Track of the Week – “Level Up” by Vienna Teng

My track of the week is basically in honor of some news I got concerning this singer. This is the carrier single from Vienna Teng’s 2013 record Aims, and it’s called “Level Up.”

The news? Well, she’s coming to Manila on August 18. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to find out from her official site where it is.

About A. – some biographical notes on the summer of 1994

There are some things I am prepared to share here that are too personal. The original version named her, and probably three other people I know. This version has been redacted. The essay is in honor of the team behind Scout Magazine whose launch event yesterday provoked these reflections.

Some of the paths on which I walk all lead back to a summer class 20 years ago.

When I was in high school (and I understand it is still around), Ateneo’s high school had what is called the Summer Enrichment Program. It often gained the nickname of “Soiree Everyday Program” in honor of the fact that most students came from private single-sex schools and hence it was a chance for them to interact outside those organized parties of that name. And most of the classes were, in many ways, academic. These helped kids gain a leg-up in high school subjects, all in an environment that was, in many ways, fun.

There were a few non-academic classes, though. After barely surviving my first year in high school, I persuaded my folks to sign me up for a class called “Leadership Training.” I no longer remember exactly why I chose to sign up for this class, but I do recall a few things. First, it turned out to anticipate my later years as a psychology student. Second, it was the first and only time I ever treated my classmates to a birthday party. Third, it was one of the smallest classes I ever had in school up to that point. And fourth, there was a person who turned out to be one of my first female friends since grade school.

She was the younger sister of someone I already knew from my first year class. She was just about to enter high school at Philippine Science High School’s main campus. I still have a faint memory of her face from back then, and probably a few other memories. We were both very articulate people and I recall feeling comfortable around her. I recall that we had four other people, three of whom I have met over the last few months. One of them became one of my most loyal friends in college (and up to now). Two of them were cousins and were connected to someone famous (or infamous, depending on one’s views). We had another young woman in class, whose name I forgot.

When I mentioned that this class anticipated my time as a psychology major, it was because a lot of it drew from the kind of methods I learned in a class on group processes and the inductive method. I can still vaguely remember that most of what we did were the sort of thing my friend from college and I would later do as psychology majors in that class. What I also vaguely remembered was that when the girl and I were pretty much on the same wavelength, it led to quite a bit of ribbing from my classmates.

We didn’t particularly take kindly to the ribbing, mainly because both of us saw each other as friends. But it was hard to ignore the feeling that she made my heart skip a beat, for a while. Those were the hormones speaking. Otherwise, if one pressed me further at that time, my crush that summer was one of my neighbors, who was then an incoming sophomore at PSHS herself. Back then, the whole idea that those sorts of things could easily occupy discrete slots was kind of impossible.

However, long after the six of us parted ways, I wondered about her. In a way, she was as mysterious to me when I first met her and then became, for a time, good friends. I asked her sister about her, and I probably spoke with her once on the phone after she entered high school. And then, probably not long after that, I forgot about her.

Almost. In some way, my time with that young woman left an impression on me I could not shake. It convinced me, and still does, that it is possible to find someone with whom we could have nice conversations and be fine about it. And probably, if we were together long enough, go through rough patches and learn from it. Since then, I have had glimpses of that possibility coming to life, little ones. Nothing like that summer. But it does not really matter. I somehow let go of it.

The last time I met her was in late 2006. I was working for a start-up and it was challenging. I do not recall exactly how she got in touch with me again, but she did. We ended up having dinner together. It turned out that, apart from catching up, she wanted to sell me something. I was not really willing to buy. But I did learn one thing: she liked the Goo Goo Dolls. And I did feel my heart skip a beat, for once. Since then, I have not heard a word from her.

So how did this brief encounter lead to where I am now?

A. came to mind this morning after I was at the Scout Magazine launch at SM Aura’s Samsung Hall last night. She was connected with two musicians I knew. One of them played in a band that night. The band has a lovely song about a mysterious woman who impacted one’s life in a good way. On reflection, the song reminded me a bit of her.

