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When I decided to go to the ASEAN Pop Concert in Bonifacio High Street, I admit that I only intended to watch Franco, one of my favorite OPM bands. But I was in for a treat because at the end of the night, I was filled with a deeper purpose. 

Held last night was a music event that marked the culmination of Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN's) 50th Year Celebration. The concert had already started when my officemates and I arrived at the Amphitheater in Bonifacio High Street Central.

The Juans.

The Juans, “not your typical boy band,” they say, were already in the middle of their set. I’m aware that these newcomers to the music industry are talented in their own right as each of them plays their own instrument and everyone sings as well, a supposed step ahead of their contemporaries. But my respect for them increased ten times over when I saw and heard them perform live because they sounded as good as they are on record. These guys are not to be underestimated. Given how young they are, they’re sure to make bigger waves in the music industry. 

Next in line were pop stars representing each ASEAN country, such as Afiq Wafi from Brunei Darussalam, Kong Sothearith from Cambodia and Aizyah Aziz from Singapore. I wasn’t all that interested at first because I didn’t know any of the performers, except for our own Christian Bautista.

ASEAN Pop Artists.

But I listened to all of them and although I didn’t understand the words in their songs (they all sang in their native languages), I found a deeper appreciation for the performers, the countries they represent and music in general. I realized how rhythm, tone and emotions of songs could bridge people of different nations even though words are incomprehensible. It even made more sense that all the ASEAN pop stars sang the official ASEAN Song of Unity together. 

Then finally, Franco came on. Just like every live performance that I watched of them, it was electric. Of course, I’m speaking from a fangirl’s point of view. But more than the joy of watching Franco live onstage, I was happier with the fact that a lot of people in the crowd were singing and jamming along.


Just when I thought that Filipinos are too pre-occupied with foreign acts, here I see a crowd of people bobbing their heads to the beat and applauding after every song. OPM is still alive after all, I whispered to myself. 

Other sought-after and rising local bands also performed that night, including Up Dharma Down, Itchyworms, 6 Cyclemind, The Nightingales, Thyro and Yumi, Baihana and the cast of Rak of Aegis.

The organizers of the ASEAN 50 Celebration did good. My appreciation for music has taken deeper root. I slept happy last night. 

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As I write this, I’m listening to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer. An inappropriate song considering it’s fame when I just watched Stages Session’s Independent show with musicians who are still under the mainstream music radar. But if you’ve seen Almost Famous, you most likely know where this is coming from.

My knowledge about music is actually limited to all of the 213 songs by the Beatles, movie soundtracks, and also a couple from Les Misérables. Sure, I listen to indie music especially during ten-hour road trips when my playlist has been exhausted but other than that, I have zero knowledge about independent musicians. I almost never stray from the kind of music I listen to nor plan on writing about music reviews anytime soon, that is except when I re-watch Almost Famous. I wanted to know what it would feel like to get behind the scenes during performances (or is it technically behind the stage?).

I arrived in Maybank’s Theater Globe Auditorium during the bands’ rehearsals and sound checks. Being there, sitting on an empty row of seats with an almost completely empty stadium save for the crew and performers, I was able to witness the process of last-minute fine-tuning of the program. For the first few minutes, I stayed in my seat and figured out the lineup and tried to identify the people I listened on YouTube prior to arriving at the venue. Gio Levy and the rest of his crew were practicing when I arrived. His cool and charismatic voice was reverberating through the auditorium with pauses in between to set up the acoustics. Around me, the rest of the Stages team were also hustling to prepare for the show.

The next person on the rehearsal was Curtismith. The music coming from his mouth is fast and lyrical, but you can still hear and understand every word in the rap. The crew had to cut Curtismith’s rehearsal short due to some technical problem and then Tom’s Story was up on stage, lost in his own guitar rifts and taking the small audience with him.

I was going around the auditorium by now. Taking photos and observing the dynamics of the band and crew, how they seamlessly work in small auditorium in the dark with minimal noise, in fact, aside from orders in the microphone to adjust the light and sound, you won’t even notice that the performance was only a rehearsal. These people know what they are doing and are in sync with each other that no words need to be exchanged, music was the only constant “noise” in the room.

I sat once again when I heard Bullet Dumas in the microphone. He was serenading the audience-empty hall with his folk song-like music. I noticed his music was something that's new to the ears, something unusual to hear these days but surprisingly familiar and nostalgic. In my years of listening to auto-tuned pop songs, the country-born and bred lass in me was brought out. His music had me longing to go home in the province while I was seated in a dark auditorium in the middle of the city.

I now know Coeli’s voice. It’s not something you would forget easily. Her voice, accompanied by her cello playing is something that haunts you. In a good way of course. Her voice has this hauntingly beautiful quality. Her lyrics are true and raw, and it gives you this unexplainable sadness and sentimental feeling when listened to. Different from Keiko Necesario’s cold and thick voice. Keiko’s voice is something that would perfectly accompany you when it’s raining. Oddly enough, reminding me of Norah Jones.

By the time the rehearsals wrapped up and the musicians getting ready to take the stage, people were filling in for the event. The Manila String Machine and the Ateneo Blue Symphony were opening the show with their instrumental rendition of Rivermaya’s Elesi. I was silently mouthing the lyrics thinking what should I write home about.


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Jensen and the Flips, getting ready for their set

Felipe and Sons, Net Quad, 4th ave. cor 30th St., BGC, The Fort, Taguig City

Last night, I went to Jensen and the Flips' music video launch. It was fun, hip, and chill. Everything that I'd want in a night out. I used to always go to a lot of gigs but because of my new schedule, I couldn't really go as much as I'd want to. Anyway, let's talk about the more important things. The launch. I went to Felipe and Sons at around 8 in the evening to make sure I'd get a good spot when the performers start their gig. I walked in with a friend and saw how everything was set up. The stage was right across the door, which was perfect if you asked me. I'd say the venue did a good job at setting up the whole place for the launch. For every person that comes in, you get a stub for your local beer after paying the php 200 entrance fee. Fair enough, I thought. Good music, a comfortable place, and a beer. That's a steal! 

The stage

While waiting for the first performer to start, we looked around to check out the venue even more. There's just something about it that made me want to ask, how is this branch different from the other Felipe and Sons I've seen? And why is a band doing their music video launch at a barber shop? So when I had the chance to have a little chat with the band's vocalist, Jensen Gomez, I just had to ask. Jensen mentioned how the management of Felipe and Sons offered to let the band use their newest branch at Net Quad along 4th Avenue for their launch (the band is an endorser of the barbershop). Along with having a bar inside the shop and their products on display for anyone who would like to purchase, he also noted that this particular branch is the first one that would be offering food as well. So far, it's the only Felipe and Sons that has a kitchen. 

Jensen Gomez of Jensen and the Flips

When asked about their new album, Jensen said they're about 30 to 40 percent done with it and that they are planning to release it sometime in June or July of this year. Now that's something to look forward to after the first album, Honeymoon. I went on to ask about the direction the band wants to go with this album in the works. He mentioned how their sound would be more aggressive compared to the first one. "Tapos na yung honeymoon stage eh." he teased. I can't remember the time when I did not like a song they did. Needless to say, I am pretty excited about these new songs. BDYTLK is just the start. It's the first single of the second album and if anything, I'm sure it will just keep getting better. 

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