“Simple words in simple chords, make something beautiful”

They should use a different promo picture. This one's getting too old

So this has been pretty much long overdue. Too many reasons for that delay (procrastination skills included), plus I was still suffering from the post-gig syndrome even two weeks after all the craziness happened.

I couldn’t go for the Noise Talks interview she was at the day before, which made me even more determined to go for the one at Stereolab.

This post may or may not interest some people, but bottom line is – if you have never heard a Zee Avi tune, please crawl out from under your Godforsaken rock, right now.

The video wasn’t taken by me; that was too impossible a feat considering the obstruction of people I was faced with throughout the set.

We’d waited in line for more than an hour, during which the gig had already started. Blame that on Stereolab’s unsatisfactory queue management – they had one long line for ticket holders & one other long line for non-ticket holders (self included) and although priority was given to ticket holders at first, there was still a snake of people with tickets waiting to be let in when I stepped into the club.

Yes, people were still complaining once they got into the club.

Bless the guy with the DSLR who was recording the gig on video; it made a makeshift screen for me & the few people around me who were tiptoeing in vain

So I squeezed through the throngs of people who stank of stale beer & sweat, just so I could get a decent view, but ended up behind a tall guy with a Fedora hat, who was standing behind another guy with a Fedora hat. And the first guy really reeked of sweat.

It also annoyed me that people just wouldn’t stop chattering, throughout the set. I found that inconsiderate, especially so when I was caught in between people who were chatting to each other at high volumes so they could be heard over Zee’s voice.

Closing the set with her rendition of "First of The Gang to Die" by Morrissey

I wouldn’t say that the acoustics at Stereolab were terrible, because Zee still sounded amazing live. Flawless, if I daresay that. She is one singer whose live vocal quality is as perfect, if not better, as her recording vocal quality.

But no, Stereolab’s acoustics were definitely not that good, either.

One main reason why I prefer going to smaller gigs than large concerts – everything seems more personal. Especially so if it’s a solo singer. Zee really connected with the audience, not only with her witty banter, but with her singing.

After a while it didn’t really matter that the crowd was too noisy, because at some points it felt like I could shut everyone else out, and only hear her voice.

The set list, which Shameen desperately wanted to take home, if not for the bouncer & the crew guys who stopped her from grabbing it off the stage

We’d came in midway through “Slow Hands”, a cover of Interpol, but that meant that I got to listen to “The Traveller” in full, a song she’s only played live at her gigs and one of my favorites.

Honestly, the set was much too short. We went in at around 8.45pm & I think the whole thing was over by around 9.30 – 9.40pm? I mean, even though I was dying of exhaustion from work & my nose was about to explode from all the weird crowd smells, I was disappointed that she only did one song for her encore. Plus she didn’t even play “Monte”, another of my favorites.

But her rendition of “Date With The Night” by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was brilliant, and “Madness” is another song I really hope she’d release on her sophomore album.

(Her cover of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Noise Pop 2010, in San Francisco)

There was a bit of a confusion about the meet & greet session; I didn’t even know there was one, I was literally just winging it by bringing another card I had made for her in hopes of passing it to her.. or someone from her crew. But then at the end of her set, she’d mentioned about meeting the crowd at the Merchandise section, so we cleared out with the crowd in search for it.

One thing about Stereolab’s servers, though: they are really clueless.

Asked them if we could get a free drink with our tag (cos we had no ticket), and they didn’t know. Asked them if there was a meet & greet with Zee, and they didn’t know. Asked them where the merchandise table was, and all I got was a blank face.

Added to that, the bouncers & one of the organizers literally told me that the greet session was before the gig, and that there was none after this. So at this point of time, Shameen & I were exhausted, our throats were parched cos we couldn’t get a drink, and our hopes of meeting her were thrashed.

Lucky for me, I decided to take a fag & just wait it out. For some reason, we decided to wait it out. Which was a brilliant move, because 20 minutes later.. Zee popped out from nowhere.

Shameen, with Zee Avi

It was a while before it came to our turn to meet her, but it was all so worth it. I was jittery with nerves while waiting – I wasn’t expecting her to remember me or anything, but at the back of my head I was hoping for a glimpse of recognition from her? I just knew that if she did remember me, I was expecting myself to pass out. Or something.

So imagine how way off base I was thrown when she went “Oh I remember you – Nurul!” rather matter-of-factly, before I could open my mouth to say “Hi.” To this day, I’m remarkably surprised with myself for not fainting.

But that didn’t mean I wasn’t speechless; I lost all sense of words at that moment, which almost never happens. Ever. All I remember saying was “Are you freaking serious?” to whatever she had to say – that she remembered me from Timbre & Movida, that she remembered I was the one who was let into the Timbre gig even though I had no ticket, that she still has my card & that it’s one of the three that she placed on the bedroom dresser in her NYC apartment.

I had to contain my nerves & excitement when this photo was being taken

Sweet Lord. If I hadn’t had Shameen next to me, I think I would’ve collapsed from awe, or something of the like.

