Playback Music Festival: a retrospective
Local festival organizers have realized the value of time machines and brought together acts from past decades in one event.
MANILA, Philippines – Naysayers will beg to differ, but the period from the early 1990s to the early 2000s is considered a golden era for music – here and abroad. It’s the decade alternative rock was born, boybands became a phenomenon, playing acoustic allowed artists to go places, and a interest in R ‘n B was renewed.
We could go all day and all night naming all the great bands from that era, but let’s stick to the ones that triggered fits of nostalgia and throwback posts at the first ever Playback Music Fest.
The festival was held at the Circuit Grounds in Makati. The weather was cooperative – it was cool enough to be comfortable, without a trace of rain.
The venue was divided into sections, and the more expensive tickets included actual seats, which is a good thing if you’re expecting an older crowd to attend your event.
First to perform was MYMP. MYMP’s success peaked in the first half of the 2000s, with Juris Fernandez and Chin Alcantara bringing new flavor to popular ballads and recording one acoustic cover after another. Its known original hit is "A Little Bit."
MYMP has had several line-up changes, and it’s the latest reincarnation – with Jana Laraza as vocalist – that took center stage at the festival. MYMP’s set was a trip down memory lane nevertheless, with covers of ‘80s smash duet "Especially for You" and "Tell Me Where it Hurts," which was originally sung by Kathy Trocolli.
Next on stage was Moonstar88, which started in 1999, when founding member and guitarist Herbert Hernandez was still in college. The band started gaining public exposure in gigs at places like Mayric’s, a hole-in-the-wall music club along España Blvd. in Manila that was a popular spot for discovering unsigned yet promising rock acts back then.
Moonstar88 opened its set with" Migraine." "Itulog Mo Na Yan," a song that was released only last year, was also part of the set; as well as "Torete," a timeless love ditty from the band’s debut album Popcorn and which afforded Moonstar88 mainstream acceptance back when Acel Bisda was still the band’s vocalist.
Maysh Baay, who has been Moonstar88’s vocalist since 2004, was a ball of energy as she sauntered on stage and beautifully sang the band’s most loved hits. She was a vision with her svelte figure, which incidentally won her an award at a fitness competition very recently.
The newest – but arguably most experienced – member of the band is Buddy Zabala, who is also the bassist for the iconic ‘90s rock band the Eraserheads. Moonstar88 did a cover of the ‘Heads' "Ang Huling El Bimbo" during its set.
The last homegrown act to perform was Rivermaya, which was the Eraserheads’ closest rival in the ‘90s Pinoy alternative rock music scene. Both bands popularized songs that echoed the experiences and sentiments of the young people – their listeners – at the time.
Like many other bands, Rivermaya has undergone several lineup changes over the years. Founding member and bassist Nathan Azarcon reunited with the band after 15 years in 2016. Another founding member, Mark Escueta, has traded his drum duties in favor of playing guitar, and Ryan Peralta, who was once a sessionist, is now the band’s official drummer. Mike Elgar has been the band’s guitarist since 2001. They released a new album, Sa Kabila Ng Lahat, last year.
Since Playback is supposedly a retrospective kind of event, however, the band performed some of its biggest but oldest hits such as "Kisapmata," which dates back to 1996; and "Awit ng Kabataan," a track from Rivermaya’s eponymous debut album.
Rivermaya doesn’t have a designated frontman; Azarcon, Escueta and Elgar alternate and support one another on the mic. Two years into this solid lineup however, it appears that they have learned which song suits which member best and are able to deliver.
While Azarcon does a swell job at voicing a few of Rivermaya’s songs in the new album, Elgar, in particular, was the star of their Playback Music Fest set – hitting all his notes flawlessly all the while being one mean guitarist.
Stephen Speaks was the first foreign act to perform. Mathew, a keyboardist, and Paul, a saxophonist who is half-Filipino, accompanied singer-songwriter Rockwell Ryan Ripperger on stage. Among the songs Ripperger sang were "All These Things" and "Cold Feet," a song that, according to him, something he wrote when he was still having cold feet over pursuing his wife.
"Out of My League" is arguably Stephen Speaks’ most touching song, and for some, listening to it being performed live could easily be one of the most moving moments from the entire music fest. The melodic piano accompaniment is even more beautiful live and Ripperger sings the lyrics with such emotion and intensity, it’s hard not to get carried away.
“You know I won't disappoint you," Ripperger said before striking his guitar to play "Passenger Seat," one of Stephen Speaks’ most popular hits.
Sixpence None the Richer’s Leigh Nash kicked off her set with a cover of the Cranberries’ "Dreams" as a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, whom she considers as one of her inspirations when she was starting out as a musician.
“I hate that Dolores is gone,” Nash said.
There was a momentary hush when she said that, but Nash’s sunny persona shone through, as bright as the colorful printed frock she wore.
She took the opportunity to play her songs as a solo artist, even the songs that were more country than pop – wearing a cowboy hat while performing. How cute!
Fans gushed when she sang "Need to Be Next to You;" and cheered loudly with "There She Goes," which is actually a cover but is more popular than the original. The most awaited song of all, of course, was "Kiss Me," Sixpence None the Richer’s breakthrough single which Nas sang to close the set.
Next was Vertical Horizon, an American alternative rock band formed in 1991 but only gained attention on air in the latter part of that decade.
Frontman Matt Scannell is the only current band member who was also part of the band’s original lineup but it didn’t matter. Vertical Horizon delivered a tight set. During its set at Playback, the band played "We Are," its first ever single from the groundbreaking album Everything You Want; and "Everything You Want," the band’s first chart-topping single that also brought them instant fame.
The festival coincided with Scannell’s birthday, and the event’s organizers gave him a birthday cake to blow on stage.
The band’s performance of "The Best I Ever" Had was a crowd pleaser, as well as that of "I’m Still Here." The crown sang along to all the hits. Vertical Horizon concluded the set with "You’re a God."
Blue reminded everyone why boybands were so popular. Their voices were golden; their bodies, divine. They ooze with charisma and dance like thieves in the night.
The group’s members – Antony Costa, Duncan James, Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe – made the ladies swoon with their voices and choreographed moves. Ryan and Webbe stood out as singers and Costa and James could have thrown them off their pedestal had there been enough working microphones to go around. James was evidently flustered at one point, and even approached the tech guys on stage, presumably to ask for a microphone that would give justice to his performance.
Song and dance numbers are a thing for boybands, and Blue’s members proved that they still knew their moves all throughout, crooning and moving to hits like "One Love," "All Rise," "If You Come Back," and "Guilty." They winded down a bit when they sang "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word," an Elton John cover.
Technical issues, aside, Playback Music Fest was a huge success, and something that could be music enthusiasts could look forward to as an annual tradition to reignite past musical loves. – Rappler.com