HCMC Dining Guide

Monday, March 18, 2013

My first Asian music festival

I was in Kuala Lumpur this past weekend (yes, again - my 3rd trip to KL and 2nd in a month) for the Future Music Festival. I hadn't been to a festival in several years so I was really looking forward to this, even if none of the groups playing are among my favorites. Still, when you live in the live entertainment wasteland that is Saigon you can't be picky. I went down with my Vietnamese-American buddy Tin, who also lives in Saigon, and it was...a mixed bag.

The festival was held at the F1 racetrack in Sepang, around 70km outside of the city near the airport, and for some reason the organizers hadn't arranged any shuttle bus system from the city center. All they did was plug some taxi special, which was fine for getting out to the grounds, but getting back to KL was a complete disaster. I'll get to that in a minute though.

Friday's setlist was heavy on DJ's and EDM, with the headliner being Armin Van Buuren. By the time we found a taxi to get out there it was well past dark, and traffic around the entrance was apocalyptic. For some reason our driver dropped us off on the wrong side of the site, so we ended up traipsing along the fence surrounding the festival to get to the main entrance. I felt like I was trying to illegally cross a border - it was pitch black, we were jumping over drainage ditches and struggling through tall grass in flip-flops below a barbed-wire topped fence; the deep bass from the main stage to the right combined with planes taking off from the airport to the left created a nerve-wracking soundtrack. Eventually we made it around to the front, scampered down a hill and were suddenly inside the festival. No one had checked our tickets. We had accidentally snuck right past the entrance. 

It was already after 10pm, and after seeing van Buuren perform we headed for the exits, where predatory taxi drivers were circling like sharks around a bleeding surfer. This is where the festival organizers completely let us down. There was no option but to try haggling with a driver over the long drive back into town, and since it was now approaching 2am the fares were going to be at least double. We split a cab back to Chinatown with three expats from Phnom Penh, and the damage ended up being a painful $75 total. We were pissed, and taxi fares had already cost me more than tickets to the entire damn festival.
DSLRs weren't allowed in so I left my good camera in Saigon. All pictures courtesy of my old iPhone.
The following day turned into another taxi disaster. Tin and I had been far too sober the night before, so we split a bottle of vodka and piled into a taxi around 5:30. This cost us $25 and oodles of more time. We went through the proper entrance this time and split, as we wanted to see different acts, and planned on meeting back up in a couple of hours. After seeing Rita Ora and Fun. perform I went in search of Tin, but he was nowhere to be found. I was searching for an Asian face in a sea of Asian faces. The taxis had cost so much that I wasn't even sure I would be able to afford a ride back into the city, and simply buying a water took some deliberation. 

I was exhausted since I had only slept for about 5 hours the night before, but I couldn't find Tin so I checked out Bloc Party and the Prodigy. All of the music was good but I was wiped out. One very entertaining aspect of the festival was the crowd - they had great energy, but many people had obviously never been to a concert before. Whenever a sound technician came out in between sets to check a guitar or a drum the crowd would erupt as if they actual band was about to start. Gotta give them points for enthusiasm. Once 2am passed I could barely even stand, so I sat down on a stack of shipping pallets near the meeting point Tin and I had set on Friday and hoped he would appear.

Eventually he did. It turned out he had been looking for me for hours as well, though part of that was spent passed out on a chair somewhere. We dragged ourselves towards the exit and waded into the fray of vicious taxis with a random Filipino guy. This was a less painful night - $40 split between three people, but the necessity of taking taxis very nearly ruined the trip. The festival itself was fun - though a far cry from American festivals, with their mushroom clouds of pot smoke and readily available drugs and booze - but this being Malaysia, with its death sentence for drug smuggling laws, I wasn't expecting any of that anyway. I enjoyed the music, but something needs to be improved in the future in terms of transport.

A better part of the trip was meeting up with an old friend from Saigon who now lives in Malaysia. We did some wandering around KL when I wasn't out at the festival with Tin, and it was great seeing a familiar face and catching up. Here are some random phone pics:

I'm pretty sure the architect of the Bitexco Tower here in Saigon ripped the design off from this building in KL

My next two weeks will be hectic as I make final preparations for H2H 2013. I leave for Hanoi on April 1, but I'll definitely have a few posts before then.

Don't forget to donate! https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michaeltatarski/h2h-charity-bike-ride-2013


  1. Hey Mike, Future Music sounds like quite the adventure.

    But more importantly, your Twitter account got hacked and is sending out mass DMs.

    1. Yea I know, this has happened repeatedly over the last month even though I keep changing my password.