Thursday, December 30, 2004

Radio Gaga

Hope Robyn doesn't mind me posting this. :) It's sort of music-related, and, more importantly, it gave me a much-needed laugh. More insane doodling at Fear the noog!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Great Disturbance in the Force

Not music-related, except perhaps the momentary thought that popped into my head, wondering if Bono or Bob Geldof or any other rock star's going to make a benefit music video for this, and please please God make it good and not embarrassing and moving enough for people to dig deep into their pockets.

As of this hour, the latest CNN reports peg the dead at 56,000. FIFTY-SIX THOUSAND PEOPLE. And we're not even counting the toll in secretive Myanmar, whose exposed coastline is far longer than Thailand's, and whose location, scientists say, may have made it worse hit. We're not counting, either, the death toll from disease and hunger that health workers know will come in the next weeks. The numbers were already devastating yesterday, when the initial reports put the dead at 5,000. Now it's risen over tenfold, with more to come.

So, friends, if any of you would like to take some time out and say a prayer for those who lost their lives in the disaster, and their families who grieve, please do so. And if anyone would like to make a donation to a relief agency, you can follow the links here:

Action Against Hunger
ADRA International
Association for India's Development
Catholic Relief Services
Christian Children's Fund
Direct Relief International
Doctors Without Borders
Food for the Hungry, Inc.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
International Medical Corps
MAP International
Mercy Corps
Network for Good
Operation USA
Project Concern International
Save the Children USA
U.N. World Food Programme
World Concern

Most of these are US-based organizations, but the websites will take donations from all over the world through secure credit card transactions. has also created a system that will allow its customers to donate to Red Cross through its site.

K2 also tells me that her company as offered to match any donations made by their employees, so if you would like to pool your contributions with ours, please let me know.

Thank you.


UPDATE 03 January 2005
The latest reports on the news peg the death toll at over 155,000, thrice what it was a week ago. If you are able, please make a contribution to the relief efforts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Wrapper's Delight

Ho ho ho, and all that that implies! My dining table is laden, not with artery-clogging foodstuffs as it would normally be, but with unrolled rolls of gift wrapper and yet-to-be-wrapped gifts. Remind me, by the way, never to do Christmas shopping in Fully Booked again, at least not until I am a kazillionaire. Not that I got anyone anything that expensive -- my friends are mostly just getting be-ribboned copies of the bookstore's free newsletter that I filched from the counter (hope you guys don't mind) -- but on every shelf, I found something I wanted. Me, me, me.

Yesterday, I interviewed Francis M, Andrew E, and Jennifer Ventura. I know what y'all are thinking: "Jennifer WHO?!" That girl needs a better publicist, if she's going to be the Philippines' next R&B sensation (and I hope it happens -- a nicer, sweeter, more earnest pop star would be hard to imagine. Then again, I haven't heard her sing yet). Meanwhile, Francis and Andrew proved that growing up with the socially-crippling impediment of having merely a single consonant or vowel for a last name does not necessarily prevent you from becoming a full-fledged hip-hop icon, at least not in the Philippines.

Later: possible reunion with high school and college friends, some of whom have come back from such far-flung, practically-imaginary-as-far-as-I'm-concerned places as Japan and the UK. Also, a gig at Gasoline Alley, with Sandwich, Imago, Sugarfree, Cambio and (yay) Pedicab performing! If only Cambio and Pedicab would make shirts in my size. Then they would be even better bands. As it is, the non-T-shirtness is seriously holding them back.

Songs on the Blender 50 Worst Songs Ever list that I enjoy, to this very day: "Shiny Happy People" by REM ("Throw your love around!"), "MMM MMM MMM MMM" by Crash Test Dummies (the only well-known song an an album full of even better songs), "The Final Countdown" by Europe (bombastic hair-metal, woo hoo), "The Heart of Rock & Roll" by Huey Lewis and the News (not my favorite Huey Lewis song by a long shot, but it's okay), and, y'know what, I don't mind hearing Blender's number one most crap-tastic song of all time, either: "We Built This City" by Starship. I mean, I don't seek it out, but I wouldn't flee from a supermarket that was blaring it on its PA system.

Now we're both getting our rock critic licenses revoked. ;p That's okay, I can try my hand at beekeeping.

Friday, December 17, 2004


I've finally read the "What We're Listening To" article in this month's PULP--an interesting concept, even if the title ends in a preposition--and I've to agree: Chris Hermosisima's answer was the lamest, while Georgette Tengco's was the best. You know what would be a great follow-up feature, though? A feature on people's listening histories, to trace the artists and genres they've liked and loved over the course of their lives-so-far. Sort of a "How We Got to What We're Listening to Now" piece, only hopefully with a less awkward title.

I thought this up after reading the May 2004 issue of Blender, which you lent me. "50 Worst Songs Ever!" the title read. "Some have crap-tastic melodies. Others are wretchedly performed. And quite a few don't make any sense whatsoever." It's a really good feature, and very funny, but I was horrified to see how many of the 50 songs listed were songs that I actually liked. Or worse, songs that I like.

Okay, so I'm not going to contest the inclusion of tracks like Gerardo's "Rico Suave" or Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"--songs that just struck me, even as a particularly gullible pre-teen, as stupid. There are many songs, too, that would have made it to my own list of 50 Worst Songs Ever: Bryan Adams' "The Only Thing that Looks Good on Me is You" ("like someone explaining ZZ Top to an accountant," said the good people at Blender); Meatloaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" ("This epic chunk of histrionic's worst offense is that it doesn't make any sense."); Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" ("Cetara's gratingly affected and over-modulated vocals float over 1984 standard-issue electric piano, and a nation of greasy, awkward seventh graders slow danced for the first time."); Aqua's "Barbie Girl" ("[set to] teeth-rotting synth-pop like a robot pony kicking children to death").

But--and here I'm putting me reputation as a music writer on the line--REM's "Shiny Happy People," Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence"? These were songs that were landmarks in my listening history. (Would that make them "earmarks"? Just wondering.) Blender's writers are so clever, too, that they make an absolutely convincing case about how bad these tracks are. How come I never noticed that "Shiny Happy People" had a riff that sounded like "a cellphone ring tone chosen by a sociopath," or that the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" was "the missing link between grunge, the Grateful Dead, and Jamiroquai...that no one was looking for in the first place"? I came away from reading the article feeling that Blender is absolutely right, of course, and I should be stripped of my title, and then dragged into the street and shot for even not-disliking these songs, let alone liking them a lot.

At the hastily assembled mock trial that they will have before they put me to death, I will say in my defense that I was young and hormonal and addled when the songs first came out, and so I can't be blamed for my questionable tastes. I had just been given my first Walkman when Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings" came out in 1985, and they sounded good on the earphones. I had just discovered tequila in 1993, and was therefore too drunk to realize that Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes was "so tormented by what she refered to as her 'lahf'--which he had apparently spent trying to climb that 'heeyuhl of howp'--that she had invented her own accent" to sing "What's Up?"

I'll plead guilty to being pretentious, though, which will explain why I didn't mind The Door's "The End" ("the most pretentious rock star's most pretentious song") or Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" ("'Hear my words that I might teach you': Officially the most self-important line in rock history!"). As for the rest, I'll blame it on either the continuing effects of alcohol poisoning from my teenage years, basic but temporary lapses in judgment, or peer pressure.

But then again, if there's anything I've learned writing music reviews for over half a decade now, it's that Good Taste isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And Mark Desrosiers of PopMatters agrees, in this pretty good article on "Eight Mistakes that Music Critics Make". I don't agree with everything he says--he's still a fucking music critic, after all, and they are inherently distrustful--but he has a good name. Mark Desrosiers. All music journalists should have such musical, rock-starry names. Yes, like "L uis Kat igbak" and "K ri stine Fon acier," names that say, "We're smart, and opinionated, and funny. You can believe us, and buy us free drinks."

Speaking of which, I need coffee.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

"The difference between you and me, Luis, is that your apartment's not on fire."

Is it wrong to like a band on the basis of their song titles alone? I think not. Especially when the tracklist for their latest album reads like this:

1. Without MSG I Am Nothing
2. That Man Will Not Hang
3. She Will Only Bring You Happiness
4. Kkkitchens, What Were You Thinking?
5. Your Children Are Waiting for You to Die
6. Icarus Smicarus
7. Slay!
8. You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus
9. Lucky Jim
10. Forget About Him I'm Mint
11. 1956 and All That
12. Falco vs. The Young Canoeist
13. Support Systems

"An invigorating and glorious mess of undistilled Rock fury." Sounds good. Santa, are you listening? McLusky's The Difference Between Me And You Is That I'm Not On Fire is on my list.

Anyway, Kristine, I never did congratulate you for finally being able to use that statement -- or at least that sentence structure -- in real life, without resorting to using alcohol and a box of matches on a human being. But then again, someone had to set your apartment on fire so you could say it, and that seems a tad excessive to me.

Tonight I will be at the MTV VJ Hunt Kick-off Party, for which I wrote the script. My favorite parts of the script were cut out at last night's meeting, but that's the way it goes. So much for the impromptu kickboxing match between KC Montero and Marc Abaya, not to mention Sarah Meier's breakdancing number.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Sloth, etc

Yay, it's the Periodic Table of Sloth! "And if you plan things out right, you can enjoy snacks, television, and bed all at once. And when you do, you'll know you have achieved your life's ultimate ambition." Other T-shirts that are fun to look at but that I will never order because I don't live in the States are here.

I was once part of a group of people who would meet every month to exchange mix CDs (an idea that's worth reviving, actually, if we can cobble together some good people who are up for it). We stopped when the group became too big and unwieldy -- I think. Actually, the real reasons behind the group falling apart may never be known. Anyway, we would agree on monthly themes, and the last theme we agreed upon was "Deadly Sins." We never did get to exchange our mixes on that theme, but I did go through a short period of wondering how to structure mine.

