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Louder Than Sound

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I remember the time I fell in love with the local music scene.  I had enjoyed watching bands like Wolfgang, Sandwich, and Greyhoundz years before in high school but I had never actively sought out gigs or felt that hunger to listen to something new; until one day a friend called and asked me if I wanted to check out a punk band that she was managing at the time. It was a long way away.  At the time I was living in the south and I barely even knew how to get to Katipunan.  I contemplated not going. I thought about just staying in and playing video games, but eventually curiosity got a hold of me.  I was a huge NOFX and Bad Religion fan as a kid and I had missed watching a punk band.  So I went.  Later that night I found myself in KAFE watching Boy Elroy enjoying the crap out of myself. I was hooked.  It was the bar. It was the people.  It was the atmosphere.  Everyone was friendly, everyone was excited to be there, and no one felt out of place.  That was the start of it all.  A 13 year adventure through the highs and lows of the local independent scene that quite literally changed my life.  It was that moment when I fell in love with the community, and it was that moment when it embraced me in return. I picked up a camera and started shooting gigs, eventually falling in love with photography.  It was the music community that was there for me through the highs and the lows. From celebrating birthdays at a show with loved ones, to nursing a broken heart; it was always there. Every step of the way.  I made so many friends, and made so many memories.

And it all goes back to that one night when I decided to make the drive from Alabang to Katipunan.  Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone to that gig.  But then I realize I’m better not knowing.  That it was this music community that made me who I am today.

I am Carlo Casas, music photographer; and this is my Louder Than Sound Story.

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What’s up with 7107 IMF?

The 7107 International Music Festival is just around the corner and it seems that all the feedback coming out from it is just getting worse and worse.  I’ve kept most of my criticisms to myself (unless I drunkenly rant about it while I’m out) but I figure I need to just weigh in on this already.

From the get go, the festival has been basically mired in rumours of shady dealings and money laundering.  There were allegations that the Napoles’ were involved and were using their ill gotten wealth to fund/launder money through the festival.  These stemmed from some of the producers having business dealings with the Napoles’ in the past, and blew up from there.  Whether or not these allegations are true are still unconfirmed, but it doesn’t help that the Social Media arm of the 7107 IMF has been hellbent on flaming/blocking these critics.  A simple public statement and a little transparency would have been fine, but instead the organisers have taken on a very sensitive/defensive standpoint, arguing up and down twitter and generally causing a little bit of controversy.  All news is good news right? But they’re also receiving criticism for the delay it took to release the second day lineup, and the underwhelming response to it.

First of all, who starts selling tickets to an event when the lineup is barely half finished? That’s like selling you a sandwich and not telling you whats in it.  Nobody in their right mind would dream of doing it because it creates entirely too many problems in the future.  So why did they take so long to release the full lineup? It’s rumoured that the reason the second day line up announcement took so long is because they hadn’t even confirmed it yet. It seems that they were using sales from the first day to help fund the international acts for the second day, which to me just screams inexperience and bad business. The festival will probably have a decent amount of people there but I doubt it will reach the levels of “biggest festival EVAR” that they are expecting. Sure, no one forced these people to buy tickets, but because of insinuations from the organisers, people bought tickets expecting to be treated to a show worth the 8.5k-25k they spent for it and are no left with an underwhelming lineup that is nowhere near as exciting as was previously promised.  They pulled what is basically a bait and switch by posting lyrics of artists rumoured to perform such as Ellie Goulding, Skrillex, Jay Z, Kanye, Drake, etc. but then only announce Kendrick Lamar and there’s no mention of the “20 international artists” they have invited.  There’s a colossal amount of mistakes being made by the organisers and they’re doing nothing to assure people that the concert will be great, instead choosing to ban/block/flame any critics of the festival. Do people have a right to feel cheated? Its beginning to look that way, but what can they do? You can’t get a refund.  Why not?

Also, where are the sponsors? An event of this magnitude would at least be able to command large corporate sponsors but it seems no one wants to go near the festival. Why not?

Another interesting thing to note is where they’ve been promoting this festival. I’ve been driving up and down the NLEX and the SCTEX frequently these last few months and can tell you there is little to no mention of a festival taking place in their back yard. In fact, outside of social media, there’s virtually no physical promotions at all. Why not?

