AUDIOSYNCRASY - Igan D’Bayan () - November 28, 2003 - 12:00am
Reports that rock music in this country is dead have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, there is the tricky problem of piracy (not as black-or-white as some people would like us to believe). And yes, some really influential bands have played their swan song (just like Wolfgang, although not officially; and the Eraserheads, for nebulous reasons). And yes, what rocks the cashbox these days is this year’s spate of watered-down acoustic music (how many overkill versions of Overjoyed could we possibly tolerate?); divas belting and blasting our brains into oblivion; as well as singing/dancing/cheerleading groups of bimbos and brainless biceps. Pop, dear readers (what with the adulation over Justin, Mandy and Paulo Santos), has become the new rock. Rock – particularly our very own brand we call Pinoy Rock – has bit the dust, went kaput, was carried away by the undertakers of obscurity, made an excursion into the sweet hereafter, and is being played over radios in the Great Listening Room in the Sky. So, when I attended the 10th NU 107 Rock Awards held recently at the World Trade Center, I almost brought along flowers from Funeraria Paz and expected a wake.

But in the words of the Juan De La Cruz Band, "Kahit na anong mauso, Pinoy Rock pa rin tayo." And we all know that Joey "Pepe" Smith (no matter how much he draws comparisons with the undead every time he manages an appearance) is a rock n’ roll sage, in a drugged out, hazy sense. Ang himig natin ang inyong awitin. And it’s a great thing a lot of bands are still heeding that clarion call.

So it was but appropriate that the legendary Smith – with a guitar strung across his reed-thin frame, wearing black leather like an upright coat hanger – sang Lupang Hinirang in a wavy voice. It was one of the very few times that the Philippine National Anthem was performed irreverently and yet passionately at the same time. With Smith doing the intro to the whole shebang, we could say Pinoy Rock’s past glitter is reason enough to dig up some sort of future.

According to NU 107 head honcho Atom Henares, the NU Rock Awards X is a celebration of rock as the soundtrack of all ages. "Ten years later, rock still lives… Drum roll, please," said Atom, who then introduced Rivermaya.

Also celebrating its 10th anniversary, Rivermaya played one of its earlier hits, Awit ng Kabataan. In the interlude, bare-chested Rico Blanco intoned, "Sampung taon na tayong nag-iingay, nangggulo, nambubulabogbuhay pa ba kayo?" before ending the track with a spiraling falsetto. Jaya wouldn’t be able to hit that note.

Jett Pangan presented an award and recalled NU Rock Awards of yore. Sugar Free – a really, really interesting band – received the Best New Artist award from The Dawn vocalist. Kapatid and Pan weren’t as lucky; maybe they were too sophisticated for listeners’ tastes. But with those three bands churning out albums to come, we could say reports that Pinoy Rock is dead are pure hogwash.

Tado and Erning, UNTV’s Strange Brew tandem, introduced ChicoSci as "scientists." The band performed the 2002 Song of the Year, Paris. Moshing, slamming quickly followed. Miggy Chavez (resembling someone halfway between Robert Smith and Robert Downey) even got moshed by some stage invaders.

An award was handed out (Rock Video of the Year, which went to Daisy by 7 Foot Jr.) before Tado introduced the next act. "This is the favorite band of Nora Aunor… please welcome… Bamboo." The ex-Rivermaya vocalist (with ex-Rivermaya bassist Nathan Azarcon and ex-Introvoys/Passage/Kapatid guitarist Ira Cruz) proceeded to play a song that would go well with Dick Gordon’s Wow Philippines campaign. "Hoy! Pinoy ako," sang Bamboo, "may agimat ang dugo ko."

Bassist Rommel dela Cruz of Barbie’s Cradle won Best Bassist award, and nearly lost his footing when he clambered onto the stage. A well-deserved award, everyone would agree. Afterwards, The Dawn played the anthemic Salamat, with Japanese guitarist Atsushi Matsuura doing his rock star poses and a leaner Mon Legaspi (formerly of Wolfgang) doing jaw-dropping lines on the bass. Dela Cruz, Legaspi and Louie Talan of Razorback are three of the best bassists in the local rock scene today. And that’s no bull.

