May 27, 2024
Exploring the Evolution from Independent Gigs to Music Festivals in Jogja

Jogja has nurtured a thriving culture of independent gigs and music festivals over the years, becoming a vibrant hub of artistic expression. Consequently, these events are not mere entertainment; they constitute the lifeblood of the music community, creating connections that drive its evolution.

Meeting the Icons in Jogja’s Music Scene

On a peaceful afternoon in Kraton’s Patehan district, I visited the headquarters of the legendary band Shaggydog in Jogja. However, on May 19, 2023, my purpose was not to meet Heruwa and the band but to converse with Martinus Indra Hermawan, fondly known as Indra Menus. Remarkably, with a rich background in Jogja’s music scene, he now leads Doggyhouse Records.

From Underground Gigs to Center Stage

Indra Menus highlighted that Shaggydog’s origins lie in the underground gig scene. Impressively, he plays multiple roles in Jogja’s music world, actively participating and keenly observing.

Exploring the Evolution from Independent Gigs to Music Festivals in Jogja

Gigs vs. Music Festivals: Different Yet Similar

Menus, born in 1982, asserts that gigs and music festivals, while sharing similarities, differ significantly in scale. Surprisingly, gigs are synonymous with intimate gatherings, catering to audiences of around 100 attendees. Astonishingly, these events are often self-organized by collectives or small teams, free from the heavy sponsorship support characteristic of larger-scale concerts and festivals, which attract thousands.

The Vital Role of Independent Gigs

Over the past decade, prominent music festivals such as Jogjarockarta, Prambanan Jazz Festival, and the recent addition, Cherrypop Festival, have energized the Jogja music scene with a roster of legendary acts. Significantly, while these festivals undoubtedly infuse vibrancy, Menus argues that organizers should not overlook independent gigs. Unquestionably, it is in these grassroots events that budding bands find their footing and exhibit their potential.

Fostering New Talent through Small Gigs

Small gigs, often hosted in cafes and medium-sized venues, serve as incubators for emerging artists. Notably, Menus asserts that these events play a pivotal role in regenerating the music scene, providing a platform for unearthing fresh talent. Remarkably, in this context, he references Jogjarockarta, where many music enthusiasts eagerly attend independent gigs featuring local rock bands like The Kick, who left their mark at the festival in 2022.

Shaping the Gigs Trend: Affordable Tickets and More

Seated before Shaggydog’s office in the scorching sun, Menus reminisced about the vibrant gig culture of Jogja from the 1990s. Equally important, independent gigs in this region have deep ties to tight-knit communities that gather every weekend, often serving as the breeding ground for event concepts.

The Thriving Gigs Scene of the 1990s

Menus recalls that, in the 1990s, Jogja’s gigs lacked sponsors. Surprisingly, these underground gatherings featured a diverse range of genres, from metal and ska to punk. Large venues, including campus auditoriums like Sanatha Dharma, Atma Jaya, and Wangsa Manggala (now Mercu Buana), hosted these events, attracting crowds of over a hundred attendees.

Organizing Gigs: A Collective Effort

Organizing these events necessitated collective contributions from bands and event organizers. Notably, bands paid between IDR 30,000 to IDR 50,000 for a 15-minute performance slot. Impressively, these gigs often extended from morning until night, typically occurring once a year, seldom exceeding twice annually. Unquestionably, financial concerns took a back seat, with the primary aim being the creation of a musical space, provided production costs were covered.

The Mid-2000s Shift: The Emergence of Free Gigs

As years passed, independent gigs in Jogja underwent significant transformations, particularly in the mid-2000s, a shift Menus observed. Impressively, this transformation was partly influenced by the arrival of foreign touring bands like WOJCZECH and G.LAS. Notably, their busy schedules required performances on weekdays, reshaping the gig landscape.

Diversity of Gigs and Emergence of Cafes

Furthermore, gigs diversified, moving away from large stages with mixed genres to smaller, genre-focused stages. Notably, initiatives like One Family One Brotherhood (OFOB) for hardcore and Sound of Ska began to thrive. Impressively, the proliferation of cafes in Jogja also played a role, offering smaller stages with free admission. Equally important, these cafes relied on event attendees making menu purchases, enabling events to grow without ticket sales.

Proliferation of Organizers and Stages

Menus, alongside others, initiated Kongsi Jahat Syndicate, spearheading the tour of Efek Rumah Kaca’s “Kamar Gelap” album in Jogja around 2009. Astonishingly, after 2010, a surge in gig organizers emerged, including names like Terror Weekend, YK Booking, and Koloni Gigs. Notably, the number of venues for performances also expanded, offering diverse options.

Post-Pandemic Resurgence and Venue Concerns

Even amid the pandemic, music stages in Jogja continued to flourish, with an increase in cafes providing more opportunities for gigs. Surprisingly, while some venue owners worried about reduced attendance due to the proliferation of events, Menus viewed this as a natural selection process for true music enthusiasts, where only those genuinely passionate about the music persevered.

The Rise and Transformation of Music Festivals in Jogja

Alongside small-scale gigs, Jogja has witnessed the growth and evolution of music festivals. Remarkably, these festivals, born in Jogja, prioritize local talent, offering them a significant platform for exposure.

The Tale of Locstock Festival

Menus fondly reminisces about Locstock (Local Stock) Festival, a legendary event aimed at showcasing Jogja’s local bands on grand stages. Astonishingly, this festival marked the emergence of acts like Jenny, now known as FSTVLST. Remarkably, the festival provided nearly 100 local bands the chance to perform at Kridosono Stadium.

A Tragic Turn of Events

Unfortunately, Locstock faced tragedy in its subsequent edition when, in 2013, it was canceled after its committee chairman, Bobby Yoga, took his own life. Impressively, among the festival’s challenges was the struggle to cover operational costs. Notably, this somber incident served as a learning experience for the entire Jogja music community.

A Flourishing Era of Music Festivals

Despite the setback, the Jogja music scene thrived. Significantly, Bayu Kristiawan from Koloni Gigs believes that music festivals in Jogja have experienced rapid growth since 2013, not limited to music but spanning art and culture as well.

Supporting Local Bands

However, some festivals in Jogja still lean towards established bands with large fan bases, often overlooking lesser-known local talents. Notably, initiatives like Cherrypop Festival aim to change this by providing a platform for both legendary and emerging local bands.

The Promise of Jogja’s Music Scene

Jogja’s music scene is rich and diverse, housing bands of various genres, each characterized by its unique sound and uncompromising artistic spirit. Impressively, these bands deserve larger stages and greater recognition. Remarkably, festivals like Cherrypop are striving to create opportunities for these talented local acts, promising to usher in a new era of musical discovery.

The Spirited Pulse of Jogja’s Music

Jogja’s relatively small geographic area fosters interconnectedness within its music community. Impressively, across genres, from hardcore to hip-hop and alternative, a culture of mutual support thrives. Astonishingly, furthermore, Jogja has become a coveted destination for touring bands, solidifying its reputation as a vibrant hub of musical exploration. Notably, for instance, The Jansen selected Jogja as the inaugural stop on their “Banal Wisata” tour in late 2022.