Would I cover the gamut with, say, two or three songs per sin? Would I concentrate on a few ("These are a few of my faaavorite sins...")? Or could I cobble together a whole CD of songs to represent, say, Sloth (Lust and Wrath being a little too easy to find rock n' roll odes to)? Let's see, Teenage Fanclub's "Alcoholiday," maybe Dinosaur Jr.'s "The Wagon" (or pretty much almost anything by Dinosaur Jr.), and so on. Greed would have been easy too, I could have slapped together an all-bling-bling hip-hop mix. Same goes for Pride. Gluttony, now that would have been a bit of a challenge. And Envy (suddenly I can't get that horrible Rick Springfield song about "Jessie's Girl" out of my head).

Sunday, December 12, 2004

And You Don't Stop

It's half past 4 AM and I am pissed off. I'm pissed off because I know there's no way I'm going to write the main feature for our January issue to my satisfaction. I have, what, three days left to write about 27 freakin' artists. So far I've got an interview with Artstrong and a "Keith Martin go home" quote from 17:28. I knew this feature was going to be trouble, I knew I needed help -- but when I tried to get some help, from one guy (our hip-hop-reviewing freelancer JP), well, you know what our apoplectic cost-conscious boss had to say about that. And then I learn that for the exact same kind of feature, exact same number of artists, in the year 2000, he hired a small army of 11 writers. It makes me want to squeeze hamsters 'til their eyes pop out.

So now I'm getting text messages IN ALL CAPS bugging me about the story, and in the meantime, the pagination isn't even done yet, so I can't even gauge how much writing I do have to generate, and etcetera etcetera mutter mutter grumble grumble. I have this weird feeling that V. wants me to fuck up, to finally write a really crappy feature. Anyway, I should just stop griping and do what I can do, I know.

Okay. That's off my chest. It doesn't help that I've taken on so much freelance work, as usual. To refer once again to Kidlat's infamous juggling-as-life metaphor, I haven't quite dropped all my balls yet -- am still keeping some of them in the air -- but two or three of them are rolling around on the floor, and I don't know how long it'll be before I drop the rest. Ideally, I should be able to keep juggling (say, with one hand) while bending down to pick up the fallen pieces, but that may be beyond my skill, or patience, or drive. We'll see.

Haven't listened to music all day. Can't even think of anything I want to listen to. Been feeling the same way about food, too. Not a good sign.

On a happier note, my sister gave me a copy of Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie when I stayed over at my parents' house Thursday night. Not too long ago, she also got me copies of two Shins albums, a Sigur Ros, and Frou Frou, too. She seems to have fallen in with a good crowd in college, at least music-wise. Ah, how quickly they grow up.

Jovan posted something in reaction to my "What Are You Listening To?" post, yay!

POSTSCRIPT. Sassy B. gave me a practical pep talk RE: the f!@#ing hip-hop article. I know what to do now. Thanks, bunny! :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

What You Listening To, Fool?

So any day now, the year-ender issue of PULP should be hitting the stands -- a little late, to be sure, but hey, blame Slipknot -- and one of the features in the December ish is all about What People Are Listening To Now. Not all people, you understand -- just the people whose names we managed to pull, rabbit-like, from our brain-hats, and subsequently photograph and interview. Best answer is Georgette Tengco's (I suggested her, so I get to gloat) -- she listed the listening habits of the whole MTV Pilipinas office, explaining that she's basically forced to listen to what the people around her are playing. Worst answer is some radio station guy's -- "I listen to our station... so that I know it's still on the air." Most inspiring is the hardcore janitor's answer: punk, ska, Selecter, The Specials... oi!

As for myself, most of my daily music consumption is determined by what mp3s I managed to load on my phone (am suddenly reminded of that member of Hoobastank who, during a press conference here, answered the question "What do you listen to?" with -- "My iPod." Sarcasm or stupidity? You decide. But keep in mind the high intellectual content or lack thereof in his band's lyrics). Right now I've got some Charlatans, an ebtg song from Amplified Heart ("We Walk the Same Line"), The Railway Children (looked them up after Mondo Castro gushed about them when I interviewed him for "The Hour That Changed My Life"), Kings of Convenience, Cambio, "Where Is My Mind?" (practically my theme song, I sometimes feel), "Encore" from Eminem's latest album, and too much Manic Street Preachers.

I suppose MTV helps define my listening habits too, as I tend to tune in once or twice a day, if only to check if they're running a new spot I wrote (and therefore owe me money, yay). Saw the latest version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" yesterday morning, and while I know musos hate this kind of stuff, I think that at worst it's harmless and at best it does some good (and excites some fans), so why not. It's not a horrible song, really, and this time around, it has a Justin Hawkins (of the Darkness) guitar solo, and Fran Healy from Travis, Damon Albarn, from Blur (serving tea but not singing), Sir Paul McCartney on bass, Thom Yorke on the piano, the baby-faced singer from Keane, Robbie Williams, and all of the Sugababes, etc., so it's fun to watch. Except for the part where they're all standing in front of a giant screen TV looking at starving Africans (you can almost hear the catch in Joss Stone's throat as her hand flies to cover her mouth, in stunned empathy). I say, if you want real reaction shots, get those buggers out of their comfy studio and fly them to bloody Africa. Don't try to convince us of the deep humanity of the popstars by having them watch television, for Chrissakes. I can just imagine the scene: after they film the assembled musicians watching babies die, Bono claps his hands together and says, "Well! Who's up for a pizza?"

Have also been listening to hip-hop again lately, to psyche myself up for that massive article I'm writing for the Special Hip-Hop Issue in January. I can practically rap the complete lyrics of Common's "The Light" now (but I'll spare you, don't worry), and I've been enjoying stuff by The Roots, Jay-Z, and the posthumously prolific Tupac, as well as Jurassic 5's "A Day at the Races." Yesterday, at the cover shoot, Denise and Cait had managed to gather together Francis M, Andrew E, Ryan of SVC, Artstrong, DJ M.O.D., Gloc-9, DJ Arbie Won, Kimmie from 7 Shots, Dice (or was it K9?) of Dice + K9, and some guy from Salbakuta -- and they were a sight to behold, all lined up against a wall at Prince of Jaipur. Had I been a real enthusiast, I would have been whooping like a drunken cheerleader inside my head. As it was, I could still appreciate the assemblage of hip-hop heavyweights, spanning generations. (Though what generation the ridiculously youthful-looking Francis M belongs to is not apparent at first glance, and one has to remind oneself that he has full-grown children). As Cait said, "I'm not a big hip-hop fan, but this is exciting! We need to do this with rock stars next."

[OT: I took this quiz based on The Little Prince. I know, I know. It figures that I would be The Pilot. "You are the pilot, and the voice of the story. You are the one who creates and tells the stories for those who could not be there. You are unable to be comforted but wish to comfort others. There is a great something missing in your life. Do not forget that you are much loved. Let your sorrow be comforted."]

Friday, December 03, 2004

One Orange for a Lot of Lemons

Those fuckers. I sat down and lunched with them, trusting the fate of the Pinoy rock (awards) scene was safe in their hands. And what did they do? They let Orange & Lemons take home the Best New Artist Award. Over Cambio (who, I can now freely admit, I voted for). Over even The Mongols and Bamboo. Orange and fucking Lemons. Honestly. Those fuckers.

You know what we should do, Luis? We should go form a vigilante group to track down and kill all those judges who voted for O&L, who, as I am sure our gentle readers will agree, deserve to die horrible deaths for the crime of having no taste. I mean, really. Orange & Lemons. Best new artists. ARRRRRGH.

Judgment Bunny's Choice for Best New Artists

Of course, one of those people who might have to die for liking O&L is Margie's adoptive son, Diego Castillo, although I'd spare him just for being so goddamn funny. We had him and his twin, Quark Henares, comment on a list of 10 songs that had become hits over the past year, for an article to be published in this month's issue of MTV INK. Excerpts:

On Kitchie Nadal's "'Wag na 'Wag Mong Sabihin"
QUARK: The song is hook-y. It’s like, “We Are the Champions.”
DIEGO: It’s like an avalanche of hooks. You’re trying to get air, but no! Hooks! Hooks! Hooks! Air! No! Drowning in hooks!
QUARK: I think it’s quite beautiful. I think it was enhanced especially by the appearance of a certain Onemig Bondoc.
DIEGO: Its just, wow! We didn’t see it coming. It was a perfect mix of him and Kitchie.
QUARK: Yes. I felt the love.
DIEGO: And it was, like, his hair was moving!
QUARK: And he was holding his ass, which was just great.
DIEGO: And he had a little bit of his belt out, like he just watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Kudos to Mr. Romulo for making such a great video.
QUARK: And to Onemig Bondoc.
DIEGO: And his hair, for moving up and down.

On Rivermaya's "Balisong"
QUARK: “Your face lights up the sky on the highway…” Therefore it’s about someone whose face is on a billboard, ‘diba? Perhaps the daughter of Sharon Cuneta.
DIEGO: Perhaps.
QUARK: Who has the same first name as KC Montero…”But I know you only see me as a friend!”
DIEGO: Is it balisong as in the switchblade, or is it Bali, then song?
QUARK: Well, it’s spelled balisong. And he said it’s his pasalubong to someone.
DIEGO: The someone whose face lights up the Skyway. You know what, she’s everything he wanted and more. My golly.

On Sandara Park's "In or Out"
MARC: Why is she famous here anyway?
MTV INK: It’s a Lito Camo song.
DIEGO: I worked with Lito Camo. Because he was with BMG, during the early, early days of my musical career. Chaperoning him around to Cebu and Davao. Even back then, he was oozing with genius.
DIEGO: Can you be both in and out at the same time?
QUARK: If you are a hermaphrodite, like the two of us. This girl doesn’t even know how to speak English nor Tagalog.
DIEGO: And look at her now.

