Words by Howi Bakunawa
Photos by JanJan Capili
I walk up to 12 Monkeys 45 minutes before the show and already there’s a line leading out of the place that goes all the way around the corner. Inside is just as packed. It is a sold-out show. People cram into what little space they can find. There are at least 40 people squeezing into the bar alone. Still, the mood is bright and cheerful. The crowd itself is a sight to behold: they range from all ages — from late teens to people coming from work.
But one thing unit them: They are all here for Ebe Dancel.
And though Dancel has yet to play a single note for the night, one thing is certain — he sure knows how to bring in a crowd.
The veteran musician is to hold a special show to commemorate the 20 good, long years since he started the band Sugarfree and his career as a professional musician all the way back in 1999.
The lights finally come out, bringing Ebe Dancel out along with them, all to uproarious applause. He strums the first chords of one of his most recognizable hits, Prom, and off the bat, the room is filled with a massive chorus of voices as the crowd sings Dancel’s songs back to him. They do so for the 17 more songs of Dancel’s long set and the two more for his encore. He goes through some of the most memorable songs in his discography including hits like: Kung Ayaw Mo Sa Akin, Telepono, Mariposa and Hari ng Sablay.
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The lights come out on stage, but it’s Ebe Dancel who really makes it shine.
Ebe Dancel and his band go through some of his most memorable hits from the past 20 years
“There’s a reason why a musician like me lasts 20 year,s” goes Dancel addressing the crowd who have been singing non-stop, “and it’s because of you guys.” Still, Dancel’s career shows no signs of slowing as he announces a special live-orchestral concert in collaboration with The Manila String Machine to be held on February 29, 2020 (also wow, on a leap year!) at the Metrotent Convention Center in Pasig. It will be the culmination of the string of concerts that Dancel has planned to celebrate 20 years of Sugarfree.
“…and it’s all because of you guys”, Dancel says to the crowd with characteristically humorous flair.
Dancel, his face glowing with gratitude, poses in front of his fans.
Dancel has made a home for himself on the stage. Addressing the crowd again, he says: “The stage is my safe space.” It is fitting then, that for the last song of his encore, Dancel himself pays tribute to where it all began. He says: “I started [singing and playing music] in my room with my brother… What I want to emulate now is the feeling of when I just started out.”
For this closing song, Dancel turns off all amplification — it will be just him, his guitar, and his voice. Aware of the fact that he has just played 19 songs in straight succession and that he might not be able to project his voice as loudly, Dancel makes one more request from the crowd: “What I can do for you now is I can go around and sing.”
Just him, his guitar and his voice.
The lights in the venue are turned down low and Dancel walks down from the stage and goes, with guitar in hand, to all of the people in attendance and serenades them up close. Personally, I’ve always thought that Dancel’s vocal qualities were unlike anyone else’s in all of OPM. There isn’t anyone who sounds quite like him, and so to be able to listen to his voice like this, to be in the same room as him, is nothing short of miraculous.
He sings a cover of “Moon River”, a song his mother would always sing, to the crowd caught in a spellbound trance. In those moments, it felt as though Dancel was sharing the past 20 years with all of us in that unlit and cramped room, not wishing to be anywhere else in the world, with the calm, plaintive and unfiltered expressions of his voice and his guitar.
Full of thanks for the past 20 years, Ebe Dancel bids the crowd goodnight
Tickets for Ebe Dancel with The Manila String Machine are at P3500 (Gold) and P2500 (Silver) and will be available via ticket2me on 31 October 2019. For updates about the event, follow Ebe Dancel on social media:
and at the hashtags: #EbeDancelXMSM #Ebe20Years