So sudden. That night, the invitation to an Efek Rumah Kaca concert spread like wildfire on Twitter, Instagram and Line.
The news broke just a day after the band performed with their full line-up – Cholil Mahmud (guitarist/vocalist), Adrian Yunan Faisal (former bassist / vocalist), Akbar Bagus Sudibyo (drummer), ‘Poppie’ Airil Nur (current bassist) – over at the music festival Soundrenaline 2016 in Bali on Sunday, September 4, 2016.
Vocalist Cholil Mahmud and his bandmates suddenly announced that they’d be playing a concert called Tiba-Tiba Suddenly Konser at Gudang Sarinah, Pancoran, South Jakarta on Monday, September 5, before he was set to go back to the U.S.
Crowds invaded the warehouse with a container and decaying walls, making the warehouse look so uncared for. Makeshift branches were festooned with blinking lights and garish murals that added to the organic vibes of the concert.
The constant reverberating sound of the microphone didn’t deter the audience who had been sitting on the floor with no comfy chairs. Some of them elected to form a fence circling the audience standing in the front row.
Then Cholil’s guitar strum echoed in the venue; the vocalist who now resides in New York City. Applause and the faces of the audiences lit up instantly.
Efek Rumah Kaca’s legendary lyrics slipped out of his mouth. ‘Lagu Kesepian’, ‘Debu-debu Berterbangan’, ‘Melankolia’, ‘Kamar Gelap’, ‘Hujan Jangan Marah’, ‘Jalang’, ‘Banyak Asap Di Sana’, ‘Sebelah Mata’, ‘Cinta Melulu’ and of course, the most romantic of them all, ‘Desember’.
I previously thought that ‘Desember’ would be sung at the end as a way of saying goodbye, but I was wrong. ‘Desember’ came on in the middle of the setlist, between the excitement and the ferocity of the audience who, from the very beginning, had been singing along to the band.
Efek Rumah Kaca’s rhythm and melody were like a dance; they went from sounding melancholic to thumping. When they did ‘Sebelah Mata’, Cholil patted Adrian’s back. The song was written by Adrian who has been inactive in performing because of the rare disease that he’s been suffering from. The audience mustered up a huge applause for Adrian, generating a moment bursting with genuine affection.
But for two of the songs on the setlist, ‘Di Udara’ and ‘Cinta Melulu’, Efek Rumah Kaca effortlessly amped up the audience. ‘Di Udara’ gave me the shivers, since the song was written as a remembrance to Human Rights activist Munir Thalib, who died after drinking a drink laced with arsenic on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. Fittingly, Efek Rumah Kaca performed this song two days before September 7, commonly known as Black September (September Hitam)—the day to remember his murder.
There was a spirit of defiance in the lyrics that set fire to the audiences, who increasingly got louder when singing along:
"Ku bisa tenggelam di lautan (I can drown at sea)
Aku bisa diracun di udara (I can be poisoned in the air)
Aku bisa terbunuh di trotoar jalan (I can get killed on the sideways)
Tapi aku tak pernah mati (but I can never die)
Tak akan berhenti" (never stop)
Then at the end of the concert, Efek Rumah Kaca invited comedian and presenter, Ananda Omesh. He asked the audience to pray before singing the last song. They could either be tranquil or not, but they were silent, as though they’d mumbled Omesh’s prayer.
After they did ‘Cinta Melulu’, with no command, the audience stood up and approached the short stage. Omesh suddenly became a conductor – as if they had been a choir – and at the end of the song, he threw himself over them with reckless abandon. Chaos.
That night, the surprise gig managed to entertain die hard Efek Rumah Kaca fans in the capital city. Our longing was paid in full. And we all said: Safe travels to the Big Apple, Cholil!
Correction: earlier article stated that the cause of Munir's death was a 'cyanide-laced' drink, when in fact, it was an arsenic-laced drink.