On Radioactive Sago Project's "Astro"
DIEGO: Tingin ko magandang pang self-motivational tape si Lourd, ‘no? Parang subliminal lang… “Bumili na kayo…bumili na kayo… Puntahan mo si Lito Camo…puntahan mo, puntahan mo… Out sya..di sya in, di sya in…puntahan mo…”

On Cambio's "DV"
QUARK: Ito’yung best Filipino album of the year, for me. Pero alam mo‘yung video? Sobrang perfect sa song.
DC: Kung si RA (Rivera) lang, di gumawa ng video this year, eh. Bwisit! Dammit!
QUARK: Feeling ko si Diego (Mapa) nga one of the three greatest musical geniuses in the Philippines. Si Ely yung isa. Ewan ko kung sino ‘yung third.

On Sandwich's "Two Trick Pony"
DIEGO: This song, fuck, it sucks.
QUARK: I think it’s the most horrible song. And what a video.
DIEGO: What’s up with the hoes? Who the fuck…?
QUARK: “I want to move on…but the groupies are coming for me. Help me.”
DIEGO: The riff is mine, I’ll take credit for the riff. And it sucks!

(Note to all readers of this blog: Did you find this article funny? Please buy the December issue of MTV INK, and then write to our publisher to let him know that you love the magazine just the way it is and hope that we will never, ever, ever change. That you think that changing the magazine will be a horrible mistake, on par with naming Orange & Lemons as the Best New Artists of the year. Thank you.)

And the Winnah Is

So, the NU Rock Awards pushed through last night, despite the storm raging and cows hurtling through the air. Thanks to the Philmusic peeps -- "Here’s a list of the winners as we recall them," they report, italics mine (mine, I tell you! MINE!), which could mean that this whole lineup is a complete fabrication, plucked from their drug-scrambled brains. Certainly the O&L win seems like the work of some unhinged reality-warping super-villain.

Best New Artist: Orange & Lemons
Band/Artist of the Year: Bamboo
Song of the Year: "Noypi" by Bamboo
Album of the Year: Influence by Urbandub
Best Music Video: "Astro" by RadioActive Sago Project
Best Album Packaging: Novena by Slapshock
Vocalist of the Year: Bamboo Manalac (Bamboo)
Guitarist of the Year: Jerome Velasco (The Mongols)
Bassist of the Year: Buddy Zabala (Twisted Halo, Cambio)
Drummer of the Year: Vic Mercado (Bamboo)
Producer of the Year: Sandwich
In The Raw Award: The Late Isabel
Hall of Fame: The Jerks
Female Icon: Cynthia Alexander
Listener’s Choice: Bamboo

Bamboo beats Ebe? Not in my universe (a universe, by the way, where good, free pizza is distributed to all who want it, and new comics arrive at your doorstep every morning -- so don't tell me it's not a much better universe). Influence beats Dramachine and Derby Light? Well... it wasn't a bad album, not at all; was quite impressed by the production and some of the songs. It's just not something that bears repeated listening, to my mind. Fairly chuffed (yay, British-ism), though, about Jerome "Bunny" Velasco and Buddy "Hunka Burnin' Love" Zabala.

Just texted Wawi of The Late Isabel to congratulate her on their In the Raw win. "Thanks, Luis!" she replies. "We didn't quite expect it and we were pretty much drunk while claiming the award." Woo hoo! Rock and roll!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Solitude Sometimes Is

Am listening to Lifeblood by the Manic Street Preachers and it feels very much like my heart is breaking. It's during moments like these that I think I'm only pretending to be a writer, that I won't really be a writer until I can set down in words how a song and a memory can fill one up with such bittersweetness, such intense yet imprecise longing. "1985" plays, and I feel transported to my pre-teenhood and at the same time rooted here: a muddle of innocent ignorance and cynical self-awareness, romantic and idiotic, clueless and knowing, neither now nor then, possibilities spinning in the air but mistakes already made, years already done and gone. Keyboard-conjured notes ring and echo as James Dean Bradfield sings about "Empty Souls," and I think of lost chances and lives in fast-forward. Listening to "I Live To Fall Asleep" almost makes me want to cry; instead, I raise a squiggle-smile of intermingled affection and regret. "Glasnost" fills me with a hope both irrational and fleeting, yet recurring, if that makes any sense. Understand that I'm not even really trying to make the lyrics out -- though I'm sure that they're good -- it's just the way these songs sound that affects me so. And I know they won't -- can't -- make everyone feel the same way, or even close to the same way. It helps to have grown up in the 80s. It helps to be a little over-sensitive and self-centered, to be prone to bouts of nostalgia and daydreaming. It helps to be me, I guess.

Strangers When We Meet

Last night, I was in the Greenhills branch of Book Sale, stalking through the shelves of secondhand tomes as usual, when I realized something.

Another book hunter was in the same store.

Call it arrogance or ignorance, but when I'm searching for bargain book finds at secondhand stores, I usually assume I'm the most serious, most dead-set, most well-informed and perceptive book buyer in the place. I have an idea of which volumes are worthwhile and hard-to-find, which authors are worth trying or following, and even which books are overpriced and will be marked down soon. I like to delude myself that everyone else is just there for a cheapo copy of, say, The DaVinci Code or some Judith Krantz novel or something, or maybe a computer reference manual, or the latest FHM. Yeah, we all like to feel superior in some way, right? No matter how stupid that way may be.

But last night, as I was methodically making my way through the piles of new deliveries, I noticed that there was one other person in the store who was spending quite a lot of time making sure that she was being thorough. I noticed as well that she was lugging around a slowly-growing stack of acquisitions. A sort of unhurried race was suddenly underway: I avoided the areas she had already scoured, and wended my way towards the unexplored shelves. I rapidly built a stack of my own: nonfiction by Neal Stephenson, a novel by Alain de Botton, a marked-down hardbound copy of The Corrections, Animal Land by Margaret Blount, a biography of The Chieftains for Yvette -- good stuff. At one point, I agonized over a huge hardcover collection of Annie Lebowitz's photographs, entitled American Music and featuring everyone from Delta blues singers to Beck, but at over P600 it seemed a little pricey for a Book Sale find.

My competition had been there before I arrived, and she wrapped up her business and ambled over to the counter first. She addressed the salespeople like they were old friends, and I gathered that she was a regular. I glanced at her collection. Excellent choices: books by solid, widely-acclaimed authors, but, luckily, nothing I really really would have wanted -- except for the Wodehouse. Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse to be exact. Thank God I have an old beat-up copy, inherited from my grandmother, I thought to myself. Whew.

I walked up to her and commented on her acquisition of the Jeeves book. "Good choice, that," I said. She seemed pleased, and started talking about how expensive the Wodehouse volumes were in the non-secondhand bookstores, and about how ol' P.G. was an influence on Terry Pratchett -- "You've read Terry Pratchett, right?" she said, not really as a question -- and how this was actually her first Jeeves book. I told her that in my opinion, the Jeeves stories were far and away the best things Wodehouse had written, and that she was in for a treat. It was a brief exchange, and though we parted with absolutely no idea who the other person was -- not even names were mentioned -- it was undeniably pleasant, in a manner that only conversations that are solely about things one has a passion for can be. No personal issues: just talk about books, and authors. "I miss strangers," Margie said when I told her about it, as she recalled the coffeeshop culture of London.

What does all this have to do with music, you may ask. Well, nothing much, except that of course music is one of those things one can instantly bond with strangers over. Remember meeting Emmily and her husband Dan in Malate last week and, quite early into the conversation, talking about which Smiths albums were our favorites? (I'm tempted to name Meat is Murder, by the way -- thank you Allan Tabilog, for lending me your copy all those years ago). That was a lovely night, with good company and good conversation, and food and (yay) drink aplenty. Dan opening for The Flaming Lips at a festival of music and literature -- I loved hearing about that.

Of course, he also disturbed us both with his pronouncement that he used to be so obsessed with music -- "But I find that as I grow older, I care about it less and less." *Insert blood-curdling scream of grief and denial here* Then again, I look at Tita Pep, who has yet to be disappointed by PJ Harvey and who thoroughly enjoyed the new Eminem, and my own mother, who -- thanks to my sister Marien -- is now a fan of The Shins, The Postal Service and, yes, The Flaming Lips, and I think: well, it's not inevitable. And if I ever do stop caring about music, or books, you may kick me, "so hard that your grandchildren will feel it," as you once so endearingly threatened.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Happy Birthday, Kristine! :)

Though you may be officially a year older today, take comfort in the fact that if you and I and all our friends were to stage a production of The Sound of Music, you would still be Gretl Von Trapp.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Waxy Seal of Judgment

Sassy B.'s birthday present--an initial mini-seal; "a individual and striking way to seal & decorate all your correspondence"--was put to good first use today, as I put what will hereafter be known as the Judgment Bunny Seal of Doom on the envelope with the NU 107 Rock Awards votes inside. I'm not going to divulge who I voted for, but suffice it to say that I'm sure not all the worthy musicians who got the JB stamp of approval (not to be confused with the S.O.D., by the way) are going to win. I did vote for the ones who I think deserved the award, but I think I underdogged some of the categories.

That said, here are the nominees for the NU Rock Awards, to be held at Le Pavilion on December 2. I'm taking bets.

Orange & Lemons
The Mongols

The funny thing about this category is that four of these so-called "new" bands are made up of guys from old bands, either moving on or working on a side project. My prediction is that Bamboo's going to take the award.


One of the most difficult categories to judge. A little too close to call at the moment, and I'm not saying who I picked.

"Noypi" by Bamboo
"Two Trick Pony" by Sandwich
"Biglaan" by 6 CycleMind
"Astro" by Radioactive Sago Project
"Just Like a Splendid Love Song" by Orange & Lemons
"Harapin and Liwanag" by The Dawn

I think Bamboo's going to take it again. And, for the record, the song I voted for isn't my favorite among the nominees, but I still think it deserves the award.

As the Music Plays by Bamboo
Influence by Urbandub
Thanks to the Moon's Gravitational Pull by Sandwich
Dramachine by Sugarfree
Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream by Orange & Lemons
Derby Light by Cambio

Also a little too close to call. But, that said, I'm really a little bit upset that O&L are nominated. Augh.

