Thank God it didn't rain.
These are probably the four most common words uttered by those who attended the recently concluded music festival at the Circuit Makati. It was the day of the Jack Daniel's Future Legends IndieFest and the skies were almost as black as the shirts of the many friendly members of the organizing team.
We doubt, though, that being drenched in water would've dampened the spirits of any of the festival goers (on the contrary, people would've embraced it fully, as proven by Basti Artadi who emptied a bottle of water onto those who stayed to watch Brain Salad play). But, really, how could one be? The festival grounds were set up beautifully and quite efficiently. Friends and acquaintances unexpectedly found each other. Whiskey and water were both in abundance. And in that almost breezy afternoon and that end-of-summer night, music mattered the most.
Music Festivals are all the rage recently; we are finally at the age wherein seeing our favorite international acts aren’t far fetched ideas. But the JD IndieFest holds itself to a standard that sets them apart from everyone: a fully Filpino line-up that cuts across all listening ears. It’s a pretty sublime thing to witness a sea of people banging out to each and every act that came on stage. There was neither a lack of artistry or audience vigor. As Jensen Gomez says during Jensen and the Flips' set, "Kaya nating punuin 'tong Circuit nang walang international act!" And contrary to what people most say, nothing is dead.
A Musical Smorgasbord
They say that good things come in three’s and that’s exactly what this year’s set-up was like. Three stages, aptly named the Old No. 7 (main stage), On The Rocks (Modern Rock Stage) and the Barrel House (Indie/Alt Stage)—all featured a total of 38 artists ranging from various genres, styles, and appeal.
While the huge number of bands playing was initially shocking, Jack Daniel's proved that it was possible to get more than 30 musical acts together in one evening, all the while showcasing the best of the festival performers. Carlo Lava, Lions and Acrobats guitarist who sessioned for Wilderness for the night shares, “Having three stages was like having three separate worlds, but all in the same place.”
And with its specifically timed scheduling and strategically spaced stages, it’s easy to be able to enjoy performances as you desire—or at least as much as your legs can handle. The lineup was arranged in such a way that attendees were able to listen to their favorite bands and catch a snippet of another act's song long enough to get them interested.
It was a joy that was shared by the performers. As Clarence Garcia of tide/edit told Bandwagon, “Everything was smoothly handled! Tech people were very helpful during setup, event was timed well! Masarap yung feeling na ang stage director sinasabihan ka na, 'In 3 minutes, start na tayo.'"
And while he raved about the technical aspect, Clarence was even more excited to share his experience as an audience: "There's so much music happening and as part of the audience, meron at meron kang mahahanap na gusto mo.”
Indeed, the festival was a great primer to today's local music scene. Those present listened well and hard. They probably danced, too. They took their picks, both familiar and fresh...and surely went home with more than one new band in mind to follow on Spotify.
Food, Booths and other Activities
Taking a break from what can be quite overwhelming performances was made interesting by the many booths and activities manned and powered by JD's participating partners. There were photo booths, free face painting sessions, social media contests and a variety of games we bet not a lot of people have played in a while. The JD Indie Rack Lane had something that fit everyone's budget, with merchandise sold from PhP 12 to roughly PhP 500. Located in the middle of all three stages, this strip conveniently allowed attendees to check out who was on stage and try that Toss the Ring game again in no more than 5 minutes.
The food selection was generally satisfactory, but as expected, some taste better than others. Unlike in other festivals, though, the food booths and eating tables (in the form of barrels!) were placed relatively near the festival stages which allowed the hungry to witness performances in relatively good distance without passing out.
Aside from taking into consideration the hungry, the organizers also remembered the thirsty. It is expected to see Jack Cokes sold during the event. What surprised us was that water was sold at only P30 per bottle! And the existence of this less expensive than usual gig essential is already shocking, imagine our reaction when we found out there were P10 water refills!
The security team at the event took their jobs seriously: no lackadaisical fellows here who check bags in a pwede na 'yan fashion. They were very strict about checking IDs. They made guests leave objects ruled as 'not allowed' on the concert grounds. They patrolled the grounds. They checked guests' bags and pockets again upon reentry.
They made sure people were safe. Hopefully, this isn't just a fad that goes away when last week's unfortunate incident becomes old news.
Barrel House on Fire
The acts on the indie/alt stage was nothing short of stupendous. Each performance has brought a different brand of charm that attracted the audience and made them stay. If one is really into the genres played on that stage, they would never have budged from their spot near it: it was one amazing music artist after the other.
The star of the stage for that night was definitely Reese Lansangan who did not only perform the new remix of her song 'Bleed,' but also performed with other musical favorites. Refreshing Oh! Flamingo and charming Jensen and the Flips performed not for the crowd but with them, that rare but very real connection felt between the artist and the audience.
