Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rizal Underground’s Stephen Lu is back with Rockoustic Blues Experiment

In-Flight listening party and roof deck show. Bong Lennon, Stephen Lu, and Jun Lopito.

Rizal Underground’s Stephen Lu is back with Rockoustic Blues Experiment
by rick olivares

When Stephen Lu first came out in the music scene in the 1980s, he was in a rockabilly quartet (out of the University of the Philippines) called ‘the Runaway Boys”; named after the song by the Stray Cats. Then he was the front man for the Rizal Underground in the 1990s. In this new millennium, Lu is back with his new outfit, the Rockoustic Blues Experiment.

Aside from Lu, the four-piece features a couple of other music scene veterans in guitarist Bong Eudela and bassist Pex Holigores who came up with reggae band Tropical Depression (they still perform with its spin-off Trop Dep since lead singer Dominic Gamboa passed away a few years ago). Drummer Nikko Tirona is the only newbie but is no less talented (keyboardist Edgar Mendoza who receives full album credits has since departed the band).

Last Saturday, Rockoustic Blues Experiment held a listening party/rooftop concert at the NCC Building in Mandaluyong City to promote their debut extended play album, “In-Flight.” Joining the band in their performance were Nitoy Adriano and Jun Lopito who were a part of the early 1980s New Wave/Punk band, band, the Jerks. Lopito, who released a critically-acclaimed album in 1995 titled, “Jun Lopito and the Bodhisattvas”, also performed on Rockoustic Blues Experiment’s debut offering.

“In-Flight” is a six-track album (with two bonus tracks) featuring songs written by Binky Lampano and Pino Fernandez to name a few. Lu cut his producer’s eyeteeth by working on the former’s debut album. On the compact disc release, the band performs the Lampano classic “Loveland” (from his solo album “I Read the News”) and extrapolates on Tropical Depression’s breezy version of Fernandez’s “Mahal na Mahal Kita.” It’s something you have to hear as Eudela does great guitar work.

Other strong cuts include, “Brown & White” and the rocker, “Wait for Me”.

The band has also performed across the country to promote the new album that was produced and released by Lu’s own Loudhouse Productions that also released the acclaimed 1990s alternative compilation album, Alert Level, that featured four then-unsigned bands who all were picked up by major label’s during the decade’s band explosion.

“With Rockoustic Blues Experiment, our sound has a distinct acoustic guitar-infused identity with blues and kundiman roots,” explained Lu during a sent two months ago at Tacio’s Bistro at Cubao X.  “This album is inspired by my musical journeys the past couple of years, that brought me to the most exotic locations in the country by chance - Coron, Puerto Galera, Boracay, Tuguegarao and many other places. ‘In-Flight’ pertains to the continuing saga.”

Regarding his “all-star” outfit, Lu noted, “I’ve worked with Bong a lot through the journeys and we share, because of age a lot of common ground in taste, and so is it with Pex. Nikko, is a very talented drummer and a student of music. He came in last as a replacement, but he brings in youth and energy so it has worked well.”

During the listening party/rooftop concert, the band raced through the entire “In-Flight” album track by track and in order to an appreciative audience. The second and third sets saw Adriano and Lopito take the stage as well as Lu’s old collaborator on the Runaway Boys, Butch Saulog on keyboards. They performed classic rock songs by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, staples of their musical influences.

Said Lopito of the album and the rooftop jam, “We’re a couple of old souls who love performing. And the music is great. It warms my heart! But it will be more heart-warming if people watch and buy the album of Rockoustic Blues Experiment.”

The band will embark on a tour of Luzon real soon (check out the Facebook Page for more details).