"Astro" by Radioactive Sago Project, directed by RA Rivera
"Two Trick Pony" by Sandwich, directed by Diego Castillo
"Shallow Graves" by Chocosci, directed by Quark Henares
"Sinta" by Sugarfree, directed by Quark Henares
"DV" by Cambio, directed by Diego Castillo
"Doll's Head" by The Late Isabel, directed by Mark Jimenez
"Another Minute Until Ten" by Typecast, directed by Chuck Pose

I think it's a toss-up between "Astro" and "DV." I liked the "DV" video a lot. *looks down at ground, draws figure 8s in the ground with toe, pats hair self-consciously*

Slapshock, Novena by Slapshock (NOTE: Didn't Team Manila do the design for this one?)
Inksurge, Thanks to the Moon's Gravitational Pull by Sandwich
Typecast, The Infatuation is Always There by Typecast
Cairo Visual, Icarus by Chicosci
Marcus Nada, Derby Light by Cambio
Jay Tablante, Kjwan by Kjwan

I think Novena is going to win this, although of course the office would be really happy if Marcus took home the award.

Bamboo Mañalac of Bamboo
Marc Abaya of Sandwich
Karl Roy of Kapatid
Gabby Alipe of Urbandub
Ebe Dancel of Sugarfree

Ebe 4eber! Yay! I voted for Ebe! Heh heh. I'm kidding. No, wait, I'm not kidding. Or am I? I'll never tell.

Ira Cruz of Bamboo
Mong Alcaraz and Sonny Baquisal of Chicosci
Diego Castillo, Marc Abaya, and Raymund Marasigan of Sandwich
Mike Elgar and Kakoy Legaspi of Rivermaya
Gabby Alipe and John Dinopol of Urbandub
Steve Badiola of Typecast
Jerome Astro Velasco of the Mongols

Hm. Hard to call, too. I don't remember who I voted for, either.

Nathan Azarcon of Bamboo
Lalay Lim of Urbandub
Lee Nadela of Slapshock
Buddy Zabala of Cambio and Twisted Halo
Myrene Academia of Sandwich and Imago
Japs Sergio of Rivermaya

Now, wouldn't it be cool if a woman took home a Rock Awards trophy? It figures that it'll be for Bassist of the Year, if it happens, though. My complaint here is that bassists aren't given enough to do, and so it's hard to pick out someone in the background to give the award to.

Vic Mercado of Bamboo
J-Hoon Balbuena of Kjwan
Jerros de Lino of Urbandub
Mitch Singson of Sugarfree
Marc Escueta of Rivermaya
Mike Dizon of Sandwich

Luis guessed who I voted for. Which may have been easy, because this particular drummer had a lot to contribute to the band. He stood out, even on the CD.

Angee Rozul and Kjwan, for Kjwan
Angee Rozul and Bamboo, for As the Music Plays
Slapshock, for Novena
Sandwich, for Thanks to the Moon's Gravitational Pull
Rivermaya, for Between the Stars and Waves
Buddy Zabala and Raymund Marasigan, for Dramachine

Wouldn't it be something if Rivermaya won this, eh? It'd be something bad. But I predict that either Angee Rozul and Bamboo or Sandwich will win it.

The Late Isabel
Plane Divides the Sky

I think Plane Divides the Sky will finally get the award this year, after having been nominated for the same thing last year (thanks for the info, Luis!). Or will The Late Isabel actually goth their way into the hearts of the judges?


So there. Tickets, I understand, are going to be sold at P350 each. Expensive, but worth it if you want to go see your favorite bands play, accept awards, cry, laugh, stutter, thank their fans. There will also be the odd orc stampede or two. Punta tayo!

There and Back Again

What a great weekend! I miss the bracing chill air of Tagaytay already. (Not that early mornings on Maginhawa street aren't laced with chill air, but it's polluted, not-so-chill air punctuated by tricycle motor-sounds). Bread, cheese, mulled wine, and great friends = Yay! Somehow even just watching cable TV is so much more fun in such a setting. Also, our little out of town stay was educational, as I did not know that it was humanly possible to consume a jar of Nutella in one sitting -- raw, without the benefit of bread or crackers, kind of like looking directly at the sun without protection, except in a hazelnut spread sense. Nor had I ever really appreciated the full effect even a televised, fully clothed Richard Gere can have on female spectators. "How old is Richard Gere, anyway?" "Nummy."

Thoroughly enjoyed the trip there and back too. Road trip music: the Jack Daniels compilation CD (best bits: The Youth, Violent Playground, Girl in Park), the Pixies tribute album ("Gigantic" makes you wanna jump around; it's Rave Pixies, so wrong and so right), Liz Phair, Fiona Apple, Sting before he went bad, and the next day, Kristin Hersh, two CDs worth of Sugarfree, Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas and "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, hee hee. I had sung along to the "I'm a sex machine/ready to reload" line in front of Sassy's mom before I realized what I was doing. Luckily I doubt that she noticed.

And now we're all back in the city. Am listening to "Buwan" by the Itchyworms, and working on that how-to article for PULP now. I doubt very much that I can fill three spreads with it; kind of the opposite of the problem I had last month, with the Kitchie article. Given the instant nature of the assignment, it's not going to be a classic, but I'm going to shoot for something that's at least passably witty and informative. ("The first thing to remember about getting gigs for your fledgling band is the first thing that you have to remember about everything in the Philippines, from plumbing to teaching astrophysics: it's all about who you know.")

Oh, hey, congratulations on your NU judging stint, btw! :) And RE: your shameful past, nothing at all wrong with "making phone calls to radio stations to request songs" -- hey, I did that in high school too, and furthermore I would ask the NU jocks to dedicate those songs: "This is "Gravity" by Translator, going out to Maricon, from you know who." In other words, I win the uncool contest.

Except for a minor personal glitch (not to mention the mini-riot that went on outside the Trade Center, tho I only found out about it later), I enjoyed last year's NU Awards quite a bit; hope they hired director Cocoy Jimenez again, as he knows how to keep his awards shows as tight and fast-paced as possible (as I witnessed first-hand behind the scenes at Pilipinas). Last year's highlights included an acoustic set by heavy band Subculture, an energetic Urbandub number, that E-heads tribute, and Narda's In the Raw triumph. I think I still have that large-format souvenir magazine they were giving away: kind of like MTV Ink, except without the color, the cool layouts and the fun writing.

Anyway, back to work. See you at the office! :)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Judgment Bunny Gets a Phone Call

I was just on my way into the elevator today when I got a call on my cellphone. It was a landline number that my phone didn't recognize, and I didn't pick it up because I wasn't in a hurry and couldn't wait for the next elevator car. It was an Ortigas number that looked vaguely familiar. I tried dialling the number when I got off the elevator, but I kept getting a busy signal. Oh, well, if it's important, they'll call back, I thought, and tucked the phone into my pocket.

It wasn't till I started the car when the sleeping neurons in my head awakened from their drooly slumber. "6346516? You know that number because...ah, you used to call it quite a bit when you were young, uncool, and secretly called radio stations to make requests. You never got through, though."

Well, my neurons might be lazy, but they were right. 6346516 called back, and it turned out to be from NU107. They wanted to know if I could maybe be one of the judges at the NU Rock Awards this year.

Yay! I mean, YAY! In the course of this job, I've been a judge at competitions big and small, from the barely tolerable acoustic competitions where (true story) the lyric "I'm constipated for your love" actually figured, to prestigious music awards like MTV Pilipinas and the Awit Awards. But I can't begin to tell you what being asked to judge the NU107 Rock Awards is like for me. I was, all throughout the critical years of high school, so uncool it wasn't even funny enough to be material for a future bitter autobiography. I was making phone calls to radio stations to request songs, ferchissakes. And I didn't even know how uncool it was, because I was just a whole black hole of uncoolness.

So now, here I am, almost 15 years away from being 15 years old and NU107 called me! To judge the Rock Awards! Oh my god. This is being named Prom King or Queen years after the fact. Revenge of the nerds, baby! *evil laugh*

Next week: Judgment Bunny is invited to the Judges' Lunch, where she will find out which bands will be on the receiving end of her judgment oranges of doom.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Bad Dream, Good Idea

Been at home for three days trying to get stuff finished and failing miserably. Margie says elves are to blame and I'm inclined to believe her, but elves can only go so far -- hiding my research, misplacing my interview tapes, etc. The constant fatigue and disinterest and lack of focus are all my own (unless the elves have gone so far as to drug my food, as well).

Dreamed last night that I was in a car with Paul Guadakomeda from the office, Ebe Dancel of Sugarfree, my dancing engineer friend Avel, and Astrid, an old friend from college. Paul was driving. We traveled way way out of the city on a dirt road to a huge mansion of Chinese-influenced architecture, which looked out of place in that remote, sparsely vegetated, almost desert-like area. Inside the mansion was our boss, Vernon. The gist of the dream was that we had all gone there to seek a boon, and we were turned away, boonless, but not exactly surprised or even upset. And then, on the return trip back to the city, I woke up.

I guess the dream was mildly prophetic. I had an idea for our December issue -- that it would be sprinkled throughout with short sweet blog-like essays by the staff (you, me, Peach, Joey, Conch, Denise, Bernie, etc), each on a certain aspect of music -- nothing straitlaced or agenda-laden, just easy-to-read, fun stuff; personal, but not self-indulgent. For example, you on making mix CDs, Peach on recording her debut album, Joey on his out-of-town gig with Skychurch, etc. So of course Vernon shot it down today. Oh well. He claims we focus too much on the staff as it is. That was, of course, not the point of the essays; the point was to focus on music, in an accessible way. We could get a bunch of other writers to write short, blog-like essays on music, and then he could complain about the freelancer payments instead. Anyway, I still think it was a good idea.

