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Two left feet: Manila needs to dance or go home

MTV favorite Daria, perhaps the queen of N.R. (No Reaction) might get along with Filipinos at concerts.

MANILA, Philippines - I recently went to a dance-punk gig with some high expectations, namely, that I would a) drink enough to forget all of the money I spent on buying drinks; b) listen to some good music; and c) start a mosh pit.

My initial scoping out of the scenario was promising. The show’s setup had this “little indie in the big leagues” feel to it: about 200 fans milling around a tiny stage, a monster sound system trailing more lines of snaking cable than you could shake a basilisk at, and a front man handing out free cans of beer to the crowd. Free lumping beer! It had all the makings of a really great show, in the making.

Then something inconceivable happened: once the band started pounding away on their keyboards and drums, people completely froze. Instead of dancing, moshing, yelling, making out, breaking things and/or other general unruliness, the crowd instead stood in silence during songs and clapped politely when the songs ended. The front row, normally reserved for the human crush of die-hard fans desperate to get as close to the action as possible, was overrun by DSLR-toting rubberneckers too caught up in capturing the moment to actually enjoy it. The whole vibe was closer to a golf tournament than a live show.   

I wondered to myself: How many free beers have to be tossed into this crowd to get them moving around?

Life In The Live Show

The live show was the fulcrum of social life where I grew up, kind of like how street corners are where everything happens in ghettos — but instead of gang fights and hookers, I had mosh pits and easy Catholic school girls with backcombed hair (my surprise at learning that Catholic schools in the Philippines generally produce morally-upright girls is both endless and infinite). Even if shows were two hours away, the promise of lots of drinks, lots of girls, and lots of permissible violence meant that my friends and I were definitely going to make the trip.

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All in the name of fun, of course; shows are the best safety valves for subversive behavior because they’re semi-controlled environments. It’s the perfect time to let the devil out without having to worry about whether or not all these acts of anarchy are going to implode on you.

Which is why everyone’s lack of enthusiasm at this gig screamed “MISSED OPPORTUNITY” to me in huge, seizure-inducing neon letters. To behave like well-adjusted members of society in the face of such eminently danceable music, to clap politely when the situation demands that you shred your throat hoarse with screeches of gratitude — these are criminal wastes, despicable acts that people should have to bribe cops over to avoid jail time. Mothers ought to tan the ungrateful hides of their gig-going children, shouting in their loudest “I mean business” voices: “Children in Africa never get to go to gigs!”

Some advice, ye wallflowers of cinder-blocked feet: as a favor to both the band and yourself, have another drink (or two, or seven). You might find the rhythmic movement of your bodily appendages more appealing. Remember that you owe the band for helping to break the drudgery of your day-to-day existence: without them, you’d be at home on a Friday night, watching Girls re-runs on your laptop and wondering what happened to your life.

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