Taken by Cars Live at Mr. T’s Bowl in Los Angeles

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.

Taken by Cars Live in Los Angeles

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.

Special thanks to:
Annette and Dennis (aka the Metallicouple) and
Wendy Hsu (super cool musician/scholar) for lending amps.
Soundbite Studios for fulfilling a last minute drum rental request and
Mr. T’s Bowl for taking a chance and allowing us to book a band all the way from Manila.

– Gary

Taken by Cars Live in Los Angeles

Taken by Cars Live in Los Angeles

Related links:
Download “Unidentified” from iTunes

Download “A Weeknight Memoir” from iTunes

Download “Uh Oh” from iTunes

Catching Up with Taken by Cars in San Francisco

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.

Super Astig:
Awesome show Sarah. How does it feel to be touring state-side?

Sarah Marco:
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.

Super Astig:
How does it feel to be the first Filipino band to play SXSW?

Sarah Marco:
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.

Super Astig:
Anything to say to your fans in LA?

Sarah Marco:
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.

It’s going to be a lot of fun.


Purchase pre-sale tickets to Taken by Cars’ Los Angeles performance here:

Follow Taken by Cars on Twitter as they continue their tour to SXSW.

Purchase Taken by Cars’ song – “December 2 Chapter VII” on iTunes.

Coming up:
Review of new movie recently screened at the 30th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival – “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank

Taken by Cars: Abduction Tour L.A.

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.

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”).

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).

On sale now at:

Taken by Cars “Dualist” CD

Taken by Cars Abduction Tour Limited Edition T-shirt

– Christine

Related links:

Taken by Cars on iTunes

Vex Ruffin

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.

Pick up Vex Ruffin’s ep released on Stonesthrow records.

or on iTunes

– Gary

The Excursion Tour Baguio

On September 17th 2011 bands from Manila & Baguio got together and produced The Excursion Tour show at Ayuyang Bar in Baguio City, Philippines.

Fueled with a disregard for the need to earn money or obtain sponsorships to pay for expenses, The Excursion Tour was built upon the desire to simply enjoy the performance of music.

This video captures some of the performances of the night.

Bands that performed that night
Sky Dive Academy
Taken by Cars
Pedicab (with special appearance by Ron Ruiz of Feet Like Fins)
DJ Mon (Team Manila)

Sandwich – Live in Jersey City

Here is a clip of Sandwich performing at the Lamp Post Bar & Grill in beautiful downtown Jersey City.

I’m calling this version of “Sugod” the special “Raimund Gets a Beer at the Bar Remix” Watch the clip and see what I mean.

More footage to come from Sandwich’s US visit…

Related Links:
Sandwich’s Facebook Page

Lamp Post Bar & Grill

Joe Bataan Talking Story

When I was a kid I thought the coolest Filipino dude I knew from 70s was Uncle Ramon. He worked on a battleship, drove a baby blue BMW 320i, had a stack of Playboys and numerous girlfriends or “Aunties” as I was told to call them.

But on 06/23/11 at the Bayanihan Community Center in downtown San Francisco I had the pleasure to meet legendary Latin-soul artist Joe Bataan. Sorry Uncle Ramon, I going to have to share your title with Joe Bataan.

At this informal talk-story/meet-and-greet Joe Bataan shared some inspirational tales on making music, finding spirituality and understanding culture. Check out the video clips below.

Joe Bataan Talking Story Part 1
“I’m culturally deprived but that’s not gonna stop at my age me to know about my culture”

“I recorded Afro-Filipino in 1976 why has it took so long for Filipinos to note that I exist?”

Joe Bataan Talking Story Part 2
“This big explosion…doing Latin music in English in’65 which became the Boogaloo”

Joe Bataan Talking Story Part 3
“At that time when I took off (from playing music)…I was raising a family…We got into Martial Arts”

“Did I tell you about the rap song?” (Rap-O-Clap-O)

Joe Bataan Talking Story Part 4
“…We’re sitting on our rights…”

I wonder if Uncle Ramon had Joe Bataan’s records back in the 70s.


Related links:
Joe Bataan Official Website

Joe Bataan’s Music on iTunes

Review of The West Fjords’ Telescope Album

by Key Kool *

A Peninsula in Iceland

​The West Fjords is a peninsula in Iceland that is a highly mountainous area with many indentations of fjords that make the region difficult to access. While the West Fjords are sparsely inhabited, the many fjords in the area are also natural harbors that are vital for the local fishing economy. The album Telescope by a group named the West Fjords provides a unique auditory landscape that harbors music rich with an emotionally provocative subtly. Upon listening to the music of the West Fjords, one can imagine retreating to the Icelandic peninsula in an attempt to heal their soul.

Crash Landing

​Crash Landing starts the album off with a driving rhythm layered with acoustic guitar, sprinkled with synth chords and arpeggiator, blended with convincingly delivered vocals. As the track builds and pulsates, vocalist Micah croons “Countless hours pass me by, growing old before my time, I will perish in the everglades.” It is not just one element that stands out about this song, but all parts combined; the song simply connects with the very feeling of heart break: the beat races like irrational emotions running rampant while at the same time, as the pain marinates, time could not pass more slowly.

Floating House

​Floating House is a song that feels like a sunrise after the pain subsides. West Fjords creator, Christian Marquez produces and arranges a nicely woven combination of electronic and acoustic instruments, along with smartly written poetic lyrics. Vocalist Lynsey Vandenburg’s beautiful voice hints a melancholy optimism as she sings: “Drifting above the clouds, counting the stars out loud, climbing a sleeping air, sitting on empty stairs, shuttle me up somewhere, I know that you’ll be there, travel and close your eyes, dreaming the evening sky.”

Debt of Lovers

​There are many memorable songs on Telescope, but the arguable single would have to be Debts of Lovers. No highfalutin description for this song, it is just good. Good lyrics, good melody, and feels good. Debts of Lovers is the type of song that you would hear on the radio, in the shopping mall, on VH1, and you should really get sick of hearing it, but don’t.

Adrift at Twilight

​Adrift at Twilight is a haunting song with a beautiful voice and somber melody that is eerily catchy. The song begins with a guitar, and Lynsey’s simply hypnotic vocals. As the song progresses, Christian joins harmonizing: “look into the horizons, twilight is here to stay, watching the passing moments, throwing the past away..” The track builds to a climatic instrumental, then, breaks back down to the harmonizing vocals to end the song. Adrift at Twilight has a mysteriously sticky melody and strikes an emotional chord as well.

Photo: 2011 Tom Takigayama

​While the West Fjords may not yet be a household name, Telescope certainly is an album that proves to be a secret “fishing hole” (for now), of music created with genuine expression and talent. The production, arrangement and lyrics of West Fjords Christian Marquez throughout Telescope is uncontrived and never over-produced. The music of the West Fjords is appealing without the intent to gain mass appeal, how refreshing.

Telescope is picturesque: simply emotionally vivid music.

Telescope was recorded & produced by Eric Bennett and Mastered by 2-time Grammy Award Winning Sound Engineer Tom Ruff at Asbury Media. Telescope, is available on iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.com.

* This album review was written by Key Kool. Key Kool is a member of the Visionaries, president of Up Above Records and founder of Qmania.com.

Related links:
The West Fjords Official Site

The West Fjords of Facebook

The West Fjords on Twitter

The West Fjords Band Photo by Tom Takigayama