Friday, March 13, 2009

Looking forward to the “More Final Set”

Gagawin ko ang lahat pati ang thesis mo

Wag mo lang ipagkait ang hinahanap ko

Sagutin mo lang ako aking sinta’y walang humpay na ligaya…

--Ligaya, Eraserheads

Poetic? Not exactly. But cuts right to the heart? Definitely.

It is this kind of music that brought the Eraserheads to OPM rock music stardom. It is also this kind of music that ushered the advent of a generation who clearly expressed their truest emotions: angst, happiness, frustration, anxiety, and the good ol’ “kilig” factor.

And I’m so glad to have been able to hear that kind of music one more time – live.

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The Mall of Asia concert area was a-bustle with activity last March 7 due to the biggest – and reputedly the last – reunion concert of the Eraserheads entitled “Eraserheads: the Final Set.” While I did have my heart set on watching the “take two” concert of this group (I guess we all know what happened to vocalist Ely Buendia the last time), I was apprehensive at first. I was thinking: I may end up as the oldest person in the concert venue.

But when my former student and I finally made it to the MOA concert grounds, I was pleasantly surprised by the hodgepodge of people all eager to watch this rare event. Yes, there were a lot of teenagers there, but there were also a lot of thirty-somethings mingling with the younger ones.

Sa bagay, I shouldn’t be surprised: these members of the Eraserheads are also thirty-somethings themselves. It only goes to show that their music didn’t stop at touching the hearts of my generation but went on to influence the next ones as well.

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Before the performance began, organizers of the event showed a colorful documentary of the musical journey taken by the E-heads from their humble beginnings as a bunch of kids cutting their classes at the UP College of Mass Comm just to engross themselves in their band’s endeavors, to their pinnacle of victory when they won in the 1999 MTV Viewers’ Choice Awards for the Best Asian Rock Group. Interspersed with actual footages of gigs they have performed in were interviews with the guys themselves. I kinda cringed at the strange and sometimes stupid answers the guys gave, thank God for Buddy Zabala (bass guitarist) who managed to redeem the group’s lack of eloquence with his straightforward and – like I said, thank God – sensible replies.

However, the Eraserheads were never really known for flowery speeches – they were known for their unique and edgy OPM sound. And that was what they proved when they finally came onstage to wow the 100,000-strong sea of fans who came together at the MOA to see them performing again.

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The E-heads mixed their old and new songs during their concert, and some of their older tunes were given a different twist. Take Marcus Adoro’s reggae rendition of the pop-sounding “Wag Mo nang Itanong sa Akin” which I found to be quite appealing. Ely Buendia also rendered heart-rending versions of the “doo-be-doo-be-doo” song Kailan and the whimsical Torpedo. Raymund Marasigan meanwhile was consistently in rock mode (Our best description: baga hin nakatigol hin katol [like he got high on mosquito coil]) when he sang his three- or four-note ditties from the Circus album while jumping around like a crazed animal onstage. (Peace, Raymund! Hehehe) The audience was chanting for Buddy to do a solo number, but he simply left his other bandmates to do the chore.

Considering the big stage and the even bigger concert venue, the Eraserheads (except for Raymund) didn’t bother to explore the stage and elicit audience reaction. This could be the result of two factors: first, why would they want to move around to get the audience screaming when their music alone can do the trick? And second, I have a feeling that they were also fearful of a repeat of what happened to Ely Buendia the last time. Thus, they remained stuck to their positions almost the entire time to minimize the physical stress on their lead vocalist. There is actually still a third factor, and I should know about this since I was in the UP College of Mass Comm at the same time that they were biding their time there: these guys are getting old like me.

The Eraserheads did a musical tribute to their recently-departed friend and fellow musician, master rapper Francis Magalona, by first singing strains from his popular song, Kaleidoscope World. Then they proceeded to perform the song, Superproxy which was said to be the result of a collaboration between the late rap artist and the group. My former student further revealed that had he not succumbed to his leukemia, Francis was set to do a surprise number with the E-heads that night by rapping the last part of the said song. In lieu of the late rapper’s departure, Ely did a slower, sung version of the part slated for Francis. Afterwards, he shouted, “Mabuhay ka (Long live), Francis Magalona!” Taking the irony too seriously, some wiseguys near us said, “Wag naman…kakamatay pa lang nga e…(No…the man just died…)”

I was crossing my fingers that the group would sing Toyang, Huling El Bimbo, and Alapaap during this concert, and I was not disappointed. In fact, Huling El Bimbo was their “last” song before their encore number wherein Ely attempted to do a piano-on-fire stunt. Unfortunately, the winds at the concert area were just too strong to keep a decent fire and Ely had to settle for banging at the piano, pushing it down, and eventually stomping on it. So much for drama.

If only I wasn’t so afraid that my student and I might have a difficult time going home, we may have stayed for the E-heads’ encore. I read in the newspaper that they sang three more songs that really got the audience wild. But by the time the throngs of people got their fill of these guys’ music, my student and I were already well-planted inside an FX taxi going home.

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I must admit: I am more of a Side A fan than an Eraserheads fan, primarily because I used to see these guys perform almost every UP Fair in UP Diliman’s Sunken Garden. Moreso because Raymond Marasigan was an old seatmate from my Communication Theories class who loved to borrow my notes just before an exam. (And I was the stupid sap who permitted him to do so. One simply had to admire this guy’s propensity for coming to class not even armed with a ballpen or scratch paper.) I guess too much exposure to these fellow Iskos made me a little less starstruck then. However, that didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate their music. In fact, I was in the middle of my own thesis when Ligaya and its line about doing a thesis (see song lyrics above) became a true-blue hit. They also sang about hanging out in Kalayaan (the freshman dorm in UP Diliman), eating in CASAA (every student who has at one time or another graced the halls of UP Diliman’s Arts and Sciences Building has also eaten in CASAA), and going to Tandang Sora. These were typical Iskolar ng Bayan escapades that they sang about especially in their debut album, Electromagnetic Pop, and almost everyone from my generation related to their music – whether they were from UP or not.

About 17 years later, the Eraserheads have since disbanded and formed bands of their own – but the fact remains that as a team, they have proven themselves worthy of the title, OPM Pop Rock Icons. Their music will still be very much around for the next years to come, and even when these guys reach their 40s in a few more years, the sound they have created will bring back memories of a time when life was still filled with the mundane complexities of first love, barely getting by at school, crushes, friendship, and other simpler pleasures/challenges.

I honestly believe that there will still be a Part Three – if you are going to count the unfinished one that ended with Ely being rushed to the hospital – of the Eraserheads reunion concert, considering the unprecedented success of this Final Set. They just have to: the clamor is still too great. And this time, I hope they also go to the major cities down South because at this very moment, Visayas and Mindanao E-heads fans are gnashing their teeth in envy over their non-ability to watch the March 7 Manila concert.

Then probably they can name their concert, “Eraserheads: the more Final Set.”

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