AFTER THE CROWD last night dissipated, trooping out of the venue quietly, orderly, obligingly and resigned to the thought that the exhilarating reunion with friends was unexpectedly cut short, a different persona of Filipino concert goers emerged before my eyes.
Filipinos are music lovers by heart. Only the music genres set groups or generations apart. Filipinos are patronized anywhere in the world for their musicality because Filipinos are music-makers by heart. But we all know that already.
However, Filipinos can also be somewhat of a notorious audience, for good or bad, and not because Pinoys are picky or discriminating. “Demanding” or “Hard to please” are what’s written or said of Filipinos, mostly by foreign acts who travel to these shores to perform. Filipinos can also be an unforgiving audience who expect nothing less, whether as paying audience or as guest, but more so if each seat in the house meant the audience shelled out a week’s worth of groceries for a night of musical indulgence.
Pinoys are not the type to come to a venue without expectations. These expectations are formed either by experience (usually, good) or by too much misinformation, therefore, the motivation for watching may be out of curiosity or the need for validation than going for the actual appreciation of the performance itself. In fact, the other equally unattractive trait and past time of the Pinoy is gossip, and they participate in it either as recipients or willing contributors, sometimes to the point of allowing themselves to be swallowed by it with blind abandon that they have made careers out of dishing gossip and spawning an even wilder following that claw each other’s eyes out in the hope of being the next gossip chef.
The first time anything about The Reunion concert leaked out was on the internet through a teasing post on one of the most popular SNS sites entitled “BLIND ITEM “Reunion concert” (you heard it first here)” posted on July 9, 2008. This teaser was quickly picked up by forums and other mailing lists and soon became like an underwater maelstrom, hitting only the more mainstream music sites in about a week or so, thereafter jutting out and breaking the water propelled by an entertainment and gossip editor’s column in a major broadsheet.
I can imagine everyone scrambling for whatever scrap of news, or what makes for ‘news’ they could get their hands on, regarding a scheduled reunion concert of the Eraserheads since the broadsheet editor’s column came out. When wild speculation as this happens, the gossip hydra assumes multiple personalities that have virtual heads hovering by. Yet, no one from the band itself confirmed nor denied anything until its vocalist was forced to speak on television following the broadsheet ‘scoop’.
Not too many people know that one of the strongest, if not the final force that hammered the wedge between the band members years ago was brought about by a glossy music magazine column. Like most rumors, a misplaced line or phrase taken out of context and blown out of proportion can create a displacement, in this case, an almost permanent one, at the cost of careers, followers’ expectations and an industry’s vital source of energy and inspiration.
As like that unfortunate magazine article — whatever its purpose was — the rumors and speculations about the concert took a life of its own ahead of anything official from concerned groups or people, thereby fomenting discontent among diehard fans and observers. That it was first leaked in a personal SNS site in a teasing manner (the post title says it out), without as much as a real-life personality behind it but for a mascot in answer to the annoying and juvenile “pics or it did not happen!” owner’s profile, made the source suspect. Subsequent posts coming from supposed “reliable sources” by others did not help quell growing (and rabid) sentiments about the reunion either. Both account for amateur and irresponsible behavior to say the least, and made only for the gratification and self-indulgence of a few.
Yet there is a reason why events such as the long-awaited reunion of The Band are planned and kept close until all possible kinks were smoothened out. But such was not the case. Talk like fees and ‘real’ intentions of getting back together came into question way before anything specific and official was issued, even quoting sources about very specific figures which, in reality, should have just been the business of, and kept between the contractees, the contractor/s and their conscience. As such, all roads leading up to the time when tickets were finally released to the public were rife with negative vibes because money factor came to fore and almost overshadowed what everyone in the production were working hard for to achieve: a good show the fans deserve, whether paying or privileged.
By now, all the DOH uprising should be water under the bridge. Getting through bureaucracy is hard enough as it is. I am certain that the response of the Department of Health and some members of the public is reactionary. For the Department in particular, when the whole issue was getting out of control, it did not just feel the rug pulled from under its feet, the exposed floor holding the rug was, by then, as fragile as glass, the trusses holding it built around rumors and loose talk.