The only conversation Zee & I had that wasn’t about her (or when I said more than “are you freaking serious”) was about my hair, and that she loved it, and I told her I loved the way her hair was so voluminous so she tipped me that it was all about the teasing, etc..

I think, in a way, I’m actually pretty proud to say that I had a mini conversation with Zee Avi about hair & our love for it.

I’d made sure to ask what time her flight was the next day to Malaysia (after getting a tight grip on my nerves), so when she said 6.30am, I was all set on going. The last time I did that kinda thing was for Jason Mraz, and for Zee Avi, I didn’t think waking up at 5.30am was a big deal.

I failed to mention this to anyone whom I’ve related this night to, & aside from Shameen who was actually with me when this happened, no one else knows (until this second) that I had to stop walking like, twice, on the way back from Stereolab & had to crouch on the side of the road cos I was just near hysterical & trembling from how awesome the night had been.

Shameen, of course, was also squealing – partially cos of what had just gone down 5 minutes ago, and partially cos she’d never seen me in the state I was in before.

Needless to say, I overslept a bit the next morning & the entire drive to the airport found me squirming in my seat cos I was so afraid we were late, despite Shameen’s reassurances. We reached at 7.10am, ran from the parking lot to the departure hall, and I think I literally let out a huge sigh of relief when we spotted her still in the check-in queue.

She looked pleasantly surprised to see us, or maybe she was just surprised that we showed up. We caught up with her before she went to the transit area with her band, and they all looked tired as hell but somehow they managed to emanate vibes of cheeriness, especially Zee. Or, I could have just been biased when I made that assumption.

I’ve probably repeated this one too many times to one too many people, but the following scenario which took place was like, the icing on top of the cake:

After she kindly autographed some of our stuff & chatted a bit, we bade our goodbyes to the four of them while they walked off. So we were about to head the other way as well, when Zee turned around & asked if I’d given her my e-mail. Honest to God, that thought hadn’t occurred to me; all I gave her was my Twitter account, though now that I think about it.. that was pretty useless.

So anyway, I told her that I hadn’t written down my e-mail in the card, and her response to this nearly threw me off my feet – “I’ll follow you on Twitter so you can DM me your e-mail address, & I’ll let you guys know the next time I’m coming. Undermysombrero, right?”

Jesus H. Christ. I would’ve fallen over if Shameen wasn’t right next to me.

Right, so that was that. The highlight of my March, possibly the highlight of my year, so far. I haven’t actually blogged anything this detailed on this WordPress, but this.. 11 hour excitement was an experience that I wouldn’t want to forget even a minute of, years down the road. Or even months from now, considering how short-term my memory span really is.

Some called me obsessed (especially so after hearing of my reaction when Zee actually did respond to me on Twitter & then followed my account), others said this was a phase. I’m not sure what sparked my whole.. craziness over Zee Avi, but this girl is too talented to be missed, by anyone. And somehow she feels more real than any other artiste whose songs have hit home for me, or who’ve been on repeat on my iPod for days.

One thing about her is that she isn’t diva-esque, despite her Youtube breakthrough & her rising fame. I guess it also helped that she’s originally from Miri; having lived in Kuching before, I’d initially thought it really must’ve been a big deal for her to move to KL from her hometown, get discovered online & then move to the States to live her dreams.

It’s also not every day you find an artist you idolize, who remembers you the third time you meet them. Who knows which song really tugged on your heartstrings. Who keeps their word to their fans, especially when it’s a personal act such as following you on Twitter.

And her songs; I’ve found myself playing her tunes as the soundtracks of some really personal real-life situations of mine, time & again.

Aptly put by Shameen, “Zee Avi to you, is like Rachel Yamagata to me.” Yes, that pretty much sums it up.

(“The Traveller” from her first gig in Singapore last year, at Timbre)

This may possibly be the only post with this much.. concurrent details of a single event, & the next time Zee Avi comes down? Hell yeah, I’ll be there for the fourth, the fifth and the nth time.



13 thoughts on ““Simple words in simple chords, make something beautiful”

  1. I was looking for pics of Zee when I stumbled onto your website. Like you, I too was at Stereolab that night for her concert. Made damn sure I got my tix the day sales started. Goodness she’s my fav singer so to have actually met her, words can’t describe it really. I took pics with her and got her autograph too. We met the day before at SMU, and she remembered me from that. It was a bloody amazing experience, and now after reading your blog I’m feeling rather hopeless that you went to such extend just to see her off at the airport and I didn’t. I could prolly blame in on NS(had to book in camp the next day), but still, I’m feeling horrid. And to have her follow your acc, goodness I should just shoot myself. I hope you get this, email me if you do πŸ™‚

  2. Nice to hear about your Zee experience! She truly is a gem. I truly kicked myself for missing her SMU gig but I really couldn’t get off work for it, ugh. I can’t wait for the release of her sophomore album and her next visit to Singapore! I’m hoping she stops by en route to Sarawak for holidays year end, so keep your fingers crossed!

