Miri Country Music Festival 2015



After a successful inaugural event in 2014, the Miri Country Music Festival 2015 is going to happen on the 7th February next year. If you are still clueless on this, think country and western music, think cowboys and cowgirls minus the horses. Yes, the Miri Country Music Festival that took place early this year saw all walks of life coming to the Parkcity Everly Hotel along Brighton Beach in Miri. Not only did they curiously walk in, they came fully dressed for the occasion.

We are talking cowboys, cowgirls and even cowkids! While those that did not have a cowboy hat, they made the effort to dress in a check shirt and jeans. Many wore boots while the hard core even came fully attired complete with a sheriff badge. Overall, a total of 1,800 people turned up for the event, considering that the organaiser only targeted 1000 people. A huge success and pat-on-the-back for Uni Comms (previously known as UCSI Communications) based in Sarawak who is no stranger to events and concerts as they did a fantastic job for this first-ever event here in Borneo.

Everyone came dressed! 
As Miri has been in the music map of Sarawak Borneo for the last nine years since the introduction of the Borneo Jazz Festival (Previously Miri International Jazz Festival), the Miri Country Music Festival joins in together with the other inaugural Asia Music Festival to keep this resort township busy throughout the year. As Borneo Jazz takes place in May and Asia Music Festival in October, the Country Music Festival happens in the early February. In other words, there are music festivals going on throughout the four quarters of the year putting Miri on the music map.

Mel and Joe at Miri Country Music Festival
Favourites Mel and Joe from Singapore shook the house down
The over whelming crowds also come from near and far. While most of the crowd is local Sarawakian, a huge number of foreigners were also seen here. Mostly the expatriate market from Miri and also across the border of Brunei. A number a Sabahans were also seen here as it is only a 3-4 hour drive from the border. The next festival will most likely see a crowd of about 2000 and above, considering the success of the inaugural festival and also depending on how strong the marketing for this will be executed.

Overall, the jovial mood during the festival was something totally unique and different as me, having been to the Borneo Jazz and also Asia Music Festival, the Country Music Festival showed a more family and friends get-together concept being practised. Country music if you should know is a very popular genre of music here in the northern part of Sarawak. Most of the local Sarawakian tribes from the area grew up on this music which is played throughout the year on radios, events, wedding, parties and even at the local bars and pubs.

D'Renegade Band Kota Kinabalu
D'Renegade Band rocks the house with their country and western music 
With this kind of support from the local community, it was not a hard job convincing the folk to attend the festival. The price of RM80 inclusive of one drink was easily welcomed by the general community however, if sponsors were kind enough, there could have been a little more offered. While RM80 is not cheap for the lower income group who is one of the largest communities for country music, something needs to be done in order to capture that segment of the market.

We all know that when concerts or music festivals take place, there is always the monetary issue for the lower income group and hopefully something can be done to make festivals affordable for all walks of life. I do hope that some sort of campaign or joint-venture with the tourism ministry or companies that buy tickets in bulk to give it out to the lower income to give them a chance to attend this festival.

As for the rest, there is a pre-sale of tickets going at RM60 from now till September 2014 and they can be bought online.

Corn Cake Kings at Miri Country Music Festival
Corn Cake Kings from Kuala Lumpur on stage 
As this was my first ever country music festival, I was a little unsure on what to expect from it, but having been there opened my mindset and perception to this. For some reason, people started to come as early as 4pm to the venue while the other two main festivals, the crowd would only come in after dinner. Without hesitation, I spoke to a few of the guests there and a majority of the them replied that this was the first of its kind and they did not want to miss out, especially listening to the local country and western bands that started at about 5pm. By 7pm, the crowd had grown to about 500 people and by 8pm, it doubled. What shocked me was that at 11pm, there were still people coming in to the venue. 

Wandering Mustangs at Miri Country Music Festival
Wandering Mustangs take stage at the Miri Country Music Festival 2014
Miri Country Music Festival Band Line Up

The line up was very good with a selection of bands from around the region including one Johnny Rogers Band all the way from Nashville, USA. Local bands included Hi Breed (Kuching), Country Road Band (Miri), Eia and The Superband (Brunei), D’Renegade Band (Kota Kinabalu), The Corn Cake Kings (Kuala Lumpur), Wandering Mustangs (Singapore) and Mel & Joe (Singapore). This alone was enough to keep the crowd rocking till past midnight here in Miri.

Michelle Lambert Johnny Rogers Band Malaysia
Michelle Lambert performs a fiery act with her violin with the Johnny Rogers Band
As for the upcoming Miri Country Music Festival 2015, a line up has been confirmed but not announced officially although we know that Mel and Joe from Singapore are confirmed in the line up due to popular request apart from some bands from Malaysia, Singapore and locally from Sabah and Sarawak. On a lighter side, I would like to see if the organisers will be slightly creative in getting some other country and western bands from countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines as this can fully grow the potential of making this festival a truly massive country music festival in the region.

Special Thanks to Malaysia Travel News for sharing the images with Malaysia Asia. Also a huge massive thanks goes out to Letitia Samuel from Uni Comms and Gracie Geckie for organising this trip to experience this first-of-a-kind event in Malaysia and here in Miri, Sarawak. This also makes it into the list of Music Festivals in Sarawak for anyone wanting to know more details.

The finale on stage with all the artist performing together
The Craft and Food Bazaar that was set up outdoors under a huge tent was also a hit with everyone, including the musicians. A fantastic selection of local and international food was available for all walks of life and the prices were really affordable. While the craft bazaar mainly sold only Sarawakian and traditional handicraft, many guest and artist were seen lingering around here purchasing some souvenirs. To be honest, even I bought a local leather cowboy hat to blend in. Price for the cowboy hat was around RM20 which was a steal! So, for food wise, there was abundance here.

The organiser (Gracie Geckie - Standing left) with the Sarawak Tourism Minister (in red shirt) and other delegates. The minister made a unannounced visit to the event too! 
Till next February, I hope to attend this festival again so I can monitor the activities and feedback of the crowd, and of course, indulge in good old country and western music. For more information on the upcoming festival, visit Miri Country Music Festival. For those planning to come for the next event, please take note of the accommodations around Miri. There is a range of hotels from budget till 5-Stars around here. The best hotels would be the Parkcity Everly Hotel where the event is being held and also Marriott Miri which is a 10 minute walk to the event. Remember there is a special price for pre-bought tickets to the Miri Country Music Festival 2015.

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