With my regular Saturday night DJ gig canceled at the last minute, I find myself and a few friends at the Buccaneer Bar in the city of Sierra Madre on the outskirts of LA County.
At the bar, there was a three piece band, playing mostly covers of the Beatles and Led Zepplin. Quite extraordinarily well, I might add. Later on I learn the musicians are seasoned session players that tour with arena packing classic rock acts.
After a few rounds of Pabst Blue Ribbon (from a tap), we hear the guitarist announce they’ll be playing a cover from the bassist’s old band, who just happen to be the bassist of Oingo Boingo.
Check out this version of “Dead Man’s Party”
If you don’t recognize the song, here’s the official music video.
Bet you didn’t know Iron Man and Rodney Dangerfield were in a movie together.
On my last trip to the PI, I had the pleasure of opening up for Manila’s very own dynamic DJ duo The Diegos.
The venue was at this funky resto/bar/gallery/art space called Today x Future. The vibe of the place very much reminded me of spaces I use to work in the lower east side circa early 90s. Big shout out to bar owners, Chie and Sharon!
Below is a photo of The Diegos rocking an all vinyl set. The Diegos are Diego Mapa (Pedicab) and Diego Castillo (Sandwich) who work together as a Djing duo. You can check out one of their most recent remixes right here:
I played a cross-genre set that included mixing Toro Y Moi with Van Halen into some Soul Makousa. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to appreciate the musical taste and people actually danced. A DJ’s dream come true.
I was telling a friend at the night, when I need to find out what’s good these days, I ask folks in the Philippines cause they’re up on state side music but also on other sounds from around the world, which unfortunately never reach ‘Murica’s shores. So Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Below is a picture of me (post DJ set and several rides on the Red Horse later), Diego C. (The Diegos) and fellow LA based Filmmaker/DJ Joel Quizon. Joel and Maya (another friend from LA) were in town working on their documentary.
Take a listen to Joel’s latest mix: Beat Soul Funk: The Pinoy Groove Experience
And finally here’s a video of Sunday longboarding through the leaves at UP.
Camera by Sir Raims, thanks for lending me the board!
Filipino indie rockers, The Eraserheads, emerged during (and for) a Philippines-based generation growing up in the aftermath of martial law. Growing up under two decades of violent government-based suppression, some of these “martial law babies” sought respite for their cultural and political exhaustion and found refuge in the simple sounds and lyrics of the country’s homegrown version of the Fab Four.
For myself, The Eraserheads also came during a time of cultural exhaustion. By my third year as an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I grew tired and confused by “brown power” fronting and Sproul Plaza-style proclamations and propaganda. As a firm believer in the political power of the arts, I had worked on maganda magazine all during my college years and was beginning to feel at home in a little black box theatre called Bindlestiff Studio, in the heart of San Francisco’s South of Market Area (SoMA). In both of these places, I found a sense of belonging in the artistic work created by Filipino artists in the U.S. as well as in the plays, songs, and poetry of Philippines-based artists.
With a different type of politicized consciousness—based less in rhetoric and more in real-life—and a different type of cultural confidence (thanks to two years of Tagalog classes), I returned to the Philippines in 1997. I made a pact with myself that, on this trip, I would only speak Tagalog or Visayan—to my family, to people on the street, even with myself. At first, my cousins were playfully irritated with my obstinate attitude, wanting to hear their cousin’s American accent. After a few days, however, they learned to accept it while I learned the importance of listening—for intonation, for silences, for the power of what wasn’t being said—and learned to dream in other languages.
It was on this particular trip (as seemed to happen to other Fil-Ams who returned to the Philippines in the late 1990s) that I first heard The Eraserheads on the radio. Amid the saccharine sweet sounds of Bryan Adams’ ballads and MYMP’s cover songs, The E-heads’ original music—consisting of rock arrangements that worked in tandem with their vivid lyrical storytelling—struck an emotional chord with my own college-aged sentiments. Deeply ensconced in the constant rotation of “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” I too knew a thing or two about nostalgia for simpler times and for the “one that got away.”
