I could not have dreamed before coming to Kuala Lumpur last week that I would have had such a musically and personally rich experience in just six days in Malaysia. Retrospectively, the signs were perhaps there: I had lined up in advance a gig and a half-hour slot at an open mic, starting on the first day of arrival. The rest was a matter of serendipity, synchronicity, and pushing the limits.
It turned out that the day I chose to play Laila’s Cafe open mic was also the first day in a year that a friend of one of its organizers decided to drop by to check it out. This was Edmund Anthony, the man who runs the music program at the famous Backyard Pub & Grill in KL. So we met, he liked my singing, and he invited me to check out the Backyard on Friday. That in turn led to an invitation to me to play a solo act there last night, as he has solo performers early in the week, building up to full-fledged bands later on.
So it was that I ended up playing not only Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (the latter thanks to the Melbourne open mic organizer, Emily Brown’s research on where else I could play in KL, but I also got to play this nice little gig at the KL landmark Backyard Pub & Grill. This was also thanks to the kindness of Mark Renesh, who is the regular Monday night musician at the Backyard. He not only let me play from 9:30 onwards for about 45 minutes, but he later invited me up to play a couple of songs with him – “Stand By Me” and “Unchained Melody.”
Mark Renesh is a very cool dude with a voice that you think you are hallucinating with when you hear it and see him singing and you wonder where the hell it’s coming from. It’s his, all right. But Mark, who has always worked solo, has developed the one-man solo gig into an art of technological proportions I have yet to see beaten. That is, I’ve recently started using a vocal harmonizing device occasionally at my brunch, and Stephen “Danger” Prescott uses one at the Galway open mic in Paris. Other musicians, like Thomas Brun at the Highlander’s open mic, have a lot of looping and fuzz type of gadgets too. But Mark has a lot of stuff he pre-records, including rhythm devices, vocal harmonies, and I think other guitars. The whole is like a one man band, and very impressive.
Moreover, Mark has a fabulous voice that very frequently does an exact rendition of the cover songs he sings. Very unusual.
Another thing that made the even fabulous was that I actually had three of my best friends among Formula One journalists come along to dine with me and listen to my concert. Well, I say “dine,” but it took a couple of them quite a while to find the Backyard, as they ended up driving around KL about three times before finding it. And I was extremely honored to have come around to listen to me as well, one of my favorite former Formula One racing drivers, the local Malaysian boy, Alex Yoong, who is currently head of driver development at Team Lotus. Having the Malaysian come and hear me play on his home turf was sensational. Alex is also doing television racing commentary here, and still doing a little bit of racing – like GT3 last year. Just realized I first wrote about Alex Yoong way, way back in 1999.
In any case, the evening was fabulous, it was a privilege to play at this KL landmark music joint, and I enjoyed my set thoroughly – playing my usual mix of my own songs and cover songs.
April 13, 2011 at 7:38 am
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April 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm
I’ve just moved back to Malaysia from Paris and had been reading quite a few of your articles on Open Mics in Paris prior to moving back home…. imagine my surprise when I knew you were playing in Laila’s – my family home is just 10 minutes away!
I evtl. went to the open mic in the Galway on Mondays thanks to the info on your blog. Liked Stephen Prescott’s performance, and atmosphere was nice too except that not many people seemed to be paying much attention to the performers really.
Bummed I missed your performance in Laila’s as I was still in Paris, but hope to see you in Malaysia again in the near future.
April 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm
Shar, that is really cool! Hearing stuff like this just makes this blog so worth it, not that I question why I’m doing it. But that is just extra incentive.
That must have been pretty weird, all right! Well, now I’m in Shanghai, and I’m finding it a “small world” here too. But I still have the afterglow of Kuala Lumpur working my veins.
Yes, if I do it again next year, please make yourself known…!
April 20, 2011 at 9:40 am
HEY BRAD..MIGHTY FLATTERING..ENJOYED OUR LITTLE JAM AS WELL..I MUST SAY ITS MUSICIANS LIKE YOU THAT HELP BRING ME BACK TO REALITY, WHICH HAS TO BE THAT EVERY SINGER/MUSICIAN WOrks TOWARD THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF COMPOSING & RECORDING ORIGINALS..I’VE SPENT THE LAST 17YRS LETTING THAT SLIP AWAY…THANKS FOR THE MUSIC MAN.. Catcy choruses hahaha need those! till we meet again. got some stuff on the youtube- mark renesh
April 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm
Hi Mark, thanks very much. And now that I am back in Paris and I have a faster internet connection, I have put up a couple of videos of the evening – I liked the Piano Man one in particular. Also the Elton John song you did, which I recorded too – but I didn’t want to put the whole thing up….
It’s interesting what you say about not writing originals. I wouldn’t worry about that much, it will come to you when you need it, probably; I went longer than 17 years without writing originals. Or rather, I kept on trying to write “Bob Dylan”-like songs, and I could never get to the end of the complicated things. Then suddenly I decided I would do the simplest song possible, just to get to the end of it – and that worked. And then I wrote one after another!