Monday, April 17, 2017

Riding the sonic highways with Sandwich (Saguijo, April 6, 2017)

It’s way past midnight. About 12:40am to be exact. The crowd of about 30 people in Saguijo hasn’t budged from their seat. No, they aren’t night owls. They’re out to catch Sandwich, the last band of the four-band extravaganza of the Play 4 Serve production that evening.

“Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat,” opens lead singer Raymund Marasigan. “Salamat na nandito kayo at kami ang pinanood niyo. Alam naman namin na puwede kayong manood ng Coldplay.”

The small crowd roars.

Sandwich guitarist and livewire act Diego Castillo sings in a falsetto the chorus to “Yellow”, the English band’s megahit. The crowd roars and laughs.

Then they launch into “Sugatan” from their sixth album, "Contra Tiempo".

The energy they first displayed all those long years ago, first with the seminal “Grip Stand Throw” and all the way to their current album, “Debris”, is still very much on display. The raw power of their music is matched by the energy they expend as they hop around, groove, and move to the manic beat; effects and all.

If Marasigan is the hardest working man in the local rock scene, Castillo, is… the energizer bunny. Sure he has his other gigs with the Diegos, writes scripts, and directs the occasional video. Once on stage with Sandwich, he’s in perpetual motion, a stark contrast to Sandwich’s third guitarist, Mong Alcaraz, who is pretty much grounded as he lays down those licks and riffs. If Marasigan and Castillo weren’t tied down by gravity they’d be bouncing all over the satellites orbiting Mother Earth.

Yet keeping them tethered are drummer Mike Dizon and bassist Myrene Academia who have always been steady. Steady.

You can pretty much describe Sandwich in that way.

The band is fast approaching their 20th anniversary. That’s 20 years of incessant gigging and riding the sonic highways laid down by their musical heroes Pavement and the Foo Fighters. They’ve survived an upheaval when they lost their original singer in Marc Abaya, and yet, they carry on strong to this day. You can’t really say they never missed a beat. With Marasigan assuming the vocalist’s duties and Alcaraz coming on board for their fourth offering, “Five on the Floor,” Sandwich has become a tighter outfit.

They were already darn good musically around the time they started but now... hell, you know what they say about wine when it ages… or maybe moving in a parallel directions, like the Stones, man. Mick Jagger and the Rolling effing Stones. And to borrow that classic rock song title, Sandwich is still rocking the free world.

The net result are eight albums and a trunk full of music awards and accolades.

Most of the songs of the night come from “Debris” but they dust off an oldie.. “Jetlag” from their debut album.

Everyone in the room in Saguijo… sings along.

“No secrets about us, man,” succinctly puts Castillo later after the show. “We love music. We love what we do. That’s all anyone needs to know about us.”

As they perform their last song, one by one, the band exits the stage…. Until Castillo is left. He’s there… singing….. Coldplay’s “Yellow.” The crowd roars and laughs.

They sure know how to put on a show.

Last man standing: Diego Castillo serenades the crowd with his version of "Yellow".

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