The Final Countdown: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from GBoB Finals in KL
It promised to be a great night, 17 awesome bands from around the world (Jindabaad from Nepal didn’t make it) including our own Amazing Insurance Salesmen, plus a special performance from last year’s winners Rustic. I had hoped to live blog the event, but the crappy local 3G service sucked my battery dry in around an hour, so here’s a wrap up of what happened …
Let’s start with THE GOOD
The music! Here’s what I thought of the 17 bands who played …
The top 6 (according to the judges)
The winners Dubtonic Kru from Jamaica
Congratulations! But I have to say, I really don’t get why these guys won. Sure they’re great at what they do, but they’re coming from a country full of great reggae bands. I guess I was expecting something different from them, some way of going beyond what we know about reggae. They were a fun band and put in a great performance, but they weren’t in my top 6.
In 2nd place – Salvador from Russia
I missed thees guys when I was backstage, as they were drowned out by the Jamaican hand drummer warming up. When I checked out the GBoB website before the show they were actually the only band whose music I turned off before listening to it all, so I wasn’t disappointed to have missed them. Going by Chris B’s impression they were strange, and not in a good way! The judges must have liked it though …
In 3rd place – Shenaniganz from Germany
From the name you’d think they were a boy-band, and you wouldn’t quite be wrong on that assumption. These guys started off in high school, winning school battle of the bands titles. Had the judges been 15 year old girls they would have won, especially after one of the boys ended their second song by stage diving into the crowd. They were high energy rock, but not my style. And they also seemed to miss the memo about no swearing!
In 4th place – Sonsteek from South Africa
The band with the ginger clones! (one of them below) I liked these guys, good alt. rock, singing in Afrikaans, great stage presence. They were a solid act, again nothing hugely individual about their sound, but still in my option deserving of the place they got.
In 5th place – White Walls from Romania
These guys delivered an awesome hard-core punk/metal performance! The lead singer’s voice was impressive, not quite at the scale of Serg Tankian, but definitely up there. His constant anti-clockwise pacing around the stage was distracting though. I loved their music and agree they deserved to be in the top 6!
In 6th place – Nope from Morocco
These guys were in mine and many others’ top three so it was huge shock to everyone when they were announced as sixth! They may be young, but they know how to work the crowd. With two lead singers, one in a red cape and hood, the other in a kilt and one boxing glove, they held the crowds attention from the second they came on stage. My only criticism is that the show the singers put on possibly detracted a little too much from the music itself and I’m not sure how it would come across recorded. But I loved their performance and will be keeping an eye out for more from them.
And those who were equally great (if not better!) but didn’t get the judges nod of approval.
Amazing Insurance Salesmen from China
The Beijing boys came on third and they were on fire! Giving the crowd one of their awesome tighter than tight performances we’re used to. For me they were one of the few bands there that were doing something different from the run of the mill alt rock/punk/metal of the majority of bands. I heard a few people on the crowd saying they were technically the best musicians of the night, so I’m really not sure why they were overlooked by the judges!
Experienced from Belgium
Thia band has been together for around 10 years and they showed it. Great stage presence, the singer not only looked, but also sounded a lot like Axel Rose, a really tight band and fun to watch. They may have lost some points for swearing their way through the set though!
The River Raid from Brasil
The MC read out these guys achievements and it seemed as though they’ve won almost everything possible, awards for their music, lyrics and performances, playing with International touring acts etc. Chris B & I were asking each other how a band that’s done so well could not be signed? And then they started to play and we realised why. They sounded like every other alt rock band coming out of the US. No big hooks, nothing different to make you go wow. After half a song we were both a little bored!
Voodoo Vanity from Norway
These guys were a crowd favourite! High energy rock’n’roll with a glam rock twist. The boys were all looking extremely feminine with their long hair and eye makeup. They seemed to have a lot of fans amongst the local girls, but obviously not the older male judges.
Scarlletta from United Kingdom
Sorry, Scarletta are really not my thing, but I heard others in the crowd saying they liked them though – so each to their own! The lead singer looked like Lady Gaga and sang like Lily Allen, if you like pop-rock then check them out.
Magua from Ukraine
Magua were in Chris B’s top three. A three-piece consisting of a drummer, a guitarist and a green faced bass/singer/harmonica player! I thought the harmonica was a good idea, definitely something different, but it just didn’t seem to fit with the music. Another band I want to hear more from!
Luminasion from Thailand
These guys drew the short straw and were up first (well, after Rustic!) They were ok, good performers, included a cool piano guitar. The lead guitarist stole the show for them after a small technical hitch with his guitar in between songs. He’s supposedly the top guitarist in Thailand.
