Big love for the most hated band in town

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Written for Sounds from The Corner

“Selamat ulang tahun, jangan jadi tua dan menyebalkan.”

I think everyone should agree that in a gig, the word “backstage” often translated as something exclusive, secluded, or even sacred. Physically, backstage divides two worlds between audience and performer, but some people interpret this backstage thing as a separator between two worlds: the normal one and the glamorous – opulent – world of celebrities, rockstars where people drink jell-o shots, roll up joints made of dollar bills, A-circles taking selfies worth thousand likes on Instagram and so forth.

I’ve been to gigs as an audience, performer, band manager, and journalist. Realistically, most backstages are bunch of tents or rooms where you find stacks of damp Hoka-hoka Bentos and awkward Liaison Officers trying to fuck with your onstage time. The reason I mention this, the “absence of backstage” was the first thing I realised when I arrived at BSD Junction for Pee Wee Gaskins 8th anniversary gig.

Searching for the backstage and waiting room, I texted Dochi, he replied, “look for the boys near the entrance” and they were there, sitting in circle in the middle of people. Maybe I’m the one who is appallingly uninformed but I thought since Dorks – Pee Wee Gaskins fans – are super reactive towards the band members, the band is “hiding” somewhere until they’re onstage. What happened was all members of Pee Wee Gaskins were hanging out with friends and fans in the same place. “Oh, it’s their anniversary, why not,” I naively thought. I was wrong, because they are always like that.

Dochi walked me to the boys, I said hi, sat and 4 seconds later Ayi filled up used mineral water glass with Southern Comfort and said, “look for your mix” and pointed out coke and other sodas on the table. He sounded seriously chilled, and I was tempted to test out the liquor – of course. We were sitting in the middle of the crowd, no steel fence, no big bouncers, the atmosphere was just plain relaxed, hanging out and having fun.    

It’s always a double-headed sword, the relationship between a band and its fan, honed through times the loyalty that fans give to a band could be the prominent signal of progress, but often resulted in massive change of direction. Some bands are deliberately avoiding the fans, because they want to maintain the “purity of creativity”, while many of them embrace the fandom to become source of income. For me, both are fine. Once upon a time I managed a band that didn’t want to acknowledge their fans just because they thought it was not cool to value fans as part of the musical entity. It was the whole “we don’t want to put identity and limit people through our music” thing. But it’s totally a different game with these Indonesian Pop-punk troubadours.

It’s almost a love story. Once they were the talk of the town, fuelled by biased reporting by media, Social Media Tsunami and vague details resulted in identity meltdown, an ultimate antithesis called Anti Pee Wee Gaskins (APWG). These are exactly the same people with Dorks, they came to the gig, paid for the tickets, waiting for Pee Wee Gaskins to play but the only difference was they were mocking PWG throughout the set. APWG obviously hated Dorks, calling them lame publicly and on the internet sphere. Pee Wee Gaskins was antagonised, premature verdicts scattered throughout their image and attitude. Until today, people are not sure if this was reverse psychological media stunt or a purely orchestrated hatred towards a band. One thing for sure, PWG floated on the surface since then.

To stick together as a family when dubbed as the “most hated band in town” is obviously not easy, but they didn’t really bother because they were busy kicking ass onstage, not only playing gigs around the country but also raising international presence outside Indonesia, including becoming the first Indonesian band to played Summersonic in Japan. Slowly the world nods, putting the boys in the spotlight via various awards such as best Indie band, cutting edge performer, social media band and so forth. It was a long bumpy trip, but totally worth it.

“Oh man Dorks are so big nowadays,”  shouted Sansan commenting on the dorks that night while getting occupied with semi free-flow booze action. What he said was entirely true, because the Dorks are literally growing up with PWG’s music. In its eighth year, their relationship with the Dorks is getting bigger and bolder. I was amazed at their familiarity with some of the loyal Dorks that came to say hi to the band. What I witnessed was how a band could establish a real friendship with their fans. This is a band that embraces relationship with the fan, turn it into a strong force that adds value to the band. The Dorks are Pee Wee Gaskins, vice versa.

My last interaction with the boys that night was super random, I had to carry keyboardist / guitarist Omo in my shoulder to the stage ten minutes before they played just because he was dead wasted. In its seventh anniversary, Omo didn’t finish the set because he had to ran to the toilet and threw up there for almost two songs. We joked about it and I didn’t expect that it could be worse than that, until I carried him by myself to the stage that night. Omo survived through the set with odd gestures and unexpected movement, but everything else was solid.

It was a big night of celebration for the band and everyone was happy, including yours truly. It is so heartwarming to see a band survived through so many obstacles, being true to their listeners and proved the world that they are worth it. SFTC supports bands with balls, and Pee Wee Gaskins is one of the most ballsy bands in the country. Playing 100% new songs from the upcoming album, Sounds From the Corner proudly presents Pee Wee Gaskins! – Teguh Wicaksono

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