The other connection? Well, she may have been in the same high school class as one of the lead singers of another band that played that evening. It all seemed to fit. After all, one last thing we both had in common? We lived through the Nineties.

A final word: here is the song I connect the most with that summer of 1994. I remember this because the culminating activity was that we had to organize a closing program and those two cousins got the bands. One of bands covered this tune.

Keep on plugging! (Things to do this weekend and beyond) – updated

In keeping with my thrust to build a community of people who will go to art events because it’s a fun thing to do (not because of sundry lofty ideals, which is a sure-fire formula to get cynicism going), I have some things to note for this weekend and beyond.

1. Dani Girl is now being staged at the RCBC Plaza’s Carlos P. Romulo theater from now until the end of July. Today’s matinee for students features 50% off on tickets and a talk-back session with the show’s dramaturg. (Yes, we do have a couple of dramaturgy practitioners, but only one’s a LMDA member. Haha) For more information, please visit the Sandbox Collective website.

My short review: this is a play that explores the kinds of questions most people are confronted with when coming to terms with a critical life event. It does so in an entertaining way that does not, in most cases, talk down to the audience. The acting by the cast I saw in preview was pretty good, but I hope they fixed most of the technical issues that I noticed (especially, and unsurprisingly, with the sound system). And yes, I will recommend it if you’re looking for something different to see.

2. Join us later at the Cultural Center of the Philippines when we continue with the Gerardo de Leon Centennial film screening series. Noted archivist Teddy Co (who went stage-hopping at the last Fete de la Musique) will be introducing a series of clips from those works of Gerry de Leon that have mostly been lost to time. The event, like all other events backed by the Society of Filipino Film Archivists, aims to promote the importance of archiving film as a way to bring people in touch with our history of Philippine cinema. And yes, I think some of the older stuff are quite interesting in their own right.

The screening will start at 4 PM today at the CCP’s Dream Theater.

3. Our friends at Scout Magazine are marking the launch of their publication with a special event at the Samsung Hall, SM Aura Taguig. The event starts at 5 PM and features a good number of my favorite musical acts. I understand that the first performer will be this person I wrote about last April. [UPDATED: And I also hear that this band is playing. Naks] I also understand that the event and the attire is supposed to be Nineties-themed, so I will be in a variation on the old Ateneo High School dress code, which we had until uniforms were adopted in the late 1990s. (For those of you old enough to remember, you know.)

4. Finally, I would like to put in a small word (for now) for Ballet Philippines’ next production La Revolucion Filipina. The modern ballet by Agnes Locsin, former artistic director of the company and one of our country’s best choreographers, will be staged the last full weekend of July (26 and 27) at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo. For more details, please visit the Ballet Philippines website.

Oh, and why should one go to all these things? Well, they’re interesting. And fun. I hope you’ll have a good weekend, whatever it is you’re doing.

Track of the Week – “Association Dues” by Tarsius – updated

This week’s track is part two of a two-week homage to the band Tarsius, whose new videos were launched last Friday night at a memorable (though rainy) gig.

The track for today is “Association Dues.” When performed live, it includes one of the most interesting samples in their repertoire. One can hear a very, very small muddling of it on the track, but it’s an Easter egg for those who’ve seen them live. [Correction: Actually, the track in question is "Black Saturday." Oops]

You can watch all the Tarsius videos so far in this playlist from the band’s YouTube account:

The one for “Cosmic Convergence,” which I talked about last week, is in the list, and I urge you to watch it.

Here is my write-up on Paolo Ruiz’s video from Vandals on the Wall.

And just released: my write-up on “Cosmic Convergence” by Marie Jamora and Jason McLagan.

Incidentally, happy St. Benedict’s day to those who are connected, in some way, to this founder of Western monasticism!

Then there were some…more field notes

1. I am very happy to note that the two Tarsius videos are finally up. I think this will wait until my next track of the week entry, which will also be one of the few posts here to be linked to Vandals on the Wall. (Yes, talk about back-links.)

