were cancelled. That was a horrible way for it all to finish. No, this wasn't the outcome of KNIFE CLUB'S performance on Friday night, this happened at a theatre performance of Whitney Houston's 'The Bodyguard' at the PALACE THEATRE that was taking place in Manchester during the same weekend. Thankfully the punks, and in particular the type of punks that Manchester Punk Festival (MPF) attract, have similar values, are tolerant of each others differences, and know how to have a good time without ruining it for other people.

This was my 5th time at MPF, which started in 2015 as a two stage, one venue, one day event; and has now evolved into a multi venue, 3.5 day behemoth, which celebrates all subgenres within the punk scene, and continues to operate around the Oxford Road / Manchester Metropolitan University district of the city. This area was also where I lived and studied when I went to university for my bachelors degree, so it already held a special place in my heart. The addition of MPF has taken my love for this part of the world to unparalleled levels. And on top of that, there really is no other festival on the UK punk circuit quite like it. 

The journey to the festival this year was quite different to previous visits. I arrived in Manchester at 6am on the Friday morning, having made a 19 hour journey from my house in Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA. After such a long period of travel, I had some catching up to do, so I booked myself a day room at a hotel near Oxford Road, and got some much needed sleep and rest before the festival kicked off later that afternoon.

Due to the large amount of different venues, and the vast array of the types of bands playing, there really is something for everyone at this festival. I have some friends who attend this festival, and have a completely different experience to mine, and there are some friends whom I cross paths with at various points throughout it. As always, I was in attendance with my close friend, long term gig buddy & melodic punk rock aficionado Tom, who made is way over from Leeds in the early afternoon.

After a pre lash munch at HATCH, a parading of my e-sports trophy, and another hotel check-in, we headed to the UNION to catch a few songs of the opening act BRUISE CONTROL, who played pretty decent fast melodic hardcore. Their frontman looked like a cross between the lead singer from DEAN DIRG, and a Wigan Rugby League fan from 1980. We then headed next door to the SALUTATION pub for a quick pint, but the ale was crap, so we sacked off visiting there for the rest of the festival.

Next up was the 'last ever show' of the HUMAN PROJECT. I say 'last ever' because they have had one before they reformed. They are like a B grade version of 'Supporting Caste' / 'Potemkin City Limits' era Propagandhi, which considering how incredible Propagandhi are, is a compliment, and a nice kind of band to have in your local scene. The band were quite emotional, and they were clearly quite popular, as the crowd were singing along to the choruses at times. It was a fitting farewell for them, and it's been a pleasure having them as part of our local scene for many years.  

I was completely blown away by the energy of FAINTEST IDEA, and I was left thinking to myself 'How come I have never seen this band before?' They play an infectious blend of ska punk, and the trombonist who also plays in CALL ME MALCOLM kept us entertained with his 100% investment in the stage performance, which is essential as a brass player in a ska punk band. We cut their set short to head over to THE BREAD SHED, to see GREEN EYED MONSTER who had come all the way over from JAPAN to play the festival. They were young, super enthusiastic, and played a combination of modern pop punk combined with classic fast Japanese style punk rock.    

Faintest Idea

We then took a walk across town to GORILLA, to see one of Tom's picks, THE SLOW DEATH, a bunch of older men playing indie rock / punk crossover, complete with a keyboardist. At this stage, being at this venue was most welcome, as we had the opportunity to sit and watch them from the seats on the balcony. Being in my 40s now, and being at an all dayer, it is a most welcome opportunity. I wish there were more venues with ample seating, but given the space restrictions and costs involved, you can understand why it's not common place in city centre venues. 