Rockoustic Blues Experiment’s debut, “In-Flight” is available at Omnibus music (Bacolod), Spicy Elements (SM Iloilo), Akean Bar (Kalibo), Charlie’s (Boracay), Tacio's Bistro (Cubao X) plus all D&D Custom Guitar stores - SM Mall of Asia, Greenbelt, and Pasig or through the band’s Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

If you like metalcore band Converge check out Filipino band, Sauna

Metalcore band Converge released "Jane Doe" in 2004 and it was met with immediate critical acclaim and a subsequent commercial success. It has since been named as one of the most important heavy music albums ever. Converge was a metalcore pioneer and this album paved the way for many bands including the Philippines' own Sauna (see the picture below) who released "Deeper It Goes" in 2008. The influence is clear not only in the music but even in the album art. and it is a must have too. More so as the band has already called it quits.

Check out Pizzacoi that is the heir to Sauna.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Six Filipino bands in Singapore you should check out Part 1

Six Filipino bands in Singapore 
you should check out Part 1
by rick olivares

In recent articles, we featured some Filipino bands who are either performing abroad or who have been signed by foreign labels. There’s Narcloudia, that shoegaze/dream pop band out of Singapore that is fronted by former Sugar Hiccup lead singer Bea Alcala, Singaporean thrash metal band Tormentress that features a Filipina lead guitarist in Gwen CaƱete, and Quezon City-based outfit Dreaded Mortuary that was signed by Japan’s Rock Stakk Records and who were invited to perform in the True Thrash fest in Osaka twice already. There are more but that is a feature for another day.

This week, we will feature six Filipino bands who have released albums in Singapore. All these bands are wholly Filipino but who all live and work in the Lion City. Their releases are all independent. You might want to check them out on their respective Facebook pages and better yet, ask your friends in Singapore to pick up their albums. Buy them! Don’t download, cheapskates.

Rise by UlingGang (genre: Heavy Metal)
If you like male-female vocal interplay like Lacuna Coil, the Devin Townsend Project, or even Nightwish, then you have to check out this awesome album by UlingGang. Their five-track EP, titled “Rise” is something that grabs you right away. Terrific and strong vocals by Shielah Nueva and Dyason Ramirez that grab you. Tight performances and a twin guitar attack for that shredding and crunching punch to the gut. Love the production and I appreciate that the album is properly pressed and not just burned. Powerful debut by the six-man band.

Hats by VunderVeil (Pop Rock)
Cheerful pop rock that reminds you of the Cardigans or Sixpence None the Richer but with a Filipino bent. Love the earthy and sweet vocals by singer Anlyn Curay who is backed by a capable rhythm section. I also like the fact that this full length album (12 songs in English and Tagalog) comes in nifty packaging that can also double as a brown paper hat!

Flashes of Random Spaceship by Obet Rivera (MOR Rock)
This one’s got groove and meaning! For fans of Pinoy 70s outfit Soul Jugglers that will also appeal to those who dig the late great P.O.T. (minus the funk). Rivera once played guitar for Emil Sanglay and Penpen (whose neo-ethnic style was part of that wave of folk singers in the late 1970s) and Polityx which played in Ultrastorm with the Dawn and After Image. Upbeat and stirring stuff! Rivera knows how to write songs with a hook that drip with passion. If you like Jackson Browne, Paul Westerberg and the like, check out this darn good album.

One Love by Cool M (genre: Pop/R&B)
This one takes you down a notch with cool grooves. Cool M has D’Sound vibe (that tres cool trio for Norway) with a pixie dust sprinkling of jazz and pop rock musings. They write catchy pop songs that will have you nodding along. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself dancing. I can only imagine how they sound live. Am sure their live performances are better! While Mercy Labarda sings most of the songs, her husband, Def, also alternates at the mike. When he does there’s a more pop rock to the RNB styles that work well with Mercy. For fans of Side A, South Border, and D’Sound.

Poetic Tragedies’ self-titled EP (Indie Rock)
Four-track EP. If you like bands like Thursday, Finch, and Taking Back Sunday to Name a Few or those who dig homegrown bands Richard Collier of the Skeleton Years, Poetic Tragedies will appeal to your taste buds. Bloody intense. Get ready to play air guitar along coz this one will rock your socks off.  