More notable performances included those by tide/edit, Fools and Foes and THEA (Davao). All three bands managed to charm the crowd even with only three songs reserved for each of their sets. Speaking to Bandwagon, the frontwomen of Fools and Foes and THEA had the following to say:
“It was awesome to see people actually go to our stage and see them really interested to watch us.” — Isabelle Romualdez, Fools and Foes
“The indie fest was totally awesome. We had fun listening to different bands with different genres. We are deeply humbled that we became a part of this fun experience. If given a chance I would love to go back and do it all over again.” — Thea Pitogo
The Magic of Old No. 7
Those given the chance to perform on the main stage did not disappoint one bit. Displaying their own brand of musical genius, BP Valenzuela, Tom's Story, Tonight We Sleep and We Are Imaginary ultimately left their mark.
It was no easy feat to draw up energy at ten o'clock when people have been around since as early as 3PM, but the event headliners were not chosen to take up this task for nothing. Farewell Fair Weather, Flying Ipis and Autotelic captivated all those gathered near the main stage and beyond. Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus is always a wonder to watch. Up Dharma Down was simply amazing. And Brain Salad was mind blowing.
The event stood as a rebirth to several JD regulars who have taken a hiatus. While Runway Crimes had dropped in to perform at some events once in awhile, the band has been quite silent since lead vocalist Paolo Tabuena returned from an extended stay in Spain. We see them at this festival with a renewed line-up and it’s quite different; they sound tighter but are heavier and rougher than the last time we heard them.
Philip Verzosa, who is responsible for this sound says that their band is currently aiming something dynamic and out of the band’s element. What exactly? We do not know yet but as for playing at JD, he quips:
“We had a blast playing for JD. It's been months since we last played a gig, so we were overwhelmed by the support of the audience. It's always nice to see people singing along to our songs, and it just goes to show that many would still go out of their way just to watch their favorite local bands. This is exactly the kind of support we artists need.”
Another returning band was Mad Hatter Day who spoke of January 2015 as their last gig, so it has been more than a year since they last went on stage. MHD bassist, Paco Santos, shares their JD experience:
“We couldn't have picked a better time to come out of our hiatus. IMHO, the JD Indiefest was one of the best produced events in recent memory. The vibe was crazy! It was as if the artists, the staff, and the crowd all felt that we were a part of something really big. We were all in it together, and that's what made it special. The festival really was a testament to the vitality of Philippine music.”
Too Close for Comfort?
The proximity of all areas exuded the close knit community that Jack Daniel's was aiming for, but not without a few downsides. For one, the stages were far enough for one to immerse in the music they chose to listen to when you are near the performers, but too close that the sound overlap with each other when you are trying to eat and listen at the same time. Perhaps maximizing the space by setting up the stages farther from each other would've been better.
Promo Code Fail
Unfortunately for some, the Uber promo code did not work at all, causing disappointment among those who could not to bring their own cars to get to the event.
Some details about the event were released too late, confusing the attendees. Instructions on where and how to claim pre-registered invites were not clear, considering that these came from various sources. Some couldn't find their names on the guest list so they ended up paying for their entrance. Others were not aware that they needed to bring their IDs, claiming that the instructions they received via email were only to print out the said email and to present them at the gates.
Time Delay at the Gates
While most performances started on time, gates opened at 4, and not at 3PM as announced. An oversight related to the RFID wristbands further delayed guests' entry to the event. Because of this, those who arrived as early as 2:30 missed the first acts of the festival.
The Jack Daniel's Future Legends IndieFest may be the biggest musical project of the said brand to date and, despite some difficulties encountered, they pulled it off. The festival was a celebration of not just local music but of the Pinoy sense of community where support and talent come hand-in-hand to create passion. IndieFest is proof that local music is more than alive and can compete with the best that the world has to offer.
The Jack Daniel’s Future Legends IndieFest was powered by JB Music Philippines, and would not be possible without the support and collaboration of its partner production groups Docdef Productions, OBF Productions, A Spur of the Moment Project, Cubism Family Productions, Flat Five Records, Yellow Room Productions, Revolver Productions, Locked Down Entertainment, and Red Ninja Productions.
ERRATUM: A portion from an earlier version of this report was worded in a way that may have made it appear that there had been an issue with the Uber promo code for those who needed to go home from the event. Bandwagon wishes to clarify that the mechanics of the tie-up promo between Jack Daniel's and Uber clearly stated that the promo code was only applicable for rides going to the event.
UDD, Earthmover, tide/edit, Autotelic, BP Valenzuela and 26 more