Then it was over to one of the new venues added to the festival (the acoustic stage has moved around a lot between venues over the years) called YES, to check out TNS RECORDS band from DENMARK, called STOJ SNAK, who play acoustic folk punk in a similar vein to early Against Me! A lot of people had come to see them, but it was a little too earnest and positive for our cynical minds. We cut their set short to head back to GORILLA to see another one of Tom's picks, FORTITUDE VALLEY, a super group featuring members of various other bands. It was another indie pop / punk rock crossover band, who were overwhelmed by the amount of people that had come to see them. Unfortunately the first half of the set suffered a little from feedback in the sound, but it was great to see Dave Hillier blasting out some solos on lead guitar duties. 

After a steady day on the ale, it was time to put the hammer down in preparation for the main international acts of the night. The festival teams up with SIGNATURE BREWERY, to provide some quality ales for the festival, and we tucked into a variety of pints & cans over the next couple of hours at the UNION. First up was THE BELTONES from the USA, a band I had completely overlooked in the run up to the festival, who then I got super stoked about after reading this synopsis of the band, who were playing their first UK show in 20 years! They sounded like a fast paced punk rock band with country & western influences (like a sped up cross between The Cobra Skulls, Moto, and Dan Vapid & The Cheats), topped off with raspy vocals akin to Frankie Stubbs from Leatherface, and let me tell you countless vocalists over the years have been compared to Frankie, but The Beltones singer has been the closest I've ever heard to it. They blasted their way through a vast array of songs from their back catalogue, and were clearly enjoying themselves - this was definitely a band for the punk rock obscurists, and one of my favourite tick box acts of the weekend. The singer from Off With Their Heads was down the front, rocking out, and the band were winding him up talking about 'top paid talent' coming up next. And it was this that surprised me most, because after slamming beers and rocking out in the pit, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from the USA came on stage next, and their singer/guitarist was on fire, as they pummelled through an immense one hour set of wall to wall bangers. I am not a massive fan of the band, but I do love a burst of songs from their catalogue. There were may people there who absolutely love them though, and the pit was wild throughout. They had played all the songs I had wanted to hear within 30 minutes, and with the jetlag kicking in, I listened to the rest of their set from the comfort of the Union bar, whilst watching a mother entertain her excited baby. 

Off With Their Heads

It was at this point that I was content with having seen an excellent spread of bands, and I was happy to call it a night to be bright and fresh for day two. Tom on the other hand had different ideas. He persuaded me to have some down time and food at GERMAN DONNER KEBAB (a welcome addition to the Oxford Road scene), and then he persuaded me to carry on the buzz, and head over to THE BREAD SHED for one of the usual after parties taking place that night. On reflection I was pleased that he used his persuasive powers to keep my spirits high, and make the most of our time at the festival. 

Three pounds for a double vodka & energy drink was a potential recipe for disaster, I bought one and drank that after skanking to the last few songs for LEAD SHOT HAZARD. Then Tom reappeared with two more for me, alongside a shot of Tequila, as SHOOTING DAGGERS hit the stage, treating us to a set of raging crust. Thankfully, we had acquired the vacant merch table, and we were able to nurse our drinks whilst taking in the brutality in relative comfort. Part of the terms & conditions of sitting there was that we had to vacate it, when one of the later acts arrived and needed to use it. When they did arrive, I began to clear away all the empty drinks cups from the table, but one of the band members was clearly not happy that either we were sat there, or not clearing everything away at an adequate pace, so they started to assist in the clear up process, demonstratively doing it much quicker than I was managing to in my inebriated state. It was at that point my youthful snarky side came out, and as I was leaving the table, I was pretending to sweep the seat clear of debris for the band member. They did not take too kindly to my mocking, and they ranted to me about how offended they were by my actions. I immediately apologised, and changed tact to being overly nice, and this just made them more triggered, so I walked away and relocated our tables drinks to a different area. After the dust had settled and time was given for reflection, I made some time to go and speak to that person later in the night, and we managed to iron things out and make peace. 