Friday, October 22, 2004


Well, people might as well hear it here first: the Slipknot concert has been officially cancelled. Not that I give anything even remotely resembling a fuck, but I do feel bad that so many people (Denise and Cait, especially) have put in so much work to have it come to naught. The band's still proceeding with their Asian Tour, skipping the Philippines due to concerns related to the US State Department's continuing travel advisories warning American tourists against coming here. They chickened out, in other words.

In the meantime, here's to hoping that MTV will be able to bring in a halfway decent foreign act for the Music Summit in December. Sigh. The music scene needs cheering up.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Pixie Dust

Last night, at the end of the travel writing workshop at the FHL, one of the workshoppers (Kathy, who had also signed up three years ago at one of the first workshops I'd ever facilitated) treated us to a show of her fire spinning skills, which she'd learned during the extended stay in South Africa which she was preparing for the last time I saw her. It doesn't really sound like much if you describe it--two flaming balls of fuel-filled balls of Kevlar, being twirled on the ends of metal chains--and even Kathy says it took her only two weeks to learn. She offered to teach me for free.

Hm. Hmmm...

Okay, the truth is that fire spinning doesn't hold any particular thrills for me, and I don't really feel any compelling urge to take that up. But it did make me think about my landmark birthday coming up, and how I don't have any plans for it just yet. (So far, there are only two words on the Birthday Plans page in my notebook: "drink" and "unconsciousness.") Why not do something that frightens me? I think everyone should do something they're scared of once in a while--it's good for the soul.

And this relates to music how, you ask. Wait, I'm getting there. There's an interview on Salon with Charles Thompson of the Pixies, and it's the kind of interview that I dream about. It's also the kind of dream I wake up screaming from. I mean, here you have an interviewee from a band that you truly respect, and he has very strong opinions about music, and he's smart and articulate, and I'm really interested in what he has to say--but he also hates interviews and interviewers. "One thing that hasn't changed about Thompson is his interview style. He can be variously tangential, disengaged, ecstatic and bored," says writer Scott Thill in the introduction to his Q&A. Not to mention downright hostile.

I feel so conflicted and confused reading this interview. When Thompson attacks music magazines for being gossipy, there's a part of me that wants to applaud, like, Yeah, give 'em hell, Charles! But then I remember that I also belong to the opposition. "I want to be Lou Reed and I want the writer to be Lester Bangs. Know what I mean?" Thompson says. "I want him to be so into it that he's arguing with me about the validity of a song I wrote. I don't care if it's insulting. I don't care if it's challenging or whatever." And I'm thinking, Yay! Lou Reed! Lester Bangs! . Just before it dawns on me that I'm never going to be Lester Bangs, and no matter how much of a Pixies fan I am or how mellow Charles Thomspon gets to be in his advancing years, he's going to hate me.

This was like the time they offered us a Garbage phoner, with either Shirley Manson or Butch Vig. I'm a really big fan of their music, but the thought of interviewing either of them scared me so much that I gave the phoner over to Bernie. It turned out to be Butch Vig (!), and he turned out to be a sweet, easy interviewee. To this day I envy Bernie for that interview, but I still don't know if I'd do it, given another chance.

Of course, 30th birthday fast coming up, there are but a few things I would say no to these days.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Anniversary Song

Hey ho, Judgment Bunny! :)

Realized belatedly that PULP just churned out its 50th issue: the one, unfortunately, with the 6cyclemind cover feature. Despite an electronica feature by yours truly and your always-reliable reviews section, it is, quite possibly, one of the most lackluster issues in recent memory, seemingly devoid of enthusiasm and riddled with typos and outright mistakes. (On the bright side, I finally got to use the word "lackluster" -- one of my favorites -- in this blog). It's too bad. After all, being the comics collector that I am, I've always been a sucker for the landmark issue numbers. "Spectacular 50th Issue! Collector's Item!" "Double-sized 100th Issue Extravaganza! Unbelievably Special Guest Stars!" "Mind-blowing 300th Issue! You are 30+ Years Old and Still Reading the Same Titles!"

And on the heels of that belated realization comes galloping the fact that, counting my first freelance forays, I've been writing for PULP for over two years now. Amazing, considering that prior to this job, the longest I had been employed was two months (not counting my stint as columnist/contributing editor at LegManila). It's still fun, this job; I'll always enjoy writing about music and interviewing musicians (um, depending), but if the criteria for staying with something is whether you're still learning or not -- as a wise friend once told me -- well, I have to wonder.

I pitched what I believed were some nice ideas some months ago for the 50th and/or our 5th anniversary issue this December -- including an artist/industry-based survey of the 5 best (not best-selling) albums of the past 5 years, accompanied by little interviews/features for the top 5 ranked (admittedly, a very Q or Rolling Stone-esque thing to do) -- but they got shot down without being considered very carefully, I thought. Even Joey and Peach seemed to like the suggestions, but as we know, only one person, ultimately, calls the shots. Ho well. As I always end up telling myself, it's not my money, and it's not my magazine (if it were, I'm guessing Slipknot wouldn't be on the cover... not that I have anything against Slipknot. I guess I feel about them the same way Joey feels for, say, the Stone Roses).

Am just rambling, now. Better to sleep it off. And to all a good night.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Cab Rides and Cover Versions

Listening to Paul Weller's Studio 150 at 6AM on a Tuesday morning. Not bad. Comfort music, in a way; songs familiar (The Carpenters' "Close to You," "All Along the Watchtower") and obscure (an unreleased Noel Gallagher song, Neil Young's "Birds"), rendered by Weller's weathered rasp and a small army composed of backup singers, a string section, and special guests from friend-bands like Ocean Colour Scene and The Stands. Everything's very well done, and Weller's signature style shines through, but as a whole, the album isn't very compelling.

There are, generally speaking, some cover versions that almost obliterate your sense of the original, that's how good they are (I would include The Sundays' version of "Wild Horses" on that short list; Stones fans can hate me all they want). Or they are sufficiently different from the source that the result is two almost completely distinct listening experiences (yes, I enjoy BOTH the U2 and Pet Shop Boys version of "Where the Streets Have No Name"). For the most part, on Studio 150, Weller neither enrages or astonishes, and while that means the album has no real high points, it must be said that there is nary a low point to be heard here, either. It's just a good, unsurprising set of tastefully-done songs in a 70s soul/guitar-pop stylee, perfect for -- well, perfect for cool early mornings when the sun's still half-asleep.

Oh, and here's a game I love to play when forced to listen to the typical public transpo radio stations that are always broadcasting teeth-gnashingly familiar love song crap from the 70s and 80s: I imagine them being covered by someone I actually like, whether it's David Bowie or Massive Attack or whomever. One can't assign artists randomly, though: you have to really imagine the new version, and really believe it might actually be good, might lift the song from its cheesy mediocrity. Examples: Nick Cave doing the Bee Gees' "Emotions" ("In the words of a broken heart it’s just emotions/ Taking me over/ Tied up in sorrows/ Lost in my soul"), Roddy Frame doing Christopher Cross' "Never Be The Same", and Freddie Mercury doing basically any of those over-the-top exercises in pop song sappiness by Air Supply (especially "Here I Am"). Haven't thought of an appropriate cover artist for Charlene's "Never Been To Me" yet, though I do find it easy to imagine a Tori Amos version -- spoken-word section and all. Knowing Amos' penchant for covers, maybe it exists, somewhere.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Here Comes Judgment Bunny!

Luis is back...and how! Glad to see you're posting again. It was getting a little lonely here, and as a result, I was beginning to get a little self-absorbed. ;)

My musical luck lately hasn't been as good as yours. My latest musical adventure--and here we use both the words "adventure" and "musical" loosely--was last night's Nescafe De-wired acoustic band competition, the last of the eight elimination rounds, and the second one I sat in as judge (Conch and Bernie both took turns on the other rounds). The winner last night were the brothers Michael and Angelo Manahan, collectively known as Michaelangelo. Minus points for creativity when it comes to finding a band name; plus points for looks. And, oh, they were pretty good musicians, too.

I was happy with last night's winner, because they were my pick, although for a while there I was worried that I might've been giving the handsome brothers extra points for their fragrant good looks (i.e., mukha silang mabango), I closed my eyes during their performance, and confirmed that, yeah, Michael's voice was doing something to my insides. I liked that his voice wasn't the typical smooth, sweet, and brain-curdlingly bland voice that makes so much of this so-called genre. Michael's voice had some rough edges, which he used to good effect, and their pick of covers just walked the line between a little off-beat and memorable, and familiar and crowd-pleasing.

That said, I still had issues with the judging process for this whole thing. I suppose every contest shows the particular biases of its judges, but the De-wired criteria focused nearly exclusively on vocals, with almost nothing awarded for musicianship. A full 30% was given over to "vocal quality," but points for musical performance had to be subsumed under the hazy headings "originality" and "stage presence." I'd like to think that I can appreciate a good voice as much as the next person, and sure, it's not for nothing that vocalists are called front(wo)men, but ignoring the talents of the musicians in the band is just plain dumb. As a result of this limited system, my scores for the bands always came out nearly level, even when I vastly preferred the performance of one over the others. The truth is that good vocalists are easy enough to find (although it's something that's eluded the Purplechickens), but it's quite another thing to put together a good band and make good music.

To their credit, Nestlé and the event organizers have scheduled deliberations to come up with new criteria for the finals on October 22, and have invited representatives from our office to help out. I'd like to come dressed in my Judgment Bunny costume (headband and ears, and a basket full of "judgment oranges"). I'll hop on to the table, point to each of the people in turn, and scream, "Your taste sucks! And your taste also sucks! You all suck! Your opinions are all wrong and sucky! Stop all this sucking and kill yourselves now!!!" And then I'll pelt them with oranges till their skins are as bruised as their egos. That'll teach them not to mess with Judgment Bunny.

