White Shoes & The Couples Company at Black Box @ MAP

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After two excruciating hours of delay, Khottal finally made the stage to open for the White Shoes & The Couples Company at Black Box, MAPS @ Publika last Wednesday night. The Malacca-based punk rock outfit had bundles of energy, to the point where members of the 11-piece band smashed some melodicas at the end of the ‘Woo Song’. The next opening act, Franco-Lao trio SayCet, added serenity to proceedings with their brand of experimental pop and haunting on-screen visual effects.

Due to the strange decision by organisers Frinjan to allow prolonged performances from the two opening acts, it was well past 11pm by the time the headliners belatedly made their way on stage. The indie darlings from Jakarta, clad (of course) in signature white sneakers and heels, immediately hit their stride with ‘60s-inspired pop tunes that had the crowd swooning over vocalist Aprilia Apsari and her flamboyant band members.

12 songs later, with crowd favourite ‘Aksi Kuching’ being an apt finale, it was not difficult to see why Rolling Stones named the six-piece outfit one of the 25 Best Bands on MySpace in 2006. The White Shoes & The Couples Company may have been late, but they were definitely worth the wait.

Don Fabio my Foot!

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I’d like to think that I had thought about the idea of naming England’s 23-man team for EURO 2012 before this Guardian article, but you know what they say, I snooze I lose. For the heck of it, I will give my own two cents anyway, just because I can.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Scott Carson, Rob Green (unless Paul Robinson and Ben Foster come out of international exile)

Defenders: Micah Richards, Kyle Walker; Phil Jones, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Michael Dawson; Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole

Midfielders: Scott Parker, Gareth Barry, Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Frank Lampard; Adam Johnson, Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, James Milner

Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andy Carroll, Daniel Sturridge

First XI: Hart; Richards, Jones, Lescott, Cole; Parker, Wilshere, Milner, Johnson, Young; Agbonlahor

Yes, I’ve added Lampard and Terry into the squad, but the Chelsea duo would add valuable experience if the Three Lions do qualify for the latter stages of the competition in Poland and Ukraine. Gerrard and Ferdinand, despite being at the wrong side of 30, would have been automatic choices on the plane had they not been so injury-plagued for the past couple of seasons.

What about the wildcards? Well, Agbonlahor has been in glorious form this season, and I rate him above the other strikers in the squad (with Rooney suspended). With his strength and searing speed, the Aston Villa forward would be a threat against any defence, and the fact that he likes to drift to the left wing means the front trio of him, Johnson and Young, with Milner in support, could switch attacking positions at will.

The central defensive pairing of Lescott and Jones may seem strange to some, but the City defender has improved by leaps and bounds under Mancini in recent seasons while Jones, though susceptible to lapses defensively, would offer a fresh attacking dimension with his bulldozing runs forward. Richards, who has strangely been shunned by Capello in the past few years, has been in devastating form this season for City and on form alone, he deserves a nod over the likes of Liverpool’s Glen Johnson and United’s Chris Smalling.

While Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka may feel hard done by the snub, Dawson really is a resolute defender, and with the ex Forest star coming back from injuries, he should play a starring role in the Spurs’ expected run to the Top Four this season. Plus, Scott Parker for captain!

This team might not win the European Championships next season (my money is on Germany), but surely they can’t do any worse than the class of ’10. Now where is Capello’s alleged 8 million Euro annual salary I should be pocketing?

Road to the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore 2012 – Part One

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Laura FUCKING Marling

I was a nervous wreck.

Not just because I had an all-important job interview that day, but due to the fact that the line-up for the Singaporean edition of the much-anticipated St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was being announced at the exact same time.

While the artistes for the Australian and Kiwi shows were confirmed before last Friday, I was hoping against hope that Singapore would get the same full repertoire as our Asia Pacific counterparts. Laura Marling? M83? Girls? FEIST?! My spine chilled just mentioning those names.

As I refreshed my Twitter feed on the way home from said interview, I could not believe my eyes. I was flabbergasted.

We got the freaking full monty!

Redemption was the first thing on my mind. A couple of years back while I was holidaying in Melbourne, I was given the choice to catch either Laura Marling, fresh off her highly-acclaimed debut album Alas I Cannot Swim, or Camera Obscura at the legendary Corner Hotel due to budget constraints.

