PROVIDENCE – ASIA TOUR DIARY

July 21st, 2013
by Arto Lehtinen

PROVIDENCE ASIA TOUR DIARY

 Text and pictures by Petri da Costa

For those unfamiliar with Providence, this French heavy hardcore band was formed in 2005 in Paris and during these 8 years has been working hard and playing amongst legendary names such as Agnostic Front, Madball, Cro-Mags and many others, having also toured in United States, Brazil and Europe. The band recently signed a deal with Eulogy Recordings, the first European band on the label, and embarked for a little over 2 weeks on a 13 gigs tour in Asia, playing in South Korea, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan. This wasn’t the longest tour the band has been on, but without a doubt the most memorable so far. So with open minds and a lot of curiosity the band entered this tour.

26th – 27th April: Seoul – SOUTH KOREA

The tour would start on the 27th of April in Seoul, South Korea, but the band arrived on the 26th in order to get to know a bit of the town and get ready for the rest of the tour. After a long train ride from the airport to the city, the gig promoter, Kim Ssako, was kind enough to show the band a bit of the town. Even though most were still jetlagged, nobody wanted to miss the opportunity to check the town and have a bit of fun before the gig marathon would start. Next day in the afternoon the band would start something that is the normal routine for any band: go to the club, which luckily was close to the hostel, set up the gears, do a soundcheck, and then set up the merch table and wait and wait before show time. The venue, GoGos 2, was really good and had enough space for the crowd. Playing with Providence that night would be 7 other bands, which made the gig look a like a “mini fest”, especially considering the fact that the bands opening for Providence played different styles, from a screamo to metallic hardcore. Providence hit the stage quiet early, about 21.30 o’clock, and even with some small technical problems with vocals and guitar, the band was on top form, and part of the crowd seemed familiar with the band’s songs, singing a long and moshing hard. The crowd wasn’t very different from what they are used to play in Europe, maybe the only difference was those who didn’t know the band’s songs that well watched the band but nevertheless seemed to enjoy the gig.

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After an intense 45min set, which included mainly material from their “Far Beyond Our Depth” cd, and covers from Agnostic Front, “Friend or Foe”, Throwdown, “Unite” and Shatter Realm’s “All Will Suffer”, the first gig was over. Even though the gig ended sort of early, the night for the band didn’t end after their set. The band talked with some local fans, taking pictures and signing their cds, and then headed over to eat with some of the other bands in a restaurant and finally got to sleep for 2 hours before getting up to go to the airport and flying to China.

Seoul

28th April – 1st May:  Beijing, Wuhan, Shandong, Guangzhou – CHINA

From the countries the band was going to play, China was the one that had a certain mystery to it. Not many hardcore bands have played in China, and although there’s a scene there (whether is hardcore or metal or punk), it’s very likely that most people haven’t heard or seen any bands from China. The first gig in China would be in Beijing, where the band arrived early morning. The tour manager Paul would be also the band’s tour guide and right when he arrived, he took the band to visit the Great Wall of China in Mutianyu, near Beijing. Luckily the band had still time for some sightseeing on the same day, checking a bit of the part of the town near the gig venue, which was located in a very quiet and small part of the town. It was interesting to hear that one fan had drove 500km just to see them, this was a story that we’d hear quiet often during this tour. It’s a true sign of devotion from fans, something that you hardly see nowadays in Europe and many parts of the world, since they are used to seeing so many gigs every week or month. After another killer performance, the band signed some cds and took pictures with fans, and finally got some rest back in the hotel.

China

The next days the band would be going through China by train, going to Wuhan and playing in a very famous gig club in China called Vox. The club was very big, and part of the wall was filled with small wood pieces that had the name of all the bands that had played in the club. Another interesting aspect, which repeated in the following gigs in China, was the fact that there were people, mainly couples or group of friends, sitting far away from the stage and just having a meal while the band was playing. No matter if there weren’t so many who actually wanted to see the band, Providence showed a lot of energy on stage.

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The two following days and gigs in China weren’t so different. It was the usual routine of few hours of sleep, followed by travelling a lot, doing a bit of sightseeing, sound check, setting the merch and then playing. Luckily all this tiredness didn’t affect their performance on stage and the band was getting a lot of positive feedback from those who came to see them and even from those who didn’t even knew them.  It was the end of the 4 days in China, and everybody was already talking about coming back some time next year and playing more cities. Although there was a certain uncertainty at first about the 4 days, not knowing if there would be problems with local authorities, everything ended up going so well for the band.

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The hardcore scene is relatively new and young in China, but those involved in the hardcore scene, whether they were fans, musicians or organizers, were full of enthusiasm and left a very positive impression on the band.