KILLDREN were one of the 'bands' that surprised me most over the weekend. When I say 'band', it was two people singing / shouting/ rapping (?) over some backing tracks - something I feel an affinity towards having done the same in my own project MC POSITIVE BASTARD. The music was kind fast rave style, the lyrics were political, and it was another great example of how diverse this festival has become. The night then concluded with MPF IS BURNING: THE SNATCH GAME TAKEOVER, which was some kind of drag show, with live skits, DJ music, and competitions. It was a welcome addition to the festivals array of after parties, and an inclusive way to celebrate the alt / queer / alternative sexuality scene, which has been very much part of the punk scene going back to the 1980s. We thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was such a shame that there were some technical issues that led to the sound not being loud enough. 

As expected after drinking copious amounts of cheap spirits, we were in a bit of state the next morning, Tom significantly more so than I. After a morning disco in the hotel room dancing to Greg Graffin & Rancid, we took a late chaotic breakfast, only to realise we had half an hour till check out - therefore there was to be no wallowing in bed all day on this occasion. We made a vain attempt to 'get back on it' at the NORTH BAR TAPROOM (another welcome addition to the Oxford Road scene), but my can of Schofferhofer did nothing but induce reflux, and Tom couldn't even face any alcohol. We spent most of the early afternoon just walking around the vicinity and talking to friends in ALL SAINTS PARK. The first act I managed to see that day was Bradford's finest punk poet, LUKE 'TATY' HOGGARTH, and as always it was great to hearing him wax lyrical about politics, trade unions, and Yorkshire. 

The YES venue turned out to be a gift, as it serves half price pizza all day, so we filled our bellies up, and started to feel somewhat better. It ended up taking me two tubes of Gaviscon, a bottle of Yop yoghurt drink, three 'gummies', and four Rennie tablets to finally rid myself of the reflux. The joys of getting old, and having emergency medication on hand. The first musical act we saw that day were HEATHCLIFF from Munich, GERMANY. I got talking to them for quite a while a couple of hours before their set, as the drummer was wearing a Dog Eat Dog shirt, which helped spark some conversation. The power of Dog Eat Dog lol. It turns out that they are big fans of crossover bands, and that was evident in their live set, as even though they were advertised as 'skate punk', they actually covered many different styles of punk, and at times, metal.

A few days prior to the festival, we heard the tragic news that former Leatherface drummer Lainey had passed away. It's unbelievable to think that of all the classic members; Lainey, Dickie, and Andy are all dead, and FRANKIE STUBBS is the last one standing! We were wondering if he would still play the show, and he did, headlining the acoustic stage at YES. From listening to his musings between songs, it seems like it was equally cathartic and difficult for him to play that show. He was generally in good spirits, and the chatter was interspersed with some elements of dark humour when acknowledging what had just happened. Phrases like 'I only bumped into him in the supermarket last week, and we were talking about making a racket again' showed how fresh the news was still on his mind. He began the set by raising a toast to Lainey, which the crowd respectfully joined in for. The song choices were a mix of his solo material, and Leatherface classics for the crowd to have a good old sing song to. Even today, to hear those songs live, it still gives me goose bumps and makes my brain go through a cascade of emotions. 

Frankie Stubbs

With No Fun At All pulling the UK leg of their European tour due to poor ticket sales, SNUFF were announced as a last minute replacement. When they played MPF previously, they had a 1 hour headline slot at the Union, but this time it was 40 minutes at THE BREAD SHED, which was ideal, as it meant that they stuck to mainly playing the hit songs, and it gave less time for Duncan the drummer to chat shit in between the songs. It was a glorious SNUFF set, which made me fall back in love with the band. They have the guitarist from SPOILERS playing second guitar now, and he did a sterling job with all the songs and backing vocals. It was also great to participate in the conga again for the song 'Soul Limbo', and 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads' was a fine way to round off the set. 

By that stage of the night, I was done, content with my fill of MPF for this year, but Tom was adamant about seeing LIGHTYEAR, as it was supposedly there last ever show. I do like the bands early stuff, but I didn't have any energy left for another band, so I chilled in the hotel lobby whilst waiting for Tom to get his fix. Once Tom returned, it was time to exit the MPF bubble of positive vibes, and into the grim realities of Britain on a Saturday night.