Eventually, I opted for the retro-pop Scots. While I never regretted going for that particular gig, I have always longed to catch a glimpse of Marling live.

The prolific 21 year-old, who boasts three albums in the past four years, is a rare talent. Her knack for poetic lyricism complements her penchant for melancholy, which result in gorgeously tragic songs that have seen the Brit nominated twice for the prestigious Mercury Prize in recent years.

The band that I was hoping desperately to catch were Cults, who released their self-titled debut record earlier this year. Madeline Folin’s dreamy vocals remind me of the classic girl groups of yore with a modern twist, thanks predominantly to the accompanying synths. I simply cannot wait to witness Folin and Brian Oblivion perform live, only just to sing along to the album’s opening salvo “Abducted”, which creepily yet beautifully equates falling in love to being kidnapped.

Another reason I would shell out SGD135 without first having a full-time job (the post Chinese New Year angpaus will play a vital role) is none other than the Canadian singer-songwriter Feist. Her fourth studio album Metals was released last month, though I’m more interested to hear the live renditions of “I Feel It All” and “One Evening” from her earlier efforts. Who knows, if we’re lucky, she could even play her two songs for the Paris, je’taime soundtrack, but that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

My next few months will be spent listening to the various Laneway-bound performers whom I’m not too familiar with, namely Anna Calvi, Yuck, Austra, The Horrors, Toro Y Moi, Twin Shadow and Wu Lyf while reporting back to you guys in the process. Well, as long as I have the will power to see this little project through =)

However, the only disappointment from the Laneway announcement was the lack of regional acts in the line-up. Truth be told, a local presence would have added something truly special to an already magical music festival, but with such a wide array of musical talents on show next February 12 at Fort Canning, I’m not complaining.

Not even a single bit.

PS: I got the job.

Open Letter to iPhone Case Makers

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Dear iPhone case makers,

Why do you hate us iPod Touch owners so?

Sure, we decided to not get our iPhones like everyone else, but did you really have to do it?

Did you really have to make us feel like second class citizens in an Apple-dominated ecosystem?

Woe is us. Woe is us.

When I first got my iPod Touch 4G last October, I was beyond thrilled! Access to the much vaulted Apple App Store and in the process, a million applications and games that would be the Bonnie to my geeky Clyde. A media player that, bar the reliance on WiFi and the mediocre camera, could go toe to toe with the juggernaut of an iPhone sans the hefty monthly bill.

I was also tremendously excited by the lure of third-party accessories, but alas, my sense of euphoria was short-lived. In Malaysia and Singapore at least, the choices of cases and covers for the iPod Touch at the local Apple Online Store were limited and passe at best.

Aside from the generic solid or transparent offerings from Speck and Incipio, only the insanely expensive Paul Frank and Kate Spade cases (priced at RM154, which means six of these bad boys could get you an entry level 8GB iPod Touch, just saying plus the iPhone versions are always more lust-worthy) offer any sort of imagination. So, like any other lost soul looking for an answer, I went online.

I’ve been eyeing the Threadless x Griffin cases for awhile now, but since Griffin increased the international shipping fees by epic proportions, I have been hoping that Threadless, with their affordable $9 shipping fees, would start selling iPod Touch cases on their official website.

Unfortunately, Threadless would rather sell discounted iPhone 4/iPhone 4S cases than display iPod Touch cases at full price.

Additionally, I’m not a fan of Rabito, but I would at least like to have the chance to shun the iPhone 4-(and lately Samsung Galaxy S2) only case.

The last straw was when Gizmodo heralded the coming of Casetagram, a Hong Kong-based company that creates iPhone cases from buyers’ Instagram photos. Ingenius? Damn straight. Double standards? You can bet your iPad on it. As of now, only iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S users can import their Instagram shots and design a case.

I don’t use Instagram (I’m more of a Hipstamatic sort of guy), but that’s beside the point. If a Touch version of Casetagram was made available, I would have installed Instagram immediately, sprinted out of my house and started shooting random pictures of my neighbourhood, which has no breathtaking scenery whatsoever, in order to get my hands on some gorgeous Casetagram goodness.