Not until many years later (while researching the book that is still “in progress”) would I come to realize the cultural significance of this gang of four. How they battled their nation’s censors with songs that contained everyday curse words, psychedelic images, and messages of acceptance (and looking forward) for queer folks. How their success helped record companies believe in the “marketability” of local Pinoy musicians and helped inspire a new generation of indie rockers. How they were the first band from the Philippines to win MTV’s coveted Moon Man and accept the award on the international stage of Radio City Music Hall.
Despite these more easily recognizable historical events, the importance of The Eraserheads for a certain generation—one growing up in-between the 20th and 21st centuries, in-between America and the Philippines, in-between the way their parents imagined life in these two countries and the way they would end up living it themselves—remains in the way that their songs marked special moments in one’s own personal history. The joy of first loves. Life’s natural (and man-made) highs. Day-tripping exhilaration. The longing that comes with unbridgeable distances.
About this time last year, I found myself in a hotel room in Cebu City. Still basking in the after-glow of a free outdoor Rock Ed concert to celebrate the centennial of nationalist hero Jose Rizal’s birth, I uploaded onto Facebook a video of Paolo Santos’ live rendition of “Magasin” (later accompanied by Raimund Marasigan on drums) and tagged all those friends who I knew would understand. The first comment (“Walastik!”) came from my friend E. Fructuoso and, little did I know, it would be his last. Other friends informed me, a few hours later, that E. had passed away from a heart attack at the tender age of 44.
All these memories from San Francisco to the Manila Bay, and the magic they bestow, will be with me tomorrow night at the Regency Ballroom. It’s a show that me and over four hundred other fans have waited more than a decade to witness. Amid all the screams of excitement, I know that E. will be right there with us, smiling and singing along. – (Christine)
Suburbia and adolescence go hand in hand. Both suburban landscapes and teenagers work hard in cultivating surfaces of flatness — architecturally and emotionally — to hide conflicted interiors.
It is precisely these inner worlds that Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas’ latest play, BIRD IN THE HAND, presents. And, while it is set in the neighborhoods of Miami and greater Florida, the play’s locations and characters — most notably, the flamingos and other birds on display in a nature park owned by its lead character Felix’s family — speak of a darker melancholia that pervades the Sunshine state. Through his deeply poetic language and absurdist sensibilities, Cortiñas has captured the spectacular range of feelings that pervade the (seeming) banality of transitional spaces like high school and summer time and “the closet.” This play perhaps speaks deepest to latchkey kids— the offspring of “absentee” parents whose power was still present in other ways — and the everyday, improvised ways we tried to find a place in this world.
Told in a mode of “looking back,” BIRD IN THE HAND is a road map of those places to which we continually return, knowing that we can never go back. – (Christine)
BIRD IN THE HAND
by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas
August 29-September 23, 2012
Theater for the New City
155 1st Avenue (btw 9th and 10th Streets)
New York, NY
Call SmartTix at: (212) 868-4444
And for Super Astig’s own soundtrack teaser to this performance, check out the lo-fi music video for the Jacuzzi Boys’ “Island Avenue”:
If you missed Taken by Cars’ Los Angeles performance, here’s a nice 11 minute video of their set. Yes, I shot this and was that guy with the camera, behind the stage, on the floor and standing on the risers. I apologize to anyone at the show I accidently bumped or stepped on.
Taken by Cars performed “Unidentified”,”A Weeknight Memoir” and one of my favorite’s “Uh Oh” seamlessly blending each song into one another.
I was able to capture certain audience members yelling out disco calls with lead singer Sarah and folks taking notice of Bryan’s cowbell work. Major TbC fans indeed.
The sound man at Mr. T’s Bowl is always on point. The band sounded great and the audio in the video is nice and clear.
Last Saturday, we flew up to San Francisco and watched Taken by Cars’ first state-side performance. Man, they sounded good. I could hear the hours they put into rehearsing their set. I even spotted folks, who have never heard them before, dancing to “December 2 Chapter VII”. Check out video from the show.
After the show we chatted with Sarah Marco lead singer of Taken by Cars for a quick interview.
Awesome show Sarah. How does it feel to be touring state-side?
