The event held at Teatrino Greenhills on Friday night, August 28, was more of an intimate get-together than anything. Yes it was a concert, a party if you will, celebrating Sponge Cola’s double EP (Sinag and Tala) launch, but within a relatively small venue – an intimate feel that many concert goers seek.
It wasn't your typical Sponge Cola set; I’ve done my research and these guys have been around the block. That night, the electric guitars were left behind, and the band opted for acoustic instruments.
If you live in the Philippines and follow music at all, these guys are household names, with extensive radio play over the years – nearly everyone has heard of this band. Beginning over a decade ago, Yael Yuzon the lead vocalist and Gosh Dilay on bass guitar were later joined by Armo Armovit on lead guitar. They've since produced a steady stream of well crafted music, first with Chris Cantada on drums, then with Tmac Cruz.
Sitting in for the evening, was their former drummer Chris, but he wasn’t banging the buckets tonight; that's now the realm of Tmac on percussion.
Chris performed on acoustic guitar, with the skill and ease of a master. Multi-instrumentalists always impress me – he also plays keyboards – and walking and chewing gum is the only thing I can do at the same time.
Generally, a former bandmate wouldn’t be sitting in on a set; typically the relationship ends on a rocky shore, not sipping margaritas on a white sandy beach. This gives great insight to the psyche of the band. It was refreshing to see everyone getting along, and getting along in an impressive musical fashion. It was shockingly opposite of what you often experience in most of today's music scene – these guys have stayed together for a considerable time now, and are now really hitting their stride.
The music is refined, well thought-out, and just downright good, with a loyal fan base that knows this to be true. They’ve performed out of the country on a few occasions and even at Memphis in May in the States, adding to an impressive line entry to their already extensive resume.
There was a boominess to music – well-rounded, yet well-balanced – and it resonated in fullness throughout the venue itself on the night of the EP launch. There wasn't a bad seat in the house. But what made a bigger impact on me was the nature of the relationship of the bandmates, it was palpable, not only when they interacted with each other between songs, but during the songs themselves.
Everyone played with confidence, and there was a comfortable laid-back feel on stage for the entire show. Yael exhibited a masterful stage presence, whether on vocals or in the casual way he addressed the crowd. Most of the stories were humorous, but also relayed tidbits of the band's history or background information of the songs. ([WATCH] Rappler Live Jam: Sponge Cola)
He spoke modestly of the group, and himself, sometimes even in a self-deprecating fashion, joking about his choice of a scarf as part of his attire. Sometimes, he'd even catch himself rambling on a train of thought, then apologizing for getting so far off track, before going back to the music. But that was part of the appeal. Most bands these days don’t invest half the amount of time addressing the crowd as these guys did – with a relatable presence.
Also joining them on-stage were special musical guests, a keyboardist, adding another layer to the sound, and two violinists with a lovely touch, intertwining the soft strings to an otherwise hard-edged sound. Inviting this many folks on stage, with what is basically a rock band can quickly turn into a mumbled disaster, but it wasn't so here.
They enhanced the songs themselves, making them more in line with what you might expect to see in a modern indie/alternative rock sound, inclusive of strings or wind instruments of some type. It also gave insight to the musical maturity, taking their material and shaping it a bit; the same songs, but arranged in a varied fashion.
The band also clowned around often, at times ribbing each other in a friendly yet loving manner, what you would expect of siblings, not just long-time friends. In that respect, they were a solid unit, functioning as one, what a band should be. You really felt like you were just visiting with friends that happen to be super talented musicians, sitting around the living room with someone you knew, but with a pro sound system and well thought-out stage lighting, adding a special touch of drama. Nothing was over the top, whether it was a white spotlight when called for, or Yael coming down from the stage and interacting with the fans, climbing up the rear balcony for a varied perspective, and serenading the crowd with ease.
They really were having a blast on stage, not just going through the motions, and it showed – well done indeed.
Check out the tracks on Sponge Cola's new EPs – they're worth a listen, for sure. – Rappler.com