2. This weekend I am going to do two totally contrasting trips to the past. One is a screening of excerpts from Gerry de Leon films whose remnants are still around. Another is the Scout Magazine launch, which I understand will have a Nineties theme. I will then attend in a tucked-in shirt and jeans, which is essentially the Ateneo High School dress code before I graduated. (Actually, I am thinking of wearing a button-down, given how cold the CCP theater in question happens to be.)

I am particularly impressed with the line-up, and in fact, I’m listening to one of the bands playing right now. The band has a song called “Balik,” which is most appropriate to the theme of nostalgia. Another band playing that night has a song called “Di Na Babalik,” equally appropriate. Here’s a version of it appropriate to a certain time of year.

3. Well, speaking of “Di Na Babalik,” I am reminded that Cinemalaya is almost upon us. I am not as excited about it as, say, in 2012, and perhaps there will be only one or two films I am very interested in seeing this time unless…well, I will let you dear readers know first once it happens.

For now, though, see you all on Saturday.

Track of the Week – “Cosmic Convergence” by Tarsius feat. Archaster

It is a little-known fact that the song “Cosmic Convergence,” which appears on Tarsius’ LP Primate, was the second Tarsius song used in a film soundtrack. The first, of course, is “Deathless Gods,” whose video kicked off the musical build-up to the 2012 film Ang Nawawala. The film in question is Shift, which is interesting in that this drew a lot of fans of a certain young pop/rock singer, as a Q&A session I moderated after one screening revealed much to my amusement. (The singer stars in the film.)

There is only one extant video of a performance of the song featuring Archaster himself, and this was taken at the UP Cineastes’ Haute Auteur Video event at the old Freedom Bar in 2013. Oddly enough, the creative team of Shift were there (because director Siege Ledesma had a short film in competition, and won) and they liked this number.

Cosmic Convergence (live)- Tarsius fear. Archaster from Martika Ramirez on Vimeo.

Of course, tonight, we will get to see the official music video for the song, by Marie Jamora and Jason McLagan, along with a video for “Association Dues” by Paolo Ruiz. The launch concert starts at 10 with a set by Modulogeek, another of my favorite electronic musicians. I look forward to seeing you there!

Track of the Week – Imago’s “Akap”

This morning, I revisited a recording a friend of mine from Germany made of part of a set by the band Imago in May of 2012. This was when Sazi’s (or Mayric’s) was about to close to make way for the building’s redevelopment into a dorm (and the location of the club is now a Pancake House). I was wondering which song she managed to capture on record, and the song was my track of the week.

Imago – Akap from Marie Jamora on Vimeo.

Of course, the occasion for revisiting this was the launch of Imago’s new record, the first since Aia de Leon left the band in 2013. In an interview they gave (which I hope to summarize elsewhere next week), Zach Lucero said that the record was closer in spirit to Imago’s Take 2 record from 2004, which was where “Akap” could be found. (Hence, I think it might safe to call the latest record a “reboot,” in the sense that the first album, which is very different from the rest, does not necessarily count.)  Sure enough, one of the bands playing that night chose the song for their Imago cover, and they did it pretty well, down to Aia’s iconic vocalization following the bridge.

The song has a very interesting take on the idea of commitment, and maybe that is why I found it quite moving lately. (This is because, in fact, I have been thinking of such things.) In fact, when trying to hear Monika’s recording of it this morning, I felt that the bus I was on was pretty dusty. Then again, it was a week for intensity in different ways, and I was tired, and I think it was all cathartic.

Actually, the room became dusty because the last track of a playlist I often hear on the road was a pop song I like. There were enough emotional associations with a series of notes I could hear that it did make me cry a bit. But I won’t discuss what song it was and who played it. That, dear reader, is my Unknown Track of the Week.

PLUG: Vandals on the Wall and Revolver presents Shiny Happy People, a gig to mark the site’s almost-first anniversary. It will be tomorrow night at Saguijo, starting at nine pm. I look forward to seeing you all there.