When I was younger, I listened to a lot of Cebu indie rock and roll on local radio stations, and got to see bands play in my high school during special occasions. I heard a lot about bars where gigs happened, but I wasn’t old enough to go out late at night, not to mention, I didn’t know anyone in the music scene. But through word of mouth, I knew there were a lot of rock and roll events. Bug Rock, Padi’s Point, Handuraw, Kahayag, Ronnie’s tattoo, the punk rock shows at Nancy’s Bayanihan in Colon to name a few, I think that was about early 2000 if I’m not mistaken. I was a guitarist for a cover band back in high school and we played a lot of school events, sometimes we’d open for known bands. My most memorable experience was playing at a big school gig, we fronted for Urbandub, Powerspoonz, Junior Kilat, The Ambassadors, Faspitch, Glitch (Or was that Capsule?) and PG-18; obviously there was no decent time slot available for a bunch of kids like us, but since my bandmates were from that school, the organizers were forced to put us in the event. The punch line was that our time slot was at 4:30pm, and the event poster said the gig starts at 6pm.
That was high school. Fast forward to 2007, three of my friends and I decided to make music together. That year we did a lot of writing and recording in our bedrooms, asking people to let us play and being told “maybe next time,” most of the time. There were a variety of gigs; hardcore, metal, emo, show bands, reggae/ska, bisrock, punk, and a little indie. Due to the scarcity of stage time, we had a lot of time to write and record original material. We used to go to open mic nights, where folk and solo acoustic artists sang, and played as a full band. By the time we caught the attention of local bars (Outpost, Zzubu colon, Boss Grill, and Handuraw) and organizers (Harakirimosh, Southern Artists United, Midweek Sessions, Not Yours, Pmoods, Moonstomp, & Cebu Hour), our music was already in the internet downloadable for free. Since then gigs have been coming like ants towards a donut. For a good two or three years, we’ve played a crazy amount of gigs. Of which I’m entirely and utterly thankful for. Thank you very much!
I have to be honest, when we started out, we sucked! We bombed on stage, our equipment kept on failing (It still does today) and we didn’t know what to say between songs, we were lousy performers. The only right thing we did back then was that we showed up, we were on time, and we played music as we understood it. Through the countless gigs we played, through the friends we made over the years, through all the mistakes, we learned how to be a band. If you ask me, there are no shortcuts in terms of how well you perform. You simply have to play, go through all the mistakes, meet people, and learn from all of it. As a musician in Cebu, I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I made all those mistakes and still got to play with my band on a weekly basis.
This brings me to the present. Maybe people got lazy or busy, maybe it’s the worldwide recession causing venues to close, or maybe it’s because of Justin Bieber; but there are fewer and fewer gigs each month. This is not an exaggeration, I remember playing three gigs on a Saturday in the past, but now there are barely two or three regular events per month, in just two bars. I can’t speak for the other genres, but indie rock has been suffering for the past year or so. What’s sad is that the new bands aren’t getting enough chances to play and learn. I recently spoke to my good friend and producer, Brian Sacro, and he’s working with eleven artists for their album/EP for 2011. I was shocked at the number of artists working their asses off, while there aren’t many places left to play. The internet is a great medium to promote a band’s music and identity; but I think it’s safe to say that bands need to play gigs.
I’d like to call on everybody who wants Cebu music to stay alive and progress. Please, please, please support your local artists in any manner that you can. Even a little help would be adding water to the drought. Organize events and invite musicians, not rock stars, those don’t exist anymore. And if anyone thinks they’re one, they’re retarded. I wish young bands could get the chance their predecessors had. Artists can only go so far doing what they do, everybody needs to chip in and help keep this so called “scene” alive. To all the artists reading this, please don’t stop creating.
Take care of each other. Cheers.