Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Whatta Fete!


In a way, the Fete is a lot like cable TV; you get over a hundred "channels" but in reality, there are only a handful of programs that appeal to your taste, only a few that you really want to watch. Everything else you either don't understand or don't really like and, therefore, isn't worth your time. Still, you gotta admit, having cable is way better than regular TV precisely because you get all those choices. And that's why once again, for the third year in a row, I found myself in the middle of a massive crowd who turned out for the year's biggest music festival.

I would have wanted to be there as early as I could to see the first few bands, most of which were, of course, unknown. Who knows, maybe I'd have discovered a great new act. But, I hadn't had any sleep yet that day owing to an all-nighter at a friend's place, so my friend Jeng and I met up and had dinner at Megamall at around 9pm before heading out to El Pueblo, where things were already in full swing.

Seeing as events like this always brought out the creative and the attention-deprived individuals out there, I thought it would be fun to list down some of the more innovative, funny and intentionally obscene shirts I saw people wear at the Fete that night.

Smart-ass shirt of the hour: Ass, Gas or Grass. Nobody Rides for Free

Cynthia Alexander, as usual, kicked things off at the World Stage and she was playing one of her signatures when we got there. I had worked out an itinerary for us to follow, and based on the schedule, our first stop that night was the Jazz stage at San Mig Pub to see my friend and erstwhile editor at a magazine I moonlight for, Isha aka Peach aka Pearlsha Abubakar. Like everywhere else there, every inch of space was occupied by sweaty (and some smelly) presumably jazz enthusiasts. Bo Razon and his band were finishing up their set with a show-stopping rendition of "Fever" when we arrived. Isha was off to a bumpy start when she had technical difficulties with her keyboard and the non-appearance of the rest of her band, but everything was eventually straightened out and she delivered a solid performance. I've always thought of her as a jazz singer and pianist with an edge, with her whimsical style and innovative interpretations of New Wave songs, including Dream Academy's "Life in A Northern Town." She also did her requisite Tori Amos cover and a few originals, and eventually, the crowd warmed up to her and cheered her on.

Next up was Sound, and although I've seen them live maybe four or five times before, I have yet to grow tired of their brand of bossa-nova infused jazz-pop. They played songs from their upcoming sophomore album, as well as a couple from their debut. (Once again, I saw and heard not a few swooning admirers of percussionist David Esteban, and, though I know they're all talented and bring something unique to the Pinoy music scene, I had to wonder how many of their fans actually like them for their music). They also did a well-received, jazz-ified cover of Gary Valenciano's "Di Na Natuto," which, in my opinion, was really good.

Smart-ass shirt of the hour: Go Fork Yourself

After their set, we made a quick trip to the Hiphop and RnB stage at Friends where Jeng's friend (who had tagged along with us) met up with her boyfriend who was performing. Female rapper Buttaflava was doing her thing accompanied by a fellow female doing the spinning. Kaliph8 was up next with his Eminem-in-8mile brand of impromptu rap. We didn't stay long; just as we were served beer by Jeng's friend's jersey-clad amour I got a text from another friend who was over at the Alternative stage saying Hale was already playing.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed their debut album, I've never seen Hale perform live before. And so we hightailed it out of Friends, past the sea of warm bodies in El Pueblo, crossed-over the chest-high center street island and waded into more people at the Alternative stage in Podium. Unfortunately, when we got there, Hale vocalist Champ was already wailing the last few lines of "The Day You Said Goodnight." Tsk. Too bad. Guess I'll just have to see them some other time.

Smart-ass shirt of the hour: Great Legs. What Time Do They Open?

So back we went to the world stage to kill time until the next band on my itinerary. We caught up with some of my other friends and we all hung out in front of San Mig Pub with San Mig Light on our hands, listening to the music of Jr. Kilat. I saw him perform once before in Boracay and I can't say much about him except I wonder where he gets the drugs that keep him in near-perpetual ecstasy when he performs. (I'm kidding of course. Or maybe not.)

I had wanted to check out the band Naked Tongue at the Blues stage inside Sidebar, but they weren't letting people in anymore because the place was practically bursting at the seams. So back I went to our place in front of San Mig Pub. A few minutes later, my friend spotted Cynthia Alexander, yeah, THE Cynthia, leaving Sidebar. My friend approached her and asked to have her photo taken with her, and surprisingly, she obliged. Unfortunately, my other friend wasn't as lucky, she rushed off after the first picture was taken. Heh. Was my other friend bummed.

