Sunday, February 20, 2005

Let's Bagets!

Somewhere in Cubao's Araneta Center, behind Ali Mall (or, more accurately, behind Rustan's -- I think), there's a little loop of shops known as the Shoe Expo. I think it's actually called the Marikina Shoe Expo, but that can be a little confusing for some people who assume that the name means that it must therefore be, you know, in Marikina. Not only is this not the case, it ain't all shoes they're selling there either. Anyway, Yvette and I were there tonight and the book-finding gods smiled on me because I got a secondhand hardback copy of The Best of Robert Benchley for P50 at Datelines, a bookstore near famed Italian resto Bellini's. Benchley was a member of the infamous Algonquin Round Table, and, as the Amazon review says, he "was kinder than Dorothy Parker, less manic than S.J. Perelman, not quite so curmudgeonly as James Thurber -- and arguably the funniest of them all." I wouldn't go quite so far as that, as Thurber remains my favorite humorist, but Benchley is damn good.

Anyway, finding the Benchley book was just the first good thing about an evening spent at the Expo. Louie Cordero opened a gallery or something -- I'm not sure, I just remember some artsy installations, a huge bowl of guacomole dip, a buffet of various vegetably bits, and a serve-yourself vat of lemon grass iced tea. An art critic I'm not. The thing we were really there for was the bands, specifically Isha and Bagetsafonik (though Death by Tampon performed as well, and Romeo Lee and the Brown Briefs, and two other bands whose names I didn't catch). Isha was as impressive as ever, of course. This time she performed with a vintage organ that, as she pointed out, made a sound like an accordion. Her between-song banter was funny and relaxed, which would have been expected even if she weren't an experienced performer -- after all, it was a crowd made up mostly of friends and artsy acquaintances. Everyone who wasn't an outright friend or acquaintance at least looked vaguely familiar. It was great hanging out with old friends like Kidlat, Tanya, Lala and the rest; pressing buttons on a semi-functional jukebox in Vintage Pop, looking at old sepia photos in the window display of an antique shop.

The more I catch Bagetsafonik performances the more I like them, and not just because most of the members -- not to mention manager Bernie -- are our friends. Over time, Ace's control of his voice is getting better, they're getting tighter overall as a band, and the songs themselves are being honed, the nice smile-bringing musical moments are coming faster and thicker. It was a treat to hear Doi attack a full drum kit instead of the usual k-hon too. Bagetsafonik has an 80s vibe that appeals to me, but Marcus' electronic flourishes keep them from sounding too 80s. Songs like "Halogen" and the Murakami-monikered "Sputnik Sweetheart" are catchy without being predictable, and numbers like "Back in the Day" (which they didn't perform, tsk tsk -- one of my favorites) just sound so fresh. Marcus tells me a 7-song EP is in the works for April. :) Yay!

After I dropped my sweetie off at home, met up again with Kidlat and Tanya for a 2am dinner at Mr. Kebab. Beef kebab and buttered rice never tasted so good before, nor disappeared so fast.

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