Monday, December 8, 2008

Night of the Rock Bosses

Two weeks ago, I went to the NU 107 Rock Awards 2008. This was a big "Finally!" for me as I've wanted to go to an NU Rock Awards for years but something always got in the way.

I was on leave and scheduled this in my vacation itinerary. On the very same day of the event, me and my wife bought the tickets from SM, went home and freshened-up, and headed to Silver City in Pasig City.

The Rock Awards of the recent years were held in the World Trade Center in Pasay City, a few blocks from were I work, but work was often what got in the way. It was a boon for me that the place that became the home of the event this year was one ride away from my place, relatively near.

The ads in the radio announced that the gates opened at 5:00 pm. Like I said before, I've never been to a Rock awards but I do listen to it over the radio, and I know gates never really open at the times announced year after year. So me and Cay got there past 7:00 pm. Silver City was a building by the side of J. Vargas Ave. that seemed liked an up and coming gimmick place. The area seems like a possible third option for gimikeros who frequent the area, next to Libis and Metrowalk.

When we got there, the line wasn't that long yet so we knew we'd be one of the first to get in. There were policemen all over, probably just making extra sure since this is a rock concert in a way. (Though I feel more security should be given to the concerts of jologs artists, after all, there are being watched by jologs fans who didn't actually catch the last bus towards human intellectual evolution.) I didn't see any of the artists lurking around except for Cynthia Alexander whom I spotted walking outside.

Once inside, the place had a very minimalist feel for a rock arena. The place was very comfy due to its spaciousness once we got there. Initially, I thought that that comfort would not last as the people flocked in but it turned out that there were not that many people that attended. Which was good for me as it prevented what I dreaded, that it would be like a can of sardines there. There were about 1,000 or less people that went to see the event. Looking at the screens showing the V.I.P area, it seemed it was more crowded than the concert area.

There were a few booths there, mostly selling food and beverages (including alcoholic drinks). There was also some booths hawking merchandise. The freebies were bottles of Red Horse and MYX Magazines. There was a mezzanine where people can choose to go to to watch the show, but we preferred to watch from up close on the ground. Bouncers were all over but only got to jump into action once when a moron jumped onto the stage during Greyhoundz's performance.

A pre-show segment came up and was hosted by a guy in a pseudo-Chicago Mafia-era suit. Basically the program was to warm up the crowd by doing embarrassing games for people to join in on and shill all the products they can.

Then, to further fire up the crowd, the Out of Body Special came out and played "Sexy Beast." This year has been good to the group, eventually being featured in Time Magazine as one of the Asian bands to watch out for. The first time I heard "Soundcheck" early this year, I knew this was a band that was bringing a fresh new sound to Philippine rock. Their sound may not be my favorite type of rock but they've been good listening so far.

Next up for the crowd was Angulo. They performed "The Best Mistake" as the crowd gave a very positive response to it. The band has consistently made waves in the NU 107 playlist. Hopefully, they don't fall to the curse that a lot of new bands encounter, a sort of "sophomore jinx" that see them disappear mysteriously on their second year (e.g. Typecast, Hilera).

The Philippine national anthem was rendered in a very cool manner using trumpets by the boys from Radioactive Sago Project.

Finally, the signal for the show to start was announced and the crowd erupted. The crowd went wild when the silhouette of someone familiar came up.

The comebacking Rico Blanco went up on stage to perform "Yugto," definitely one of the best tunes to come out this year. Adding to the coolness factor were the people who made up his band for the night. The former Rivermaya frontman had Cynthia Alexander on bass, the Dawn's Francis Brew on guitars, and Itchyworms' Jazz Nicolas.

It was nice to see Rico come back and do awesome music again. The last years he had with Rivermaya were not very impressive, in my opinion. Since releasing "Between the Stars and the Waves," which was a very impressive album, I haven't really been that keen on the music they released. The song "You'll Be Safe Here" never really sounded good to me. It felt like Rico was trying to out-Coldplay Coldplay but just ended up too emo/ whiny for comfort. I never got the point of "Isang Ugat, Isang Dugo," though their take on "Golden Boy" was good. But now Rico is back playing great music and I like the sound that the new Rivermaya is producing. All is well.