The journey home consisted of seeing a homeless beggar constantly singing 'Oh Manchester is wonderful x 2, it's full of tits, fanny, United and City, oh Manchester is wonderful', said beggar being approached by two toffs who gave him notes to film themselves on their phones singing along next to him, a group of young likely lads on Class A drugs in the kebab shop constantly harassing an American punk couple (who to be fair, brushed it off well, until they finally buggered off), a black metal giant in full corpse paint exiting Spa with a Cornetto in his hand who then walked all the way back to the mosher bar GRAND CENTRAL with Cornetto still in his hand (unopened), the last train back to Leeds being cancelled, and waiting at the back of Piccadilly station for the replacement mini buses whilst watching hundreds of drunk slugs being spat out of the end of the escalator and stumbling into each other as they tried to regain their stride. Despite getting home late, it didn't do anything to dampen our spirits from what was another hugely successful MPF that seems to keep getting better year on year.

MPF really is one of the best, if not the best punk festival in the UK right now, and it really is unique with it's city centre, multi day, and multi venue operation, whilst still managing to keep the DIY punk spirit & ethos. I was musing through the event programme prior to writing this article, and this quote from Manchester based band, RUM LADS sums it up perfectly.

'MPF caters less to nostalgia, and more to progressive replenishment, broadening the alternative music scene. That is a bold philosophy in harsh economic times when live music is under threat like never before'.

See you in 2024! 

You gotta roll with it

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Wankys, Rat Cage @ Damaged Goods, Leeds, UK, 17/12/2022

 The Wankys, Rat Cage @ Damaged Goods, Leeds, UK, 17/12/2022

There's a new space in Leeds that is rented by punks and run by punks. It's inception began as a rehearsal space. The new wave of youth who are embracing the hardcore punk mentality have formed bands, and people you will have seen in various bands over the years are also involved. New wave hardcore and crust bands 'Fixer' and 'Votiv' practice here, as well as the house band and fellow collective members 'The Shits', who are Drunk In Hell esque; slow, heavy, rocking, and snotty.

The collective are aiming to evolve the space into a fully functioning live music space, but for now, to raise funds and do some testing, they are holding 'private' events (aka ASK A PUNK) before it becomes official. I headed over to one of these events in mid December 2022 to see what all the fuss was about. 

The event was packed, and it was good to see a multi band bill door price at £10 - for too long musicians and artists haven't been able to earn enough to keep their projects self sufficient. Despite that there was still a 'pay as you feel' option for those living below the breadline. I got to see 'The Wankys' from Leicester, a band who I organised their first 'out of town' show for back in 2007 at the 1 in 12 Club, Bradford.  I also met 'Mark Wanky' on a bus from Tampere airport in 2005, when I was visiting Finland, but that's another story altogether. The Wankys play a unique mid tempo noise punk style, and have a cult following throughout the world. They even released a record called 'Live at Puntala Festival', even though they never played there! This was my 7th time seeing The Wankys, and it was just as good as always. It was nice to catch up with Mark again, after so long. 

Up next was Rat Cage from Sheffield, a band with members from a long list of alumni of Sheffield hardcore punk bands. This was the first time (I think) that I have seen them, and they were raging fast good, which was to be expected from band members of this calibre. It's great to see them going from strength to strength, and recently going on a big tour in Australia. 

It was nice to see something old, and something new. The future of live punk shows in Leeds looks exceptionally bright if the collective can attain their live music licence. For now, ask a punk, and go to one of their events to witness the birth of the new breed of hardcore punk in Leeds. 

