MANILA -- “Game.”
With that one word from vocalist and guitarist Ely Buendia, the Eraserheads – guitarist Marcus Adoro, drummer Raymund Marasigan, and bassist Buddy Zabala – began their first rehearsal for their upcoming "Huling El Bimbo" concert at the SMDC Festival Grounds slated for December 22.
There were rough patches. A couple of their hits needed extra takes. Not because they forgot the chords, but more because there are slight modifications to the way they were first recorded and performed. After all, the songs were mostly recorded close to three decades ago when they were different musicians; whereas today, they are not only seasoned veterans but more learned and involved not only in performance but in music production.
Not to mention far different from the t-shirts, jeans, and rubber shoes they espoused back in the day.
Adoro came in what can be described as hunting gear – camouflage pants, a jacket, and a red baseball cap. Buendia wore a sports jacket. Marasigan had this Roland Orzabal look (circa their “Elemental” album), while Zabala was decked in smart casual attire.
The rehearsal was held at the Dolphy Theater inside the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City. By the time they hit their fifth song, laughter rang out and there were broad smiles everywhere.
Truly, the late King of Comedy had sprinkled some stardust into this rehearsal that while intimate, started off all business.
There were jokes. Including ad libs, especially when Buendia sang the famous chorus of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
As someone who saw the Eraserheads before they signed to BMG and and were still students at the University of the Philippines, and someone who saw them later during album launches and shows to promote their various albums, I can say that I had come close to seeing them at multiple stages of their career. Close because I missed their second reunion in 2009 as I was abroad.
The Dolphy Theater, of course, isn’t Club Dredd or even the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, but this is a close and personal, behind-the scenes-look at the biggest and most influential Philippine rock band of all time.
I have been to rehearsals for Marasigan and Zabala’s Ultracombo where they perform the old hits. And that sent me back to the '90s at the old Club Dredd and Mayric’s among others.
This one at the Dolphy Theater -- it’s magic, rough patches and all. It was only a rehearsal and I, along with Darwin Hernandez of Soupstar Entertainment (who manages Marasigan and Zabala), had to restrain ourselves from applauding.
And it turns out, Hernandez and I aren’t the only ones who are fans.
"Huling El Bimbo" concert promoter Francis Lumen, who as a music man and a fan is associated with the late great City Lite 88.3 and MTV Philippines, waxed nostalgic during the rehearsal.
“When the Eraserheads were getting popular, I was in the US. When I returned, I heard more about them and listened to their songs,” related Lumen. “I knew they would do well because the songs they sing are part of growing up. When your songs are relevant, you have won 50% of the heart’s listeners. So yes, I have been a fan.”
“Because the government has allowed live performances, this is the perfect time to go back to live concerts. And this was a natural choice.”
Continued Lumen: “When I reached out to the band, they agreed it was a great time to do this. I expected the tickets to sell out. When I looked at the musical 'Huling El Bimbo' they had more than 200,000 Gen Z and millennials watching the show. I thought they knew the songs but haven’t seen them live. So this could be that opportunity. That is why there were a lot of young buyers.”
Added Lumen about the upcoming show: “The very first number will be a continuation of past history. When they did The Final Set (the first reunion show post-break-up), they were supposed to do a duet with Francis Magalona but he passed away before the show. Through modern technology, we will be able to get Francis M in hologram form to perform with the band. Plus, there will be fireworks and a live orchestra. It will be a concert, an event to remember.”
It’s just the rehearsal and it’s already memorable.