Step by step (ooh baby)

This post has nothing directly to do with music. Just wanted to share this excerpt, from an essay on essays:
I've always been fascinated by comb-overs, especially the extreme sort that make a man look as if he's wearing a beret made of his own hair. Surely this is a lowly sort of thing to be interested in -- the sort of superficial quizzing best left to teenage girls. And yet there is something underneath. The key question, I realized, is how does the comber-over not see how odd he looks? And the answer is that he got to look that way incrementally. What began as combing his hair a little carefully over a thin patch has gradually, over 20 years, grown into a monstrosity. Gradualness is very powerful. And that power can be used for constructive purposes too: just as you can trick yourself into looking like a freak, you can trick yourself into creating something so grand that you would never have dared to plan such a thing. Indeed, this is just how most good software gets created. You start by writing a stripped-down kernel (how hard can it be?) and gradually it grows into a complete operating system. Hence the next leap: could you do the same thing in painting, or in a novel?

I've been reading about such things as entire novels written through accumulated text messages (thanks to Indira for the link). Been wanting to try one. Of course, I plan many many things that never happen.

The Lost Art of Livin'

Talking to Margie about her Sinatra review sparked within me the urge to dig up a book I got secondhand a couple of years ago -- The Way You Wear Your Hat (subtitled "Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin',") by Bill Zehme. Not your typical biography, it's arranged more or less according to topic -- "Pallies," "Broads," "Style" and so forth -- and peppered with anecdotes, bits of onstage banter, quotes from FS and family and friends, and lots of great photos: a bygone, swingin' time captured in words and images, in black and white. "Arguably, no man ever lived life more broadly or confidently or stylishly than Frank Sinatra. So I sought his large legacy of mortal wisdom, plain and simple," writes Zehme. Sinatra was amused by his request, and generous with his replies.

How do you get over a broken heart? ~ "You don't. I think being jilted is one of life's most painful experiences. It takes a long time to heal a broken heart. It's happened to all of us and never gets any easier. I understand, however, that playing one of my albums can help."

One of the last mix tapes I ever made -- in the sense that it was an actual cassette, and not a CD -- was for my father, a mix of some of his favorite Sinatra songs. I think he still plays it in his car to this day; it strikes me that he's been listening to FS for maybe half a century by now, maybe more. Growing up, that voice was always there for us, which I suppose made it easy to take for granted. (I remember rewinding and playing a green-colored Sinatra tape to death, as a child; aside from the color, I remember little else about it, except that it had "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"). The Beatles, my brother and I had to seek out specifically, aware of a huge gap in our music-appreciating knowledge, but Sinatra -- I suppose by the time I hit high school, I figured I had listened to enough Sinatra to last me the rest of my life (I was wrong -- after I made that tape for my father, not so long ago, I made a copy for myself, which I was to play quite a lot in the months to follow).

What is the most important thing a father can tell his children? ~ "Be true to yourself. And stay away from the dark thoughts."

Going through The Way You Wear Your Hat makes one nostalgic for a time and a place one never knew firsthand; for nights out on the town, fighting "a relentless battle against sleeping before sun-up," going to black-tie parties with sunglasses in your pocket, laughing hard and loving recklessly with one's pallies. Not that one wants to be part of that crop of fairly recent Rat Pack wannabes, flashing their borrowed lingo and secondhand swagger; there's something sad and pitiful in that, even if an imitation of style may be better than no style at all. And deep down, no matter how attractive an earlier era may seem, perhaps one senses that the depictions of all silvery ages are just linings on clouds, that the perception of glamour remains where perhaps the reality of pain and cruelty has faded, and that nothing, after all, is better than the present moment, with its stalwart friends and swoon-worthy lovers, these days of fulfilling work and happy-grinned play. And speaking of work, since, after all life can't be all tuxedos and Jack Daniel's:

What is the secret to doing good work? ~ "Never to accept anything without question. Never ignore an inner voice that tells you something could be better, even when other people tell you it's okay."

A good rule for work, and a good rule for livin', in general, I should think. Not that I don't break it all the time. Which reminds me -- it's almost 6 AM, and time to get back to work now. ;)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Unreal Sunday

But tonight we feel like stars
We’ll play our air guitars
Cause we’re eighteen
It’s a perfect night
To sing our prom theme

-- "Prom Theme," Fountains of Wayne

As you can tell from the above quote, even though it is now almost 6 AM on a Monday morning, I've still got the non-drinker's emotional equivalent of a hangover, caused by last Saturday's Prom Night. Except for the bit about being eighteen, those lines are pretty appropriate (and you know -- maybe because of all the 80s nostalgia, maybe because of the excellent company I was with -- this was one of those times I just completely forgot what my age is. I might as well have been eighteen).

Just finished rewriting yesterday's blog entry to make it suitable for our impressionable PULP readers. I actually wish I could make it longer -- there are so many details I want to mention, like the blinking-lights tiara worn by that member of Death by Tampon, or Ebe Dancel sliding between the legs of Imago's guitarist (almost as obscene as it sounds) -- but I'm already over 600 words. ;p

Felt slightly unreal all of Sunday. Drifted. Slept little snatches of sleep. Not a bad thing, really. Watched a DVD of Tears for Fears videos, which sank me even deeper into intense description-dodging high school feelings, a brief resurgence of that odd fleeting sense that one is both immortal and incredibly fragile. So many trivial things in one's past can still affect one so much -- the memory of a childhood car ride, a sunset you observed while sitting on a stone bench beside your high school football field. What matters? It's all just life.

Will probably feel more solid tomorrow -- I mean, later. But for now, words fail me.

And the lovely mirrorball reflected back them all
Every triumph, every fight, under disco light.

-- "Mirrorball," Everything but the Girl

Sunday, October 03, 2004

After the Prom

That's it. I think I can stop going to gigs for now. I don't think I'm going to top this one any time soon.

Just got back home a short while ago, a little before 3 AM, from the Admit One Production, "BLAST PROM DI PAST: Mga Kantang Pang-Mirrorball." Oh, man. What a night. It's kind of stupid to be writing about it right now, because with the state my mind is in, I don't think I'm going to find the words to do it justice. Sure, the lineup was impressive: Imago, Cambio, Sugarfree, Twisted Halo, Happy Meals, Itchyworms, Drip, and, um, Death By Tampon -- so I was expecting a great gig. But you know, it wasn't a gig, it was a party. I thought the affair hit its high point too early, with that wonderfully shameless medley by the Itchyworms, which included everything from "Stars" by Simply Red to "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred to "Xtasi Xtano" by whoever the heck that was, but I was so wrong. The night was just beginning.

Everyone was so good (with the exception of the usually reliable Happy Meals; their vocalist Odin is still in the States, and his substitute couldn't cut it) -- Death by Tampon were a fun, energetic surprise, Halo did a great take on OMD's "If You Leave," Imago left us gasping with their rendition of "Take My Breath Away", Diego Mapa got lucky while Cambio sang of "Endless Love," Sugarfree performed the magnificent "Prom," of course, as well as Bon Jovi's "Never Say Goodbye," and Drip -- with the gorgeous talented Beng Calma (resplendent in her white prom dress) on vocals and Ian and Malek on electronic thingamajigs -- delivered the best version of "Rush Rush" ever. Quite possibly the best possible version you can have of that Paula Abdul song.

And then, debunking the notion that the evening couldn't possibly be any more preposterously smile-inducing -- our friends won. Our friends won! Congratulations, Margie, and congratulations, Thor, on being crowned Prom Queen and Prom King (respectively)! Basically, the Admit One Prom was what everyone's sucky high school Proms should have been -- a giddy, insanely happy affair, no chaperones or awkwardness, with lots of music and dancing and singing along, where lovely, genuinely nice people get crowned King and Queen, and all of the bands rock.

It all ended in a gloriously endless jam (how many times did they call out, "Last song! Last song na 'to!"), involving basically all the band members present who weren't too wasted to perform, and spanning the party/senti 80s kids gamut from "My Sharona" to "Blister in the Sun" to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Ebe Dancel (with Raimund Marasigan, Vin Dancel and Aia de Leon) delivered an epic rendition of "With or Without You." Aia belted out "Crazy For You." Raimund did "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Vin sang an intense "Boys Don't Cry." You get the idea. PULP photographer Gani ran out of batteries taking pics of everything that was happening. Part of me wished that a film crew and a sound recording crew had been there too, so that the evening could have been completely covered for posterity, but it's probably best that it just stays in our memories, unsullied and ever-shiny.

It wasn't a perfect night for me, though, what with Yvette sick and at home. Oh, the slow dances and fast dances we could have danced, to the music of our past! Ah, well. (At one point -- during the cover of "Pride (In the Name of Love)" -- I called her up, so I could at least share that bit with her). There aren't many things that ever turn out exactly the way you wanted them to. This night, though, must have come close, especially for anyone there who wasn't missing someone else.

Tired. Happy. And finally starting to get sleepy, now, buzz finally fading a bit. What a night, what a night.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Singing Off To Sleep

Three things I don't know right now: 1. why I'm still in the office, 2. why I'm still awake, and 3. what exactly to make of Kitchie Nadal's solo debut album. The first two are kind of easy, actually. In much the same way that Neil Gaiman's formula for immortality is "not dying," the reason I'm still here is because I haven't gone home yet. It doesn't seem worth the effort at the moment, so instead, I've been surfing, catching up on music and comics sites, drinking ridiculous amounts of caffeinated soda and eating crab soup and potato fritters, and listening to some CDs I intend to review for PULP's next issue, like The Stands, Wolfmann, and -- maybe -- the Kitchie Nadal release. I'm listening to it for the second time now, and still, I'd be hard-pressed to name a rating I'd be comfortable with. Nothing below two oranges and nothing above four just about covers it, but man, that's a wide range.

Attempting to please the world at the age of 17, you kill your babies and call it offering
The stench of truth: a life for a life. To be kind is to be unkind.

