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The ’90s: A music memoir (1)

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If the 1970s were considered the first golden age of contemporary Filipino music, was there a second one?

Yes, there was, but first, here’s the backstory.

In the ’80s, there wasn’t much excitement because live music was dead. For musicians to thrive, they need venues to play in, and for many years, especially the mid-to-late ’80s, there was hardly any live music scene.

But there was Mayric’s.

A plain-looking eatery on España Street across the University of Santo Tomas, Mayric’s turned into a “folk house” by night where musicians played folk music.

(from left, clockwise): Tropical Depression at Club Dredd Cubao, Wency Cornejo of After Image and The Eraserheads. / Photographs courtesy of Eddie boy Escudero

It didn’t take long before Mayric’s manager Burt Chavez, who was also one of the regular performers, started booking bands.

Soon, people were flocking to Mayric’s to catch two groups: Cocojam, which played reggae; and The Jerks, which originally formed in the late ’70s as a punk rock band.

Red Rocks/Club Dredd
And then Red Rocks opened in 1990. A dream venture of friends from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Red Rocks was a bar on Scout Tobias Street in Timog Avenue, Quezon City, with a small space upstairs for live gigs.

Among its early batch of performers were Binky Lampano, Advent Call, Color It Red, Joey Ayala, a lot of punk and new wave bands and an unknown quartet called The Eraserheads.
Red Rocks struggled for a few years and was later renamed Club Dredd with new business partners.

One afternoon, record producer Ed Formoso, who was also then running radio station LA 105, gathered his team (including me) to meet at Club Dredd. As it turned out, he had scheduled The Eraserheads to play a few songs as an informal audition for executives of BMG Records.

Color It Red at Club Dredd Cubao.

The band was then known for playing lousily but had a bunch of promising original songs. The record label bosses seemed unimpressed, but were banking on the word of Formoso that this would be the next big hit.

And what would you guys wear when it’s time to promote your album, asked Buddy Medina, who was then BGM managing director.

“Ganito (like this),” Ely Buendia said, looking over his white T-shirt and blue jeans attire.

Rizal Underground at Mayric’s (from left) Mike Villegas, Stephen Lu, Jay Dimalanta and, behind on drums, Harley Alarcon.

By the time The Eraserheads’ debut album was released, Club Dredd had moved to Edsa Cubao near P. Tuason.

’70s Bistro
Another bar, ’70s Bistro, opened in 1992. A bungalow on Anonas street in Project 2, Quezon City, that was converted into a folk hippie joint, ’70s Bistro presented the likes of Gary Granada, Ang Grupong Pendong, Noel Cabangon (sometimes with his then band Buklod), Jess Santiago, Joey Ayala, Yano and, soon after his release from jail, Joey “Pepe” Smith.

Karl Roy of Advent Call

Just a year later, the owners of ’70s Bistro, mostly alumni from UP, mounted “Bistro sa Amoranto: Tugtugan Pamorningan” — a 12-hour concert at the Amoranto Stadium that showcased all of Bistro’s artists performing an all-original repertoire.

Pinoy music entered its second golden age.

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