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!

Because They Got High

Two questions were burning in my mind as yesterday's RX Band Breakout came to a close. One, what drugs were the judges on, and two, where could I get some? Personal biases aside, I do honestly believe that of the six bands that made it to the finals, Matilda rocked the hardest -- and they didn't even place. Their new song is good, as good as anything on their EP if not better, and their sound -- thunderous drumming, occasionally razorlike guitar, keening violin and all -- delivers a real kick, unlike most of the other acts. It was weird seeing them decked out in Bobson-sponsored clothes, though, and not their usual mix of goth/grunge/glam gear.

I still can't believe Pop Clinic and Menaya took third and second place, respectively. The former band, while not lacking in enthusiasm, was somewhat diction-challenged (as a friend pointed out), and diction-challeged is not something you want to be when you're covering "Semi-Charmed Life." Besides which, their original song sounded like something by Ang Tunay na Amo. If they were going to give out prizes for unabashed 80s-flavored kabaduyan, they should have honored Bluecheese instead, who at least displayed more power and chops. Second-placer Menaya, on the other hand, displayed a tragic Sting/The Police fixation -- tragic because their lead singer can't quite pull off that essential lead singer duty of singing passably well.

As I write this, something scrabbling at the back of my head is telling me to get back to work. Of course, lately my 'work' has consisted mostly of staring at a blank screen until I can feel my brain committing slow hara-kiri. I think I needed to put together a brief blog entry just to reassure myself that my ability to write was not something I had somehow misplaced, like house keys or my sanity. It's been a week since the last entry, a week that -- aside from some bright spots for which I am immensely, eternally grateful -- has been mostly unrelenting dull aggravation, occasionally relieved by outright confusion or sadness. Don't worry, I haven't completely lost my perspective; I realize that things could be much, much worse (and that, for some of my friends, they are). Here's hoping things look up this week.

PS. Just in time for the US election season, the Presidents of the United States of America are back. I was never a rabid fan of theirs, but this review makes the new release seem worth checking out, at least.