Friday night’s Jack TV MAD Fest was, arguably, a festival built around the fact that they got Kimbra to perform. I mean, save for the four DJs that followed her – I didn’t watch them for obvious reasons, and also because Rainy and I were really tired – the acts were limited to three songs each. But it was a nice way to be reacquainted with the best Filipino music has to offer: a good mix of established acts and new ones bubbling under, making you wonder what the hell happened to “OPM is dead”? So, in the following paragraphs, my five highlights, plus a quick run through the rest.
I’ve heard a bit about B.P. Valenzuela on Twitter these past few months, but a bit of fortuitous serendipity the day of the concert made me a bit excited for her: I was reading FHM while having a haircut, and they were comparing her to Beth Orton. That intimacy might have been lost in the MAD Fest’s stage set-up – or maybe the sound mix was just off, or maybe it’s because I was at the very front, or maybe it’s because she’s performing with a live band for the first time, which mean things sounded bigger. But I felt her awkward charisma on stage and I knew there was something good on there. Rainy, on the other hand, thought she was a bit raw, but then again, she’s just 19, if I remember correctly.
Rainy’s been a fan of Cheats for a while, though. You might know them as the band with Saab Magalona on it. I know as much. Watching them was a boisterous, jubilant affair: the uncontrollable dancing between Saab and co-vocalist Candy Gamos, the whole Yeah Yeah Yeahs-ish vibe that can’t help but spill out to my part of the stands. It’s chaotic but organized, and it’s very infectious. Also, it says something to be one of only two bands, to our knowledge — the other one was, apparently, Sandwich – that Kimbra herself watched from the side of the stage.
Speaking of Sandwich, it’s nice to watch them live again. They’re effortless crowd-pleasers with a strong ear and an assured air that you can only get from Philippine alternative music royalty. (That, or it’s me finally realizing that bassist Myrene Academia is the most reassuring presence in local music.) The three-song limit (although they did four) meant you don’t get “Sugod”, but the fact that everybody was singing along to “Betamax” despite the possible obscurity of most of the acts the band name-checks on it says something. Also, Raimund Marasigan, his quiet muttering of “salamat” in between songs, and that anticlimatic stage dive on my side of the stands, which ended in him being dropped at the very last note of “Procrastinator”. “You don’t do that to royalty,” I muttered to myself. (Also worth mentioning in this paragraph: Kjwan and Urbandub, of similar stature, but with different approaches. Marc Abaya’s whole rowdy slacker vibe never gets old.)
When I first wrote about Chocolate Grass early this year, it was with the promise of an electric live performance. While, again, the whole big-stage-at-a-festival thing diluted it somewhat, I can say that Eena is right: the feel is confusing and vulnerable and showy and all sorts of electric. It oozes through, and while they didn’t really have a lot of original material to go through at the moment (their eponymous EP only has four tracks), when their set ended, you just wished there was more.
Finally, I’ve been looking forward to seeing Flying Ipis despite only having heard a few of their songs. By the end of their set, though, I wondered to myself: is it wrong to define a all-girl four-piece’s live act by their electric sexuality? It might be the PC side of me talking, but that is what I get. Deng Garcia cannot stand still. She goes her, goes there, goes to guitarist Ymi Sy and just stands so close. And then she moves back out. And the disarming bit about it is that she introduced herself at the beginning of the set and you get this unassuming (and a bit batang-kanto) vibe from her. As a live act, they are worth a watch… but I bet you already know that, because I am always late to these things. [NB]