The next performance was by Markus Highway, with "Rakenrol." One of the main reasons I decided to watch this particular Rock awards was the idea that all four E'heads would be on stage this awards night. Granted they would not be there together at the same time as the Eraserheads, it's still an interesting notion I clung to. Ever since I bought "Ultraelectromagneticpop" as a 5th grader, the first album I ever bought with my own money at a palengke near my school, I have always considered them the best thing to come out of the Philippine music scene. Greatest. Filipino. Band. Ever. If I made a soundtrack of my life, the songs of the E'heads would number the most among all the others.

Marcus Adoro's music is truly old-school rock. Think Pepe Smith locally, or the Ramones in the international scene. I guess he was the one that infused that kind of vibe to the E'heads' tunes. The songs are just pure fun to listen to, which surprised me a bit when they released their album last year. Even though I thought Buddy Zabala was the most quiet on the Pinoy Fab Four, Marcus was the most mysterious. I would definitely play Markus Highway for parties since the rhythm is just hippin' trippin'.

Then it was Radioactive Sago Project's turn on the stage. They performed "Alak, Kape, Sugal, Babae, Kabaong." Now I'm not a big fan of spoken word songs, or of Radioactive. I just want my songs sung I guess. Although in fairness to the band, they singlehandedly popularized this form of music and they do come up with songs that I would listen to sometime, "Astro" is what comes to mind first. As for the performance, it was okay and their theme of immaculate white kind of reminded me of Polyphonic Spree.

Greyhoundz performed a song. That's as much as I can say. I don't really know the song they performed. I'm not dissing 'Houndz but I just don't listen to them for the simple reason that I don't enjoy their music. Good for their fans if they do. The band reminds me of the Pinoy rock scene early this decade, when the awful rap-metal genre was king. We had Greyhoundz, Cheese, and Slapshock consistently on the airwaves, making me lose interest in the scene for a time. Rap and metal are two great tastes that don't taste great together. One of my favorite bands, the Itchyworms, released their first album "Little Monsters Under Your Bed" on 2001. I liked the Itchyworms from the first time I heard "Happy Birthday" on the radio, but it wasn't rap-metal and the band went nowhere fast. At least the world turned and saw the passing of rap-metal and the 'Worms are now one of the most recognized bands in the land.

The next band to perform was what finally got me all fired up and in a rockin' mode. This was the band that I wanted to see above all the others as they are, in my humble opinion, the best band in on the rock scene now and I had yet to see them play live. Urbandub delivered what I felt was the performance of the night when they sung "Guillotine." They are awesome on their records and they're equally awesome live. I shouldn't act so surprised about Urbandub's chops, this is the band that can claim that in their albums, all songs are killers with no fillers. And I guess there's just no erasing of their songs on my playlist.

Razorback came out next. I didn't pay much attention to their performance as I wasn't a fan. A good friend of mine would probably have something to say about my statement, being a Razorback fan. We both love Pinoy rock, the only difference is that I grew up listening to Eraserheads, Rivermaya, and Parokya ni Edgar while he grew up listening to Wolfgang, Razorback, and P.O.T. I guess there's nothing we can do about our "rock genes," although we come from the same root, we just belong to different branches.

One of my favorite bands, came next, the Dawn. A band that's been in the business for so long already but never sounds musically old, playing music as fresh as the rookie bands. I was surprised to see Francis Reyes on lead vocals duty, but it was just that, a surprise. I didn't know the song and I wasn't too taken with Francis Brew taking the frontman spot. But I have to say, despite my last sentence, it must be said that Francis is one of, if not the best back-up vocalists in the Pinoy rock scene. Just one listen at "Salamat" and "Standing by your Heart" and you can see how well he complements the singing of Jett Pangan, making great songs even better. Plus, on the E'heads factor, Buddy Zabala now puts us halfway into our sort-of Eraserheads night.

