Music as it should be
One night last November, I went to see Franco play at 70s Bistro. I was prepared for the worst, the place being packed tighter than Edsa at rush hour. I would have settled for buying the album and heading home, but lady luck was on my side. I bought two EPs and paid the entrance fee.
I parked myself by the banisters at the back, clutching a bottle of beer. Bad Weather started its set and the folks at the table behind me offered me a seat so my lanky frame wouldn’t ruin their view of the stage. Even the people at the next table were persistently shooing away the people standing in their view. Eventually, when the Chongkeys took the stage, people rushed to the banisters and the poor folks at the tables resorted to getting up and staying on their feet. I resumed my place by the post.
It had been a while since I attended a gig. This was definitely something I couldn’t let pass. The Chongkeys are always a joy to watch—thumpingly driven by groovy vibes, bolstered by their bouncing percussionists and tireless frontmen. They sailed through with their playful lyrics and lively thrashing. The audience caught their vibe and bobbed along.
While we were waiting for Franco, a concert of Metallica was being projected. Later (during the following morning’s ride to work, while listening to the EP), I would associate Metallica as an early influence on Franco’s early days, evident in the heavy guitars and darker lyrics.
The Franco guys took to the stage with some shiny new guitars and did their sound check.
Leading from Poldo’s static-y grinding and Vic’s precise hammering, they kicked off with “Moonset.” The lines—“Will the next generation unite?/This is our time”—would do good for the new generation, with all the challenges that they face. Heavy riffs ushered in “To Survive,” honestly one of my favorites for its harshness and hopefulness all at the same time.
The video’s a real tearjerker. When it came out, I was really hoping to see it top the charts. For everything that it stands for, it deserved to be. Wishful thoughts, though. The soul-less mechanisms of commercialism and marketing ruthlessly ground on. Speaks heaps about most viewers and their sense of culture, eh?
Have you seen that absurd report about how dumb people gravitate toward rap and pop music, while the intellectual ones favor rock music? Not all true, I hope. Because there are some rare rappers and artists (for the lack of a better term) who come up with meaningful tracks. The report poses the notion that people with low intelligence favor rap and pop music because the content appeals to the lowest common denominator—stuff that’s easy to identify with and does not require much comprehension. It states that rock music, on the other hand, where each note is laboriously written line by line, necessitates much more comprehension to appreciate.
There are salient points, but the report is not something I completely agree with. Generalizing the entire audience of a genre based on the stupidity and lack of talent of those they revere is quite indefensible. Plus, I know of some rock acts that make as much sense as Justin Bieber.
Seeing Franco play is something that gives me hope—hope for the music industry, hope for creativity’s sake, and hope for the human spirit. And the people there that night shared those thoughts, too, I hope. We’re sick of talentless big-name artists, foreign or otherwise, that gain popularity (and consequently, a blind following) with songs of meaningless egotism, feces-like lyrics, shameful gimmicks, generic, commercially-made, mass-produced beats and samples, relying purely on brutal marketing and sensationalism. Absolutely sickening.
Ok, too much off-topic. Back to the gig.
The opening chords of “Seasons” threw everyone into a frenzy. Sweet. Succinct. Deliberate. Utterly awesome. Yes, a song can definitely be a thing of beauty. The guitars growled with their ragged riffs, and Franco’s voice gave every word in that song a near-transcendental feel. “Let’s go around the world/and forever stay in love”—plain words, yet overwhelmingly sincere.
“Castaway,” with the dreamy reverberations and immensely forceful chords, was nothing short of awesome. In a trance, we sang every line along with Franco’s mournful, lamenting voice. It’s one of those songs where you just close your eyes and let yourself be taken away. Truly a venerable gem at a time when all it takes to sell a record is fame and a false sense of prestige by advertising.
With an extended intro, the band launched into “Memorykill,” the melody of which sounds like something infinitely endearing. And I love that song even more for its thoughtful lyrics. It takes a certain kind of mind to write something as poetic as “Here’s a letter to your pride/hearts and souls divide/how can this be?”
The Franco guys played four songs out of the six that are on the EP through the course of their set, and everyone met each with sincere approval.
They whipped the crowd into a dizzying uproar when Franco strummed the somber intro to “Better Days,” which was followed by “Touch the Sky,” then “A Beautiful Diversion.” The subsequent auditory crashes shook the bistro like a train wreck. Definitely beautiful songs that appeal to the optimist in everyone. The best part was when every single soul shouted along to “hope for better days to coooooommmee!!!!”
For the last song, they played “Song for the Suspect.” A rhythmic, jarring violent exposition of freedom. A great cry of rebellion. A “No!” flung at mainstream thoughts. A denial of mass production. Each word sung by a voice so raw and unassuming, both harsh and soothing at the same time. Anger. Rage. Righteous anger.
After a great demand for an encore, they came back with “Next Train Out,” to great applause and gratitude.
May Jah bless you all. Thank you for making music that embodies our emotions.
These are songs with meaning. Not the unending lines of garbage and stupidities flooding the world. This is what music is supposed to be.
Kevin Manuel, 26, lives in Marikina City.