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2nd – 3rd of May: Bangkok, THAILAND

Arriving afternoon in Bangkok under a very hot temperature of 36 degrees, Providence would have one of their final “days off” during the whole tour. But rather than just resting, the band was eager to get to know the town and enjoy this day off.  On the next day there was no rush either, so there was enough time to calmly visit a Buddhist temple and check around the town under an even higher temperature than the previous day. Around late afternoon Providence went to Immortal Bar, where they’d be playing, and it was very noticeable that the scene in Bangkok is bigger than any of the previous towns in China.

Thailand

On the same day, Providence played with local hardcore bands, all of them having a very strong fan base and seeing how crazy the fans were reacting on the opening bands it seemed that this was going to be the most brutal gig for the band so far on this tour. The inside of the club was kind of small and extremely hot, and once Providence started it seemed that there was no controlling the chaos that erupted. However, by the middle of the set it seemed that initial mayhem from the fans was slowing down. It was understandable since Providence was the 6th band on the bill, and the place was burning hot, so some kids weren’t as crazy as they were before. During this tour the band was also playing the beginning of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and this night they dedicated that and Shatter Realm’s “All Will Suffer” to the late Jeff Hanneman.

The gig ended up late and there were just a couple of hours before heading to the airport, so there was no time to actually rest. Around 2 o’clock in the morning the band left to the airport and waited for the next destination: Malaysia.

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4th of May: Kuala Lumpur – MALAYSIA

Providence arrived early afternoon in Kuala Lumpur and the local promoter came to pick the band and took them to the hotel. Since everybody was extremely tired, there would be no time for sightseeing this time around and after almost of 4 hours of sleep, we headed to the gig venue. The commercial center of Kuala Lumpur is very modern, filled with huge stores and the venue was in the most unusual places that they have ever played: inside a shopping mall. The venue itself was in a secluded area of this huge shopping mall, and this particular gig they’d be playing was part of the Malaysia Beatdown Fest, which had several talented hardcore bands playing also.

Malaysia

The venue was packed and as soon as the band put their merch to sell, loads of kids turned up to buy either t-shirts or cds. This left the band with a small problem: it was mid tour and there wasn’t enough t-shirts or cds to sell for rest of this tour. But this was an issue that was going to be taken care of later.

The Bangkok gig had impressed the band, especially the reaction from the fans, and once Providence hit the stage playing “Carrying this Torch” all hell broke loose. It was one of the most intense and violent pits I have personally witnessed. The band had been advertising before online a “Best Mosher” contest that would be held in Kuala Lumpur and the crowd didn’t disappoint. The level of excitement and intensity didn’t stop through the gig and this would be, for most of the band members, the most intense gig of the whole tour. After sleeping for just a couple of hours the band would embark on a 5-day tour through Indonesia, a certain “madness” that nobody could predict.

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 5th – 9th of May: Jakarta, Bogor, Purwakarta, Tegal, Mageland – INDONESIA     

For the next 5 days Providence would be touring in Indonesia and the local bands Striker, Sabertooth and Reason To Die would be accompanying them on these dates. The first stop in was in the capital of the country, Jakarta, where Providence arrived early morning. The tour promoter, Farid came to pick the band at the airport with the bus that would be transporting all the bands through the country. Luckily there was some short time to rest before actually heading to the venue, and this little rest would have to be enough to endure the excitement that the band would encounter already at the first gig. Couples of the band members went to set the merch table and were already greeted by enthusiastic fans, who little by little wanted to take pictures with the band members. People would come to check the merch table, but they mostly wanted to take pictures and try to talk to the band.  The most impressive thing was the fact that a total of 36 bands (!!) would be playing this gig. This means usually a festival of 2 or 3 days in Europe, but here in Indonesia they managed to get all these bands, including Providence, in one day. However, some bands played only about 15 minutes, so no wonder why they got so many bands.

Indonesia

The band managed to wait a long time until they finally played their set under a heavy heat inside the venue. You’d think that after so many bands and this high temperature in the club would affect the reaction from the fans, but it didn’t. The crowd was definitely in top form, as intense as we had all heard and made the band feel welcome. After the gig we drove to a town next to where the band would play the following day. It was the first time in a long time that there was enough time to sleep.

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The second day started very calmly, without any rush to head to the venue at Bogor. By the middle of the afternoon we start to hear that there might be problems with the local cops, that they couldn’t know that a band would be playing there. Finally, late afternoon, we got there and after a lot of speculation, the band heard that the gig would have to be cancelled due to possible problems that could happen. It was unfortunate for Providence to cancel the gig, but that gave some time for everybody to enjoy the night and relax.

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Luckily the third gig was still on and it was one of the most interesting ones from the tour. The band arrived in Purwakarta afternoon and went straight to the venue. The venue was actually a huge gymnasium in a part far from the town itself, it seemed to be located in a small village which just had some houses and that gymnasium. Once the band members started to walk towards the gymnasium, a lot of people (mostly young kids) were just staring at the band and then they started to come in groups of 8-10 and take pictures with the band members. Everybody seemed to be in awe of Providence, you could really see that these young kids don’t have much contact with bands (and people) from outside of Indonesia. Inside the gymnasium there were even some military guards doing the security for the gig, which was actually a festival, and there were so many kids watching the bands that at one point, in one the local band’s gig, there were 3 different pits.

