text and photos by Ren Aguila
Fête de la Musique, as it has developed since its move to Makati in 2012, is mostly about moving around various locations to catch one’s favorite acts. The not-so-big “pocket” stages were under no compulsion to start early and run on time, especially with late night visitors moving around the Makati Avenue/Burgos corridor, many of them expats. I was unable to catch the main stages in A-Venue and Greenbelt this year, but I visited four stages and caught memorable performances in three of them.
The first two were found in the same building, the Green Sun Hotel on Chino Roces Avenue. The rock and indie stages were, as expected, among the bigger crowd-drawers. We asked organizers of the indie stage how many people passed through, either to stay or to drop by as they were stage-hopping. The figure they gave us was around 6,500. This does not reflect, however, the fact that, for safety reasons, not everyone who wanted to get in could. We witnessed how the crowd started to grow from the few dozen that arrived long before 2 pm to one that crowded the platform at the Axon, a state of affairs that remained so till the show ended. The rock stage upstairs at the Eye, which from my experience with another Fete (de la WSK) has better acoustics, was not that crowded, but a good number of people, probably a shade more than a hundred, were in the room before we moved on just before 7 pm.
We decided to arrive early and have lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, and we were lucky enough to catch Davao-based electronic act Skymarines, AKA Isa Aniga, who launched her long overdue debut record with Terno in May of this year. She was with collaborators Francis Lorenzo, the album’s producer, and Ean Mayor of fellow Terno act Up Dharma Down, to do a sound check for a late afternoon set. “The experience of performing here has been good so far,” Aniga told us, “because the audience is quite [receptive] about what we do.” She added that electronic music has gotten more understanding from music audiences here over the last few years since she first played at Fete in 2013. Ean Mayor, who is more well known for being UDD’s drummer and beat-maker, offered to help her with her beats to complement the new live arrangements she and Lorenzo were performing. This was most evident in her signature song “Dreamer,” which opened her Fete set that afternoon. It still remains my favorite Skymarines tune.
The reason we had to move on from the throng at Green Sun had to do with a duo that, by coincidence, launched their last record there. Reese and Vica are known for their harmonies, songwriting, and guitar-playing that, in their second record Those Who Wander, sometimes reminded me of math-rock. They were invited to play at the acoustic stage at A_Space, which has hosted the stage since 2014. The four songs they performed included a Paramita cover and a rare live performance of “Never Never” which was quite impressive. Their choice of “Portuguese” from Those Who Wander was a good reflection of their later sound.
We headed into the Makati Avenue corridor, where the majority of stages were. People were moving from stage to stage, a good healthy mix of expats and locals taking in the music and the array of locations. One location I had to visit was Lokal Hostel’s eclectic/art stage, which this year turned out to offer at least one surprise. Alyana Cabral, who is more notable for her work with Ourselves the Elves, told me that she was going to play as her solo project Teenagegranny at the rooftop stage. We got to see her perform just past eleven in the evening, and it was a bit of a treat to see her not wield a guitar but to hear music that was just as different but recognizably hers. The other acts I caught that night ran the gamut from soulful R&B to experimental electronic stuff, and it was alternately packed and roomy as listeners climbed up and down the stage.
As we left Makati, I wondered how Fete de la Musique in Manila would fare in the future. It is hard to imagine an outright willingness to move beyond a physical comfort zone at this point. One comment I have been getting especially from veteran Fete visitors was that they longed to see a return to the street party atmosphere of earlier editions, especially the one at Ortigas Center, where people could more easily walk between stages that drew their interest. Even the 2011 edition at Bonifacio Global City met that need, with each of the bars and restaurants at the Fort hosting a stage. Next year, especially with new rules in place, there might be a need to reimagine the entire festival. One possibility is to err on the side of stronger curation, tighter time management, streamlined lineups, and a coordinated effort that would make this free event truly memorable.
Ren Aguila has attended Fete de la Musique since 2011.