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Montage: Indie Manila’s Nirvana Tribute Night

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I’m seeing a pattern with myself and it’s coincidental, I swear (or maybe it subconsciously isn’t).

Most of the pieces I’ve volunteered to write for Indie Manila happen to be tribute nights. The idea of celebrating the life and music of artists in one night, in one sanctum where listless passion disguised in insouciance and drenched in alcohol oddly appeals to me.

In an ironic twist of fate, this was a night I didn’t think I needed.

On the day of the gig, I was on a personal rollercoaster ride that started from the highest crest and hit the deepest and lowest trough faster than the speed of light.

Whenever I attend gigs, I watched acts for my own consumption of creative and musical energy. It’s more or less a hobby, an appreciation of art especially when I have to write about them the next few days. I did it for me this time and took the night like therapy or some kind of rage outlet. I was set on going to the gig with an initial plan and ended up coming for another reason. Moreover, I came to realize later into the night that I might not be the right person to talk about Nirvana when I was born after their time (1993 to be exact), and I questioned if I belonged to the said generation that Kurt Cobain and the band molded and defined.

My first memory of being exposed to Nirvana is vague although I’m certain it definitely involved MTV or my dad’s early morning weekend playlists. Sadly, I don’t remember how and when I deemed Nirvana to be a significant artist in my life either — hopefully not because it’s a sardonic mandate pressed on being a 90s kid. I wasn’t exactly looking for the answer that night, and if I did get my answer I definitely missed it and wasn’t paying attention as I just wanted my anger to be reflected and overpowered by the energy of the artists and the crowd.

According to Ate Bel, the theme of the gig was named after the 2015 music biopic “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.” The night serendipitously turned out to be a montage of different interpretations of Nirvana’s music by different artists, each a reflection of the band’s significance and influence in their artistry.

Opening the night with a pleasant surprise was Narcloudia who are based in Singapore. I say a pleasant surprise because I was instantly intrigued by their dreampop / shoegaze / noise pop sound. I was in for a treat (and I hope the rest of the crowd thinks so too) with their hauntingly ambient performance of “Something In The Way.” I wasn’t expecting to let myself go with the music so soon into the gig but Narcloudia pulled me in and took me to the wide, hollow walls of their soundscape and had me waltzing along with their song “Mad Madder.”

Singapore-based dreampop trio Narcloudia opening the night

I knew this gig wasn’t going to play games but I didn’t think it would get so wild so soon, when everyone received the obligatory gut-busting set from Wasted Wendy. These guys clad in medical face masks and Nirvana shirts not only let the crowd have it with their version of “Territorial Pissings” and their own jokingly tagged Nirvana rip-off “Sleepless,” but also with their hilarious spiels in between songs of leaving Canada and having to go back to attend to a patient. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a couple of people do a spit take on their beers. I respect that.

Wasted Wendy pumps up the crowd with their set of sheer punk and grunge.

As I mentioned earlier, I had an initial reason to go to the gig and that reason was Kate Torralba. The London-based petite piano princess has had a special place in my heart since the first time I saw her live and I’ve been going to her gigs ever since. Like I said, this night was indeed a montage of different ways of giving tribute to Nirvana and with Kate Torralba’s own flavor of heart, elegance, and finesse, one can only expect to be knocked on the knees with a stripped down version of an already heart-wrenching anthem. Kate enlisted the help of Coeli San Luis on the cello and Junji Lerma on the guitar with their own rendition of “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Lithium” and the result was one of the most memorable spontaneous collaborations I have ever witnessed.


Kate Torralba shares the stage with Coeli San Luis and Junji Lerma and serenades the crowd with a stripped down set

It was my first time seeing The Royal live and hearing about them (part of which is from my persistent refusal to watch Forever Sucks as recommended and always talked about by my former co-workers). Nonetheless, I’m glad I knew about them this way especially when their sound is reminiscent of foreign bands I regularly listen to. After a short hiatus, these boys finally hit the stage and had everyone clap to “Airport Song” and sing along to their versions of “In Bloom” and “Drain You.”

The Royal makes a come back and electrifies the crowd with their catchy tunes.

I had decided to throw my diet away and accept a free beer from a friend (reluctantly at first but how can I refuse?), and as if for good measure, it was time for Halik ni Gringo to hit the stage. I immediately downed half of my beverage knowing I needed to be in the right condition to properly enjoy and rock out with these guys. Ever felt like you were sure you were ready for something but it snatches your soul away when it happens? Yeah, same. This wasn’t my first time seeing them live but these guys just know how to put on a show. I’m grateful for their loud music that no one, not even myself, can hear me singing along to “NASA, I Have A Problem.”

Halik ni Gringo charges at the crowd with a Nirvana-inspired set including Yuck’s “Shook Down” and Foo Fighters’ “I’ll Stick Around”.

Nobody notices it’s already past midnight and because I went to the gig on an empty stomach, the free beer kicks in and my footsteps start becoming wobbly and listless. I woke up from my drunken  stupor upon seeing the boys of Slowjob in their… uhh… I actually don’t know what exactly it is they were donning, but I’m digging it. The wait for my favorite Nirvana song to be played was over, and I was finally incomprehensibly singing along to “About A Girl.”


Commanding the stage with a fabulous wig and other antics are the duo Slowjob

Another new discovery is Carousel Casualties who will be releasing their first EP soon.  “About A Girl” gets its second spin from this fresh band, but what I liked even more is that I just got served the happiest and most infectious riffs I’ve heard the entire night from their song “Safety.” My rage dissipates together with my tipsiness, and the band delivers me back to sanguinity while my feet tap along and dance the night away. I can’t imagine signalling the beginning of summer any other way than this so I’m excited to hear more from this band.

Carousel Casualties takes the crowd to a happy second to the last stop.

The turn out for the gig put a wide grin on dearest Ate Bel’s face, but I was more staggered at the number of people who stayed until the end. Closing the night is Mayonnaise who has prepared a long set chockful of Nirvana nostalgia (and I could detect slight tinges of playful outrage from the crowd about how there could only be tributes and never more music from Nirvana). It’s as if Mayonnaise took everyone to that church and put something heavy in their chests, leading a few people back to the bar to drink their sorrows away. I was just there standing still mouthing along to “Tayo Na Lang Dalawa” and felt relieved of my burdens that I brought with me when I set foot on the gig.

I got home questioning how exactly am I going to tackle this piece when I was affected by so many personal factors, but it wasn’t until I did a little research where I found my answer (and I was a bit dismayed as I expected to discover that answer in a more profound or dramatic way).

I watched a Vice clip — an interview with Brett Morgen who directed the 2015 Kurt Cobain biopic and Morgen pretty much concisely provided my justification and some answers to questions I didn’t know needed to be answered.

People can turn on the TV and see someone who looked like them… There’s someone that kinda looks like you that didn’t get dressed up and spend seven hours in hair and make up and wasn’t flaunting their wealth… and there was something so refreshing about that.

But the thing about Kurt is… his message is as relevant today as it was in 1991, and he provides as much comfort… it’s almost like every… it’s a rite of passage when people turn 13.

Whenever you’re different, whenever you feel like the odd one out and then there’s another person who you go “Oh yeah, they’re like me,” you don’t feel alone.

— Brett MorgenVice interview (2015)

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