And Casetagram offers free international shipping? Talk about salt in wound, people!

Why the lack of love for the iPhone’s slimmer brother, case makers?

Just a couple of years ago, analysts were trumpeting the iPod Touch as a rival to the Nintendo and Sony portable gaming console duopoly while the media player’s sales were on par with the iPhone. While I must admit that the iPhone has taken centre stage in recent years, iPod Touch sales continue to grow despite the lack of interest in the Classic and Shuffle.

With the Microsoft Zune out of the picture and the once popular Creative nowhere to be seen (remember the company’s iPod Classic killer the Zen Vision?), the iPod Touch is THE portable media player.

*cue Underdog by Spoon in the background*

I’m not asking for much. I just want my iPod Touch to feel pretty, that’s all.

Yours sincerely,
Boon Ken, speaking on the behalf of my neglected iPod Touch (whose name is Zooey Touchy Feely, in tribute to Zooey Deschanel), who’s crying in the corner😦

A Year with a Teenage Dirtbag

More than a year ago, I got bored with my Considerable Embarrassment by Crumpler. I thought the bright red colour was passe, and I was less than thrilled that nearly everyone else with a pulse had the exact same model as I did.

So itchy me started looking for some alternatives, especially after I managed to pass on the Crumpler to my darling sister. After months (and I do mean MONTHS) of research, I stumbled upon Bagaboo.

Imagine your dream bag and Tamas, the founder of Bagaboo, will do the rest.

Based in Budapest, Hungary, Bagaboo is a cult bag manufacturing company that specialises in hardcore bike messenger bags. Initially, the standard messenger bag was my first choice, until the price put a spanner in the works.

After discussions with the uber affable Tamas and Andrea, who I mainly liaised with, as well as my girlfriend, who reminded me that I have not been on a bike since Captain Planet was on TV, I opted for a pimped out large Teenage Dirtbag, which is the most affordable messenger bag in Bagaboo’s catalogue.

Voila my Teenage Dirtbag from Bagaboo!

While I was really tempted to go all out with the design (rainbows and stars were prominent ideas while a line off a Belle & Sebastian track was on the proverbial table for a while), I eventually settled for “Boon Ken” decked in a zapfino typecast.

The shipping fees to Malaysia for my Teenage Dirtbag was 18.30 Euros, which I thought was pretty affordable (especially with the European economy is disarray). Overall, the period after I contacted Tamas and interacted with Andrea regarding the bag design as well as the bell and whistles I desired to my receiving the bag in my mail took around two months.

I primarily use the Teenage Dirtbag as a travel-cum-laptop bag. It holds my 13in MacBook Pro as well as a few other documents and chargers or a weekend worth of clothes and toiletries, but don’t expect this messenger bag to carry your kitchen sink (that task would fall to the Workhorse bag).

Like the website said, you can add anything you like to the bag (and choose the colour of your choice for the body, trimming and EVERYTHING), so my Teenage Dirtbag comes with a secret pocket (which for obvious reasons I would not disclose the location), a key clip holder (which allows easy access to your housekeys) as well as a water bottle holder (which was not really necessary as there are more than enough pockets for that, so I just use it to store notepads and my iPod Touch).

After more than a year with this bad boy, I can safely say I am more than pleased with my purchase. The Teenage Dirtbag is solid without being bulky (I have tried a lot of bags that looked like they were wearing me instead of vice versa), and the Bagaboo shoulder strap really does add some much needed support while carrying heavy objects. While my go-to bag is still my leather satchel, the Teenage Dirtbag is extremely useful during trips, and it has served me well through countless plane rides and customs.

A bag is a bag is a bag is a bag. Well, not when it is a Bagaboo.

PS: Some of the other custom hand-crafted bag makers that caught my eye were Ohio-based Seagull Bags and Seattle’s Reload Bags. While I absolutely love their designs, the total price ultimately was way out of my budget.

Similarly, if you are a Crumpler fan who would love a customised bag and happens to have a bucketload of cash, head over to the first ever Crumpler store at Smith Street, Melbourne. A customised Considerable Embarrassment would set you back 200 AUS$.

PPS: Low res photos alert! New camera to come soon I promise (myself) =)