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.

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