Hippie ever after
AUDIOSYNCRASY - Igan D’Bayan () - August 10, 2002 - 12:00am
There are two reasons why I became a misfit in my first three years in high school: Edgar Allan Poe and folk/rock music. My classmates (Hardy Boys, Doctor Who loyalists) would look at me weirdly whenever I talked about pits and pendulums, ravens, red death masques, morgue murders, as well as beautiful corpses. They also couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t a Duranee, didn’t mousse my hair a la Tony Hadley and never wore mint green blazers just like Romnick Sarmenta and the boys of That’s Entertainment — resulting in my classroom alienation. Our living room — with my brother Dennis’ Technics turntable, Akai cassette and his records and tapes from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Peter Frampton, Don McLean, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — was my sanctuary.

(If not for my brother I would have probably bought Spandau Ballet or Culture Club albums and joined my classmates on the dark side of taste.)

Decades later, I felt the same alienation in bars with showbands churning out nothing but Earth Wind & Fire, the Village People and Kool & Gang. It’s nauseating to go to a joint and hear Y.M.C.A. and September every, and I mean every, single time.

I was thrilled when a folkhouse called My Bro’s Mustache opened late last year in Quezon City. Finally, a place to go to for beer, salmon belly and Simon & Garfunkel.

(If not for My Bro’s Mustache, I’d probably be sitting in a bar right now listening to Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang and wishing I were dead. After all, where in the metropolis can one drink cheap beer in peace without having to listen to that?)

I was doubly delighted when the "folkbar" (as owner Gigi Vinzon would like to call it) branched out to Makati after less than a year of operations. That only proves that there are many of us (folk/rock-loving, beer-drinking, Seventies-fixated individuals) out there.

I attended the opening of My Bro’s Mustache at La Fuerza Plaza along Chino Roces Avenue and was treated to a night folk music and other reminiscences. The place is roomier than its Q.C. sibling, offers a different vibe, and has brrr...stronger air-conditioning. Also, the backdrop has more faces from pop’s cooler era: Jim Groce, Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and a couple of Woodstock, Flower Power posters.

Mon Espia and Koko Marbella of Labuyo were the first acts to take the stage. The two played songs by Bread (Make It With You), the Beatles (You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away), Todd Rundgren (Can We Still Be Friends?), America (A Horse With No Name, Muskrat Love) and Bill Withers (Ain’t No Sunshine). And I couldn’t help but sing along; nevermind the fact that I had a Dylanesque, gargling-with-razorblade voice that evening. What brought the house down was Labuyo’s own hit Tuloy Pa Rin, a Side B single (it’s actually the flipside of Batugan) popularized by Side A.

Lester Demetillo, Francis Bax and Rene Vega did a couple of obscure Sixties numbers together with more familiar ones like Wild World by Cat Stevens and The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan. Demetillo, by the way, teaches classical guitar at UP and is a part of a group called Folkcause along with Corky & Kiko, Susan Fernandez, among others.

After the set, Asin ascended the stage. As Pendong Aban and Lito Crisostomo tinkered with their guitars, Lolita Carbon reminisced about the folksinger’s life in the tempestuous Seventies: playing nitespots like Crazy Horse or My Father’s Mustache, making do with one mic for voice and guitar, as well as ducking the curfew police after the gig.

And when the trio strummed the first few chords of Masdan Mo (Ang Kapaligiran), I was elated. Asin, after all, is one of the most important Pinoy groups of all time; Lolita and company are in the same stratosphere inhabited by legendary acts Juan De La Cruz, Freddie Aguilar, Heber Bartolome, Anakbayan and Twisted Red Cross punks. It was a treat to see them perform after all the crazy shit (death, disbandment) they had to go through. Usok with its Tinangay-na-ng-hangin-ang-masamang-panaginip line was flawless.

Florante followed. He performed his signature songs (Abakada and Handog). And the nostalgic circle was complete. Although the folksinger had lost his long locks of hair (time has a way of messing up hairstyles) and gained lots of pounds and a pot belly, he gave up none of his charisma and sense of humor. He gave in to requests of Handog by doing an Elvis impersonation: "You ain’t nothing but a han-dog!" He also sang a couple of riddles bordering on the risqué. What a hit he was with the crowd.

The summation: My Bro’s Mustache may be a different thing for everybody. For folk music enthusiast Amado Del Rosario, Prestige Cars VP for sales and marketing, the place "unlocks our memories and brings us back to simpler and happier days when love, peace and harmony ruled — despite Martial Law and the Vietnam War." For owner Gigi Vinzon, "It’s a chance to give our patrons in Makati that unforgettable Seventies music and vibe, and at the same time to provide a new home for our folk musicians."

For me, it’s a testament to how timeless and endearing folk/rock music is. Many people, including myself, attest to that ineffable feeling whenever Fire and Rain, The Boxer, Vincent or Child for a Day is played over the radio. How could one not react to a line like "Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground"? Or "After changes upon changes we are more or less the same"? I wonder if my former classmates get the same vibe whenever Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go or Gold is performed by a thousand Freestyle clones in other bars.

To them I say, hippie days are here again.
* * *
For comments, suggestions, curses and invocations, e-mail iganja@hotmail.com

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