It was around 5:30 in the afternoon. About thirty minutes more and what was left of the soft sunlight penetrating the huge glass windows encasing the concert venue would give way to the night. In front of me were mostly young adults cheering this lone female musician onstage, and behind her, a name was displayed in a bold bright yellow font: BP Valenzuela. This must be the earliest gig I have ever been to. Well, this is a first, I thought while fanning myself with a flyer given to me at the entrance downstairs. This was no ordinary gig, and I was not in any of the usual bars I used to frequent back in the days when gigging was a ritual for me. I was at Summer Noise, a music festival organized by The Rest Is Noise held last May 5 at the Century City Mall Events Space in Makati.
Aside from the fact that it was my first time to watch an afternoon gig that was already well underway, this concert had other many firsts. For starters, it was my first proper music festival. Music shows that had a long roster of artists such as the UP Fair and other school gigs were the closest thing to a music festival I had ever attended. Practically all music events I had been to were held only in bars, concert halls, or arenas as in the case of international acts. Next, it was the first music festival I attended on my own. I have been to major concerts alone, but compared to music festivals, I didn’t have to watch them for more than five hours or wait for a long time for so many bands to set up and begin. It was actually funny because just a month before, I declared that I didn’t think that I would ever learn how to watch a concert with more than two bands alone and yet there I was.
I would not have attended it to begin with if one band had not been included – Dicta License. The last time I had seen them was in May 2015, and I had been missing them since. Attending Summer Noise actually hit two birds with one stone: I got to see Dicta License again after three long years and I learned how to be on my own in such an event (because I cannot always miss such events just because no one is available or interested to accompany me!)
Aside from being able to watch Dicta License, I was also exposed to a slew of acts all coming from different genres. This was the first time after such a long time that I got to watch Filipino bands. I used to gig a lot, but as years passed by, I found fewer bands that really interested me and I had less time to spend on watching them. In addition, many of my gig buddies have stopped attending gigs, so it was even more difficult to be out there. Seeing all these new faces and not just their names on music websites, and hearing what they had to offer was then a treat. Also, three international acts were injected in the roster, making the event even better.
Since I arrived late, I got to watch only half of the total number of bands that were playing. Like what I have mentioned earlier, BP Valenzuela was the first act I caught. I rather expected a lot from her set since I knew many people are into her electronic-laden tunes. However, the sound system was not cooperative that day and messed up some parts of her performance. She apologized several times for the technical glitches, something that was not entirely her fault. It was hard for me to appreciate her sound since there was either too much feedback from the microphone or blare from the speakers. Perhaps, another reason why I did not appreciate her music much was that the songs she performed sounded the same to me that it was difficult to finger where one song ended, and the next one began.
Next up were She’s Only Sixteen, whose performance totally pumped up the crowd, and their The Strokes-ish song Dying to Meet You brought many people dancing on their feet. Their set was fun and made it impossible for me not to bob my head along to the tune at least though most of what they played were new to my ears.
The first international act for the night was Hong Kong-based band, The Sleeves. The members of The Sleeves are actually from the UK; the vocalist’s accent was a dead giveaway. They were introduced as having influences coming from The Kinks, The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses, and other big rock n’ roll names, so I expected to hear some big guitar-centered tunes. And they did not disappoint. Their guitar work was superb; all three guitars conversed harmoniously and the drums tied everything together. Their set was in fact one of my favorites that night.
Synths and guitars took a back seat as soon as turntables started to appear in front of the stage after the performance of The Sleeves. It took some time to finish setting them up, but it was well worth the wait. Uprising, a hip hop collective comprising of about 12 or so rappers, then launched a sonic attack on the audience. Accompanied by their own visuals, the group spat verses that dealt with about politics and society. Watching them and hearing their words actually gave me goosebumps. It had been a while, honestly, since I heard music coming from a Filipino band or musician whose music was related to sociopolitical concerns, all with their ills and pitfalls.
Uprising was the perfect act to introduce the next band, Dicta License, as both have similarities in style and content. Dicta License finally took the stage and opened with Sugat followed by Daloy ng Kamalayan, a song about education and was pinpointed by vocalist Pochoy Labog as an important tool in combating fake news that is widespread in our society today. Other songs performed that night were The Enemy, Ang Ating Araw, and Alay sa mga Nagkamalay sa Dekada Nobenta, which saw Labog immersing himself with the crowd — something I had seen him do for the first time.
Nothing changed when it came to Dicta License: the intensity was still present and the set was still the same. What changed, however, was the crowd. I had been to many Dicta License gigs before Summer Noise, and each intense performance from the band years ago was equally reciprocated. The people at Summer Noise, unfortunately, were not as engaged as I had hoped them to be. Yes, they clapped and cheered for Dicta License, but compared to the audiences of Saguijo or of Freedom Bar, for instance, the reception that the band got was not commensurate to the fervency given by Dicta License. I could not help miss the old Dicta License gigs I had been to then.
The tinge of sadness turned into a painful pinch when Labog admitted that sometimes they wondered if there was still space for bands like Dicta License to exist in the music industry. It is always a sad thing when good bands question their relevance, you know.
Despite their admission and doubts, Labog announced that they were actually working on their sophomore album, and that hopefully it would get released later this year. Although I had already heard them make a similar statement more than a decade ago, I’d like to remain hopeful that they would finally stick to their promise.
The second international act, this time hailing from Singapore, then followed. I am not so much into rock instrumentals, but Permanence, made me appreciate them. Their heavy and intense set, although riddled with technical difficulties especially in the beginning, created this wall of sound that surrounded the venue with an electrifying atmosphere, absorbing everyone in the audience. For the duration of each song, the people were mostly in silence, only to release their thunderous cheers and applause in the end. Despite all the glitches and second takes, the performance of Permanence was impressive.
Munimuni, the band that came after Permanence, perhaps the received the most appreciation out of all the bands I saw that night. From the moment they came up the stage up until they performed their last song, people were so receptive and so ready to sing their hearts out. I read somewhere later on that they were considered the “darlings” of Summer Noise, and I would have to agree. Their indie-folk tunes made many swoon.
If many sang along to Munimuni, Mandaue Nights and The Ransom Collective made people move: Mandaue Nights brought with them their dancey 80s inspired electronic beats, and The Ransom Collective, their bouncy folk indie songs. Mandaue Nights proved that language should not be a barrier to appreciating music as their songs were set in Cebuano. There were even moments when the vocalist would mistakenly talk to the crowd in Cebuano, forgetting that many could not understand what he was actually talking about!
Everyone was all smiles during their performance.
The vocalist profusely gave the audience his gratitude for the support the duo had been given.
There were still three acts waiting before the night was officially over: Tiger Pussy from Cebu, whom I was able to watch for a few minutes, Tom’s Story, and X0809 from Thailand. However, I could no longer sustain my energy and decided to leave the venue despite not finishing the event anymore.
Staging music festivals is not an easy feat, and I must commend The Rest is Noise for making it possible. However, it would have been better had the sound system functioned more smoothly. There were technical difficulties that interrupted the performances of several bands that made watching them frustrating (eg. microphones malfunctioning, feedback from speakers, low volume on some songs, etc). Also, the event would have benefited from better lighting design and more concessionaire options.
The production is set to showcase numerous local bands as well as several international acts for its year-end special, which this time, will be scheduled for two days in November. I am still uncertain if I there’s going to be someone I know who’ll be willing to come with me on either of those days, but I don’t think I will mind if I fly solo again.