Gigging and Gothing About at Cubao-X

Cubao XNovember 17, 2006. Friday. 6:30PM:
After my late afternoon class and showing students their midterm grades, I grabbed a bite to eat at Jollibee with Ms.Lai, and discovered this: the new Arroz Ala Cubana dish is yummy, and is better LARGE!

I left Taft for Cubao by 7:30PM in order to make it for the 8 PM start of the event (of course nothing starts on time in the indie music world), so I was still early when I got there at 8:15.

In fact, while walking to Marikina Shoe Expo from the MRT station, I thought I saw one of my quiet, over-achieving students (from my Monday class) in one of the various ukay-ukay places near Aurora Boulevard. I made a u-turn and went back to the place. True enough it WAS who I thought it was. Turns out this student lives all the way in Cainta? Holy crap. And I thought *I* lived far away?

Anyway, I got to Cubao-X (formerly the Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao) and started chatting with The Late Isabel’s guitarist Allan Hernandez, who is one of the editors in FHM magazine, and whom I worked with back when he was a writer for the Manila Times and I was an editor in some old, dead magazine. We started talking about the publishing industry and all our common friends. Funny how time has flown, and it’s still the same names in the magazine business.


The sound system finally got things up and running by 8:45 or so, at which point I took the initiative of setting up and beginning to play as more people started coming in, and hanging out.

Acid42 at work!I traditionally enjoy playing in the opening slot. Usually because people are just coming in and aren’t expecting anything yet. Also, because this means not all performers are present yet, I usually end up playing longer than anyone else … at least until someone signals me to wind down. And finally because I get to set up my gear (laptop, keyboard, various cables) without any pressure that people are waiting for the performer to get his act together and start playing already, demmit!

I actually tried something new tonight, and constructed a few on-the-spot loops for the event. Since the night was primarily a gathering of goths and goth-music lovers, I tried my hand at crafting some moody atmospheres on-the-fly. And some of it worked. When the rest of it was starting to suck, I had to start playing my pre-constructed slow songs. They were still a bit too hip-hoppish and funky for the goth crowd, I felt, but what the hell. I never said I was goth naman di ba? Hehehe.

Turns out there were several listmembers from ElectronicaManila present in the audience. They approached me as I was packing up my gear. And so, I was hugely entertained for the rest of the night, by the presence of Kurlie (aka DemoLee), Myke (aka Evo Evolver) and his girlfriend Tyna –all three of them musicians and independent music producers in their own right. Their having come to watch the gig meant a lot, since I was expecting to have no one to hang out with, and I was expecting to probably head home early.Apparently it was not meant to be.


Indie film director Khavn dela Cruz showed up with a band composed of writers Karl de Mesa and Norman Wilwayco. They banged out a set of impromptu noise which sent the neighborhood salesladies scurrying home in fear!

Finally met Tengal, one of our local noise artists, whom I’ve been conversing with over email and mailing lists regarding music and process. He uses digital software and noise loops to craft ear-splitting sonic assaults that horrify and please at the same time. And true enough, he let ‘er rip tonight. The sound crew were actually covering their ears at one point– which pleased me. Don’t ask why.

The Late IsabelSince I so rarely get to go out and watch bands, I FINALLY got to watch a live set by The Late Isabel and I enjoyed their lovely, goth-pop music. Allan Hernandez’ guitar playing was crystalline — every note perfect and bright. Lead singer Wawi Navarroza‘s singing was compelling– rough at the edges, yes, but at least, honest. (Unlike so much pop music on radio, I might add.) Galing ng tunog nila.

Another goth group Scarlet Tears, graced the makeshift stage, though unfortunately they weren’t complete being only 2 out of 5 members. Still, vocalist Katrina and keyboardist Sam did a lovely job especially on their cover of “Love Moves In Strange Ways” by Blue Zoo. I had to stop myself from rushing to the microphone to sing the 2nd voice, hahahah! 80s new-wavers rejoice!

Our host for the evening, and the reason for the party, Nono Acosta, aka Names Are For Tombstones, was another interesting act to watch. First he played 2nd guitars with Isolation Ward, which is a band that, for all purposes of easy exposition, is a CURE soundalike. Their set made me want to go digging through my 120 GB mp3 library for all my Cure files. Isolation Ward clothed us all in multiple layers of guitar effects to create a swirling atmosphere. Cure na Cure na Cure.

And then, Nono ended the night as a solo act, playing live guitar and singing his compositions and a cover of a Clan Of Xymox tune, over pre-sequenced tracks on his laptop. Intense! I never knew working an I.T.-related dayjob could give you that much angst, haha!

At the end of the gig, he gave all of us still present a free copy of his 5-track EP SWANS, (hence the title of the gig, Swan Song Listening Party) which was recorded and reproduced at home, and given as a gift to the members of his Names Are for Tombstones mailing list. Yay! I loves freebies which is why I (heart) the net.

Saffron SpeedwayBut, by and far, my biggest surprise of the night was discovering a rocktronica band called Saffron Speedway and hearing them play for the first time. WHOAH! All-girl band with a fantastic sings-her-heart-out vocalist, interesting original songs and band members who know how to play from pianissimo till forte (though fortissimo is not in their repertoire), and to top it all off, they have a member on laptop using Fruity Loops to provide the beats, which IMMEDIATELY impresses me? What is there NOT to like? The minute they started playing I wanted to pull everyone onto their feet to dance so I wouldn’t look silly swaying in place alone. Saya!

A quick googling reveals their yahoogroups. Two not-very good live recordings of theirs on Soundclick (they sounded so much better tonight). Their MySpace page and Friendster page which I can’t visit because I’m behind this firewall. And of course their Multiply page.

Ganda ng kanta nila, and even though they have miles to go before perfecting their onstage presence, when they do get there (which they will within a year’s time maximum, with constant gigging), watch them become the Philippines’ answer to Garbage. Astig sila! Tangkilikin ang gig nila. Teka, tangkilikin din ang gigs ko, pwede ba?


After the gig, I rode with Kurlie, Michael and Tyna, and we ended up having lomi and goto at a pares house along Anonas, before bringing Tyna home to Pasig, and then bringing me home. (Nanood na nga ng gig ko, hinatid pa ako sa bahay. Talagang laki ng utang na loob ko sa mga ito ah. Well, mas malaki sana if they stopped calling me “sir,” demmit!)

And as we rode and talked about music software, sound recording, and production techniques (yes, musician geeks are the worst kind of geeks), they started playing me finished and unfinished tracks from the iPod in the car.

Kurlie had a song called “Corona Borealis” which Tyna made lyrics for and eventually sang. And it was a painful shade of beautiful. A chillout song with heart-wrenching lyrics and a melody to die for. I told Kurlie he better finalize the song and submit it to one of the foreign compilation albums… like Cafe Del Mar or Hed Kandi, because this song was much better than some of the dreck on the latest albums.

Then Michael started playing some of the tracks that his band recorded. They use live guitars, a female vocalist and REASON software for the drums. If you’ve heard of the band God Lives Underwater, then Michael and his band will probably do much much better than GLU. Firstly because they have a wider range of musical interests. Second because they’re younger.

And so I was dropped off at my doorstep at about 3 AM or so, by newfound friends (not just anonymous email addresses anymore), filled with a profound certainty that the independent music of the next decade is already in such fine, talented hands.

UPDATE: LINK to some pics from last night’s gig on Laura’s Multiply page.

Image of Cubao X by Shugo Kunisaki.

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