Joey “Pepe” Smith has got one more rock and roll yarn to tell
by rick olivares
The rebel in Joey “Pepe” Smith burns fierce.
Famed disc jockey Bob Magoo called into the crowd just as legendary rockers Maria Cafra took to the stage for their set at Handlebar last Wednesday night (May 10).
“Where you at, Pepe?” asked Magoo as a sea of old time rockers, punks, and New Wavers filled the biker’s bar. “I know you are in the house!”
Smith, 69, and well, in his best cowboy attire (Stetson, boots, and a faux southern drawl0, stood up and gave Magoo the middle finger. “Nothing has changed,” laughed Magoo who is used to the rock and roll icon’s antics. “Still the same old Pepe.”
The show, called “Rock & Punk: Support for Rolly Averilla was a hastily planned show to help the famed Maria Cafra drummer come up with funds for his son who is now paralyzed after being struck by a car in Cavite. Smith, Pinoy punk pioneers the Wuds and Urban Bandits, among many others showed up to lend their talents for the fund raiser.
“Sino pa nga ba tutulong kung hindi tayo sa rock and roll community,” said the rebel with a cause. “That’s the point of music – it’s about the times, life, struggles, hardships, causes, and well, getting by with help from your friends.”
Smith, the loquacious raconteur isn’t his old spritely self. Yet at a towering 6’3”, he still draws a crowd. Last Tuesday while walking in Virra Mall, the rocker was mobbed. Said the promo girls at the nearby Astro Vision, “Sikat pa rin si Pepe.”
At Handlebar Wednesday, Smith is still mobbed for selfies and autographs. He hardly even has time to take two bites out of his slice of pizza because everyone is in his face.
Averilla who is the beneficiary for the show doesn’t mind one bit that his old friend is still a scene stealer. “Maybe is I had his height, I’d be as popular,” joked Averilla who gives away quite a few inches in height to Smith.
Before his set with DriveTrain, Smith took time to sit down and talk about his career that has spanned six decades. “Rock and roll is my life, man,” he declares. “But…. What I’d like is to lose this writer’s block.”
After his last album, “Idiosyncrasies,” recorded in 2005, Smith was angry at the way the album was handled during the recording. “Ang musika ng isang mang-aawit ay dapat puro. Hindi nahahaluan ng mga hirit ng mga tao na ang layunin ay kumita ng pera. Eh kung ganun (throws in an expletive) sila na lang mag-record ng album nila.” He spits out his anger with the venom of an angry rebel a third of his age.
“Hindi ba kaya ka na-sign sa kontrata dahil sa music mo? So bakit papalitan?”
Smith takes a swig at his bottle of beer then wipes his mouth. He holds his peace for a few minutes. Whether it is to compose himself or to steel himself, we aren’t sure. Then he shifts gears, “I have one more record left in me,” he declares. “Another decade’s worth of stories to tell. Marami nangyari nitong huling dekada.”
Smith says he hopes that the conditions are right for a new record. That he has the freedom to write and record the music he wants. When informed that the independent music scene is thriving, his eyes light up.
The days of riding with the Juan dela Cruz Band are long gone. It has been 12 years since his last record (the aforementioned “Idiosyncrasies”). “That’s like one record per decade,” he notes including his four-album release with the Juan dela Cruz Band. So I know I have one more rock and roll story in me.”
“Pepe? Where’s Pepe?” bellows Magoo from inside Handlebar. Maria Cafra’s set is done. Smith is on deck.
And Joey “Pepe” Smith finishes his beer, shrugs, then offers everyone one of those goofy smiles of his. He pauses for one, two more selfies with fans then enters like a rock and roll conqueror. The Handlebar crowd cheers.
The showstopper, the rock and the roller, the rebel for a cause, and the icon, strides back in. But not before leaving me with a parting shot. “I got one more in me.”