Hello John (picture of stick guy throwing up in the toilet)

After a couple of beers, we went back to the Alternative stage as it was time for Bridge and Stonefree. Eventually, Jeng and I got separated from everyone else and we ended up right in front of UCC coffee just as Barbie's Cradle finished their set. Up next was Narda. I kind of know the band as I was able to interview them about a year ago; they're alright.

Up next was Stonefree. Of course they opened with their monster hit, "Listen." I actually know this band from way back. Miro is a batchmate and they played during our Graduation party at Hard Rock back in 1999. Jeng has a thing for him (buking!), so she insisted we push and shove our way into the crowd so we could see him play better. Good thing the people there were a bit more behaved than, say the rock stage; I'd hate to explain to our friends how Jeng got squished trying to come closer to the stage.

Smart-ass shirt of the hour: Fuck You You Fuckin' Fuck.

I would've wanted to stay and wait for Bridge (who was a bit late. They came from a gig in 70's bistro), but I didn't want to miss Mishka Adam's set back at San Mig Pub. Wahijuara was playing as we squeezed ourselves back in. Finally, Mishka went up onstage. It took a while before she and her band (which included bassist ng bayan Louie Talan) started playing; she even asked the audience for a guitar pick, and instantly, several people scrambled to give her one. One guy even threw the pick out to her all the way from the other end of the room. Of course, it didn't reach her. She did a good job, as usual. She has that languorous voice that's just perfect for all those jazz standards.

We didn't get to finish her set though as Jeng's friend showed up and wanted to see some other bands. We left San Mig Pub and headed to the World/Main Stage. At this point, fatigue was finally catching up to me. But I stayed for a while at the rock stage to catch Razorback (yeah, they're a bit louder than the kind of music I usually listen to, but I like them). The scene was pretty funny: in a sea of dudes dressed in black, one shirtless guy managed to climb on top of the stage and, well, pretty much tried to disrupt Kevin and the rest of the band with his crazy antics. But the security guys tried to stop him and push him back into the crowd. The problem was, the crowd was so thick there was no way the guy would fall back down on them. Besides, everybody in the front row was pushing him back up, so the poor guy was being pushed back and forth in the middle of the stage, with neither side showing any sign of giving up. Hilarious.

Smart-ass shirt of the hour: I'm Fat But You're Ugly And I Can Diet

Afterwards I said goodbye to Jeng and her friend and headed for home. I was carrying a Fete poster, which I tore off the wall at Friends. The ringing in my ears wouldn't stop until late the next day, but overall, I'd say it was a night well-spent. Next year ulit!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Senti in Greenhills

I always knew I was a sentimentalist, but I never realized just how sappy I was until today. My best friend wanted to sell a couple of cell phones in Greenhills and asked me to come with her. (The first one she got brand new in a mobile phone company promo, while the second was her current phone, which she wanted to trade in for, er, a less flashier model). Greenhills on a Sunday is no walk in the park, as anyone who’s been there would know, but wading into a sea of people into the very bowels of the cellphone market there…well, it’s something else. If there was ever any question about our stature and reputation as one of the most cellphone-obsessed countries on the planet, Greenhills on a weekend afternoon should put those doubts to rest. I don’t normally like to spend my lazy Sundays with a bunch of people haggling over the price of 6210s, 8250s and P800s, but I didn’t have anything else planned; besides, after spending the last couple of days holed up inside the office and on alert for a possible violent change of government (the whole issue which, I gotta say, is just so idiotic and nonsensical I can’t take it – but that’s another story), I was ready for a change of scenery.