Kevin Roy won Best Vocalist honors and thanked all the "unsung vocalists" like Ebe Dancel of Sugar Free. A class act that Kevin was.

Jaime Fabregas and NU 107’s Mike Pedero honored the Eraserheads, seminal ‘90s band that needs no more glowing paeans from me, or the rest of the archipelago.

The Eraserheads received this year’s Hall of Fame award. One of the reasons is that Ely, Marcus, Buddy and Raymond churned out aural gems (Pare Ko, Ligaya, Toyang, Ang Huling El Bimbo, Fruitcake, etc.) that encouraged a lot of young Filipinos to strap on a Telecaster and write intelligent pop. Why did the band break up and pursue conflicting muses? "Too many geniuses in the laboratory," according to the NU voiceover.

With the other Eraserheads as no-shows, Buendia accepted the award and muttered, "Sana andito ‘yung tatlo." Too bad for most of us expecting a sort of reunion, even a temporary one – for it didn’t happen. Perish, nay, erase the thought of an Eraserheads gig for a while. A downer, really.

But this year’s Rock Awards wasn’t as serious as an El Shaddai shindig. On the contrary, hosts and presenters dished out a lot of comic relief, deliberate and otherwise. NU morning show hosts Zach and Joey were funny. Zach whipped out the "Hard Award" trophy: a long, white dildo. Joey observed that Zach resembled comedian Eagle Riggs with his new haircut. DJ Mon Castro called DJ Francis Reyes "a Caridad Sanchez look-alike." Francis Brew got his revenge, revealing that Mondo was Jolina Magdangal’s first boyfriend (probably during their Ang TV days), eliciting hoots from the crowd.

Charlie Ysmael (former The Breed vocalist) presented an award with Michelle Bayle, Andrea Del Rosario and an obviously wasted Ian Tayao of Cheese, who had to be whisked off the stage by a bouncer. Strangely, the audience yelled "Keso! Keso!" when the bold actresses appeared. And oh yeah, Andrea and Michelle locked lips onstage, just like kissing pop cousins Madonna and Britney Spears in the MTV Awards. Tado quipped, "Sa VCD lang ako nakakapanood ng ganoon ah."

Tado figured in another loony bit when he introduced The Mongols (with Ely Buendia on vocals) as "Cynthia Alexander." That got the loudest laugh. Tado apologized for his boo-boo, "Tao lang po, tao lang."

Narda won the Raw Award, and people as tall as Hobbits scurried into the stage to accept the award. The band’s vocalist was carrying a dressy purse. I have no idea why.

Epi Quizon and Mylene Dizon presented an award. Some degenerates in the audience yelled, "Suso! Suso!" and Epi promptly exposed his nipple. "O, ayan, suso!" said the comedian.

But the most amusing bit came not from Epi or Tado but from bold star Victoria London. Her stint at the Rock Awards rivals that of Misguided Diether Ocampo who addressed the audience as, "Mga jologs!" and was promptly pelted for it. Victoria hogged the microphone and the limelight from co-presenter Pepe Smith by constantly making papansin. The Song of the Year award (which Urban Dub won) was presented and Victoria cooed: "Do I get a hug from the winners?" complete with pa-beautiful eyes. She was ignored. What a tragic and doomed bid for attention.

With all the bloopers, goof-offs, misguided sexy stars, and comic brilliance at this year’s NU Rock Awards, it was but fitting that Parokya ni Edgar won Band of the Year honors. Heck, Parokya’s Mister Suave is even more popular than any of the aural abominations that the Masculados and a thousand pop singers brandishing acoustic guitars could muster.

So is Pinoy Rock ripe for an autopsy? Nah, Pinoy Rock is alive and well – waxing philosophical in Mariposa with gloomy Sugar Free and getting drunk on gin with Mr. Suave and Edgar’s wacky parish. Crazy decades ahead.
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