The Tillegra Damned from Australia
I liked these guys a lot! They were in my top three just from their track on the website alone. Chatting with the drummer afterwards I was surprized to find out they’ve only been together since July and their first live show was the GBoB heat! I loved that they have a classical pianist as part of their punk act, it was just a shame that the sound on his mic and keyboard weren’t up a little higher as he got a little drowned out by the rest of the band.
ExNN from Moldova
The lead singer Gala grabbed everyone’s attention when she walked out in a gorgeous corset, long skirt and purple velvet sleeves. From where I was standing her mic was too quiet so we couldn’t hear the power of her voice. Listening to the tracks on the GBoB website she has a very Amy Lee-esque sound which would have been great to hear live.
Bombers from Malaysia
Hometown boys Bombers put on a fun set! Musically they’re not my thing, but they interacted amazingly with the crowd and the lead singer is a pretty good break dancer! They were one of the few bands to sing in their own language Malay instead of English. I thought they had a chance to win based on being the local boys and their awesome personalities on and off stage, but unfortunately the judges didn’t think the same.
Strangers from Indonesia
I missed these guys as well – (it was a looong night!) From what I heard from others, like the other bands deserving to win their national finals, but not up there in terms of winning the world final. Although they seem to have a huge following on Twitter saying they were the best on the night!
And then comes THE BAD
The MCs – both locals, Rina Omar & Steven Northcott. Rena spoke at full speed with a really high pitched voice making it almost impossible for the bands who didn’t speak English as their first language to understand her. The post-set interview with Moldovan band ExNN being the worst in which she got faster and faster with each question and left the band looking at each other wondering what she was saying. Even I was struggling to understand her at points.
Steven had one of those annoying American sports calling accents. He was in charge over introducing each band and was making it sound like he was introducing boxers at a prize fight – “The red corner from Brasil we have The River Raid, with 5 award wins … ” Highlight of the night – when JS started introducing AIS himself, Steven gave up and told him to keep going because he was doing it better!
The judges – there were four judges, Geir Waade, Kee Marcello (from 80’s band Europe), Gerry Helders & GBOB CEO Tore Lande. I stood beside them at one point and all four of them looked bored and disinterested in what they were listening to.
But what were they thinking, well, no-one knows! When they announced the 5 runners up and winner there was no explanation at all of why these bands won, they basically just stood there and read out 6 band names. And they were 6 bands that the crowd didn’t expect to hear, so there was a lot of jaws dropping as the names were read out.
Just before the results were announced Kee Marcello was joined on stage by some local musicians for a rendition of Europe’s 1986 hit song “The Final Countdown“.
Last but not least THE UGLY
The venue – have a look at it, it appears to be a construction site and it is! Not easy to find, and when you do find it, not easy to work out how to get inside. The show was supposed to start at 7, but we were stuck outside in the hot sticky Malaysian air until just before 8.
The bar prices – at RB10 (RMB22) for a plastic cup of beer or (fake?) chivas & coke it was overpriced! But the bar staff were friendly & spoke Chinese which helps when you forget where you are and ask for “liang bei pijiu“!
The sponsorship – The event was sponsored by a company called Elevate, but nowhere was it mentioned what Elevate was. Everyone HAD to fill in a form to get into the venue: name, phone, address, ID or passport (WTF?) and answer two questions – are you a smoker and what are your two favourite brands of cigarettes. No form, no entry, and no explanation of what they wanted this information for! I actually assumed Elevate might have been something to do with quitting smoking at that point.
The whole way through the show the MCs were saying “Find the girls in blue and buy something from them for RM8 – you’ll get into the VIP area and an entry on the draw to win one of 3 guitars” At no time did they mention what the girls in blue were selling – Elevate cigarettes! Encouraging people to buy cigarettes to win a guitar in my opinion (even as a smoker) is just plain ugly!
But to end on a good note
I’m gonna go back to the music – it was great, in my opinon there were no losers, all 17 bands really did play their hearts out and they all deserved to be there. Especially our China representatives Amazing Insurance Salesmen, they did Beijing and China proud! While they might not have been exactly what the judges were looking for they gained many new fans outside of China and that can only lead to more international recognition for them and all the hard work they’re put in over the last year. Good news for us is that they’re also ready to release an EP very soon, so we can welcome them home by coming out to support them and buy their amazing debut album.
And there was also a rumour running around that next year’s GBoB Final will be in BD’s hometown Casablanca, Morocco!