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Love at First Listen @ Route 196

13 May

Concerts. Until just last night, I never knew there was something about them, something intimate that connected the performers onstage and the audience listening to the music they create. I have only been to less than a handful of what one would call a concert and the one I attended last May 12, 2012 was a whole different experience from the usual jam-packed concerts held in huge stadiums people are more familiar with. That night, Ang Bandang Shirley was performing at Route 196, Katipunan, again after four years.

Route 196 is a small bar located in the further reaches of Katipunan Avenue, near Blue Ridge A. My brother and I went to Route 196 at around 10pm, knowing that Ang Bandang Shirley was performing since we checked Route 196’s website. My brother had told me that his friend once played with the band and that they were actually quite talented. I usually withhold my judgments on musical artists I have not heard of until I get to hear them and Ang Bandang Shirley, despite their seemingly simple name, was no exception. As we approached the place, young people, who I’m guessing were around their mid 20s, were chatting and drinking and smoking outside the actual bar. Most of them wore the same type of clothes: skinny jeans and graphic shirts for the guys and loose v-necks and shorts coupled with espadrilles for the girls. They also mostly conversed in english while discussing topics that ranged from work, films and of course, music.

As we entered the bar itself, black couches and dim mood lighting greeted us. Friends and friends of friends were already sitting on them. After a few seconds of quick glances at the place, I realized how small it actually was. This was not a place to hold a big concert; it was for a more relaxed and acquainted crowd. I saw the stage and unsurprised, noticed that there was no elevated platform for the performers, only carpets and banigs. Football teams’ emblems and skateboards were pinned on the walls which were like the walls in cinemas that contribute to greater sound ambience. We took a table, from which we had a good view of the performers. A flat screen TV hung on the wall was playing a black and white film that turned out to be a documentary of the band made by their filmmaker friend. I listened to the people around us and was able to observe that the table beside us was composed of a female Canadian tourist and her Filipino guy friend accompanied by his father. They were comparing and contrasting life in Canada and the Philippines, never saying that one was better than the other after hearing both sides. The Filipino did explain that the main act of the night, Ang Bandang Shirley, translated to The Shirley Band or Shirley Band. I also noticed two Filipino looking adults in the table in front of us. Judging by the way they constantly talked about California, American bands I knew of and their accent, I supposed they were not born here nor did they study in a Philippine school. They were drinking and actually seemed anxious while waiting for the band, as opposed to the people sitting beside us. It was very obvious that most of the people who were there knew each other as if they belonged to the same circles of friends. Many of the people who came in were called upon by the people sitting down and the usual “Oi kamusta?” and “Hey!” were spoken accompanied by handshakes and hugs. The sound of guitars being plucked and cymbals jangling signified the opening act. Several people outside came in and crowded in front of the stage so I had to get up from our table and join them.

Apparently, it was Ang Bandang Shirley’s “fans’ night” which explained why someone in the bar was holding posters saying I Love ABS (short for the band’s name). They started out by thanking everyone for coming and explaining that the last time they were in Route 196, they were promoting their previous album back in 2008. They started with an upbeat song that contained a memorable riff and an equally memorable bridge. It was their second song that made me nod my head in approval. I liked all their tracks from then on and decided they were in fact, a great band, although unknown to many Filipinos. I noticed that people in the front of the crowd listening to them were shaking and nodding their heads more than the usual. I guess they were true and longtime fans of the band and this was an important event because after all, it was Ang Bandang Shirley’s fans’ night. Following each song they played, they would talk to the crowd and mention names of their friends who were there. They were friends with most of the people in the bar. After their last song, I was saddened they were not going to do an encore but I guess what they played was more than enough for me to support their music.

I realized that the small, cozy setting of Route 196 and the lack of a proper stage contributed to an intimate feeling performers had with the crowd. As mentioned before, the people in Route 196 that night knew each other which meant they were friends of the band members and were there to support them. I think the absence of an elevated platform made the performer more intimate and connected to the audience. Ang Bandang Shirley’s obvious ties to the crowd surely proved this and As the vocalist said, “We are not trying to be like any other band because that’s not us. We may not be the best but we like what we do.”

I saw a side of our culture in my visit to Route 196 and it was that Filipinos love supporting their friends in doing the things they love. The feeling evoked by Ang Bandang Shirley’s songs and how the audience reacted was one that contained a feeling of intimate friendship. I end this post by saying how I have encountered newfound admiration for Ang Bandang Shirley because they do what they love and the end result is heartfelt tracks that reveal and remind us how beautiful music is. There are only a few better feelings than that.

-Mikey Raymundo SA 21 A

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