Pariah self-titled album (genre: Heavy Metal)
A seven-track EP by this five-man band. If you like Parkway Drive, Fiver Finger Death Punch and the like. Muscular and tight performance. You can see that Pariah has chops. Not crazy about the vocal mix though. Could be much better to make for better listening. Nevertheless, still good if you enjoy this kind of music. Wish they also added some liner notes to this.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pinoy punk rockers Urban Bandits are back… with a new album.

Pinoy punk rockers Urban Bandits are back… with a new album.
by rick olivares

It is said that the language of the streets is written in graffiti… and punk rock. And if the latter is so then that old street parliamentarian Arnold Morales is back. Fresh off their reunion show last March, Morales’ seminal punk rock outfit, the Urban Bandits are ready to more than perform another reunion show.

They are ready to rage against society’s ills once more.

Yes, the Urban Bandits Morales, guitarist Ferdi dela Cruz, bassist Dondi Fernandez, and drummer Rogel Dela Cruz), that 1980s Filipino punk rock band whose cassette album, “Independence Day” featured angst-ridden anthems for the disenfranchised and those fed-up with a dictatorship, is going to release a new extended play album.

“Six to seven brand new songs,” pointed out Morales outside the Woodman’s Head, that expat bar along P. Burgos where he joined another of those old-time pink outfits, Bad Omen for a set that included many of the Urban Bandits’ classics such as “No Future sa Pader”, “Manila Girl”, and “Breaking the Wall” last Saturday, June 24. “New songs pero the same or new old angst.”

So why after 32 years have the UBs deigned to return and with songs for Molotov cocktails?

“Wala naman nagbago,” spat Morales. “Nagkaroon ng bagong pintura pero ganun pa rin. Kahit ano pa yung tinatatyo nila ang gulo pa rin.”

“Gagawa kami ng EP brand new songs,” he revealed of the project. “Mga every day na patama sa mga dapat tamaan.” No doubt, the fire burns fiercely in him just as it did back when “Independence Day” was recorded during those turbulent 1980s.

During the gig with Bad Omen, the pub was packed with skinheads and rude boys – many who weren’t even born in the 1980s -- who sang along to every song and danced some. Morales admitted to being surprised that sales for the re-issues of the UB’s cassettes – bootleg or not – remain strong. The recently vinyl re-release of “Independence Day” is a huge favorite and a strong seller in local punk rock distros.

“Nung una parang hindi ako keen on the idea of the album being re-issued,” admitted Morales. “Pero nagulat ako na well-received yung UBs at ang music namin by people today. Marami nga hindi pa pinapanganak noon punk movement ng 1980s. Kahit kapitbahay ko, akala niya bagong release!”

Morales related that the bootleg cassettes were released when he formed ska band, Put3ska in the 1990s. “Nung nasa Put3ska pa ako, mismo yung nag bootleg ng cassette pinuntahan ako. Nagbihgay ng cash kahit hindi ko hiningi. Siyempre malaking bagay na may respeto siya at hindi niya kami basta basta binastos.”

“Yung plaka na release, Amerikano gumawa niyan. Nagustuhan niya. Na discover niya yung Philippine music. Nung tumawag siya, pinapa-remaster niya na. So nakapili na siya ng kanta. I guess it’s all good. It is nice to see people appreciate yung gawa ng band.”

During the reunion show, the UBs borrowed a bassist from another band as Dondi Fernandez is now in the United States. “Ang plano ay sana maipadala namin yung bagong material sa kanya sa US para i-layout yung bass parts then ibalik niya rito sa amin,” said Morales of the new recordings.

The new album, said Morales, will be released in all formats. “Vinyl, compact disc, download, cassette. Ganyan talaga.”

He frontman pointed to the thriving local punk rock scene where bands released more records – on vinyl and cassette no less – than mainstream pop acts. Albums that sell to local and foreign audiences. “That’s the staying power of punk,” he underscored.

Morales took a swig from the massive beer bottle that was handed over to him. He smiled; sneered even. Then walked off into the night.

New album. Hell, yeah.

Lumilondol na naman.

Arnold Morales (middle) performing with Bad Omen last Saturday, June 24 at Woodman's Head in Makati.

With the great Arnold Morales