Rockers of Sabah came out in droves for ROCKNEO 18, the first of hopefully more concerts from Bornaya Events.
Over 500 people showed up at Drum Asia Live last weekend for ROCKNEO ’18. The anticipation in the crowd was palpable long before the first strum of a guitar. Weaving through the excited crowd adorned in band tees and worn-out Converse sneakers, it hit me: this was the first time that the rock scene in Sabah had gotten such a large platform to express itself.
But before we get into that, let’s get into the reason why we’re all here…
Buzzing Joker is a four-man, suede indie post-rock band from Keningau that has been together since 2002. The band consists of Atan on vocals and guitar, Robert on bass, Le on guitar, and Dul on drums. Their music is heavily influenced by Weezer, something clearly audible in their performance that night.
Their opening song, Radio, was upbeat—as was most of their set—and was what set the tone for the rest of ROCKNEO ’18. Buzzing Joker’s set as a whole was lively, danceable, and got people’s legs twitching to their catchy melodies, making for the perfect opener.
So much so that by the end of their set, the crowd was demanding for an encore, to which the band happily obliged.
First coming together in 2009 as an act for their college’s annual acoustic night, Keningau locals Taqie and Jano were not thinking long-term. But due to an unexpected outpouring of support from friends and lecturers following their performance, they realised they’d struck something special.
Credit: Bornaya Events
Suistereo explores the alternative and lo-fi indie rock genres, with both members sharing vocals and guitar. And from the start of their opening song, I already knew I had a favourite of the night. They have a distinct sound, similar to The Strokes in style and melody.
Since ROCKNEO ’18, songs like On the Top of the Mountain and Dreams have stuck in my head and got me scouring YouTube for more.
Me Gusta!! (with two exclamation points and no less) first started out in 2011 as a three-piece band. But in the years that have passed, they have since added a new member to the band. With Darryl on vocals and guitar, Vitalian on drums, Azmi on guitar, and Eldon on bass, together they dabble in the alternative and indie rock genres.
The four stood out among the rest for a few reasons, the obvious one being their predisposition towards punctuation. Another unique quality is how all four members more or less share the role of vocals. Me Gusta!! also set themselves apart with their guitar and bass solos, showing amazing technical prowess.
Their song Ginger Snaps and their cover of a-ha’s Take On Me were some of the more memorable parts of their set that night.
With influences from Abandoned By Bears, A Day To Remember and Fall Out Boy, Chugs On Deck blends early 2000s pop punk and hardcore metal to give you easycore tunes fit for the mosh pit! A five-man outfit consisting of Eyon on vocals, Calvin and Jordan on guitar, Rafi on drums, and Bobby on bass, the five have been together since 2014.
Credit: Bornaya Events
Chugs On Deck wins the award for Biggest Personality of ROCKNEO ’18. Despite some unfortunate technical difficulties hampering their set at its start, they powered through with ease. They seamlessly maintained the crowd’s enthusiasm, amidst what would have otherwise been an awkward few minutes of standing around and avoiding eye contact.
Shoutout to their drummer Rafi for stealing the show and showing true mastery of his given talent. If you’re into easycore, check out Superhero In Love and their new song, Abolisi. I promise you won’t regret it!
If Chugs On Deck wins Biggest Personality, then KK-based The Jethroés definitely win for Biggest Style. Decked in leather and all black, the four-man hard rock ensemble came to make a statement.
The band—formerly known as The Retrock—was formed in 2006 but only vocalist Surianto and guitarist Ridhwan remain from the original lineup. Now, they are joined by Jailani on bass and Agus on drums. Together, their musical style ranges across multiple genres from psychedelic rock to more bluesy influences. But the genre they most identify with is hard rock.
To get an idea of how wide-ranging their music is, their performance that night included a violin as well! Their sound is decidedly heavier than the bands that came before them that night. The Jethroés, it seems, is not for the weak of heart. Some of their songs from that night include Caravan Dream and Mork Eid.
The much anticipated final act of the night is a band that has withstood the trickiest test of all: time. B.O.I.L. (short for ‘Beyond Our Imagined Lives’) has stayed together through the 90s grunge era, the early 2000s pop punk uprise, and the current electronic trend, only to stay unfalteringly true to their post-grunge roots.
Based in KK and founded in 1996, B.O.I.L. currently has multiple members but only three full-time ones: Bartholomew on vocals and guitar, Eric on bass and Baba on drums. The band cites Nirvana as their biggest influence, but also takes inspiration from 90s grunge powerhouses, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
Despite extended technical difficulties at the beginning of their set, the crowd did not disperse. Many of them waited the whole night for this, they weren’t going to bail out now. Their setlist included favourites like Dirty and I Won’t Bow, as well as a sick cover of the classic Nirvana song, Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Good music aside, the true magic of ROCKNEO ’18 was the audience it attracted. The enthusiasm in the crowd that night is testament to something much bigger than a few guys with instruments onstage.
It speaks of a deep-seated underbelly of unrest present among Sabahans, an underbelly otherwise unseen among the warm-natured and seemingly unbothered community we have long made ourselves out to be. It stands as proof of a burgeoning need for more events like this here in our homeland.
Seeing the crowd that night, some decked out in merch tees from the performers themselves, it occurred to me that Sabahans are hungry. They’re hungry for much more than they wish to say out loud. Bornaya Events heard that silent yearnings and served it up in a pretty, seaside package, and they should be commended for that.
Here’s to more events like this from Bornaya Events, and to more opportunities to delve deeper into the whispered wants of our local community.