Being here…really makes us feel super happy and grateful.
We’ve brought a lot of heart into this tour.
We’re grateful that we did it by our own efforts and it really took a lot out of us, each of us…particularly to be able to sacrifice our time…rehearsing, practicing for San Francisco, South by Southwest and LA…
And it’s a privilege to travel, to be with each other, to appreciate each other’s friendship, to be in another country basically.
We treat this tour like a serious vacation.
NOTE TO READER: Currently Taken by Cars is not signed to any major label. They put out their records independently and they paid their own way to make the tour happen. Peep their fund raising efforts here. Props to them.
How does it feel to be the first Filipino band to play SXSW?
We’re really, really proud.
It’s a happy blessing. I believe there are no accidents. Everything happens for a purpose.
We emailed our album (to SXSW) not expecting a response. So it’s really a huge thing for us (to play the festival).
We’ll do our best to represent ourselves.
Anything to say to your fans in LA?
Taken by Cars will be playing at Mr.T’s Bowl in Highland Park. (Friday 3/16 9:30 PM)
Come see our show. We worked hard to put on a good show for you guys.
Rock n Roll Research
One of the most rewarding aspects of writing a book on popular music is that checking out gigs becomes a form of field research. And while I’ve enjoyed every moment of “research” that’s brought me to the far-flung sides of Makati (Saguijo, B-Side), Kati Ave. (Route 169), and even up the mountains into Baguio (R.I.P. Ayuyang Bar), it’s been even more exciting to be able to help bring a little bit of the Manila indie rock scene’s energy back home to the U.S., to share with stateside friends, musicians, and audiences.
TAKEN BY CARS at SXSW
Next week, the electro-pop quintet Taken by Cars will be the first-ever band from the Philippines to play on the stages of South by Southwest, a festival of incomparable indie gold status. Not since The Eraserheads’ 1999 win of an MTV Moon Man has such an air of pride and prestige swept over the world of Philippine indie rock. Responding to recent declarations that the archipelagic capital city’s indie music scene is “dead,” I tend to differ that perhaps, in growing older, the scene and its bands are also growing out, setting sights on bigger stages, and moving towards an afterlife beyond solely their hometown breeding grounds.
Beyond TFC and Eat Bulaga
Unlike other Asian counterparts such as J-Pop or K-Pop, Pinoy/OPM indie rock has yet to see a surging and successful crossover into U.S. pop culture. You can blame it on a number of factors—American ignorance and amnesia about its former colony, Filipino invisibility and low production value—but, in our many conversations on music & culture during long drives, the husband and I always return to the lack of knowledge (and, therefore, sharing) by Filipino Americans of what’s really going down in modern-day Philippine culture (outside of TFC and “Eat Bulaga”).
TAKEN BY CARS in L.A 3/16.
Therefore, in its ongoing effort to a) further a project of “knowing history, knowing self” for Filipinos in the U.S. and
b) share the latest & greatest of Philippine contemporary culture with the world, Super Astig Productions (in conjunction with Party Bear Productions) brings to you the L.A. edition of TAKEN BY CARS.
Join us Friday, March 16th at Mr. T’s Bowl (Highland Park, CA) for a special one-night only event with all proceeds benefiting the band’s costs in traveling to SXSW.
$10 (admission + TbC CD)
$30 (admission + TbC CD and limited edition t-shirt).
My wife turned me onto this Filipino brother straight out of Chino Hills, CA. His name is Vex Ruffin. I recently checked out a live performance at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles.
On stage Vex Ruffin’s band consists of drums, bass, percussion and Vex on guitar. At times during the set, the line-up would switch to Vex singing and the percussionist rocking a sampler. Vex’s music has a post-punk influenced feel with a well crafted lo-fi sound. The music is dope.
Something about the music connects with me. Possibly the simplicity and sincerity of the sound…or the sonic dirtiness…or maybe watching his band play triggers memories of adolescent south Jersey basement jam sessions with my cousins…recording these unpolished three note (not chords) songs about wrestlers, pythons and skateboarding. All captured on a tape cassette boom box. Damn, I just dated myself.