Zounds @ Wharf Chambers, Leeds, UK, 11/12/2022

Zounds @ Wharf Chambers, Leeds, UK, 11/12/2022

Three different decades! That's how many different decades I have seen this band play live in. The 2000's, 2010's, and now the 2020's. If I was much older I could have seen them in the 1970's 1980's and 1990's too. For an anarcho-punk band to still be playing live in their sixth decade, it's quite a legacy. 

The 'Curse of the Zounds' discography has remained on regular rotation in my playlist ever since I first saw them back in 2005 at The Fenton in Leeds. What makes them a particular standout from a lot of bands in the anarcho-punk scene is that they are actually quite tuneful, melodic, and have lyrics that uncover contradictions, explore uncertainty, as well as similarly to other bands from that scene, are outright political. 

The second time I caught them, was at a May Day rally in Bradford in 2012, where they were still practicing what they preach, and living to their ideals. This is also evident from during the period when the Moncada Rocks collective existed (which raised money for humanitarian organisations in South America), and something that I was part of from 2005-2009. We had Steve Lake play an acoustic set at one of our events at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. 

I recently picked up a copy of the book Zounds Demystified from Amorphous Pieces, which made me fall more in love with the band, as it contains all the lyrics from the songs, alongside commentary and anecdotes from Steve Lake - it's the kind of ultimate level of geekery one could wish for from one of your all time favourite bands. 

I flew back from Malaysia a few days before the show in 2022, delighted to hear that a ticket had been returned and that I could now attend the sold out matinee show at the radical alternative social centre Wharf Chambers - again, actions > words. It's always a pleasure hearing these songs live, and they still sound as good and fresh today. This one was quite an emotional affair for the band as it was the last ever show for the current bassist who had been with them for quite some time. Steve Lake as always, was equally  entertaining and thought provoking with his wry wit, and it was overall another mesmerising, haunting, and cathartic Zounds live performance. 

Steve is probably in his 60's now is not sowing any signs of slowing down. He is currently active with his side project Blood Moon Wedding and Zounds are ploughing on with shows confirmed for Rebellion Festival and in Athens, Greece later this year. I think there is a strong possibility of seeing them in a different decade, as it is quite likely Steve will take them from his cradle until his grave. 

Take a listen if you've never had the pleasure...


Sunday, March 12, 2023

APAC Wrestling 'Dominion' @ Ground Zero Kuala Lumpur 11/03/2023 - Review

Wrestlers, Fans, and Government come together to put Sports Entertainment on the map!

Youth & Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh raises the hand of the APAC Women's Champion Nor 'Phoenix' Diana

Hannah Yeoh, the government Minister of Youth & Sports made a guest appearance at APAC Wrestling's 'Dominion' event in Kuala Lumpur this weekend. The YB, who is highly respected across the political divide, has been praised in her new role for her hard work and 'big tent' approach to embracing all sports across the country. Fresh from visiting a huge national E Sports event the previous day, she entered the APAC home 'Ground Zero' to a raucous crowd chanting 'YB Hannah'. Hannah and her husband took their seats to watch the APAC women's title match, which pitted homegrown viral hero and current champion 'Nor Phoenix Diana' against the Queen of Philippine Wrestling 'Crystal'. In the match, the guts, stealth, and quick decision making of Diana was enough to overcome the sassy, self-assured trickery of her challenger, who despite the loss, utilised a brilliant array of 'heel manoeuvres' to get the upper hand on her opponent.  After the match drew to a close, Hannah Yeo stepped into the ring to raise the hand of the 'Phoenix', the biggest known Malaysian star in global wrestling. That was a significant endorsement, not only to the legitimacy of the wrestling business here, but also to the advancement of women within the sport. 

In the previous opening encounter, 'The Retis' Double K outsmarted the plucky upstart 'Alpha' Alfa Nazri, and then proceeded to cut a promo to the crowd, outlining his ambition within the company. Following the women's match, the crowd were treated to arguably the 'match of the night', which saw fellow Phillipino star 'Julio' take on kampung chief 'the sigma beast' Serigala. This became a physically intense affair, with Serigala showing off his pure brute in response to Julio who was persistently mocking the crowd and his opponent, to land a range of his own power moves. The 'holy shit' moment of the night came when Serigala accidentally clotheslined the referee, which led to interference from Double K as he floored the 'Sigma Beast' with a chair. This led to Julio hitting his finisher and retaining his championship in front of a sea of wild raging fans.

