Fete De La Musique: A Blast at 12 Monkeys

“There seems to be less people at this hour compared to last year…”

It is 5pm on a Saturday in 12 Monkeys. Champ Lui-Pio (one of the 12 who co-own the namesake bar) is a little concerned. “We removed the couches and left the space open so we can accommodate more people; last year there were so many attendees.” 

12 Monkeys serves as one of the “satellite” stages for the annual Fete De La Musique with a line-up co-curated by Ndfy.me, Vandals On the Wall, and DocDef Productions. Curtismith, Ninno (both hip-hop/rap), and alt-hard rock band Pitik already played; family act the Raes is in the middle of their acoustic pop set. While the remaining tables are full, the floor space is uncomfortably free. Outside, the skies are overcast; heavy rain fell the previous night. Did people decide to stay home instead?

Fortunately, Lui-Pio’s worries dissipated just as The Raes finished up a mere 20 minutes later and more people arrived. By the time the next act The Strangeness concluded their performance with their three guitarists gleefully extracting feedback and distortion from the amplifiers, the floor area was filled with cheery punters. The place was packed by night’s end. 

The familiarity of The Strangeness.

Perhaps the threat of a heavy downpour contributed to the audience’s tardiness but their absence is unthinkable: after 20 years, Fete De La Musique, in all its production incarnations, has become a staple event addressing different music scenes with different performance stages spread out across Manila. 12 Monkeys handled the Independent Stage and called it FeteIndie2015 with Jack Daniel’s, JBMusic, Smart Bro, Bratpack, and Satchmi as sponsors. 

IndieFete 2015’s line-up covered a wide gamut of genres and, to a limited extent, generations (whatever mainstream definition/appropriation of an “indie sound” or look is irrelevant).  Somewhere between ambient and punk, Cinema Explosions’ Dott Seki can be described as a scene veteran (he was with Skies Of Ember). The Purplechickens, hyper-articulate yet unafraid to deliver the occasional simple but volcanic riff, would, in another performance context, be schooling the youngsters simply by virtue of being around for a decade.

There is no one-upmanship among any of the acts. Nobody sounds like each other to begin with.

BP Valenzuela, who was recently one of the Philippine representatives in the Music Matters conference in Singapore, surrounds herself with loopers and processors that support her winsome vocals.

Flying Ipis on the other hand have plenty of punk attitude and irreverence on tap. Brisom’s sound straddles the line between dancey synth pop and indie guitar rock; Farewell Fair Weather’s grasp of jazz and soul harmonies is uncanny and belies their youth (the band is this year’s Jack Daniel’s Chosen One).

Ahmad Tanji looks like a classic rock guitarist ready to bust out cliched bluesy solos but no: his band We Are Imaginary plays Brit-influenced noisy jangly pop. Tom’s Story delivers clean odd-metered riffs that are angular enough to impress guitar nerds and yet melodic enough to put smiles on non-musicians’ faces.  

Critically-acclaimed indie rockers Oh Flamingo and ‘world/jazz/funk’ ensemble Dayaw (who could be heir apparent to Fete Main Stage artist Kalayo) preceded a surprise set from indie-pop faves AutotelicFools and FoesAustin, and Lions and Acrobats were also in the line-up.

In addition, Ren Aguila of the Smashed Pumpkin Project presented a teaser for the short film ‘Where the Light Settles,’ a collaborative effort between Ballet Philippines and Sindikato Productions due for release in September 20. The film features music from Maya’s Anklet, Autotelic, and April Hernandez aka The Sun Manager. 

While the stages for Fete De La Musique are not in competition with each other at all, IndieFete’s emcees could not help but claim enthusiastically that the Independent Stage is “the best.”  It was not just the diversity of the featured artists; Fete De La Musique is known for that. The audience was consistently attentive for every single artiste in the roster and felt like a community that was open to every idiosyncracy.

Outside the bar, musicians chat about the state of the music industry in general (but that’s a sub-story for another day). There is a noticeable lack of rock’n’roll recklessness in the air but that is fine. This audience was really listening and, in its own way, FeteIndie captured the spirit of that very first Fete De La Musique in Malate: openness, happy vibes, and optimism.