Saturday, September 23, 2006

My Band Beginnings

I learned to play the guitar in the Summer of '77.
It was at one of those Summer guitar lesson offers where they teach you how to play your basic A chord, one of the easiest, along with the E chord and the D chord.. and the relatively more complicated B, C and F chords.. they also taught us how to strum up and down, like autistic guitar players, retardedly nodding our heads in time with our haphazard strumming and chord canoodling.. they say you're on the right track to playing guitar when you start getting callouses on the fingers of your left hand.. is bleeding a telltale sign as well, I wondered.

I started playing in bands when I was 16.
Got my first (and only) electric guitar in '78.. it was a local Gibson Flying V.
Obsession with the band Kiss back then explains my choice of design; just like the one Paul Stanley played, only cheaper and flimsier-looking.

My first band was composed of my best friend, Jun, who lived up the street. I taught him how to play guitar, playing along to every single Jingle chordbook magazine. There was also Nelson, a speedfreak bike nut chum of mine, who decided one day he wanted to play drums. He went and sold his Dad's liquor collection to buy a drum kit. We now had a band.

We called ourselves The Precisions, after the Fender bass guitar, though we hardly lived up to our chosen name. Nelson had a friend, Ariel, who was a pretty good guitar player. I relegated myself to bass, while Jun played guitar, well sometimes. I also elected myself as singer. We were horrible. We did covers of Atlanta Rhythm Section's Spooky.. Always Somewhere by The Scorpions.. I Can't Tell You Why and Those Shoes by The Eagles.. even Styx's First Time (sheesh).. we played anywhere and everywhere.. we played mostly fiestas for food.. we did the fiesta at Laloma, Ariel's hometown, on a tilted nearly overturning flatbed truck, thanks to all the drunken onlookers aboard, with more drunken emcees and impromptu singers you could wave a balisong at.. we were there for the food, Ariel was there for the girls.. we charged it all to experience.. we also did this one fiesta here at Frisco, where we played Wally's Blues by Juan Dela Cruz's Wally Gonzales, which we thought would get the crowd going; nothing doing, as we were upstaged by the double dose of bakya masa power courtesy of Bing Rodrigo and Eva Eugenio.. so much for Pinoy Rock..

I joined the school singing group, too.. you might have heard of them, the Kundirana.. y'know, of La Salle Greenhills.. they used to have a full backing band, before they discovered the joys of using minus ones. I was part of that band. I played rhythm guitar, together with my friend Joel, who played lead.. Dennis played bass, Chito played drums.. we did flaccid Broadway medleys, shit like One.. Everything's Coming Up Roses and other crap culled from musicals.. we even did a John Lennon medley, seeing he got assassinated around that time in late 1980.. but in between the swill, we managed to jam on Cretin Hop by the Ramones, The Vapors' Turning Japanese and Whip It by Devo.. later, our musical arranger in a strangely brief period of brilliance, would include hits of the day like The B-52's Rock Lobster and Planet Claire into the repertoire, which all came to an abrupt end after we graduated High School the next year.

College hardly broke us apart, jamming on even after graduation, separate Universities notwithstanding, with Dennis now in UP Diliman, Chito in UP Manila and I in UST, which the two dubbed as Useless Students of Tomorrow.. harhar.. we became AS-228, named after a classroom (actually the Men's room)in the AS Building of UP Dil. Then Chito went abroad to continue his studies. Dennis and I still maintained contact, continuing our weekend jamming, now with a new circle of friends, including my old chums Jun and Nelson. Chito left us his old drum set.. nice.

One fateful day during Registration in UP Dil would change our lives forever. Dennis calls one evening saying
"I met this guy in line at Registration.." he said.
"He plays guitar.. he seemed cool enough.
I asked him over to jam on Saturday" he quipped.
"Okay.." I said.
His name was Teddy. Or Ted.

Turns out, Ted's a pretty cool guy. Quiet. Reserved, at first. Like us, he loved music. We jam, everything's cool. Turns out, Ted's a pretty funny guy, too. The next week, he brings a cassette tape with him, let's us listen to it.. turns out it's a band I've been reading a lot about in Creem, making waves in the music scene abroad, this band from Ireland. U2.

Dennis suggests we bring in a singer.
A female singer. Someone he knows from school, her name's Jessica Mae.
Mae for short. Did I say she's also Dennis' crush. She's definitely in. Now we need a drummer. I failed to mention Dennis' parents were very supportive.
They let us jam in their son's room is one thing, but his tennis Mom even suggested we try her tennis amiga's son out, who happened to be a pretty good drummer, she said.

His name is Gugut.
What kind of a name is that, we thought.
That Saturday, we met Gugut.
Short, plump and cute thirteen year old Gugut..
the little livewire who drums as hard as a grown-up..
Gugut was in. Ted then suggests we bring in a couple
of his friends, Paul and Tweety.
Paul had the swagger, or so he said,
and Tweety knew how to sing, too.
Great, the more the merrier.
We were now a band.
We called ourselves Fallout.