It’s a shame really because this really could be a great festival that would not only give Filipinos a great experience, but also give the local bands a chance to step into the international spotlight. I’d seriously love to be proven wrong here.

I for one won’t be attending this concert. 8.5k was a little out of my budget to see Red Hot Chili Peppers, and at 10k now with an incredibly underwhelming lineup, it’s not worth it at all.  Not to mention the amount you’d spend on lodging, gas, toll, parking etc etc.  I’m looking at the same expenses as a trip to Hong Kong.  No thanks.  My brother though is going, and I hope he, and all the rest of you have a great hassle free experience with no disappointments.

Life sucks. Suck it up.

Ok.  I’ve tried my damndest to refrain from posting about this all month but enough is fucking enough. GET THE FUCK OVER IT.  I for one am a massive Earthmover fan, voted for them, and would have loved it if they opened but hey, that’s just the way the contest worked.  Am I happy with the result? No.  Does it really matter in the long run? NO.  I’m watching Deftones.  I’m paying money to watch DEFTONES.  I’m not going to bitch because one of my favorite local acts didn’t get to open for QUESO who is opening for Deftones. Did I care when Pupil opened for NIN? Did I care when Turbo Goth opened for MXPX? Did I give a shit that Calli-fucking-lily opened for Paramore? Or Slapshock opening for The Deftones?

Not one goddamn bit.  Why? Because I was there to watch NIN, to see MXPX, to watch the Deftones.

It really does suck that the Earthmover guys didn’t win this contest and I know it would have meant a lot to them if they opened, but the sour graping and whining from their fans is reflecting badly on the band.  Seriously people, bashing Splintr is pointless and disrespectful because HEY THEYRE BRINGING DEFTONES HERE.  AGAIN.  FOR YOU.  I know for a fact these guys worked hard on the upcoming show and now people are pissed off at them? For what? Because of a fucking online contest? Admittedly, it wasn’t the best thought out contest in the world.  Yeah it was really there to generate site hits. But don’t the Splintr guys deserve some damn site traffic? These guys brought you Nine Inch Nails, and the Deftones, and are bring the Deftones back.  AGAIN.  FOR YOU.  Are you going to watch Deftones or not? If you aren’t happy with Philia opening the show then go outside and have a cigarette.  Shit happens.  Stop this “TRUE DESERVING WINNERS” bullshit because fact of the matter is, Philia won, and you’re making the Earthmover guys look like sore losers.  Suck it up and get over it.

OPM follow up.

There was gonna be a follow up post.  Something more directed at the outcry to the lack of mainstream support, which if you were paying attention isn’t something I mentioned the other day.

Then Twinky beat me to it.  Please read this article guys.  Twinky Lagdameo has been working behind the scenes with the labels and corporations, helping to continue to build support for artists from aspiring songwriters to signed bands.  She’s one person I respect and look up in terms of the business of making music.  She says things better than I ever could, and I encourage ALL OF YOU to read what she has to say.

IS OPM DEAD?

By Twinky Lagdameo of Radiorepublic.ph

OPM isn’t dead you idiot.