Now it was Sandwich's turn to bring down the house with another rockin' performance. And just like any other live performance of their, they just deliver pure awesomeness, this time with their biggest hit of the year, "Betamax." I've always been a big fan of the group since their first album "Grip Stand Throw." And as good a job as Marc Abaya did as the frontman during the bands early years, Raimund Marasigan switching position from instrumentalist to singer was able to match it, and actually made Sandwich more fun to listen to.

Raimund, I would argue, is the most successful Eraserheads member after the break-up. He showed his multi-faceted skills by being a successful producer and TV host, aside from his high-level rock musicality. In terms of music, he is a pioneer that has trailblazed into different rock spectrums, just try to listen to his work as part of Sandwich, Pedicab, and Cambio and as Squid 9. He truly is more than a two-trick pony (pun intended).

Up next and completing Pinoy Fab Four night was Pupil who performed "Disconnection Notice." During the years of the Eraserheads, Ely was my favorite. No contest. His musicality, his songwriting was what I grew up on. I was in awe of how he fronted for a band that wasn't just a hit but a phenomenon that lay the groundwork for what the Philippine rock scene is now. As much as I respect the pioneers of Pinoy rock that were playing decades before the E'heads, today's Pinoy rock is clearly "the House that the Eraserheads built." And Ely was clearly the most famous member of the group. But after the band's break-up and the formation of the Mongols, I felt a disconnect with Ely's music. I guess his previous work in the E'heads just wasn't that easy to let go. Maybe it was because he was the face of the group as opposed to Raimund whose transition was easier for me to take. But when Pupil was formed, though it was mainly composed of the same people from the Mongols, the sound became better and easier for me to listen to. I'm still not that keen on Pupil but there's no argument that they make good music.

Bamboo was lined up as the penultimate act of the night and everyone knew that this would be a great performance. The group never fails to bring down the house and consistently delivers the best live performances in the rock scene. Bamboo Manalac is the ultimate rock star, singing with a mucho amount of swagger, swaying a crowd like few people in the industry can. Bamboo is the best band when it comes to anthem rock and their song "Kailan" which they performed is but one of the better ones in their repertoire, delivering the biggest pop from the crowd the whole night. Bamboo clearly showed why they are clearly one of the most influential, admired, and successful bands of this decade.

An NU Rock Awards final performance is reserved for the winner of the Artist of the Year award, which was won by Pupil this year. They capped of the night with their performance of "Nasaan Ka."

The Rock Awards for this year was billed as the night of the rock bosses. While most of the premiere bands were in the program, I would have wanted the Itchyworms, Sugarfree, Parokya ni Edgar, and Kamikazee in the program, eventhough some of them have been fairly quiet this year. But overall, the program was great. The Rock Awards are as fun as I always thought it is. I regret I put off going to one all these years. If ever I'm still in the country next year, I'll definitely be attending, and hopefully, they keep Silver City as the home of the Rock awards.
Sa NU 107, sa mga bandang Pilipino, at sa lahat ng rakistang Pinoy, rock on! Ipagpatuloy ang daloy ng alon.


And because this is an awards night, here is the list of winners:

Vocalist of the Year- RICO BLANCO
Guitarist of the Year- LC DE LEON of REKLAMO
Drummer of the Year- WENDELL GARCIA of PUPIL
Best Live Act- SANDWICH
In the Raw Award- BEMBOL ROCKERS
Song of the Year- “BETAMAX” of SANDWICH
Album of the Year- “WILDLIFE” by PUPIL
Artist of the Year- PUPIL
Best Music Video- “MONOBLOC” of PUPIL
Best Album Packaging- INKSURGE.COM for “
Producer of the Year- PUPIL & JEROME VELASCO for “WILDLIFE” of PUPIL
Listener's Choice Award- URBANDUB

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