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Indie promoter to bring Japanese-American musician Mitski to town

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, February 18, 2019  /  07:01 pm
Indie promoter to bring Japanese-American musician Mitski to town

On the roll: Japanese-American musician Mitski is touring the world, including a visit to Jakarta on Feb. 20 for a show at the Rossi concert venue in South Jakarta. (Agence France-Presse/Angela Weiss)

Japanese-American musician Mitski is on a roll.

Her fifth and latest record, Be The Cowboy, was one of 2018's most critically acclaimed and she is now touring the world, including a visit to Jakarta on Feb. 20 for a show at the Rossi concert venue in South Jakarta.

Known for her emotional lyricism and creative arrangements, Mitski's shows have also garnered praise for their intensity.

She self-released her first two albums before finding wider recognition in the independent scene with her third album, 2014's Bury Me At Makeout Crowd. Beginning with a more rock-based sound, Mitski's music has developed into incorporating other musical elements.

It may look like just another indie-rock concert put on for the hip crowd, but there's more going on behind the scenes.

The show is organized by Noisewhore, the independent collective that has become arguably the most notable concert organizer of its kind with recent shows by other indie luminaries Snail Mail and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Noisewhore founders Argia Adhidhanendra and Kareem Soenharjo began as music fans whose only goal was to put on shows for bands they would actually watch themselves. The decision making involved in who they would bring down here depends heavily on what they are personally geeking about at that moment.

“It all boils down to what I listen to every day,” says Argia, who says that because of their increasing presence, Kareem and himself are often contacted by booking agents offering their artists who are touring the region. Those tours are often “more practical from a financial and logistical standpoint”, he says, but it doesn't always mean that he and Kareem get the artists that they actually want to see. Oftentimes, they put on gigs by artists they admire without knowing if they have much draw here.

“The reasoning is: if we don’t do it, who would do it? This is often the tiebreaker in our meetings. We’re often at a standstill at a meeting, usually it doesn’t make any [financial or logistical] sense to put out a show for an act but [...] if we pass on this opportunity, no one will put out a show for them and we’re dying to see them live,” says Argia.

When the stars align, however, Noisewhore lucks out. Mitski will indeed be touring Malaysia and Singapore between her Indonesian date, and it just so happens that both Argia and Kareem are big fans.

And thus Mitski's Jakarta show was decided. Having sold around 200 tickets so far, the promoters still get surprised by messages from fans who are worried that the show will be sold out considering the intimate size of Rossi.

“Someone asked me to move the Mistki show to a bigger venue, telling me that the Rossi is kind of dirty I guess?” Argia half-laughs.

For Noisewhore to continue doing what it loves, it will have to learn that it will always be hard to manage some people’s expectation.

“I guess it’s because we’re somewhere in the middle, we’re not putting out shows for obscure bands but we also don’t put out shows for big names and with that comes financial constraints because we have to find a balance, we can’t scale down too drastically or we can’t be posh because then we’ll go bankrupt. That kind of thing,” Argia says.

Both the Noisewhore founders and their team are all in agreement that the 200 tickets sold so far for the Mitski show means success on all accounts. The whole team simply loves Be The Cowboy. Argia even dubs it his album of the year.

“She incorporates pop in a very universal way and I get the impression that she’s self-aware of that [...] I appreciate her approach to 'sadness' in this album, it is upbeat and determined.”

The show will be opened by Jakarta musician Monica Hapsari, who aside from her solo work is also known as a member of the bands Voyagers of Icarie and Pandai Besi.

The organizers are excited about the show and plan on bring lesser-known acts to the country on a regular basis.

“I just hope we can continue doing what we love on a consistent basis. This doesn’t necessarily mean a lot more club shows like these, if it turns out that we love doing our other venture more, our zine for example, then we’ll do that,” Argia says.

“To put it simply, I just don’t want us to cave in to any expectation – like how we’re perceived as a full-fledged promotor by a lot of people, which is fine by the way, you can perceive us as anything. I started this as a passion project and will continue to do so until we close shop.” (ste)