Munch on this!

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KARACHI: Tearing up the Pak American Cultural Centre stage with a combination of pop-pleasers and hard-rock staples, The Munchkins proved to Karachi that they are still one of the finer rock acts in town.

However, despite great sound and solid stage presence, the band was let down by a bland, almost-uninterested audience whose mild-mannered applause and appropriately placed cheers seemed out of touch with the rocking show on-stage.

Shining moments

The concert, held last Friday, began as all concerts should – with a goody bag full of gifts, courtesy FM91 and Nandos who sponsored the show. With cheesy glow sticks and 3D calendars in hand, the jam-packed audience patiently sat out the non-air conditioned one hour the band took to get on stage, but it was worth the wait.

The Munchkins delivered super crisp sound, and great covers of a wide range of music from The Police and James Brown to Incubus and Rage Against the Machine (RATM). For once, the vocalist was not drowned out by the music (usually a good thing) as Aamir Alavi ably crooned his way through U2 while still managing to belt out RATM’s “Know your Enemy”.

Gumby was groovy, with killer fills and a near-epic drum solo midway through the Jimi Hendrix classic “Fire”. Murtaza Jafar aka ‘KV’ did a fair job on the guitar and Mohammad Ali Jafri’s full bass sound complemented Gumby’s hard kick, par excellence. As a cover band, this was as good as it could get, as The Munchkins delivered the right mix of great songs. They were mildly modified to bring out the band’s strengths but not over-treated beyond recognition.

The band’s shining moment was their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” which enthralled the seated crowd as they sung in time with Alavi, mildly swung their heads from side to side, tapped their feet, and yes, a grand total of three people stood up in sheer delight.

Shiny shoes

The biggest let-down of the night was the crowd. Much of the audience seemed to have shown up to ‘make the scene’ rather than genuinely appreciate the music. The show was aglitter with girls wearing shiny shoes, blingy jewelry and outfits best suited for a party, clubbing or even a shaadi but definitely not a rock show. One of the organisers was in delightful strappy, four-inch stiletto heels in bright gold. Night out on the town? Sure. Rock concert? Not so much.

The boys were no better. Sporting everything from polo shirts to trendy French berets, the range of high-fashion left one wondering whether there was a dress code for the event. There was the usual crowd of guys in black t-shirts, but they were a minority at this yuppie fest.

Suffice to say, an audience dressed inappropriately responded inappropriately to the music. Where there should have been a screaming crowd up on their feet, hands in the air, clamouring to make it to the front of the stage, there was instead the appropriate claps from the seated audience.

The show was just a few steps away from being one of those terrible government-sponsored ‘musical nights’ we see on Pakistan Television. The Munchkins deserve a lot better.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2010.

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