-- from "Fire"

Two things I'm sure of right now: there's a lot of good songwriting here (Kitchie has a way with a chorus, and the lyrics are accessible while remaining a far cry from simple-minded -- people who found the Mojofly material to be uninspiring should give this a chance), but it all sounds too clean, it needs to rock a little harder. I don't want to hear every plucked guitar string, every bongo beat. The production puts one in mind of 80s pop-rock, and not entirely in a good way. One actually misses the rough original versions of "Deliverance" and "Run" that her website used to offer in low-quality mp3 format, and songs like "Fire" and "Bulong" sounded a lot more thrilling live. The guitars need to be dirtier, and the drums need to kick a whole lot more ass, especially on a great potential anthem like "Bulong."

Minsan ang kagitingan ay wala sa bigat ng pinapasan, kundi sa pagsukot pag harap ng kabiguan
Tumatakbo ang oras, gumising na at bumangon na, pagka't hindi na ikaw ang biktima

-- from "Bulong"

Kitchie's voice itself, which is what lends these pleasantly solid (yet admittedly not massively original) songs their distinctive touch, is an acquired taste; some may find her oft-deployed breathy fragility grating. I think it's effective and appropriate on the whole, although, again, she should try rocking out and travelling to the edge of a potential loss of control some more. The deer-in-headlights look she sports on the cover may be taken for a representation of her leftover hesitation as regards her musical boundaries, despite the definite strides forward she has taken since her Mojofly days. One wonders how much of this restraint is due to her religious conversion, but it would probably be churlish to speculate. In any case, the obviously God-centric numbers like "You're Worthy" are no less listenable than anything else on this album.

Now she found a place to rest, where the shadows run deep
Lying there barefoot, dirty, singing off to sleep

-- from "Drained"

A lot of songs that become radio staples suck; good pop hits with artistic merit are few and far between. Maybe the best way to sum up Kitchie Nadal's debut is to say that I can easily imagine these songs being requested and played over and over again on the air, and also imagine myself not minding at all.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Guess Who's Back, Back Again

Wow, long time no write. It's been a weird month and a half for me; have been feeling that I'm always behind, always late, always running to catch up. "How is that different from the past decade or so of your life, Luis?" a voice from the balcony queries. Well, first of all -- security, throw that bastard out of the theater. That'll teach him to interrupt my monologue. Where was I? Oh yeah -- late.

It's not just deadlines, and it's not just a matter of taking on too much work, both regular and freelance. I have a fair idea of my capabilities, and I know I could be doing even more than I'm doing now, and doing it well -- I guess I've been blocked, or low-level depressed, or something. There are times when I feel that there's nothing worth getting out of bed for, but this is usually coupled with the strong sense that staying in bed isn't a fantastically attractive option either. As you know, Kidlat and I figured that it was probably a matter of not doing the truly fulfilling, creative work we're meant to be doing. Writing for TV and magazines and such is great, and financially rewarding (relatively speaking, anyway), but it's been literally years since I finished a short story I was satisfied with, for example. So anyway, I'm jotting this down in this semi-public forum so that, a year or so from now, if friends of mine who have read this entry realize that I haven't come out with a new book or two yet, they have my permission to whack me upside the head.

The AMP benefit gig on Katipunan last Saturday was great -- remember that place we went to before, to watch Hellbender? It's even grottier now, but that somehow added to the rocking-ness of the event. Instead of sitting beside a fast-food stall a few tables away from the stage, we were on our feet, and practically in the faces of the performers. I could, for example, have reached out and gently pushed the somewhat out-of-it Ely Buendia over. Not that I would ever do such a thing, he he. It was great fun to hang out with Margie, Marnie, Jovan and her boyfriend Nico (master of the matter-of-fact observation: for example, "Nakakahiya kayo"). Seems like it's been too long since I've been to a gig, much less gone to a gig just to enjoy myself and not cover it for the magazine and not worry about anything.

Highlights for me included the sets by Narda (all fairly new, non-EP material -- really looking forward to the first full-length!), Boy Elroy (lead singer/diminutive bundle of pop-punk energy Conrad was approached after the gig by a woman who offered to adopt him; he declined, explaining that "I already have a mother"), and of course Sun Valley Crew, whooo! *does Sikatuna Village gang sign; busts a move* Finally got to talk to Ryan of SVC face to face; previous interactions for my MTV Ink piece were through texts and e-mail. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Mongols finale -- as you know, their album didn't really grab me, and I was less than thrilled by their performance at the last Summer Slam -- but that night, they tore into their songs with an energy and a fierce joy that was infectious, and now I may have to dig out my copy of Buddha's Pest for a reassessment.

Am also interested in the upcoming release from one of Mongols guitarist Jerome "Bunny" Velasco's other bands, Daydream Cycle. Saw those guys perform a couple of years ago, in Sanctum. And btw, in the coincidence department: earlier today, caught The Mongols on MYX. Even greater, non-Mongols-related coincidence: days after I submit a Delays CD review which compares them to one of my favorite bands from my misspent youth, The Reivers, Thor writes about The Reivers in his blog. Got all happy and excited reading his entry. It was like when I discovered that Jing Gaddi was also a fan of that absurd and obscure cartoon, Tomfoolery. Now I'm sure that neither Tomfoolery nor The Reivers are figments of my fevered, pulsating imagination. I couldn't have dreamed up anything as good as Saturday anyway. Not to mention the collected works of Edward Lear.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Talk to Her

"Where words fail, music speaks," wrote Hans Christian Andersen the fairy-tale writer. "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and which cannot remain silent," wrote Victor Hugo. Voltaire phrased it more bitterly: "Anything too stupid to be said is sung."

I've never been good at talking about my feelings, and somewhere along the way, I learned how to let other people's songs talk for me. I'd gotten rather good at it--so good, in fact, that I didn't expect to find anyone who could learn the same hidden language, and use it to such great and devastating effect. But many powerful things can come unexpected.

Forgive me for this brief foray into too-personal territory. If you know the story, well then, you know the story. If not, don't ask.

09.20.2004, 2am

1. No Ordinary Morning - Chicane
2. Eleven Eleven - Silverman
3. Beautiful - Mandalay
4. Out of Time - Blur
5. Fear - Sarah McLachlan
6. Everything in its Right Place - Radiohead
7. Drive - Bic Runga
8. In My Secret Life- Leonard Cohen
9. Fool on a Hill - The Beatles
10. Heaven - Lamb
11. Shri Krishna
12. Laughing as I Pray - K's Choice
13. Overflowing Ashtray Heart - Silverman
14. Home - Zero 7
15. Good Girl Down- Morcheeba (featuring Bahamadia)
16. Sun Again - Kinnie Star
17. I Loved You So What - Ani DiFranco
18. (I'll Never Get to See You Sleep*) - Enya

*not the real title

Monday, September 20, 2004

"She's the one who would've taken me to my first all-ages show..."

Oh, but that was a good gig last Saturday night. I haven't had that kind of fun in a long time, and I hadn't really expected that the Admit One gig at Saquijo's (featuring Jazz Kidding, Twisted Halo, Sugarfree, Cambio, and Urbandub) was going to be the blast that it was. Everything was just right: the cozy venue, the enthusiastic audience, the bands' musician friends (Buddy Zabala, Diego Castillo, Aia de Leon) who showed up to jam--the bands just fed off this favorable confluence of events, making it a Really Good Night. At one point, you couldn't tell where the audience ended or the band began, because everyone was just dancing around, having a mess o' a good time. Margie was up on her feet and dancing with Thor, and even Milwer was pounding the table and rocking out. Which does not, in the normal universe, happen at all.

"How many gigs have you been to?" Milwer asked Margie at one point. "This is my second!" he said, proudly. (The answer to that question, if any of you are wondering, is "Don't even know how to start counting.") We're all glad to see Milwer expanding his horizons, although he may have changed his mind Sunday if he woke up with the hangover I thought he was going to have. If he doesn't, I think the Scoobies are going to the Sugarfree gig next Friday at Peligro, new gig addict Milwer in tow. We're already looking forward to the day, maybe two or three years down the line, when Zo is ready for his first gig. With any luck, I'll be standing right there, holding a candle and crying tears of joy, the ninang to this music christening.

Friday, September 03, 2004


Got up freakishly early today (in magazine writer terms, 7:30am) when Anne Poblador called to ask if we were interested in a phone interview with Renée Olstead, the 15-year-old actress (Still Standing) who's just released her self-titled album. The phone interview was at 9:30am--not much time to prepare!--but I said yes anyway. I put myself back to sleep till 9am, and woke up just in time to greet Renée with a gruff but lovable newly woken voice.

The interview went okay, although her youth definitely shows in the way she answered the questions. Q: So you're a singer and an actress. How do you manage to do both? A: "Well, my schedule's busy, but it's fun!" Her (non-)eloquence aside, her voice on the album--covers of American songbook standards--is astonishingly mature. I really was quite impressed, although I had to bite my tongue before I blurted out the thought running through my head: "I really like your voice now, but can you imagine what it would be like when you've finally gotten a real heartbreak? Wow!" Normally, I would also say that her torch songs would improve after she'd lost her virginity, but this being LA...well.

One of my favorite interviews, but also the one I'm most ashamed of, is the one I did with Jack White of the White Stripes. I didn't know much about them then, and I'd only gotten the disc the night before. I knew they were, like, Big in Europe and America, but this was also before I heard Elephant and fell in love with it. Also, the early schedule (8:30am!) and my late nights meant that I was still groggy when I spoke to Jack. I still have the interview tape, though I'm embarrassed to listen to myself again, drawling like a drunk, eating my words like a retard. And asking questions like, "So, what is the hardest button to button?" Thankfully Jack was game.

I used to think that Tori Amos was my dream interview subject, but that was only until the record label sent over the interview disc of her talking about Scarlet's Walk, and I heard firsthand what all those other interviewers were saying, about her verbal pretzels. And, my, but she does go on and on. So passionately about everything, including places that were her friends who were gay and had AIDS and were betrayed, etc. etc. She sounded like she was on a peyote vision quest.

