April and May were about some really good reunion concerts—ones that are original and wonderfully Pinoy, no matter current definitions. One realizes that when reunions are done well, when they do justice to the independence and specificities of creative work, we as audience are also respected and treated as mature spectators. Nostalgia rarely feels this good.
Rakenrol, Moonpools and Caterpillars
The joy that was in the Moonpools and Caterpillars reunion gig was premised on one thing: a homecoming.
Three of the four band members are Filipinos after all: guitarist Jay Jay Encarnacion, bassist Tim de Pala, and drummer Gugut Salgado. Kimi Ward Encarnacion is the lone girl and lead singer of the band that shot to fame in the mid-‘90s in California—Glendale to be exact.
Soon enough—and on dial-up Internet (haha!)—the Pinoy kids who were listening to the Eraserheads would get wind of how Moonpools and Caterpillars was ours, too.
In 1996 they arrived in Manila to play a concert I didn’t have money for. In 1998, dropped by their recording company the band stopped playing altogether. But in July 2013 they did a reunion gig in Los Angeles, which seems to have fueled the string of comeback gigs. On January 4 they did a benefit show for Haiyan victims in Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood—where they played their last gig in 1998.
It wouldn’t be called full circle if they didn’t come back home.
And a homecoming it was. Three gigs—two in Manila and one in Cebu—were sold out. The last gig in Amber Lounge had everything going for it. Front acts that included Barbie Almalbis showing us all why she’s one original Pinay music icon, and Autotelic reminding us of how the young can still surprise. The audience was a mix of the generation that listened to Moonpools and Caterpillars, and a younger generation that heard of them after the fact. An additional layer was family, where the band’s Pinoy relatives were in attendance, heartwarming and perfect. Reunions are incomplete without our own parents.
The energy though was all borne of the band. The three guys were obviously home on that stage and in this country, feeding off an audience that was on a natural nostalgia high.
Kimi though is free spirit personified. The spring in her step, the craziness in her dancing, a welcome respite from the string of manufactured performances that this decade has brought us.
And this was really the thing with this Moonpools and Caterpillars Manila reunion: it reminded of a time when carefree and happy, sunny and buoyant was what we liked to hear on the radio and see on stage. It reminded of maskipaps Fil-Am style, without the pretenses of performance, and just some good ol’ rakenrol.
By the time the band did their encore of Juan dela Cruz’s “Himig Natin” and “Beep Beep,” one could only but brim with elation and real unadulterated joy. At this band that pre-dates every other original Pinoy music success as we celebrate it now, and the kind of music we used to like. And still should.
Teeth, and nothing else
The Metrowalk Tent as venue was the one off-putting thing about watching Teeth The Reunion. One would imagine watching this band in a bar, where the stage barely means distance from the audience, and some beer is shared all around.
That is the illusion that the ‘90s afforded us all, when knowing a band meant watching them in such close quarters, familiarity built by the probability that you will actually share a drink—or a cigarette—with them after the gig. There were no airs, not a lot of egos. Just a sense of community really, one bound to the music of a band playing on that accessible stage.
Yet on reunion night, Teeth delivered despite that far larger stage. As it turns out, all we need is to see Glenn Jacinto on vocals, Jerome Velasco and Doc Sergio on guitars, Peding Narvaja on bass and Mike Dizon on drums doing what they’ve always done: play some good original music.
Which is to say that they were the only ones we needed to bring us back. And we were not a bunch of fans giddy at the thought of hearing “Laklak.” We were an audience that could not be distracted by a Lourd de Veyra inuman video with members of the band (save for Jacinto). Set up to introduce Teeth, that video might have been the most unsuccessful introduction ever.
We were just too excited to pay attention. As I stood to one side of the stage, Raimund Marasigan of Sandwich and Jay Contreras of Kamikazee walked into the audience section, brimming with as much elation as the rest of us. As the first song started to be played, and as we went through Teeth’s every hit and not-so-hit, from “Prinsesa” to “Shooting Star,” one realized this was not nostalgia.
The romance with the past, the reminiscence? Teeth was not giving us that. Because as the band performed, and Jacinto talked to the audience with nary smile, the nonchalance—the lack of fanfare and spectacle—made it seem like no reunion. One could actually believe that it was possible to see the band again, and again, as if in the ‘90s.
And that was the gift of Teeth The Reunion. It was that it didn’t pander to remembering and nostalgia, as it did just give us the band as we’ve always known them. In that sense the large stage and fancy lights was a layer of performance we did not need; but which made it about as fancy as a reunion could be given this band.
Reunions done well
It seems easy enough: gather together a band that has ceased to play, then give the audience the songs they were famous for. But producer Pinoytuner seems to know better.
Between Moonpools and Caterpillars and Teeth reunions, there is a sense that it’s not about hard-selling reunions or blowing it out of proportion. Instead it’s a carefully thought-out gig that does justice to and respects what these bands stand for, and the audience that loves them.
One finds that it is these reunions that are worth spending some good money for.