I really hadn’t planned on buying anything myself, but after about an hour of going around the seemingly endless array of cellphone stalls, my friend managed to sales talk her way into selling me her brand new phone. And before the stall-lady could say her 81st “mamsirunitbatterycasingchargermamsir,” I was selling my own 7250 after my friend handed me the brand new Nokia 6170. I got a good price on my old phone, but then I realized I was letting go of something that’s been with me for over two years. My phone isn’t exactly “up there” with all the new models coming out, but like anything that’s been with you for a significant amount of time, especially something as personal and as ubiquitous as your phone, you kinda have to take a moment before you can let go. In my case, it was doubly hard because I had all those messages stored in there from people who mean something to me…messages from family, close friends, old relationships…and newer ones. No they weren’t the forwarded text messages that are as impersonal as they are tacky; I mean the more intimate kind, those that brightened up my day when I got them (like messages from my kape-bilyar friends), those that mark a momentous occasion (like the time my mom texted me that my sister just had a baby girl), and those that I enjoy reading and re-reading during bouts of depression or boredom (aah, there’re lots of those). Simple messages that date back all the way to the year I first got a cellphone (yeah, that’s how much trouble I have throwing, or should I say deleting things away). But just like that, after transferring my contacts list from my old phone to the new, the stall-lady took my old phone away. I didn’t even have time to get one last read-through. That was it. After agonizing over a period of two years which messages to keep and which to erase so my phone would have enough memory to receive newer messages, turns out it wouldn’t really matter as they were all going to be lost forever.

I’m probably making too big a deal out of all this. Thinking about it now, I realize I didn’t have to jump right in and do anything that drastic, but then maybe it all worked out for the best. Having all that past tucked away in some contraption can’t be good. I’ve gotten too attached to things that aren’t even tangible. It’s good to be reminded of what you’ve been through and lose yourself in it once in a while, but you can’t let it dictate and influence where you’re going to next. Living is all about the here and now; that much I do know.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Night of Music…and Pretentious Bullcrap

I had big hopes, I can tell you that. A free jazz concert featuring some really promising bands and a couple of established veterans. I’m not as big a jazz freak as I am about, er, other kinds of music, but after my friend Candace asked me to go with her to the event, organized by the French Embassy as part of their annual French Spring thing, my interest was piqued and I said yes. Being the music nerd that I am, I was looking forward to hearing some really great tunes and funky, old-school jazz.

I shouldn’t have expected too much. For one thing, I was surprised at the number of people who showed up at Greenbelt. Well, yeah, it was free, but I wonder if the same number of people would show up if the French people didn’t have anything to do with it. I mean, seriously, half the people there were probably looking to hook up with either some French dude or some hot French chick. (Later on, my theory proved to be correct as my friend Havy and I saw two “exotic” locals laying it on thick with a couple of clueless French dudes. But who knows, maybe it was the other way around…). We had to squeeze ourselves in amongst a crowd that included fancy fashionistas, socialites in their awards-night best, expats with wine glasses in hand, entire families including kids barely old enough to tie their shoelaces, and giggly, wide-eyed students who seemed like it was their first time out watching bands perform live. We were standing-up the whole time, next to one such group of students, one of whom kept jumping up and down and screaming excitedly in our ears I figured she must be dating one of the saxophone players or something. She was so irritating I swear there were a couple of times I wanted to give her a really good shove out towards the exit…or maybe just a solid punch right in the solar plexus. Is it too much to ask for restrained appreciation? Jeez.

Overall, the music itself was tolerable, to say the least. Like I said, I may not be a big jazz enthusiast, but I do know if a band is playing good music together or not. The first group, the Jewelmer jazz band, wasn’t too bad, if insanely boring music is your thing. Jazz is supposed to be an uplifting experience, thrilling and heady (at least to me), and I didn’t feel that with them. The second group, Subconcept, wasn’t that much better. They were made up of a bunch of kids in their teens and early twenties, and to their credit, they were talented. (I liked their take on Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”). Only they seemed like they were playing for themselves and weren’t really jelling. (It didn’t help that the guitar player was a bit too much into himself. People who were there would know what I’m talking about). They really should leave jazz up to the experts. Johnny Alegre Affinity, the next band, is one of them. They sounded great, their music, effortless and smooth, something the other bands weren’t. I can’t say anything else about them except that I hope people who are really into jazz buy their CD.

But the best band that night, sadly, wasn’t even Filipino. (Well, if you don’t count the half-Pinoy, half-Spanish keyboardist). Satya is made up of American, British and French students from the Berklee College of Music in the US. And man, could they play. They brought the house down when the British vocalist sang in Tagalog, the classic “Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak.” I’d see them again if I have the chance, no question about it.

No, I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve become an instant hardcore jazz fan. It’ll take more jazzfests for that. Hopefully, the pretentious bunch won’t be there next time.