Whoever it was handling the marketing and promotions of the original concept of the event did a sloppy job at using the internet as a medium to dangle the carrot to a public who, for years, has been yearning for a last show — if not a come back — or at least a proper closure to a musical phenomenon that pegged certain chapters of the audience’s lives and defined a generation. It also did not help much, at the onset, that too many non-concert veterans from other industries were recruited to mingle and handle a rock concert save for a few committed souls.
However it was that certain fees were made public to tickle potential concert-goers’ imagination and create a buzz (and be “in the know”), coming through at a time when there were more fables than facts floating about, should not have been an event in itself to start with. Not only was kiss-and-telling to and by individuals remotely connected to closed-door information a misjudgment, it was rude and selfish to even open one’s mouth and blabber details to strangers in bars and public places, or online and off, with implied authority, only to end up name-dropping connections when asked for authentication. This, at a time when no official word was even being issued yet.
I particularly witnessed one person in a bar do just that, not once, but twice, the second time declaring the event’s cancellation in the presence of a band member at that, and name-dropping a certain ad agency which, by then, had earned the ire of netizens as the one responsible for the aforementioned carrot-dangling.
And, for the record, even after the concert, this person continued his mindless talk interrupting a group whose members were sharing mutual concert experiences with mixed emotions of excitement, gratefulness and empathy. Before the rude interruption came another individual, anxiously, half-frantically wanting confirmation about whether Ely Buendia, the Eraserheads’ vocalist, had really gotten the worst of things “as was told him through an SMS” just a few hours after the Reunion.
The decision to pursue with the event as planned was a collective one after Marlboro pulled out as organizer of what would have been originally a strict by-invitation-only concert. The band, which by this time were to wind up rehearsals as per schedule less than a week into the concert, was one with the production staff and crew in pushing with the event. The biggest gratitude I, and all the concert-goers, owe is to Marlboro, Rudy Tee of Sony-BMG and Francis Lumen of MTV Philippines-Radiohead Media for saving the show without cutting down on original plans or asking for impossible compromises.
Smokers and non-smokers alike who lined up and bought tickets starting from its official date of release last Thursday, should not hold back their appreciation to this company, these gentlemen, the men and women behind the scenes and especially the band for going ahead as planned. This is not in any way an advocacy for smoking but that is how things are, and I strongly feel the right thank you’s are in order.
Otherwise, how else could the whole crowd of an estimated 40-thousand-something be satisfied and entertained, contained and secured without any untoward incident if it were not for:
- obtaining the most appropriate venue befitting a group of artists whose songs are part of every Pinoy’s memories;
- bringing the best of four (4) rival security companies to work together seamlessly and provide courteous yet firm bouncers all over the venue;
- having the first-ever separate hydraulic lifts that can carry a full drum set-up and monitors (with room to spare!) for each band member per lift;
- coming up with a smashing non-stop AVP presentation, movable individual on-stage LCD screens plus big screens all over the venue;
- providing cameras, cranes, and live feeds throughout the venue so that no section is compromised in terms of viewing pleasure;
- setting up the best sound system that can reach the farthest end of the open field without audio fatigue to ruin the night and equally benefitting those at the perimeter;
- installing a trouble-free entrance process for all and getting the services of not less than a hundred staff to man these;
- hiring fire fighters on standby for what would have been a spectacular fireworks display;
- having a stand-by ambulance for any emergencies;
- and supplying the venue with state-of-the-art lighting equipment that complemented the music and performance,
- and stage hands who supported the the band and crew for seamless segues,
- and follow-spot boys precariously perched way above everyone’s heads,
- and portable toilets to ease audience discomfort,
- and audience satisfaction in spite of having only three days’ notice
so that each one headed towards the Bonifacio Global City open grounds on the evening of Aug. 30, 2008 would have a good time.
Indeed, how else could this night not be more memorable if not for the audience that evening to complete it? As of this entry, roughly a full 24 hours after the one-night concert, the Philippine internet scene, by now, is awash with posts about the Eraserheads concert; about how each individual obliged to a minute of prayer and how each walked to the respective venue exits with propriety after hearing the unfortunate news. And none more emotional than when Ely Buendia passed out from exhaustion as soon as the first set ended and the hydraulic lifts descended.