The penultimate match up saw the local mysterious anti-hero Gotham, exorcise his inner spirits, and use his indominable depth of stamina & ring psychology to outlast the ambition of 'the dreamchaser' Azroy. Following the bell, Gotham was raising Azroy for a choke slam, and just in time Alfa Nazri came to the rescue. Azroy wasn't pleased by this and did not show any gratitude to his fellow competitor for saving him from annihilation. One must wonder how this dynamic will pay out in future shows.      

The main event was full of star power and was quite the coup for the company. Naming the event 'Dominion' was clearly an ode to New Japan Pro Wrestling, and this match featured NJPW superstar, and member of the TMDK faction, Mikey Nicholls. He was up against the founder of the company, the anointed godfather of Malaysian Pro Wrestling,  'The Nusantara Menace' Shaukat, and it was for the Ambition Wrestling Global Championship, a title held by a number of stars across the globe. Both wrestlers have that ‘star quality’, and despite ‘working hurt’, Shaukat carried himself through the match with dignity. Mikey Nicholls was phenomenal at working the crowd and generating heat as he picked apart his opponent. The match concluded with Shaukat pulling out the ‘shock win’ and becoming the new champion.

Shaukat - The new Ambition Wrestling Global Champion

Overall, it was an amazing show, and a lot of credit has to go to Shaukat and the APAC team for all the work they have put in to developing this company. Following a working relationship with the other Malaysian wrestling company MYPW, Shaukat decided during the pandemic to branch out and start his own entity, APAC, with the eye of taking Malaysian Professional Wrestling into the realms of a respectable mainstream package. In that time, the company acquired the ‘Ground Zero’ studio in Subang Jaya, where wrestlers were able to train, but predominantly it was to be a professionally set up studio to allow the recording of TV shows and live events. The two companies now complement each other well, with MYPW acting as a developmental territory, and APAC acting as the place for the finished product. Shaukat himself has helped spearhead the new brand around the world, recently being part of ‘the reality of wrestling’ product which is owned and operated in the USA, by wrestling legend Booker T. The newfound production values of APAC can be seen in the carefully curated video packages of their top talent, as the journey towards having a seat at the table of mainstream acceptability continues. In a moment of high significance, the company recently lobbied the government, and professional wrestling is now listed as an ‘official’ sport in Malaysia, which now allows it access to grants, facilities, and promotion, in a way that was never thought possible previously. Having Hannah Yeoh in attendance and participating in the event, is just another significant event in the rise of the sport in Malaysia, and it’s another commendable step in the right direction.

Beyond the hard work and dedication from the company, is the passion, loyalty, and enthusiasm of the ‘APAC Army’, the fans who have been attending professional wrestling shows in Malaysia for years. Once again, they flocked to another sold out event, and played an equally important part in the product, with their full participation. The crowd was on fire throughout the whole show (which was an ideal length of a 5-match billing, all killer and no filler), full of reactions, cheering, chanting, and banter – all traits of a successful event. The feelings of joy and laughter permeated throughout the event, and it was testament as to why I and hundreds of others across the country, love to experience wrestling live in it’s purest form. Even the two guests I brought along to experience their first ever live wrestling show, left with a newfound appreciation and love for the sport.   

The future looks bright for professional wrestling in Malaysia, and for the growth of APAC. It’s great that there is now a working relationship with government agencies, promotions that support bringing in & showcasing wrestling talent from overseas, and that the audience is continuing to grow. Search for ‘APAC Wrestling’, and ‘MYPW’ on all your usual internet & social media channels to find out more.