Joey 'Pepe' Smith, family gather for rockfest

Rick Olivares

Posted at May 20 2018 10:45 PM

(From left) Pearl Lleno, Pepe Smith's road manager; promoter Arnie Sison; Joey "Pepe" Smith, Queenie Smith; and Richard Esquejo from Drive Train, the Pinoy rock icon's band. Photo provided by author

MANILA -- Queenie Smith settled down next to this long-haired rocker who despite his age looks spry and ready to hit the stage.

Queenie’s father is none other than Joey “Pepe” Smith, the legendary Pinoy rock icon. Along with Pepe’s other son, Bebop, the Smiths have gathered at The Woodman’s Head bar in Barangay Poblacion, Makati, for the press conference for the upcoming Pepe Smith Rockfest on June 2 at the Amoranto Stadium. 

The Pepe Smith Rockfest is an ambitious show, one that harkens back to the 1970s and '80s when festivals similar to the fabled Woodstock concert were normal and lasted for a day or more. Over 74 bands have confirmed to participate in what is touted to be the biggest outdoor concert in the country since the '80s. 

“I hope people will come out for the show,” Queenie, who is the eldest of Smith’s five children, said. “I am not sure how long my father can continue performing.” 

The daughter is greatly looking forward to share the same stage as her father. “When I was about four or five years old, I’d be backstage playing one of those portable video games,” she recalled with a smile at a happy memory. “I didn’t know what my father did for a living and I’d just walk on to the stage to ask him for some coins to buy some snacks or even to play more video games.”

“It was when I got to my teen years that I realized my dad was a rock star and I was a really cool moment. I am my father’s daughter so I followed in his footsteps by performing in a rock band.”

Queenie Smith. Photo provided by author

Like her father during the early days of his career when he was performing in Japan, Queenie got her break living and playing mostly in Southeast Asia. 

“It was in Thailand where I stayed the longest – for over six years,” she said. “I also stayed Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Papua New Guinea. But the musical scene was also different. It was hard being a rocker chick so I had to switch to more Top 40-oriented songs. But if you ask me, I want to stay true to my roots – rock and roll.”

And she’ll get another chance at it when she also performs in the Rockfest.

“Papa is getting in on the years,” she said while casting a loving eye on her father. “Personally, I am worried for him. I have these songs I have written; some at a younger stage of my life and career, some newer. I’d love for it to happen that we all perform and record as a family. Papa might have difficulty singing since the stroke but he can sing a few lines or deliver it ala spoken word like Patti Smith. He can play the drums. Bebop can sing and play the guitar too. All I know is – it would be great.”

“My dad is getting in on the years so I want to share the stage and the music with him because this also gave me a career and a means to earn a living.”

Queenie also divulged that there is talk about her father recording a new album, as well as reviving the reality show of the Smith family as an online series. 

Pepe’s last album was in 2005 when he released "Idiosyncrasies." Previously, he sang in Tropical Depression’s reggae-fied and inspired version of “Ang Himig Natin” along with Junior Kilat in the 2004 compilation album, "Island Riddims." 

“Given my dad isn’t 100%, timing for a new album is critical,” said Queenie. “It would be nice to have new songs for a new generation of fans.”

“As for the reality show, if it happens, I think the individual stories are more compelling now than before,” underscored the daughter. “Not only for Papa, Bebop, and myself but even my other siblings like Sanya (who has made a name for herself as a DJ), Desiderata, and Delta.”

But why a reality show when the scrutiny on the petri dish that is social media can be harsh? 

“There is a perception that if you’re a rakista, you’re like this and like that. That isn’t necessarily true. You don’t need to be a musician to get into trouble. We want to show the good side too. One that can also be a legacy.”

“And it all starts and ends with the music. And the Pepe Smith Rockfest is a chance for those who have not seen my father perform. He might be removed from his best days, but he lives to perform so along with the other bands, we hope to put out a really great show.”