First and foremost, there are three things I get really, REALLY worked up about in conversations.  The first is my beloved Liverpool FC, the second is photography, and the third is music.  Specifically, local music.  I’ve been a part of this industry since early 2002 and I fucking HATE it when people tell me that OPM is dead. They state things about the massive machine that is K-POP and local revival pop music.  They tell me that record labels aren’t listening anymore.  They tell me that there’s no more mainstream support. Well fuck you; I’ve been a part of the music scene since 2002 and most of my drunken conversations with friends, musicians and fellow music lovers have always ended up at the state of OPM; and let me tell you something.  None of us think it’s even CLOSE to being dead.
Yeah losing NU107 hurt.  Musicians now have no real outlet to get good exposure for their music right?  Wrong. You have the internet.  You all have what all of your heroes of your teen angst years didn’t: The world at your fingertips. Share your music on social media.  You have things like Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter.  USE IT.  Don’t sit there and complain that OPM is dead because no one came to your gig in Guijo that you didn’t really promote. Have you ever sat in the middle of a mall handing out hand drawn flyers to a gig you’re playing at in Rock Radio later that day? Have you ever spent the day burning CDs and sticking on photocopied labels that you plan to sell for 50 bucks outside KAFE? Have you ever stood up in the middle of class to announce to your batchmates that your band is playing at Mayrics later? Put the hard work in and the success will follow.  It’s not like Urbandub landed in Manila with a record deal in hand. They worked hard in Cebu, then worked harder in Manila, and even then, it took 3 albums before labels took notice.  Your heroes went through what you’re going through now.  If you call it quits after barely a year, then all you’re doing is contributing to the stigma that OPM is a joke.
If you think OPM is dead because of the whims of record labels, revival songs, pop acts and K-POP then you’re part of the problem. OPM is NOT dead. OPM has ALWAYS been here. OPM is NOT going anywhere. OPM is NOT defined by what’s on TV, by what’s selling in record stores, by what’s playing on the radio (especially in this NU-less age).  OPM is defined by Filipino musicians making ORIGINAL PINOY MUSIC.  If your idea of OPM is whats being displayed on mainstream media, then obviously you haven’t been LISTENING for the last two decades.
Francis M, Wolfgang, Razorback, POT, GreyHoundz, Slapshock, Queso, Kamikazee, Parokya ni Edgar, Sandwich, Rivermaya, Twisted Halo, Kjwan, Chicosci, Urbandub, Radioactive Sago Project, Cambio, Sugarfree, Bamboo, Kapatid, Spongecola, Imago, Dictalicense, Faspitch, Ambassadors, Taken By Cars, Up Dharma Down, Hilera, Cog, The Out of Body Special, Jejaview, Sirens, The Butchercons, Pupil, Archipelago, Pitik, Salamin, The Wilderness, Ang Bandang Shirley, Twin Lobster, Outerhope, Pedicab, Peso Movement, Yolanda Moon, Curbside, Earthmover, and COUNTLESS more.
TELL ME AGAIN HOW OPM IS DEAD?
EDITYou know, people need to realize that my rant is directed at those that say OPM is dead and not the author of the Philstar Article. I’d rather anyone who reads my blog NOT use it as a launching point of attacks against Don Jaucian. I only linked him because he was the latest in a long line of people that have continuously said that OPM is dead. The rest of my rant doesn’t even discuss what he says in his article. His article is more on the record label side of things. Do I have issues with things that were written? Yes, and I have my own opinions on that subject, but that’s a completely different topic of conversation.My rant is basically an answer to all of those who tell me that OPM is dead. Because it’s not dead. It’s staring at you in the face.

Photo Pit Etiquette

I know, it’s been a month.  I really should update this more, at the very least blog weekly.

There are three things I get really REALLY passionate about nowadays.  The first is Football (specifically my beloved Liverpool), the second and third are two things that have been a part of me for the last 10 years: Music and Photography. I’ve been shooting concerts both local and international for the better part of the last 9 years and I remember back when I first started it was literally me and maybe one or two kids taking pictures at the various concerts all over the city.  The widespread availability of DSLRs and the improving quality of cellphone cameras have pretty much opened the floodgates for every aspiring photographer out there, which is awesome and has produced some amazing photographers (Oh hello Nina, I know you’re reading this :D); but there is a certain etiquette that people really SHOULD follow. I hate to sound like a crusty old fart, but seriously, there is some shit that goes on in photo pits that really pisses me off. I’m not talking about the kids with their cellphones high in the air recording everything their favorite singer does, because that’s just fans being fans; I’m talking about YOU.  Yes YOU.  That asshole in the photo pit with his brand new 28-70 bursting a goddamn speedlite in the singers face every 6 seconds.  Yes.  YOU. This is for you.

