Blown away and smoked: Watching the Jerks for the first time in a long long while.
by rick olivares
Chickoy Pura and the Jerks blew me away. I caught them last night at 70’s Bistro by happenstance and well, I got smoked.
Okay, I had not seen the Jerks in ages. And it’s not like I do not know their talent or capacity for livewire performances. The terms I used – “blew me away” and “got smoked” in the same paragraph as “the Jerks” has a backstory to it.
In the early 1980s, I had gradually migrated from 1970s heavy metal/hard rock to punk and new wave. After all, the latter was all the rage back then. Yet, from the former, I retained my love for prog rock. Specifically, Yes, Asia, and Rush.
Listening to DZRJ during the early 1980s opened my ears and eyes to many things. It is through the radio station that I first heard punk rock (I read about it in magazines but no one played it back in the day). Eventually, they began to spin this song from a local outfit, “Romantic Kill” by the Jerks.
It reminded me of the Cure’s “Grinding Halt” infused with punk energy. The guitar solo gave away the band’s roots for metal and hard rock. I liked it. Outside the Juan dela Cruz Band, Anakbayan, Maria Cafra, Sampaguita, I felt we had new music hero.
Now what’s the connection, you ask?
During an album review for Rush’s 1981 opus’ “Moving Pictures” that continued the Canadian trio’s more radio-friendly prog rock that begun with the previous effort, “Permanent Waves”, the writer trashed the album while comparing it to the Jerks. Obviously, it’s apples and oranges. As a first year high school student back then -- an impetuous and hot-headed one too – I wrote a letter to the magazine berating the reviewer for the comparison and how Rush’s instrumental “YYZ” can “smoke the Jerks” or “blow them away”.
I thought that was the end of it until a year or so later (maybe even more), the letters pages of Jingle magazine printed letters from opposing factions – the metal/hard rock fans and those who eschewed punk. Those were the days when literally, you couldn’t mix the two anywhere unless you were spoiling for a fight. I was kind of oblivious to that because I listened to everything. Hell, I even went to Brave New World, bought all the Twisted Red Cross cassettes, and even wore a studded wristband that I purchased from a store at Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao as a sign of my love for punk rock. Yet, I picked up the albums of Thin Lizzy and the new wave of metal bands such as Def Leppard and Iron Maiden (my dad’s pasalubong from a trip to England).
Anyways, there was a letter in one issue of Jingle where a letter writer pointed out that the fighting among the two tribes started out with my letter. Now during those days, I loved down the street where Jingle was published and I oft hung out there. The magazine was – at least to my thinking – our local version of Rolling Stone or Creem magazine (the hell with Hit Parader).
One time, I visited the Jingle offices to gab with the late Butch Maniego (who would in a few years migrate to sports writing). Much to my surprise, the Jerks’ frontman Chickoy Pura was there for an interview. And well, Butch introduced this geeky high school student to him with the pasakalye that I was that letter writer. Butch didn’t mean to embarrass me. I blabbered that I was a fan too; just not of the review; and I reacted in a churlish manner. Not at all. Chickoy was fine. He shook my hand and said, “wala yun”. He even invited me to a gig at the old On Disco along Roxas Boulevard.
I did go. And I got blown away.
I am not sure now of my knowledge of the Jerks’ history. I do know they broke up and Chickoy became a folk singer. He came back with some other band. Am not sure how long they lasted. The Jerks eventually reunited. I caught one more show then well, never saw them again until last Friday night.
And like that meeting at the Jingle offices along P. Tuazon in Cubao back in the early 1980s, going to the Jerks’ show at 70s Bistro was by chance. I had thought that the U2 Tribute Night (an event sponsored by MCA Universal) was on Friday (it was last Thursday). Imagine my surprise that it wasn’t.
But I stayed. I told myself, “geez, there are only seven people in here (including myself). Hope more people come over.” I counted a total of 35 people came to watch the show.
Right before the stroke of 10pm, Pura walked in. He looked at me (no, he didn’t recognize me or what and I certainly do not assume he did because our only meeting was a chance one decades ago) and we both nodded silently at one another.
At exactly 10:26pm, he took the stage with bassist Edwin Aguilar (of the Skalawags) and drummer Benjie Santos and launched into three consecutive songs by Sting (the last one being “Driven to Tears” as recorded by the Police). The first set lasted for an hour and 30 minutes where they performed songs by Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, and their own hits “Reklamo” and “Rage”. The songs were laced with that punk energy, the delicate reggae vibe, and jazz musings. It was a darn good show.
While the Jerks performed songs from their youth and adult years, the fire of protest and concern has not abated one iota in Pura’s body. At one point, he talked – the longest of the night – about the people displaced by the conflict in Marawi and how we can help some of these folks who are now sheltered (in what passes for it) somewhere in the UP campus.
The band took a break then finished the night off with another long set that was just as fiery as the first one.
It has been years, decades even. But I stepped out into the quiet morn blown away and smoked.