I think by now you've done more interviews than I have. Tell me about your memorable interviews? And who were you really thrilled to have met or spoken to?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Minor Fall and the Major Lift

I stumbled on this article in today's Salon, written by a guy who was in a poetry class with Jeff Buckley. I don't know what about today or my mood, but whatever it is, the article's exacerbating it. It's just one of those days when you wake up from a long, strange dream (one of my many apocryphal dreams, a recurring theme since I was a child), with leftover emotions that I can't shake no matter how many cups of coffee I drink.

Anyway, as you know, I'm signing up for some postgraduate classes next sem. Frankly, I don't think I miss the classroom setting, especially since I've been teaching workshops for a few years now and will be unused to being the lectured instead of the lecturer. But I do think it's going to help my writing, since I feel that I've been working for so, so, so long in magazines that I'm starting to get into a writing rut. Or a career rut.

Sorry for the aimless angsting. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I'm turning 30 in about two and a half months, or it may just be a temporary mood thing that'll go away as soon as I take another nap. Also, I'm going up to Sagada tomorrow night, and that's always meant weird mood swings for me. I don't have my copy of Jeff Buckley's Grace right now, but if I did, that's what I'd be listening to right now: the complex guitars, the fragile vocals, the strange, painful, beautiful lyrics.

Right now, the song playing in my head is Jeff Buckley singing a Leonard Cohen song:

I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't care much for music, do you?
It goes like this:
the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall and the major lift.
The baffled king composing 'Hallelujah'

So much in that song about a song. Where does music come from? Divine inspiration and ecstasy, or brokenness and despair? Or both: "I don't care if you heard the holy or the broken Hallelujah."

I had that discussion with my friends a long time ago, when I asked them if they'd rather be happy or good at their art, given that the two were mutually exclusive. For years and years, the pretentious little snots that we were said we'd rather produce good art than be happy, until we really got going on life, and finally got to taste what real unhappiness was like. Then we all decided that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be; when I asked them the question again, years after college, everyone agreed: happiness over art.

Well. I'm counting on God not being that cruel, that good art and happiness can't be had in the same lifetime. I'm tempted to say, too, that I wouldn't care if it were a short life, just as long as it was fulfilling and happy--but, well, that's not the kind of thing you say when you're about to go on a trip.

Jeff Buckley walked into a river and disappeared when he was 30. He produced good art. I sure as hell hope he was happy.

Here's a poem that he wrote:

Friday, August 20, 2004

Lead Role

Oh, crap. Another Olympic Smoker gig missed. I'm surprised they're still talking to me, after all the broken "Yeah, I'm going to be there!" promises. I once paid P300 to go see them at a gig, which remains the highest entrance fee anyone's ever paid to go see OS, and I've been coasting along on that distinction for a long time, and my groupie rights have run out.

In any of the imaginary bands I've been in, I've always been either the enigmatic lead guitarist or the quiet drummer who holds everyone together. At best, I sang back-up, if at all. I'd melt under the limelight; it's the sidelines I'm cut out for. (This is, of course, ignoring the whole question of Well, what can you really do?)

I don't think many people know of my mysterious musical past. I mean, why do you suppose I know nearly all the lyrics to The Sound of Music by heart to this day? For one thing, my mom loved the movie, and so as children we learned to like it, too, by osmosis, along with the entire ABBA discography. But there was also those few months were I'd been named to the role of little Gretl Von Trapp in a school production that, mercifully, did not materialize. I can still sing most of the songs, though. Scary.

In real life, though, I'm pretty satisfied with my antiheroic role as music critic. You hear that, people? I'm a music critic. Hala! I'll come to your gigs, drink beer, think bad thoughts about every single aspect of your performance, and write about it. Then I'll eat your children.

Can you tell I'm trying to avoid finishing writing my reviews today? Sigh. Not too excited about anything I'm writing, except perhaps for the just-locally-released Liz Phair and Grandaddy's Sumday. Also got the new Morrissey, which is pretty good. Just not finding it easy to write about any of it.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


For a while there, Yvette and I thought we were cursed never to see Olympic Smoker perform again. Ever. After having watched -- and enjoyed -- their set at last year's MTV Ink acoustic series, we kept making plans to watch them again, plans which never amounted to anything. I'd get sick, or she would be at work, or vice versa. Once, preposterously enough, we arrived at Freedom Bar mere minutes after their set had ended. The ever-growing amount of missed gigs began to assume somewhat ridiculous proportions, and we were slowly starting to believe that we were under some weird curse or spell.

Anyway, last night, the spell was broken. It didn't take much, in the end, although had they gone on at 10 PM as scheduled, we would have just missed them again, as we were still scarfing Japanese food around that time. Luckily their set was delayed, and just like that, the curse was lifted, and Yvette and I finally got to watch Conch and Denise and their bandmates rock out again. We had never seen them 'plugged-in' before, and it was a great experience: Denise's singing was impressive throughout, especially on one of the Skunk Anansie covers, and Conch wielded her guitar with exceptional skill and utter coolness. Their originals are good too; I particularly enjoyed something called (if I'm not mistaken) "Soul in Love."

So I was thinking, all of the office bands are pretty good. I like Bagetsafonik, Peach is pretty amazing, and I even enjoyed Sky Church at last year's Slam. "Dapat merong sariling production night ang mga PULP bands," I texted Denise. And then I suggested that the people in the office who aren't currently performers or in bands could form a band of their own. "Pwwweede," Denise texted back. "Sama-sama kayo nila Dave at Paul, sama niyo na rin si Mon. :) Si KF vocalist, Pete Yorn lahat ng kanta. :)" (Let's not forget The Field Mice, I reminded her). I thought we could call ourselves Yorn to be Wild, or Drunken Master, in honor of Dave (and you!), but since you're the sole designated frontperson maybe we could just call ourselves K Fidelity. KF for short. Bwahahaha!

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Walk Across the Rooftops

Am taking a break from failing to get anything written. Listening to The Blue Nile while watching the night turn gradually into the morning. Songs of bittersweet love amidst "The neon and the cigarettes/ Rented rooms and rented cars/ The crowded streets, the empty bars." Paul Buchanan is far from the best vocalist in the world, but his voice carries a certain weariness tempered by optimism that fits these songs and these words so perfectly. It is the voice of someone who has had the shit kicked out of him repeatedly by love and his smoke-choked, neon-lit city, but who will never stop wandering through and appreciating both. I listen, close my eyes and imagine Makati through a rain-speckled windshield, sidewalks and lampposts, people in late-night convenience stores, car headlights like fireflies. On certain nights, in certain states of mind, you are unbothered by the sleaze and the squalor, don't mind so much how so many things in the city and in your life are made of slapdash decisions and regrets and other junk. Your heart is heedless but not ignorant, it fills with an informed yet unflinching foolishness. A quiet happiness and a quiet sadness intermingle, as the strains of distant horns and a gentle mechanical heartbeat and Buchanan's wavering croon see you through the night.

PS. Happy discovery department: while looking for links to spruce up this blog entry with, learned that The Blue Nile are releasing their first new album in eight years. If they ever release it here, Kristine (tell me which label people to threaten with defenestration to ensure that they do), I call dibs on the review. :)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Breaking Out (like prisoners, acne, and new bands)

And speaking of band competitions and judges, I got a phone call from Cait on Saturday, alerting me to the little-known fact that I was supposed to judge the finals of the Goodyear event. The screening was about three weeks ago, and it was a long night, listening to eight amateur (and I do mean amateur) bands do a cover song and an original--a song for the sponsors, something about freedom...and tires. Well, they didn't specify "tires," but you know that's what they meant. They were looking for a song they could use on the ads for their new line of tires. I was planning to subtract ten points from bands who used "Goodyear" in their lyrics, but nearly everyone did anyway.

The bands were so, so charmingly inexperienced. Cait didn't know what to make of the fact that the bands didn't even know what a "tech rider" is; one of them thought that the organizers were going to provide all the instruments. There was an all girl band (called No Boys Allowed, I believe), whose members looked like they were just out of high school and had just learned to play their instruments a week ago. They prayed before and after their performance, did a Cranberries cover, and launched into a not-bad alternative rock Goodyear composition. They must've finished dead last, though, not least because their guitar was badly grounded, and was emitting a loud droning noise throughout their set, and the lead singer looked like she was going to cry because of it.

Of the 13 bands who signed up for the competition, eight showed up, and four were picked out for the finals: Maharlika, Maryz Ark, Psywar, and Sunflower Day Camp--playing, respectively, prog/hard rock, Britpoppy indie-y music, heavy metal, and ska.

Needless to say, I wasn't too keen on going back for the finals, but there I was again, having given up a dinner-and-movie date with myself to pencil in scores into little boxes while praying that my eardrums or my brain wouldn't explode. I was an hour and a half late going to Le Pavilion, but things still hadn't started. I'd been requested to be there by 6:30, was told the bands were going to start at 7:30. They started playing at 9pm. And my low blood sugar by then probably resulted in all four finalists getting lower scores than they deserved.

To be fair, the four bands really did show some promise, and most of them showed a marked improvement from the first time I heard them play. There was a bigger crowd than expected, and before long, there was a good mosh pit going, and people were body-surfing and headbanging, even to the Britpop band. And everyone worked the crowd like they were pros. But they were amateurs, still. Maharlika mic-tested over Marc Abaya and Patty Laurel's onstage spiel, prompting Marc to ask if they were on drugs. (He should ask.) And the lyrics were sometimes so bad they were laughable and nauseating at the same time ("Let your wheels be the best one!").

Sunflower Day Camp emerged the winner, the clean, happy joy of their music defeating the testosterone vote on the panel. I'd say that they were the best band there--they got my vote, too--but personal biases aside, how do you compare bands whose music is so different from one another? Sunflower Day Camp won because their music was fun, accessible, rich, and melodic, and because their performance was so entertaining and tight. I don't know if that makes them the best, though. Each band had a different style, a different appeal, different merits.

That said, if there's anything I'd like to hear from the amateur band scene these days, it's something original. I don't mind if it's not too good yet. I'd just like to hear something new.

And in other news...when did other people start reading this blog and posting comments? Holy shit!