    Gonna sound a bit lame, but – yay, I found another hardcore Zee fan! πŸ™‚


  3. Yes she truly is a gem. Well you made up for it by sending her off. I felt horrid when you mentioned it. Yeah I can’t wait for her new album, I hope she includes The Traveler in it, it’s such a beautiful song. Yes yes, goodness I can’t wait to see her again, might even fly off to the States just for it!

    Haha, I’m extremely glad I found this blog. Didn’t know there’s someone else who’s as crazy abt her. πŸ˜‰
    What’s your favourite song by her?

  4. My favorite would be The Traveler! Pity she only plays it live and didn’t include it in the album. It might sound cliched but it’s true when I say that a handful of her songs were the soundtrack of my life from August last year to a bit more than 2 months ago.

    I was supposed to go to the Rainforest Music Festival in Kuching in July this year but couldn’t. Was really annoyed at myself when I saw photos of her in Kuching which my friend took with her, and they were in one of my hangout spots there! Grr.

    Oh my God, if you fly to the States just to see her I would go crazy! Please pack me in a surfboard bag and bring me along? πŸ˜€

  5. Haha yes raveler is a very nice song. I’d prolly choose Monte or Honey Bee, although First of the Gang is in contention too. Well isn’t it nice when what you’re goin through is translated into music? I feel Monte describes me and what I’ve been goin through, too.

    Aww that’s such a pity I know how it feels. I didn’t know about the Rainforest Fest, but if I knew I’d prolly have gone. You’re from Malaysia?

    Hahaha, I’d prolly have to get a bigger surfboard bag to fit you in, but it’s worth the squeeze huh? Haha, I’d really love to see her in the States man.

  6. Ah yes, Monte – the first song of hers that I loved. That had a more personal touch for me as well.

    I’m not from Malaysia, but I lived in Kuching for awhile before. Probably also why I got excited when Zee broke out big into the music scene! Haha you should definitely check out the Rainforest Fest; happens every July. Major weekend party.

    I should hope I can fit into a surfboard bag! :/ Though I’d probably get muscle cramps from a long-haul flight in one. Haha. I’d love to visit Brooklyn sometime and attend her gigs every now & then. How I wish I wasn’t stuck here..

  7. The first song I fell in love with was Let Me In. Loved the mellow-ness of it. Monte has to be alongside Honey Bee as the best for me now, because of the meaning it holds. I read somewhere that Honey Bee is about Zee and her difficult past trying to fit in with people who looked at her differently. I’m not sure how true it is, but it’s definitely something I can relate to. And it was beautifully composed.

    Oh cool, haha I sound like a caveman not knowing what’s happening on the outside world. Perhaps we could head there when the fest starts next year? πŸ™‚

    Haha you definitely could, I was just worried about the “comfort” you’d have lying with literally, something as still as kayu. lol. Yeah it’ll be lovely to do that. Oh, so I’ve found someone who feels the same about this place as me? Nicee.

  8. I hope so! About the Rainfest thing, I mean. For the past 2 years I’ve been telling my friends there that I’ll be coming but end up cancelling at the last minute. Ugh. But since now I know Zee might go again, I might just make it fit!

    Okay, stalker part aside..

    Singapore is my home, but definitely not a place I would like to live in long time and permanently. It’s a continuous nightmare, trying to keep up with the pace and working standards. Not to mention the rising cost of living standards as well. And the crowds.. don’t even get me started on that. The moment I can score a job some place far away from here (like Alaska or Europe), I’m definitely on the first plane there!

    Or y’know.. just live like a hobo and backpack around. But I should stop being too idealistic. Hahaha.

  9. I’ll definitely go if Zee’s there, for sure.

    Yeah SG’s my home too, but I’m hating this place more and more. I’ve really opened my eyes to see a horrid place here, all thanks to NS. Really, taking 2 years of someone’s life is a sin. I can’t take the lifestyle here, as you mentioned it’s too fast too hectic and too expensive. I need my time most, and in SG you hardly have it, unless you’re a millionaire’s kid.

    OH COOL I totally love Alaska man, seriously. I wanna go there when I get to the States, thinking of a roadtrip there, it’s gonna be damn fun.

    Hahaha, hobo. Nah it’s not wrong, but eventually we need to find means for survival. I’m definitely going to the States though, I’m really interested in settling there.

  10. I hope your dreams of moving out of here comes true! πŸ˜€ That makes one of us, who’d be eternally happy to get away from this place.

    I can’t share your sentiments about NS, but I do pity the fact that 2 years of your life was stolen away. Then again, after much debate (& being the Aunt Agony for my guy friends) I guess there’s the pros & cons of it? I mean, if I were a dude and I was stuck in a rut on what to do next in life, I would actually welcome the 2 years of serving my nation. Well, not welcome per se, but it beats bumming around being jobless? Haha

    BTW, I posted Zee’s latest single in my recent post. I can’t wait for her sophomore record!

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