Ateneo Musicians’ Pool’s AMPLITUNES: A Shot in the Darkness
THERE is a certain stillness in these bustling streets, routine as they pass by endless rows of buildings.
The roads are drenched orange in the light of gaudy streetlamps. If one were to look at the sky, they could probably fathom the fading landscape of stars
Along them is Route 196, relatively quiet at this time of night. Something stirs as a crowd gathers near the entry gates.
They set up registration and merchandise tables, shuffling in and out of the bar for some refreshments. They talk about procedures, programs, and other administrative matters.
In the night, one could make out familiar faces—there is Mia Bautista and Ja Punzalan, project heads of the event. JC del Mundo and Chris Legaspi, who were to host the night. Dianne Santos and Kim Co, heads of AMPLITUBE, the org’s annual magazine. Diego Manzano, who, along with Anj Florendo, headed the year’s AMPLITUNES project. And many more.
The setup continues, and some step by to admire the merchandise. After all, it is the product of much hard work—the blare of computer screens and strained ears and weary trips to offices, the nights of constant edits and last-minute changes. There is a sense of pride in holding the finished output, to feel its texture between one’s fingers. Free copies of PULP magazine are given away.
After a while, the crowd increases gradually as more people enter the venue. In a few moments, the program begins, and those who registered enter the Route.
It’s admittedly not very spacious. It is dimly lit, the air draped in visual musk. There are knickknacks here and then, giving the place an almost lived-in feel—a hanging bicycle, a wall of pictures, a small surfboard. Near the stage, a screen flashes TVCs from the event’s various sponsors—WheninManila, PULP, and Amplify.ph.
There aren’t many chairs, but there is much room for standing. It takes a while to weave into the sea of people, much more to navigate the crowds.
Behind the control area, a man puffs a cigarette, letting a cloud of smoke into the air.
Amid the chaos, a voice wafts over the humanity, all eyes directed to the stage. It is Mara Asok, with a quiet conviction that turns the cacophony to a lull. Her lineup is full of songs for the sentimental of heart, bearing the brunt of the emotions with her performance.
After her, the next performer is called on stage. Formerly The Sxsx, Bibliotheque comes in like summer rain and moonlit nights. There is a careful negotiation between the smooth vocals and upbeat backing, underlying a fresh sound.
For a moment, del Mundo and Legazpi come up the stage to plug in the org’s upcoming events. Afterwards, it’s Mateo Escueta and his ensemble, opening the set strongly.
One could say that the whole set is a marriage of different genres—funk, soft rock, pop. It is held together, however, by an overwhelming sense of soul, the kind put into Escueta’s every word, into every chord strummed and every beat drummed.
In the middle of his set, Escueta gives way to Joshua Blay, who was celebrating his birthday that day. He gives a rendition of “Creep” by Radiohead, the emotion of every word in his face. The crowd bangs their head as they sing along with him, singing until they could no longer hear their own voices.
It is then break time, as the hosts acknowledge the project heads of the event and AMPLITUBE. They then give way to the next performer, who set up on stage.
The sound of a keyboard pulses through the night, like a heartbeat. Luis Puno and Bea Lorenzo begin their first song, pumping electronic like good old club fare. It’s the type of music you’d want to dance to, rhythmic motions to drown out all stress and sorrow.
Every now and then, the crowd waxes and wanes, out to get some air when the inside’s too saturated with presence and smoke. Some decide to linger as the night grows deeper.
Others return in time for the next performer, Downdraft.
There is a certain energy, a certain power that comes with their performance, tempered by a laid-back cadence. It is playful, yet edgy, like fire and brimstone and havoc. But it’s also head-banging, smiles, exhaustion, exuberance, laughter.
There is another break in the schedule as a few more project heads are recognized. Along with the AMPLITUNES heads, recognized was Miles Malferrari, project head for the EP Project.
Perkywasted then takes the stage, riling the crowd into a lively frenzy. There is a sense of connection as they rig out familiar tunes, laced with humor and a sense of sly genius. One could say that it is almost postmodern.
The night draws on, with cigarettes on the floor and smoke in the atmosphere. The Wants are up next, bringing indie dance tunes into the repertoire. It is a balance of rock and house, a subtle tempering.
There is then a change of schedule. Before long, Johnoy Danao comes up the stage with a guitar in hand. His is a presence that commands the crowd.
Behind him, a blank screen mirrors his reflection—bathed in light against a pitch black background. There is something personal as he begins his set, a sort of pain, a sort of catharsis. The guitar feels like an extension of himself as it encapsulates the very thought of his words.
Yet, the night was far from over. There were still performances by the Rusty Machines and Ang Bandang Shirley. Still more beers to claim, still more viands to order, still more songs to sing.
But, as all things do, it comes to a close. The crowds leave, the tables are put away. The streets empty as they pave for a new day.
And so does ((aMp)).
Written by Pam Musni