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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.