Text by Tiny Diapana
Photos by Ernest Diño
MAYBE because of the lack of commercial promotion, or the lack of desire for it, many independent bands in Cebu remain under the radar. Most nights you see them play under the dim lights of bars, up on the compact stages of event cafes with unreliable sound systems, and making do with DIY venues in and out of the city.
Here in Cebu, it’s admittedly rare to see indie bands playing inside a mall store, much less in a shop centered in the high-end section of a mall. So when you see seasoned indie new wave, rock and ska bands like The Spirals and Who’s Next cranking up the volume in the Fred Perry men’s store in the new wing of Ayala, you give a resounding headbang for a nod.
Back during Nov. 11 earlier this month, Fred Perry brought in two of the most enduring bands from Cebu to give mall-goers and commercial shoppers a taste of the raw and gutty edge of the independent music scene. It was the first time the shop had staged Fred Perry Subculture Live in Cebu, and according to Fred Perry’s Elaine Domingo, the experience was “unforgettable.”
During regular days Fred Perry stands as a shop for men’s clothing and merchandise, but when the Fred Perry Subculture Live came in the place sprang to life as a pseudo-mosh zone with attendees jiving to the bands.
“We are always on the look-out for music connected to Fred Perry’s heritage – not just traditionally mod, ska, Northern Soul or Britpop, but new sounds progressing from those roots,” Domingo explained in a post-event interview. “We search for authenticity in the live experience and consequently, bands and DJs with an affinity for the subculture.”
As a “nod to the rich subculture in Cebu,” Fred Perry had chosen for its lineup The Spirals, a sharp, long-running new wave, post-punk band from Bomba Press, and Who’s Next, an animated and bouncy ska band that’s been around since 1997. DJ Banana was called in to put on some music during the event as well. All three gave out great performances during the event, steering ordinary shoppers to the Fred Perry store front for music and free cups of beer.
“The Cebu gig was quite remarkable as both vocalists sang from within the crowd. When the demarcation between band and audience blurs, the live experience becomes extra special. It’s a shared condition of being involved, I suppose,” Domingo commented.
Being the first in-mall show for The Spirals, vocalist Alexander Louell Lopez said that the gig was a “dreamlike experience.” Last year some of his band members had discussed hopes to be part of a Fred Perry Subculture Live event and somehow after Domingo had seen them perform during a tour around the city’s music spots, the band managed to get the gig they hoped for.
“Since some of us have been in this band through various incarnations, we can say that back then [here in Cebu] there wasn’t really much of an audience that you can play your brand of music to. Not that having a dense following would matter – just a few rabid individuals that would take a flying bullet for your originals will do for us,” Lopez jokingly quips.
Now with the Fred Perry Subculture Live done, what’s next for Fred Perry and the bands?
For The Spirals, Lopez hopes that they’ll be able to finish a follow-up to their 2007 EP before the end of 2017 despite a supposed hiatus.
“What seems to hold us back is that we try and (yet fail) to incorporate the same sound as what we have done before,” Lopez elaborates. “We have one unfinished track still in the Bomba pipeline and our latest member, Fil, needs to add his guitar parts for that.”
As for Fred Perry, it seems like shoppers can expect more from Fred Perry Subculture live next year. Domingo says that they “cannot get enough” of the music scene in Cebu and promises they’ll will return with even more subculture gigs next year.