Setting the scene
SENSES WORKING OVERTIME - Luis Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2014 - 12:00am

What Pinoy indie music offers, and what it needs: rocking out at the JD IndieFest

One night, 20-plus bands, and free booze: it sounds like the left side of an equation scribbled by someone solving for either “epic night out” or “apocalyptic hangover.” It is also a fairly accurate, if perhaps overly brief, description of the JD IndieFest, a Jack Daniel’s On Stage event that was held at Capitol Commons in Pasig last May 30.

The event spotlighted independent bands, each performing three-song sets that night: Ang Bandang Shirley, We Are Imaginary, The Strangeness, Mad Hatter Day, Turbo Goth, Curbside, Earthmover, Tonight We Sleep, Imelda, Runway Crimes, Lions & Acrobats,Penguin, Reklamo, Kala, Autotelic, The Wilderness, Peso Movement, Farewell Fair Weather, Flying Ipis and (from Cebu) Foc Fashion. Guest bands Kelevra, Blue Boy Bites Back and Mr. Bones & the Boneyard Circus also played.

Good times were had, and we talked to some of the participants — band members, as well as organizers of the production nights that Jack Daniel’s worked with to come up with the lineup — and asked them what they thought of the whole ‘Fest, as well as the Pinoy indie music scene in general.

“Being backstage was fun because it was catered and there’s free booze!” said Shinji Manlangit, irrepressible frontman of The Strangeness. “Each band had a table and it looked like a really, really rock wedding. The setup was great, too. We were expecting something small, but man, they pulled out the big guns for this show. My friends and I loved the bands that played and it was nice sitting on a field. It’s great that they let the prods set up booths where we could sell some merch.”

Said Selena Salang of Ang Bandang Shirley (as well as Slow Hello): “I really enjoyed the stage and the environment that JD set up for the performers, including the spacious backstage area. The equipment was great and the technicians helpful. We felt confident that whatever we were playing was coming out exactly as intended, that our sound was reaching the audience in the ways we hoped. And as part of the audience, I really enjoyed hearing our friends onstage sound fantastic when it was their turn.”

Cris Ramos, founder of Revolver Productions, described it as a “Great show, with acts from different musical spectrums.” Asked about what the local indie scene needs now, he said:  “Right now, it seems that everything is in place: the talent — there’s definitely loads of that — the following, the online presence. The only things that are missing are the equal opportunities in traditional media that I’m sure a lot of these indie talents could use, and equal representation in laws and regulations connected to Filipino musicians.”

Kathy Gener, who is behind both the Attraction! Reaction! gig nights and the indie label Wide Eyed Records, said that what the scene needs is “Understanding from the optical media board, a local vinyl plant, a regular music store inside a mall to sell our albums to regular music fans, and corporate sponsors who are open to good music that is not usually heard on the radio.”

“The Pinoy independent scene needs to be courageous about being original, and it needs people who believe that there is value in music that is original and doesn’t strictly adhere to trends,” said Selena. Shinji added: “I think we need to be played on the radio more and not just on niche stations, but the ones that the people really listen to. Also we need funding to be able to record stuff. Ha-ha!”

Everyone agreed that the scene has a lot to offer. Cris cited the “ridiculous amount and level of talent.” Shinji enthused that the “majority of the bands out there sound really good, and it’s exciting hearing new stuff on a weekly basis!”

Said Selena: “What’s promising about the independent scene is that it continues to create music despite a lack of economic support. There is so much variety and talent as a result. Businesses may one day realize that supporting creative, original musicians is a great way to get the youth’s attention while keeping alive a vibrant scene.”

Kathy singled out two aspects of Pinoy indie music: “The thriving gig scene — there are a lot of different kinds of gig productions catering to every genre, weekly and monthly. And there’s a new set of young rabid music fans who are respectful and appreciative and open to different kinds of music, not just to look cool.”

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