FIVE Rules Of The Photo Pit

1) GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SHOT

Nobody likes the pushy asshole in the photo pit that stands in everyones line of sight and blocks their shots. Just because you have a lanyard around your neck that says “PRESS” or “PHOTOGRAPHER” this does not mean you have a right to stand up straight and tall in the very front of the pit with no regard to the shots of the other photographers around you and most importantly: TO THE FANS behind you. Those fans paid good money to watch their favorite performer and they’re going to be fucking livid if they’ve got your big ass head leaning on the monitors waving your goddamn 85 Prime in the singers faces.  Crouch down.  Get out of their way.  Or pop up real fast, snap of a few shots then crouch down again while you review.  DON’T FUCKING REVIEW YOUR SHOTS WHILE STANDING UP IN THE VERY FRONT.  It makes you look like an even bigger douchebag.  If the pit is crowded, shoot and move so other photographers can get a good angle too. If someone asks if you can step to the side for a bit, don’t sneer and throw a hissy fit, it makes you look like a bitch.

In fact, as a concert photographer why the hell would you stand still anyway?  If you’re going to stand in a pit for 2 hours and take 500 pictures from exactly the same angle then you should just sell your camera because obviously you’re an idiot.

2) RESPECT THE EQUIPMENT

Repeat after me: THE MONITORS ARE NOT YOUR TRIPOD.  Foreign acts in particular can be pretty anal about their sound on stage (and with good reason) so if you start leaning on the monitors and tripping over wires screwing up the sounds then they’re going to get fucking pissed.  Also, you’re fat and you might break that shit.  As much as possible DON’T lean on the gear.  If you have to lean on a monitor, do it gently and do it fast then move again (see point 1)  DON’T grab a mic stand and push it out of the way of your shot while the band is singing you massive tit.  AND DONT STAND ON THE FUCKING AMPS.

3) IF YOU DONT HAVE TO BE IN THE PIT THEN GET THE FUCK OUT

Look, I hate to sound like a bit of a snob here but some of you people have no right being in a photo pit.  I’m talking about the girl that sneaks in with her DSLR.  I’m talking about the idiots who stand in there just to watch.  It’s a photo pit.  Not the front fucking row of a Beiber concert.  I don’t care if your pass says “JOURNALIST”, if you aren’t taking pictures then clear the area.  You’re taking up space and blocking peoples view.  Just last week I saw a writer in the photo pit doing nothing except standing there singing. Sorry what? If you just want to watch, get in the crowd like everyone else.  You don’t need to be in the freaking front blocking the view of the paying crowd.  What are you going to do? Set your laptop up on a monitor and start writing in the middle of the show? GET OUT. It’s already crowded in here because of the douchebags standing in everyones shot and you’re just making it worse.

4) FOR THE LOVE OF GOD FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY IS BAD

Now I’m not knocking the idea of using an external flash, I use it all the time in small events; but please god be mindful of who you’re blinding.  DON’T aim that shit straight at the band.  How do you expect the singer dancing around stage to keep balance when he’s got a 580EX going off in his face every 10 seconds? It’s disrespectful.  Actually, as much as possible don’t use a flash in the first place if you’re standing that close.  I know I know, some venues allow it, but let me tell you its not fun to be performing then all of a sudden go half blind.  Generally larger events will ban flash photography, but you’re always going to get that douchebag who disregards the rules.  Because people are fucking stupid.

5) A PRESS PASS IS NOT A TICKET TO ACT LIKE A DICKHEAD

Just because that pass around your neck says PRESS, it doesn’t mean you get to act like you own the place. Drill one thing into your head: it is a PRIVILEGE for you to be in this pit.  You are here for FREE.  You may even be getting PAID to be in there.  This does not make you better than everyone else.  I’ve seen photographers get mad at bouncers, stage hands, roadies etc all because someone told them to get out of the area.  YOU are not contributing to the show, they are.  Listen to them and do what they say.  Remember this: THE BAND IS THERE FOR THE FANS, NOT FOR YOU OR YOUR GODDAMN PORTFOLIO.

On a side note (and I realize what I’m about to say is hilarious coming from me), I kinda wish more people would stop taking pictures of gigs and just sit and enjoy the music.  I know, everyone loves to take pictures of their favorite bands, or videos of their favorite songs.  It’s a part of us and I completely understand it; that’s how I started shooting in the first place.  I just wish some people realize that they don’t HAVE to be shooting the whole time.  There’s nothing wrong with putting your camera away and just simply LISTENING once in a while.  I realized early on that if I focused more on shooting, I felt like I would miss out on half of the emotions that made me love the music in the first place.