The 20-minute break was really part of the show. Some feel that it should have happened sooner or more breaks per segment added given Ely’s condition. Bringing him, or anyone for that matter, to the hospital ER was an incident no one wanted to happen. Ely, as part of his band Pupil, could hardly go more than five songs in a live gig even if he wanted to do more. What more a straight, highly charged 15-song set everyone prepared for that evening, stimulated by electricity coming from a highly appreciative crowd surpassing the voltage use of all the equipment combined?
Three days into the show, in the early hours of the day the tickets were finally released to the public, Mrs. Lissette Basiño Buendia, passed on. A mother’s passing, coming at the foot of a momentous event, is a hard blow to anyone. After fulfilling familial obligations, Ely’s doctors advised him to take a rest and to not go ahead with the concert.
40,000-plus people now know that he defied those orders because he, Raimund, Marcus and Buddy had a commitment to fulfill. On that unfortunate Thursday, what the staff, crew, producers and sponsors probably only needed was know the band’s decision and they would abide. And they did.
The actual countdown to the show itself was nerve-wracking to everyone in the back stage. Over at the tech booth, set in the middle of the field, emotions were intense, stimulated by energy coming from the sea of friends, recent converts and, most especially, the followers spanning two generations. If anything good came out of a paid concert, it was the freedom to bring anyone or everyone who wanted to be part of a historic musical event as this.
Ely in mourning was also probably what was on everyone’s mind that evening, but when the countdown clock flashed on screen and started ten minutes into showtime, everyone knew a party was about to happen. Every second that dropped on the screen was equivalent to a feverish rise in temperature, literally and figuratively. The venue was hot from where I was, considering the generous space between bodies as unlike in the other sections. On 00:00, right on cue, the show began with just the right drama and continued on for the next 60 minutes.
It did not occur to me that many in the section (where my cousin and I were) would be the very followers and users of popular SNS sites until 20-somethings were posing in groups and clicking away. When the show started, and all throughout the first and only set, these groups were edging to get the best positions for their still and video cameras, aiming for the best whatever shot they could to share with their friends online: “check my blog, go to my site, wait for my upload”, e.g. I heard said not just once.
From what I could tell, these groups were barely in grade school when the Eraserheads was on its 2nd or 3rd album, yet they constituted the majority in the crowd and knew the lyrics to each song by heart.
I must have let through more than 15 people wanting to occupy the next available open space in front of me to get closer to the stage, even if this space meant it could actually only accommodate a child’s body width. But these were the fans, those who not only were too young to afford the latest CD release years ago, but much to young to be allowed to listen to their songs live or when they were played on the airwaves incessantly. These were the very same groups who knew the exact titles to each song, maybe swapped downloads to their iPods, set Eheads music as ringtones and clamored the hardest for this reunion to come true.
Needless to say, they would also have not been eligible to attend had it been the strict by-invite-only event it was originally intended.
Then there were the friends. And were there many, from across institutions, industries and generations.
What sets this band apart is the fact that each member is, and has remained, a regular guy. There are many more of the genre, their fellow musicians, who remain regular guys even after hordes of followers have raised their stature to that of idols and having careers that brought them to parts of the country they would not even have reason to go to otherwise.
But these guys, the Eraserheads, have always been easy to talk to. True, there were times in their career when they had to tow industry lines, but that is how it was. They had busier and busier commitments to keep, tighter schedules to fulfill and an expanding universe to deal with, get used to, accept and be part of. But they remained grounded and genuine, for whatever that’s worth mentioning.
They were college guys in a dorm who we came to know — thanks to Anj, their female dormmate and theater/production member — and who, with open minds, not only agreed to be the nightly back-up to a play, but even under pressure came up with a couple of songs not only to add variety but to contribute in the creative evolution of what would be a cult favorite among the 1990s UP crowd*.
Like any production on a very tight budget, each performance night of a cast and crew of 30 different personalities is sure to wear anybody out. Every night for almost two months of the UP run, the guys were there to give a show and support the cast and staff, notwithstanding the lean meal servings, inconsistent ticket sales, spent bulbs and short circuited wires and sometimes rowdy crowd. It was during this time friendships were forged and cemented (Buddy met Earnest at this production).
