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Testament’s First Tour of Indonesia Ends on a Sour Note

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Kukar Rockin Fest

So yesterday, this story from an Indonesian blog called Lawless Jakarta start making its way around the interwebs. Google Translate’s iteration of the story is pretty rough, but the gist of it is this: Testament were headlining the Kukar Rockin’ Fest 2014 in East Borneo over the weekend. The show was running late, and Power Metal, the Indonesian band playing right before Testament, were still on-stage long after Testament were supposed to begin their set. Testament vocalist Chuck Billy appeared to upset by this, and then Testament’s crew started unplugging  Power Metal’s equipment. The crowd got pissed and sat down through the entirety of Testament’s set as a form of protest. And then they started bombarding Testament’s Facebook page with angry messages (Lambgoat has a terrific sampling of those messages, if you’re curious.)

Obviously, this doesn’t look great for Testament; it looks like they basically kicked the hometown heroes off the stage in support of their egos. Which, frankly, seems odd. I mean, some bands have a reputation for pulling shit like this, but Testament ain’t one of ’em.

And to hear Testament tell it, there is, indeed, much more to story. The band says via Facebook:

“As Testament returns from our first trip to Indonesia, a country we’ve looked forward to visiting for many years, it is with deep disappointment that our performance didn’t turn out as planned. While our experience in this great land had been nothing but wonderful from the time our first plane first touched down – from the warm hospitality of our fans, local staff and others to whom we are grateful, to being honored by the mayor and the press shortly before appearing in front of 50,000 fans at Kukar Rockin’ Fest 2014, things went awry only at the moment we were scheduled to hit the stage.

“That’s when the support act directly before us began their set. Normally this would not be a big issue – rock’n’roll shows don’t always run on time as everyone knows – but in this case, there was a serious problem: we had a flight to catch in just a few hours. The flight was from Balikpapan Airport, several hours from Tengarrong (the location of the concert) which required several hours driving over rugged terrain. Making matters worse, several pieces of luggage had never arrived and these needed to picked up in Jakarta before we could board our connecting flights. Missing our connecting flights in Jarkata would have caused the entire band and crew to miss our further connecting flights home (after nearly a month on tour) followed by a trip to Mexico City’s Hell And Heaven Fest within three days of arrival back to the US.

“So in order to play our full set and be sure we made this flight, an attempt was made to play our set on time, with the support act following us. The local stage managers, while well intentioned, did not seem to grasp the urgency of the situation as the support act (Power Metal) continued to play and we watched our set time disappearing. When our singer, Chuck Billy, came out and attempted to address the support band and audience, he was not understood. Regretfully, this led to a minor confrontation with the support act who only stopped playing once their gear was finally turned off by our crew (for which they responded by dousing water on one of our own amplifiers). While this situation was interpreted as the headliner being disrespectful to the local band, that was not the intention.

“Not helping these miscommunications was the language barrier for which no one can be blamed – our concern wasn’t understood and nobody in our entourage speaks Indonesian. We were also short of our full crew, some of whom hadn’t been available when this show was added to our tour at the last minute. Regardless, the result was a crowd that was visibly unhappy during our set and for that we accept responsibility.

“To our Kukar Rockin’ Fest audience: we deeply apologize for any hurt that was caused. While we would have appreciated the support act being more accommodating, we nonetheless apologize to them as well and meant no disrespect. In hindsight, it might have been a better decision to just let them continue and cut much of our own set. But in the heat of the moment, a judgment call was made that backfired. We regret this turn of events, which does not represent what Testament is all about, nor what we’d travelled all that way for.

“Testament deeply appreciates the fans of Indonesia and hopes they find it within their hearts to understand what has happened and forgive. We truly hope to return to this region one day amidst deeper understanding and better circumstances.”

Which, I have to say, is a very menschy statement. Even if you don’t believe their version of the story, it’s kind of irrelevant, because they’re taking full responsibility for what happened.

But, personally, I am inclined to believe them. I mean, if you were in one of the most revered metal bands of all time, and you had traveled all that way to play a foreign country for the first time, wouldn’t you assume that the crowd would rather see you play a full set rather than an abbreviated set? And with a severe language barrier in place, might you not panic and make a not-terrific decision that seemed like the best option at the time?

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