Better living through chemistry

- Regina Belmonte () - February 1, 2008 - 12:00am

They have been called a lot of things by a lot of people.  Incendiary, aggressive, and outrageously camp by music magazines. “Really, really cute, OMG!” by high school fan girls.

“What is that noise? Why are you listening to the music of the devil? Who is that gay blond man on the television screen?” by your parents.

But after last Friday’s concert at the Fort and after listening to only their three albums for the entirety of 2008 so far, to me, My Chemical Romance is ridiculously amazing. And they’re not even emo! I dismissed them in early high school as just another one of those mainstream pop rock bands on the rise, making a mockery of everything I loved. Another band that the more insipid people in my batch would name drop to sound more hardcore than they actually were. (Because quoting Simple Plan in your Yahoo Messenger status message makes you so cool.) I hadn’t actually listened to them before passing judgment. But the first time I found old favorites like Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough for the Two of Us and Drowning Lessons on the Internet, and when the sweeping, dramatic Helena came out, I knew that I could love them without reservation.

The last time a band I loved came to Manila was Incubus in 2003, and remembering the feeling of being in the thick of the crowd, 10 feet away from the people I spent the last three years listening to, made me even more excited to finally be able to see My Chemical Romance live. To a certain extent, My Chemical Romance characterized the drama and passion of my late adolescence. They encapsulated all the emotions, from rage to romance, and when the theatrics of “The Black Parade” first hit Manila shores in 2006, they grew from a band I could relate to into a band that blew me away.

My younger brother was a little upset that there was no beer at the venue. (“How is there no beer? It’s sponsored by Red Horse!”) But when they started playing This Is How I Disappear, we knew we didn’t need any beer. They were going to blow us away and we were going to be drunk on adrenaline and euphoria. Even though we were stuck in a section full of shy young fans who were afraid to rock out, rich teenagers who were too cool to rock out, and indifferent parents who were scandalized by Gerard Way’s R-rated language and antics, we went crazy.

They went through every one of our favorite songs, from “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge” hits like I’m Not OK, Give ‘Em Hell, Kid, the aforementioned epic Helena, You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison, and my favorite off that album, Cemetery Drive, to B-sides and Headfirst For Halos from “I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love” to almost the entire “Black Parade” album. (I was really thrilled when they played Sleep.) It was amazing that almost everyone — every real fan there — sang along with Gerard when he did Cancer. Kids were singing along to songs that were never played on the radio here; songs that were never singles, songs that were never shown on TV.

When Famous Last Words ended and the band left the stage, we sat there, stunned and awed. A week later, I’m still listening to their music, still hung over from an amazing night and an incredible performance.

My Chemical Romance is clearly one of those bands that makes the kind of music they love — the kind of music they want to hear, regardless of whether or not it’ll sell, whether or not people will like it. They’re one of those bands that isn’t satisfied by mere commercial success and continually strives to develop their sound and cover new ground with every album. Gerard Way said in the press conference before the concert that they would be doing a disservice to themselves if they didn’t try to do something crazier and more ambitious every time.

Perhaps what I love most about them (aside from Frank Iero) is that, for all the drama they write about in their music, they’re just a bunch of geeks; self-confessed boring guys who sit around and drink a lot of coffee. That, in spite of their success and fame, they’re humble and down to earth. They’re not pompous, arrogant, self-absorbed rock stars. They contribute to cancer research, they work with the Make A Wish Foundation, they joke with their interviewers, and they’re still thrilled by being name-dropped by the Green Goblin in a comic. What’s cooler than that?

* * *

AMP in cooperation with Indios Bravos Multimedia presents “Rewind + Play: The AMP Alumni Homecoming,” February 8, 2008 at Ten 02 Bar (43 Sct. Ybardaloza St. cor. Timog, Quezon City), featuring Dale Ibay, Indio I, Ciudad, Blast Ople, COG, The Happy Meals, Plane Divides the Sky, Boy Elroy, The Out Of Body Special, Day One Movement, Audible, 13 Needles, Empty Siren Boulevard, Simian Crease, Taggu Ndios, and more. Entrance is P150, gig starts at 7 p.m. For inquiries, e-mail Regina at bewaretheashtraygirl@yahoo.com.

You can e-mail me at bewaretheashtraygirl@yahoo.com, especially if you are Frank Iero.

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