Coming back to the Philippines in late 2006 after four years would be an eye-opener I never would have expected. I realized how much I missed the different things I had taken for granted; the beautiful countryside on the way to the Batangas coast, the homely taste of lechon kawali and sizzling sisig that can’t be found anywhere else and the warm sound of the tagalog language filling my ears as I walk thru a crowded Megamall. As I slowly fall in love with my hometown, one thing was not quite right and sadly, it was the most important aspect of Pinoy life for me...the music.
I started hearing negative rumblings through different yahoogroups about the state of the local scene spanning three years since ‘03. Rants from every which way bashed and criticized the “acoustic duo” wave and eventually, it’s bastard offspring, the “pogi rock” genre that presently permeates the country’s popular musical landscape. The only thing going through my mind was, “what the hell is happening back there?”
When Lokomotiv did our Philippine tour last November, I had to see for myself how things really were. It didn’t take any longer than watching one hour of a local music channel to discover the horror that was only hearsay a few months earlier. Video after video of bands with names like Hale, Cueshe, Sponge Cola, Calalily and 6 Cyclemind filled the television screen as one word kept coming out of my mouth, “lame”.
Subsequent videos of a band singing about fake DVDs, a Japanese suicide bomber-named band doing an Apo Hiking Society cover and a group of former alternative rock purists turned bubble gum pop did not make matters any easier. Even if these videos were on the “rock” segment of the show, there was little distinction between them and the pop music that was coming on. I now understood where all the hostility from the rock fans was coming from and was myself getting agititated.
As the band tore through our gigs in different venues and festivals, I got to talk to a lot of our fans and most of them were thanking us for touring the Philippines ‘coz there was finally a real rock band that was playing actively on the mainstream track. I’d ask them why that was the case and they had answers like, “bands like Razorback and Kapatid don’t play much anymore” and “puro pogi rock na lang kasi sikat ngayon”. How could a whole successful pinoy rock scene from the 90’s just disappear into the underground in a matter of months? How could a whole country of rock music fans endure music that has no depth, no longevity and no cojones? Who could the PInoy Rock torch be passed to?
Everything that was getting attention was either too light & cheesy on the right or too aggressive on the left (a distinct characteristic of bands like Queso, Greyhoundz, Sky Church, Sultans Of Snap and Slapshock). No one was representing the middle ground and what everyone seems to underestimate is that the audience of that center is probably the biggest and the most loyal. The situation was finally taking shape in my head and I did not like what I was seeing.
So, whom do I blame for the chain of events leading up to this absurdity? Do I blame the A&R people of record companies who’ve signed these artists? Do I blame the older bands for being content with their status and aren’t playing actively anymore? Do I blame the fans for surrendering to age and conformity? Do I blame myself for leaving the country to pursue my personal aspirations? Reflecting on these thoughts, I decided that instead of pointing the accusing finger, I should be an instrument of change and help get real Pinoy Rock back on it’s feet again. But where would I start? How could I help? Where would I find hope?
Apparently, all I had to do was look into the underground scene for answers. Hanging out in bars around the metro revealed a slew of great bands playing their own brand of original Pinoy Rock that made the hair on the back of my neck stand. They were also armed with much cooler names like Urbandub, Salamin, Salindiwa, Milagros Dancehall Collective, Typecast, Southern Grass and Kinky Hooters. I would discover more astonishing performances in the next few weeks from Reggae Mistress, Coffee Break Island, The Mobsters, Powertone, Gasulina, Lahi and Kastigo.
My spirits were suddenly lifted as if my heart was jumpstarted by high voltage. I knew that my beloved Pinoy Rock is alive and was not going down without a fight. It was now clear to me that when everything seems to be decaying that is where great art is born. This is the genesis of a revolution and I am a part of it. There are uprisings happening all over the country in provinces like Laguna, Cavite, Cebu, Cagayan De Oro, Bulacan, Iloilo, Legazpi and more rock n’ roll rebels are joining the cause.
It’s only a matter of time that the underground will be contained no longer and the country will experience the great music that is being made right under their very noses. An earthquake has occurred and a new Pinoy Rock tsunami is coming. Take cover or be swept away.