I read a story about Adam Lazzarra of Taking Back Sunday while we were preparing for their show here back in April.  Apparently he walked into the crowd in Orlando and told them “Let’s the cut the middleman out, put the cameras down. Why have a screen between you and me? I am right here. I am right here.”

It’s something to consider the next time you watch a show.

On Cynthia Alexander and OPM

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I still remember my first Cynthia Alexander set.  It was around 2003 while I was working as a bartender in Sanctum*Unmasct.  It was a small, quiet, intimate set.  The kind of set where you just lose yourself in the darkness and the music.  Where everything just stops and you’re focused on this woman and her sounds. I think I fell in love with Cynthia’s music on that day.  I had heard her music earlier that year while working at Rock Radio Cafe, but being able to experience her songs in a setting like that threw me over the edge.  I watched her many times since then, but the magic of that first time will forever stay with me.

That’s why it bothers me so much to hear that she’s packing up and moving to Seattle.  To think that the Philippines is losing one of it’s most talented musical geniuses due to a lack of support doesn’t just make me sad.  It angers me too.

I’m angry because of the frustrating lack of support given to local artists.  I’m angry that we spout all this Pinoy Pride nonsense for people overseas while we can’t even take pride in our local artists.  I’m angry that we’ve taken one of our most incredible musicians for granted.

It’s all well and good to get excited over foreign acts coming here.  Hell I get excited all the time.  This year alone has seen a massive amount of concerts from Death Cab for Cutie to Lady Gaga.  From Taking Back Sunday to The Backstreet Boys, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Just don’t forget the artists locally who are doing the same thing with the same amount of talent and passion.  It’s fine to be proud of singers like Jessica Sanchez.  We’re proud of her because she’s tied to us by blood, but in the process of cheering on those overseas, we’re neglecting those at home.

I feel like people don’t realize how hard local musicians work at their craft.  Many of them have day jobs, some even more than one; yet they all manage to find the time and the energy to craft some of the most amazing songs you’ve ever heard.  The Filipino music scene has been touted as one of the best in South East Asia.  Musicians from Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, etc all look at the talent and venues here with awe and a tinge of jealousy.  No other country in the region has such an abundance of constant gigs.  My friends based out of Singapore will tell you that a good month for them is about 2-3 gigs in a month.  And that’s if they get lucky.  Here, we’re spoiled with shows almost every night of the week and the talent of local musicians is through the roof.  Yet where is the crowd support?  What happened to the surging crowds at Saguijo, eager to catch the new band they heard about from their friends?  What happened to the excitement of hearing songs on the radio that your friends performed in Freedom Bar the week earlier?  What happened to passing by Mayrics before heading home to check out who’s playing that night?

We got spoiled.

With so many bands and so many venues, I feel (and I’m guilty of this too) that we, as music lovers; were spoiled for choice.  For so many years we knew that on any given night we could go out to Saguijo or Freedom Bar or Club Dredd or Mayrics or any one of the numerous bars in the city and KNOW that we’d see a good show.  For so many years we said “nah, I’ll just watch em the next time.”  How many times have we said that about artists like Cynthia Alexander? Too many.  And now there isn’t going to be a next time for Cynthia after this month.

Her migration should send a message to every single music lover here in the Philippines and that message is clear: Support your OPM artists.  I’m not saying that no one supports them anymore. There’s still a large fanbase here, but with the demise of NU107 it’s become harder and harder for bands to get their music to the crowds.  Really, the only way they can is through social media and gigs.  So go to the gigs.  Support the artists.  Pay the entrance fee, pay the bands, and make them feel appreciated.  Let them know that we do care, and that we do support them and that they CAN make a living here doing what they love without resorting to Adele covers while suspended in mid-air.  Watch a new band once in a while.  Explore.  Appreciate.  Enjoy.  Fall in love.

Let’s support our Cynthia Alexander’s just as passionately as we support our Jessica Sanchez’s. Let’s show our local artists the support they deserve.  Let’s find an answer to the question posed by Francis Brew:

“Does Cynthia need to go abroad and “make it” before WE wave the flag for HER?”

And let’s make sure that the answer is NO.

Support OPM.