Concert recap: OPM in good hands with Ben&Ben, Clara Benin

Joko Magalong-De Veyra

Posted at Oct 15 2018 06:52 AM

It was a weekend brimming with indie music in Manila as two Karpos Live events were held on October 6 and 7 at the ABS-CBN Vertis Tent in Quezon City.

Saturday night featured an all-local line-up. Entering the venue, we were greeted by a huge crowd -- the biggest it’s been compared to any Karpos Mix Live show, so far.

Front act Munimuni started the night on a soulful note, fusing the vocalist’s melancholic voice with music that’s evocative of sentimental moments, especially in painful songs like "Sa Hindi Pag-alala," "Sa’yo," and "Tahanan," among others.

Clara Benin. Photo by Joy Rodriguez

Before writing this article, someone told me that Clara Benin suffered some technical difficulties during her set. From where this author was standing, these weren’t very noticeable, and Benin, to her credit, didn’t look flustered at any point.

While Benin’s music, dubbed as “coffee shop music” might not be at first thought suited for the large (and packed) venue, she owned the stage with her trademark voice and just guitars (and the occasional piano).

Starting the set with her father Joey Benin was a poignant moment, and she found her footing in songs like "Momentary," "Blameless," and "Aliens." Her performance of "Aliens" was a favorite moment, with Benin’s voice driving and whispering the lyrics, paired with haunting synths.

Her performance of "Riverchild" as it transitioned to a quiet song with just guitars and her voice, to a full-blown powerful song with drums and electric guitars, was seamless and as fluid as the interpretative dancer’s performance during the song.

A dancer joins Clara Benin in 'Riverchild.' Photo by Joy Rodriguez

Her set picked up in both pace and energy with the full band set-up, as Benin launched into songs like "Human Eyes," and the jazz-infused song, "Parallel Universe."

Before her last song, Benin talked to the crowd. “It’s about being in the present, and whenever you’re going through, it’s about getting something out from that moment, because that’s what life is… life is a moment,” said Benin before performing "Wrestle."

Ben & Ben

Ben & Ben was perhaps one of the most anticipated local acts to grace the Karpos Live stage, if one judges from the sheer volume of screams that welcomed this 9-piece band onto the stage.

Paolo and Miguel Guico of Ben&Ben. Photo by Joy Rodriguez

Vocalists Paolo and Miguel Guico had the crowd at the palms of their hands from the first “Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat!” greeting, as they launched into their set guns blazing with their recently released track "Sunrise."

All throughout the night, the crowd and the band’s energy never wavered.

In true Filipino fashion, the audience sang along to most of the band’s released songs, especially in their most popular tracks
"Kathang Isip" and "Maybe the Night," while new songs "Mitsa," "Ours," "Godsent," and their last song of the night, "Fall," were also shown a lot of love by the crowd.

Audience participation was encouraged with repeated instructions to either clap their hands, jump up and down, or raise their cellphones up in the air, to which the crowd readily obliged to.

Ben&Ben were obviously having fun performing for the crowd. Photo by Joy Rodriguez

Not having fun wasn’t an option, as their set was filled with funny quips not only from the vocalists but also from other members of the band. Percussionist Andrew De Pano made quite the impression introducing their song "Susi," which was recently featured in the movie, "Goyo," as well as his "corny" jokes.

Not to say that the rest of the band didn’t get their time in the spotlight with the Guicos leading the crowd in cheering for their band members, whether it was percussions (Toni Munoz) and tambourine and piano (Pat Lasaten) on "Sunrise," violin (Keifer Cabugao) and guitars (Poch Barretto) on their APO-esque song, "Bibingka," or bass (Agnes Reoma) and drums (Jam Villanueva) in one of their encore songs, "Ride Home."

Songs were sung with gusto and feeling, and at a certain point in their song "Tinatangi," I had definite Of Monsters & Men live vibes -- just beautiful folk-pop live music.

That said, one of the best moments of the night was Ben&Ben’s duet with Clara Benin on the Sugarfree classic, "Burnout." Poignant and painful.

Ben&Ben and Clara Benin join forces for a cover of 'Burnout.' Photo by Joy Rodriguez

Perhaps what this author liked most about the set was the obvious fun that the whole band was having on stage. If you looked closely at any members of the band at any point during the show, you would see each of them singing their songs, and smiling at the adoring crowd.

Time flew fast in their set, as it does when you’re having fun. OPM folk-pop is in good hands.