These guys are lucky and deserve what they deserve, as does everyone involved in the Reunion concert. Each band member remained committed to their muse even after the band’s breakup.
They saw each other have families and witnessed their gradual transformations from single eligible bachelors to committed dads. They have remained friends with people who have been there for them and with them through thick and thin, through changing management and directions and through rumors and speculations that, at the end of the day, they know better than to fall for. And each knew how to relate to the next guy without being peremptory.
And so we attended this reunion not just in support of them and the staff but because we are fans as well.
The Count up.
- The three members who came on stage to announce the news of a short-lived party were one in their decision to not go on with the concert without their friend, Ely.
- Buddy, Marcus and Raimund decided that since the event was supposed to be a reunion of the Eraserheads — the band people came for — that it wasn’t a reunion and to continue the evening without him wouldn’t be right.
- Proceeding to Sa Gujijo in Makati after making sure Ely was ok, they played some songs for the lucky crowd of around 40 after Raimund confirmed from a staff the titles of the second set.
- On the other side of the Metro, production and technical staff related that the whole night would have ended in a blast, literally, with the grandest fireworks display in the sky that is only paralleled by a New Year’s eve celebration, provided by a World Pyrolympics winner, no less…
- …But not after a fitting closing tribute of an AVP which the band really wanted to give to everyone who contributed to their successful career and which they would have wanted the audience to get to know that evening. Like the perpetually cool and unfrazzled, song-inspiration JulieP, who, ever as reliable as when she first came on board for the band, rushed Ely to the emergency room that night and stood by him, Diane Ventura and Day Cabuhat while first aid was administered.
- Had the concert ended as planned, the band would have been happiest at that point because the story of their lives would have come full circle with the audience — the most behaved rock and roll audience there was — introduced to the faces and events that have helped them get to where they are now.
- Even with that not happening, however, it was most heartwarming to have the kind of audience who came that night. I know that some of them were those who did not stoop to the level of mongers and instead waited for the official word and lined up for their tickets. That evening, the Pinoy audience was most forgiving, most understanding, and had the best sense of comradeship ever.
To Buddy, Marcus, Raimund and Ely, hey you guys, thank you for coming together again for this show. Everyone saw how each of you were having a great time and seeing just that was good enough.
PS and an update
It was nice to see Robin Rivera, Helen and family at the concert. Robin and Helen, you rock!
It was good for Aureaus, Claudine, Sherman and Erwin to be there at front-center for the show, although Wena and Paul were missed. Too bad the Huling El Bimbo MTV with a nice twist didn’t make it to the screen.
It was nice to see Ian, my nephew, again there, too.
Jay Cruz looks great as ever. And Eugene Domingo, the dancing mama behind me, was a pleasure to see.
Fresh, Ferdie and Julianne and her staff did a great job. As did baby sis Shari with the lights design, of course, and Dennon and the crew assisting.
. . . .
As of 31 August, Julie relayed that Ely remains in the CCU and is undergoing continuous monitoring for recurring chest pains and asks for your prayers of support and good vibes.
. . . .
Sept 1, 2008: If any of the friends, fans and fellow concert goers ever come to read this, please continue to pray for Ely. He still needs your support and positive energy.
. . . .
Sept 2, 2008: Concert-goers, followers and well-wishers who have continued to send their prayers and good vibes rock! Because of your collective energy, as of early pre-dawn today, Ely regained consciousness after a post-surgery cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Let’s all hope it will progress towards the positive from here, and with your continued support, help him and those around him keep their strength to see him through recovery.
If you’ve come to this part of this very long post, thank you for your time. The photos, unless otherwise noted, are by me and the contents are from my own knowledge and experience and from first-hand info of people concerned.
Therefore, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know about anything that may interest you, as well as giving abuggedlife.com and fritzified.com, both of whom graciously allowed me to grab from their videos, a visit; and to fellow design practitioner ramio, the inspiration behind the post title, big thanks for saving my brain cells.
if you care to read a related post:
Tropa, Pisay and UP Theater in the 90s