Yesterday once more: The Rod Mijares Combo
by rick olivares
They were going to hit the stage in 20 minutes. Rod Mijares put on a dark blue denim jacket. Pulled up the collar. Then combed his hair backwards into a ducktail quiff; his long sideburns more evident. He looked like a brown Gene Vincent.
It isn’t exactly a bygone age. It’s 2017 and well, there are combos – as bands were called back in the swinging 1950s and 60s – that keep the rock and roll of our parents and grandparents alive at home and abroad. However, to most of the kids of today… the music is the music of their lolos and lolas.
“It’s show time,” Mijares announced. And along with his bandmates – bassist Jay-Jay Gonzales and drummer Ichie Balagtas (who alternates with Jerwin Coronel depending on availability) -- hit the stage. “The smallest combo of the night” as the evening’s host, Jun Lopez, declared as the Rod Mijares Combo numbered only three musicians while the evening’s other bands listed a minimum of five per outfit.
The eight-instrumental performance was mesmerizing. Mijares was a wizard with a guitar for a wand while the rhythm section was rock solid. The applause was heartfelt with many a nod here and there.
“The music is in good hands,” pronounced Lopez who himself was amazed at the Rod Mijares Combo’s stirring performance.
“The music” – old time rock and roll as played by Bill Haley and the Comets, a young Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Gene Cochran, and Vincent to name a few – has always appealed to Mijares.
Now in his early 40s, Mijares bared that even as a kid, he loved the music of his parents. “Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit ko gusto. Pati sa mga pelikula – mga luma ang gusto ko. Siguro yung charm nung era ng 50s and 60s, yung innocence, yung fashion and style, paraan ng buhay… nag-appeal sa akin.”
An old soul he was even as a kid.
“Sakto,” he exclaimed of the “old soul” description. “Ako yun. Yung pagbihis ko ng mga makalumang style – hindi ‘to packaging. Ako ito.”
While his earliest bands played punk and even grunge, deep in his heart, rockabilly and even 1960’s instrumental music – that of the Ventures and the Shadows to name two of that era’s most famous guitar ensembles – were what appealed to Mijares.
“It was what I wanted to play,” he revealed. “Hindi ako tumatanda ng pa-urong; pabalik. Pabalik ng era na naka-imaginary time machine.”
While his mother was thrilled with his choice of music (his father passed away before he heard his son’s musical calling), Mijares privately wondered what others would think. “Pupunta kami sa gig, iba music namin,” he reminisced. “Iniisip ko walang maka-dig. Baka i-boo kami. Pero na-appreciate naman ng iba. Pero hindi talaga para sa marami. Sabihin nila makaluma kami.”
The Rod Mijares Combo has released two indie albums – 2014’s “See You in My Twang” and the following year’s “Rockabilly Bill” both released under Beat the Robot Recordings. Then most recently, they were included in an Asian compilation of rockabilly bands.
“Dirty Boogie: Rockabilly Vol.1” was released in October of 2016 across Asia by the Hong Kong-based Toei Production Ltd. The album features 16 bands from Asia including Indonesia, Korea, Cambodia, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
Aside from the Rod Mijares Combo, the Bembol Rockers also represent the Philippines. “Malaki yung rockabilly scene all over Asia,’ said Mijares Siyempre meron din eksena sa US kung saan nagsimula yun. Meron din sa UK. Pero nakakatuwa na meron din dito sa Asia.”
The combo has been invited to perform in a rockabilly festival in Hong Kong. Their music has even been used by some motorcycle clubs for their videos. Their independently released albums have --- sold out. Not that the print runs were huge. But they still sold out nevertheless.
“The goal now is to produce a jump swing record – on vinyl if possible,” said Mijares. “Kumpeleto pati horns. Masaya yan. Kapag nagawa namin yan, iisipin ko tatay ko. Siya rin kasi nag-introduce sa akin ng music na ‘to. Para sa kanya yan. At siyempre, para sa next generation ng music fans at sana ma-inspire sila tulad nung ma-inspire ako nung bata pa ako. Maganda kasi ‘tong music na ‘to.”