Music is a gift. The ability to write songs and to play an instrument should be put to good use. If you can make music, share it, play it for others to hear.
That’s the spirit that underlined the Jack Daniels Future Legends Indie Fest, held recently at Circuit Makati, which showcased Jack Daniels’ efforts in recent years to discover and develop a new batch of would-be music greats through the nationwide Future Legends search.
Brown Forman, the company behind Jack Daniels in the Philippines, received applications from over a hundred Future Legends hopefuls from all over the country this season. The list was then narrowed down to 20 independent bands. They were coached and mentored by music gurus including Spy’s Sammy Asuncion, and presented initially through the Future Legends Roll Call, a series of gigs that started in October last year.
The Future Legends Indie Fest was their biggest gig to date.
Jack Daniels is a staunch supporter of the independent music scene, in part because it says it shares the same values with independent artists. “Independence, authenticity and integrity are part of Jack Daniels’ core values,” said Gabe Fajardo, Jack Daniels’ Brand Manager.
The organizers were vigilant about keeping the event safe and secure. PNP officers were stationed at the venue. Security personnel thoroughly checked the bags of patrons and even the media, performers and their entourage. Members of the Philippine National Red Cross were also present and diligent in cross-checking the condition of the participants, especially those who appeared sleepy or may have had too much to drink.
Speaking of drinks, good old Jack Daniels Whiskey was overflowing, served on the rocks or as Jack Cokes. Water and food were easily accessible and affordable, and purchases were made easier with the use of an electronic pouch payment system.
Guest lists were filled through Brown Forman’s partner production groups and via online sign-ups, but walk-in patrons could enjoy the festival with over 30 of the country’s most promising independent bands for only P200.
Each ticket even came with a free drink. Two Les Paul electric guitars and a Harley Davidson motorcycle were also raffled off to three lucky winners.
Three stages were set up to make the smorgasbord of performances possible. The Old No. 7 Stage showcased a mix of rising and well-known acts, including Tom’s Story, Read Between The Lions, Mind Money Circuit, Alasmedya, Brat Pack, Earthmover, and Tonight We Sleep.
BP Valenzuela, as expected, drew in her legion of young followers. We Are Imaginary’s set pleased the crowd with beautifully written songs buoyed by vocalist Ahmad Tanji’s heartfelt, soulful singing. Tandems ’91 got the kids dancing—and a few young ladies cheering a bit too excitedly—with its rhythmic mixes.
Imago, a band that has been in existence since the late ’90s, continues to grow its fan base with current vocalist Mayumi Gomez, and this was evident in the way people flocked to the stage during the band’s set. Guitarist Zach Lucero, previously the band’s drummer, took a break from strumming at one point to playfully pound on the skins. Among a few of its hits, the band played “Summer Baby,” its current single. Despite bassist Myrene Academia’s absence, everyone seemed pretty happy with Imago’s set.
The On the Rocks Stage featured Cebu’s FOC Fashion, Mad Hatter Day, UBE, Attic Wench, Runway Crimes, Curbside and Reklamo. Staying true to its moniker, the stage showcased arguably the grittier of the bands from the festival.
Imagine watching pop-punk band Blue Boy Bites Back perform an edgy cover of George Michael’s “Faith” almost two decades after Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit disappeared. Japs Sergio led Peso Movement through its interpretation of what “dirty rock” is all about. As the stage’s closing act, Wilderness made quite an impression with its percussion-fueled music, sending the crowd into a frenzy of frantic dancing in a mosh pit of sorts.
Purveyors of indie-pop, folk and alternative dominated the Barrel House stage. Rising indie sweetheart Reese Lansangan strummed and sang her way to the audience’s collective heart. Thea proved that the president-elect isn’t the only happening thing coming from Davao; her powerful voice complemented her band’s folk-infused sound.
Another crowd favorite, Oh Flamingo, ignited the mood with its catchy, craftily-arranged songs. Fools & Foes’ “Undesired” tugged at the emotions with its lyrics. The arrangement for this particular song reminded me of Of Monsters and Men, an Icelandic indie-folk that had a concert in the country very recently.
The last to perform on the Barrel House stage was Jensen and the Flips, a group of young musicians that lent as much groove to their outfits on stage as they did to their music. Frontman Jensen Gomez said, in so many words: “Hindi natin kailangan ng International act para mapuno ang Circuit!” And this sentiment was the perfect echo of the festival’s battlecry: We’re indies together.
Both the Barrel House and On the Rocks stage closed before 10 p.m. All attention was then focused on the main stage -Old No. 7, where the festival’s more recognized acts were set to perform. Part of the line-up were previous Chosen Ones Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus and Farewell Fair Weather, last season’s Future Legends finalists Autotelic and Flying Ipis, much sought-after Up Dharma Down and supergroup Brain Salad.
Flying Ipis’ performance was engaging as ever, with vocalist Deng Garcia’s ability to grab the audience’s attention. At one point, she sang lines from Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and had the audience singing along, before the band segued to the single “Sssikreto.”
The first time I watched Autotelic perform must have been two or three years ago, at a college production in Freedom Bar. Kai Honasan wasn’t even part of the band then yet, but they already had a tight and obviously memorable set. Autotelic has come a long way. Its unique recipe for dance-electro-pop and Tagalog lyrics is a refreshing reminder of the chart-topping and well-loved OPM music from the disco era.
Always a crowd pleaser, Up Dharma Down is booked for practically every important music festival or concert there is, either as a headliner or front act. The Jack Daniels Indie Fest was no exception.
Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus’ hard-hitting brand of horror rock defined shock value not only in terms of the band’s sound but also its showmanship. It was not just the fusion of heavy riffs, bass lines and the synth that injected creepy into the songs; how the members moved and interacted on stage delivered an enormous impact on their performance. You don’t call this act theatrical macabre for nothing.
Reuniting for the first time in years was Brain Salad, helmed by Basti Artadi of Wolfgang and Razorback’s Dave Aguirre, Brian Velasco and Louie Talan. The members are arguably legends in their own right, having been part of two of the most successful bands in Pinoy rock history.
But regardless of how long they had not played together or how long they had been out of the scene, Brain Salad still delivered a solid set. Basti’s voice, which won him the NU Rock Awards for Best Vocalist a couple of times, didn’t seem to have changed a bit, while Dave still killed it with mean guitar solos.
It was a pleasure to see these rock greats on stage again, with the addition of a keyboardist, another guitarist, percussionist, a guy on saxophone and a lady on back-up vocals. Basti seemed nostalgic, sharing anecdotes on how he wrote one song for an ex-girlfriend or another song for yet another flame. There was sadness in his eyes when he admitted he didn’t see himself playing in a band anymore, but the momentary gloom was displaced by more adrenaline-pumping rock music.
Brain Salad’s set was the festival’s encore performance. On its last note, metallic confetti exploded, almost covering the entire stage.