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Once the band hit the stage there was the usual chaos among the kids, most didn’t seem to know their songs but their stage presence and energy kept the crowd going on and on. The military guards who before were just circling around the venue, actually ended being on stage, one in each side of the stage, checking that the there would be no problems. It was definitely something unusual and the weirdest part was at the end of the set, the guards just started to take pictures of the band with their phones (!!).

Once the gig was over we went back to the bus and drove couple of hours until we reached the place where all would be staying. There was a plan for the next day to go swim somewhere before the gig in Tegal, but unfortunately the distance and traffic to get there was so terrible (about 6 hours) that we went straight to the venue.

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It was already early night when the bus arrived near the venue, another area where nobody would think there was gigs going on since it was literally in the middle of nowhere, and just like the previous gigs, this was also a festival with loads of bands. Unfortunately it was impossible to check in peace the other bands play since everybody wanted to take pictures with Providence. It seemed that the excitement just to see the band members of Providence grew bigger and bigger by each gig.

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The venue was actually very big and it was completely packed, about 500 kids or more were inside. The moment Providence had to walk towards the stage was a surreal moment for the band: everybody shouting the band’s name and trying to get close. Once the band intro started to play and singer Tonr greeted the fans, everybody there started to shout the band’s name again and again. The intensity and excitement was so contagious, it made the band feel even more welcome. Unfortunately it was so hot inside the venue, causing the drummer Damns to feel a bit sick, therefore cutting a bit short the set.

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Right after the gig we’d have to drive already to the last stop of the tour in Indonesia, so everybody faced another long drive to reach Mageland. Arriving around 5 o’clock in the morning, the band would just sleep a bit since everybody wanted to visit the famous Borobudur temple. The fun fact about this gig in Mageland was that the venue was actually at the back of this hotel where actually the band stayed. Another place where you’d never think you’d see bands playing, and obviously this was also a festival with Providence headlining. Before Providence started their gig, guitarist Djamel, who has a side hiphop project called Djamhellvice, sang 2 songs, one alongside bassist Mikael and guitarist Regie and the last with a local rapper. This was a nice way of getting the crowd, this time about 1.000 people, more anxious to see Providence live. The level of intensity was as expected and the band was in their usual form, but by the last songs some of the kids couldn’t keep up with the same energy. However, it was a great show to finish this Indonesian tour and people kept asking when the band would return again.

As usual there would be not enough time to actually rest before heading to the airport, and unfortunately once at the airport the band faced some issues with the amount of luggage. Luckily everything was solved and we went on our way to Singapore.

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10th of May: Singapore – SINGAPORE       

After the intensity, which was Indonesia, the band arrived morning in Singapore and went straight to the resort area where they’d be sleeping. It was interesting seeing how different Singapore was from the other cities we had been, almost no people in the streets, it was very calm and quiet.  Taking advantage of this calm environment, the band got some rest before heading to The Substation, where they’d be playing later in the evening. It was one of those few times that there’s no rush to get somewhere.

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Playing alongside Providence there would be 4 local hardcore/punk bands and one French metal band who was supposed to play at the same club the next day, but due to some problems with local authorities had to be added to the same night as Providence. Luckily there were no other problems and about 100 people showed to support the bands playing. All the bands did extremely well and it seems that the local hardcore scene is still young but with a lot of potential.

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This time around Providence played second last and were able to actually check the other bands. We headed back to resort since very early in the morning we’d be leaving for the last stop of the tour.

11th of May – Taipei – TAIWAN

Just like during the whole tour, there was not much rest and Providence arrived early in a rainy day in Taiwan. The local promoter Mike and Gina, both who play in Human Brutality, came to pick the band and take us to the hostel.

It took a long time to get to the hostel from the airport and since the weather wasn’t so good, the plan was just to go eat and then head to the club. This would be the last gig in this club so it was somehow fitting that the Asian tour would end here. The club was very small, a bit like a bunker, and about 60 people came up to check the bands. The cool thing about the club was that there wasn’t actually a stage, the band were just playing basically face to face to the crowd, but that meant that the band couldn’t move that much because of this limited space.

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Both crowd and band were enthusiastic, the small space brought a very close and friendly ambience for this night, and it was a very good way of finishing this long tour. It was definitely bittersweet to realize that the tour was over, but nevertheless everybody had a good feeling about the whole tour.

During this Asian tour it seemed that sometimes it wasn’t easy for the local promoters to set up and handle these gigs so it’s very admirable that even facing all kinds of problems these guys still organize gigs and help bands, foreign or local. Underground bands know the problems that they might face during a long tour, whether is lack of money, tight schedule, tiredness, but they also know the reward that, for example, comes from playing in places like these countries in Asia. This experience was one of a kind and I believe it gave even more strength to Providence to continue their career.

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