Fallout did only covers.
We did Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot(Mae sang this one).. We did the Pretenders' Brass in Pocket and Mystery Achievement
(Tweety sang these).. We also did some really offbeat covers like Toto's Live For Today, The Jerks' Romantic Kill and a buncha other lame covers I can't remember right now..

Then Fallout's female contingents began err, falling out.. Mae left, so did Tweety, then Paul, which left Me, Dennis, Teddy and Gugut.. we started covering more testosterone-fueled covers, like haphazard U2 covers of New Year's Day.. Pride(In The Name Of Love) and Sunday Bloody Sunday, between attempts at some originals, but the band had neither the time nor the staying power to last.. chalk it up to our amateurish, happy-go-lucky, charge-it-all-to-experience credo, or lack thereof, I guess.. we were just a buncha kids having fun playing music..
Fallout died a natural death, but its demise merely made way for continuing musical chapters of which I was to be a part of..

Thursday, September 21, 2006

44 and a day

For the pessimist.. big deal.
For the cynical.. same ol' shit, different day.
For me.. it was just another day.
My eldest woke me with a haphazard version of that dreaded tune..before I could jump in the shower, his bus was at the gate and he was out the door. I took my youngest to school like I do every weekday morning, dropped him off and headed straight back
home.. usually I do a little marketing first, but for some reason, I just didn't feel like it. I guess the knowledge of leftovers did it for my lazybone. Our help of seven years left for greener pastures as a DH in Hong Kong, so we've been on our own for more than a month now. I have someone come by twice a week to clear the debris, but Monday wasn't one of those days, which explained the pile of unwashed dishes in the kitchen sink and the growing pile of soiled linen in the hamper. A few token Natal text messages into the morning and I'm off to a great start.. an old Radio colleague.. my friend Pogz.. ho-hum.. I rummage for some breakfast and settle for some bacon and reheated rice, slumping infront of the bedroom TV, lackadaisically wolfing it down between gulps of iced Mountain Dew.. the breakfast of champions. Today's my birthday.. and I'm forty-four years old.

No surprise morning gifts or special breakfasts.. no cheery Mom nor Dad to send you off into the day, that's my job now.. no candles.. no cake.. no nothing.. gee, am I that jaded and cynical, or am I just destined to roam this Earth in this lonely island-like manner? Am I just feeling sorry for myself, pitying the poor boy in the mirror? Maybe I deserve it, for all the missed Birthday greets I failed to send out in the past.. they've finally come back to haunt me.. I am suddenly reminded of my friend, whose name I shall not mention here, who runs a private Ad business here, with several friends under his employ; a very small, informal cowboy-ish office that's been doing pretty well against the big, ugly corporations.. for several years, our mutual friends, have always invited me to a surprise party they always seem to throw for my good friend, their "boss.." and for several years now, I've envied my friend of this annual treat bestowed upon him, almost like clockwork.. sometimes I wonder if he's every surprised at all, after so many of them.. sometimes I wonder why it's never happened to me.. maybe I'm just not the type of person people would consider throwing a surprise Birthday party for.. I am not exactly the kind of person who's friends with everyone.. I've pissed off and hurt quite a few in my time, and I've been in that chair not a few times myself, so I guess everything cancels itself out, one way or another. But don't get me wrong, I'm happy for my good friend. We get envious at times, I guess.. it's human nature, and I'm all but too guilty of such.

Back to my bacon and rice, my soda, my boring cable channel and my boring Birthday.. I'm torn between sulking like a dateless li'l girl on Prom night and passing it all off as harsh reality.. I opt for the latter, rifling through stacks and stacks of cheapo DVDs collected over the years, now doing their own collecting.. dust. Better to keep my mind free of any Natal anxiety, and what better way than delving into the imaginary world of a DVD.. when suddenly, I sense some barely audible tapping on our rusty old gate.. hmmm, bill collector's early, I thought, as I walk barefoot to the living room window, peeking through the closed drapes.. this is one sexy bill collector, I surmise, seeing black pumps instead of dirty sneakers through the gate's bottom grills, as I open the front door and make for the gate door. A quick peek brings a quick draw of breath.. lo and behold, it's my girlfriend, smiling through the gate's small peephole.. guess there is a God.

And I did have a Happy Birthday after all..

