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Supreme

OPM doesn’t need The Eraserheads anymore (and this is a good thing)

DLS Pineda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - I commissioned my soul to God when the “not-Eraserheads” started playing. The ambivalent Dusit Thani Hotel crowd finally turned its switch on, closing in and stampeding to the stage to erase the five-meter gap they had faithfully imposed upon themselves with the previous performers. For some reason, they wanted to keep distance from the other bands — Cheats and Ourselves the Elves — who nonetheless played solid sets. Many of us present were privy to the fact that The Eraserheads were not allowed to perform due to conditions set by previous contracts; we were almost certain they wouldn’t play, not here in a dress-me-up event by Esquire magazine. But, as with all things rock ‘n’ roll, anything can and will happen. When I asked seasoned radio DJ Russ Davis about it, as he happened to be beside me in the now-thickening crowd, all he had to say was, “I don’t care, man! It’s The Eraserheads!” And perhaps, the band itself also didn’t care. The band for that night was composed of Ely Buendia, Marcus Adoro, Buddy Zabala, Raimund Marasigan, their friends, Sancho of The Dawn on guitars and Mike Dizon of Sandwich on the drums, and a crowd whose spirits could not be tamed.

The night’s attendees were a far cry from the people you’d see in Saguijo, ’70s Bistro, or, heck, Black Kings’ Bar in West Avenue. It was like one of those Andy Warhol shindigs portrayed in books and in films, but less psychedelic, less of a carnival, and adherent to our era’s norms. There were Congressmen Toby Tiangco and Teddy Boy Locsin, Jr.; there was Ben Chan; there was artist Romeo Lee; there was Ellen Adarna; there was Atom Araullo; there was Jazz Nicholas of The Itchyworms who came in a black print shirt, jeans, brightly colored rubber shoes, and a green cap tilted upwards at an angle that made him look like a teenager; there were bodyguards for the VIPs who sat on couches that surrounded the candlelit tables on top of daises; there were gatecrashers; there were people from the press who clumped in groups, wearing their Sunday’s best, cameras strapped around their necks, and Jansport packs on their backs (always an awkward addition in such events); there were waiters in tailor-fit suits ferrying trays of finger food and beer. And since we are fond of alluding to The Beatles when it comes to The Eraserheads, it was an audience that would have made John Lennon flippant enough to say his line at the Royal Variety Show: “For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.”

Ely and Raimund held the mics, throwing disclaimers to the crowd, “This is not The Eraserheads. You did not see The Eraserheads play.” But there was no need for so many words. Once Magasin’s first chord struck and Ely sang that high C, the crowd started singing and jumping to the beat. At that moment, you’d forget who you were and why you were there — it didn’t matter if you were Ellen Adarna or just another writer for the press. As the guitars faded and the verse began with only Mike’s bass drum and the shuffling of his hi-hat for accompaniment, you’d dissolve into the crowd and, as Ely extended the mic to the audience, you’d fill in the words to the song — “Nakita kita sa isang magasin...”

STAGE-DIVING

As the song reached the point when the guitars wailed and drove through the solo, we saw ourselves catching a stage-diving Raimund who aimed for the crowd with his eyes wide open and a rabid smile glued to his face. The band went on to play Sembreak and closed with Alapaap, changing their lineup at the last song. The three-song set was powerful, to say the least. I was in a place and time where and when it felt too perfect to be high, right smack in the middle of things. It overwhelmed me so much that somewhere in between Raimund’s stage-diving and the slow pounding of Buddy’s unmistakable bassline and the floor toms in the intro of Alapaap, I ended up asking myself: What is this drug I’ve just taken?

It was no question that at the heart of it was the music. It was the music that this coat-and-tie crowd and any other crowd of Filipinos recognized — something that bound us all together and made us proud to say that this was Pinoy Rock. Perhaps I should say music which we have loved all these years and have somehow made our own. Admittedly, part of the high came from reconciling nostalgia with the fact that the four of them were there, right in front of us, playing as the “not-Eraserheads.” This naming proved to be the happiest coincidence of the night. The fact that they played as the “not-Eraserheads” put all the high in the right context — it was, for me, an unintended plea to escape from mere nostalgia.

Not by their own fault or doing, The Eraserheads have grown much bigger than Marcus, Buddy, Ely, and Raimund. For many, The Eraserheads have become relics, idols immortalized on records, idealized and romanticized by the media and its audience, and made fleeting by the reality of things. Things that just came to pass, call it fate or destiny or simple truth. But such is the non-recognition of this passage of time that many of us fall into the trap of saying that OPM began and ended with The Eraserheads, when it didn’t. Many of us fail to see the fact that there is life beyond tribute or nostalgia, that there are other bands and performers worth listening to, worth watching live, and most importantly, worth playing for.

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Having The Eraserheads back on the scene presents a double-edged sword. They may be the greatest Pinoy rock band that ever existed in terms of impact and, yes, they deserve the praise that is due to them. But let’s leave it at that. Erwin Romulo, editor in chief of Esquire magazine, said at the event’s opening, “We wanted to know what The Eraserheads would sound like today. Well, this is the result.” He said this to introduce the two new songs and music videos they created with The Eraserheads entitled 1995 and Sabado.

For me, as a listener and a fan, the importance of these two new songs is to take us out of that realm of idealism and romanticism of The Eraserheads. These two songs send us back to Earth, back to the now, where we can see Buddy, Ely, Raimund, and Marcus on the same stage, under the same light, as we see bands like Cheats and Ourselves the Elves. And if The Eraserheads should desire to continue making new songs, then by all means, they should. But my hope is that these songs rouse us from our daydreams for a repeat of “Circus.” That way, we can say with confidence that there is OPM Rock beyond mere nostalgia for the ‘90s.

Fortunately, they have already done this — precisely through Sandwich, Pupil, The Dawn, Marcus Highway and their other music projects, post-Eraserheads.

It is fitting that in the magazine cover in which they appear, they are crossing Abbey Road in an almost mimetic fashion as The Beatles did on their last album cover as a complete band. “Abbey Road” was pieced together in the studio with John, Paul, George, and Ringo barely being altogether present at any single time, and was completed just as John left the group. Many of The Beatles’ fans in 1969 saw the image as a quiet passing of the band. Perhaps, the cover is another way of telling us to pick ourselves up and move on because The Eraserheads have, likewise, crossed their Abbey Road.

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Tweet the author @sarhentosilly.

ABBEY ROAD ALAPAAP ANDY WARHOL ATOM ARAULLO CHEATS AND OURSELVES THE ELVES CROWD ELLEN ADARNA ERASERHEADS RAIMUND
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