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I remember the first time I saw Bamboo, the band, perform live. It was at a Chippy Gimikada Campus event sometime in '04 at Lyceum of the Philippines back-to-back with his former band, Rivermaya.. a live broadcast over Campus Radio, the usual skinny, hosted by Joe Spinner and JB.. I was there as spectator, looming in the wings, waiting for Bamboo. Rivermaya, by now a cocky, well-oiled outfit, their precise Pop machinery efficiently functioning, warmed up the crowd with old-time faves, playing on their own gear they dragged with them; like I said, cocky. When Bamboo strode onto the stage, using the rented equipment, and not Maya's, that first chord rang way louder than their predecessors, with a performance that just blew me away. It was at that gig I got to see a totally different Bamboo from the one I remembered in Rivermaya.. more confident.. still foreboding yet with a certain quality of innocence his music seems to bring out from within him.. his by-now signature leaping kicks and the mike punches.. The music, too. That initial sonic salvo of Mr. Clay was the money shot right there. It all made me believe.

The next day on my radio show, I played Rivermaya's Liwanag Sa Dilim, and began adlibbing as the song was about to end..

"Rivermaya and Liwanag Sa Dilim on Campus Radio 97.1 WLS-FM.. this band may be a light in the dark, but here's the new Banda ng Bayan.. Bamboo, and Noypi.."

segueing into Bamboo's anthemic tip-of-the-hat to all us Juan De La Cruzes; it's an adlib that sent coldwater shivers through my bones and hopefully through my listeners' spines as well. Fast forward to the here and the now, Bamboo still illicits that same feeling from this writer. The band's definitely got their shit together. Truly an electrifying experience!


It was just another typical run-of-the-mill day on radio.. y'know what it's like.. gabbing up greets off the Connection, talking to the minions, granting requests, makin' kids' days, cheering up flak-happy high schoolers under siege with quizzes, tests, projects, exams and whatever their teachers can throw at them, including the faculty lounge sink.. and the hot n' cold water dispenser..

But when 7pm clocks in, I'm outta there faster than you can say hypocritical bitch.. I suddenly remembered we had a Rockit Launcher happening that very evening.. at first I thought it was at Metrowalk in Ortigas.. naahh, too far, I thought, but then I realized it was at Metrobar, which used to be known as Kampo, right along West Ave.! JB's earlier live feed took care of that.. a few days earlier, I got a text from my Godchild, Nikka, who's like most teenage high school girls you know.. wild about the flavor-of-the-moment band.. sometime before Summer '06, she was totally nuts about Sponge Cola.. now it was this upstart Pogi Rock band Callalily.. okay fine.. she was asking me how much their t-shirt was and if I could get her one.. so kicked off my journey to Metrobar, in search of a fabled Callalily t-shirt for my inaanak.. simple enough, as the venue was on my way home, in fact it's so near, I can see my house from Metrobar hehe..

The place was packed. But I still got to park decently close to the place. Walking in, I bump into a phalanx of Sony BMG Adprom peeps and lo and behold, they hand me a t-shirt.. mission accomplished so soon, I say.. ooh but wait, I get some stubs shoved into my grubby paws.. oooh a meal and drink stub hehe.. I get directed to a side table where my Campus compatriots John Hendrix and JB hold court.. some pleasantries with some Aircheckers and I'm just in time for the start of Callalily's set..

These guys must be military freaks.. their use of footage from the hit HBO series Band Of Brothers was very evident (at least to me).. the band even posed on some vintage warplanes, possibly those found on Basa Airbase in Pampanga, if they're still there.. even their onstage attire borders on the olive drab variety.. barely outta High School and not quite passable for drinks at the bar, Callalily just go through the motions as the predominantly young female crowd laps it all up.. some uniformed fans obviously came straight from school, while others even brought their dazed and confused Moms and/or Dads, puzzled beyond doubt. As for their songs, well don't ask me..I was outta there before mid-set, heading for the door and out into the muggy night towards home.

I was just there for the t-shirt, dude.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Who are you? Where did you go?

"Blessings on thee, little man
Barefoot boy with cheek of tan.."

-John Greenleaf Whittier

Where did all the time go? Was this really more than twenty years ago? Where is this young man now.. and what did you do to him? What happened to all the bubbly laughter.. the joyous spirit and the first-hand experiences, unfazed and unjaded.. 'tis a rare view back to a time when everything seemed brand new.. untouched and unperturbed. A time when you're at the top of your game and you feel invincible.. indestructible..

Answering the calls of higher education.. nocturnal employment.. an uncertain yet budding would-be Broadcasting career.. and a band hellbent on wreaking Hardcore energized havoc.. it all once happened.. all at the same time.

We look back and marvel at the seemingly insurmountable feats performed and let loose a heavy sigh of relief; longing, perhaps.. that given yet another chance to return and recreate it all, everything would be redone as it was the first time around.

Yes, we made mistakes along the way.. some trivial, some dismal.. but in the end, we charged it all to so-called experience.. the price of the bill of which we foot to this day.. be it our fate or collective destiny, who's to say.. whatever it may have been or whatever it held in store, it is the hand we are dealt.