Ill City Indie Festival 2015: The City of Love Knows How to Be “Aggressive”, Too

By dwayne muyuela

During the early 1950’s, American disc jockey, Alan Freed of the “The Moondog House” played rhythm-and-blues songs like “Riot in Cell Block #9” and “Smokey Joe’s Café” that reached a broader audience—a far cry from the typical African-American audiences on which music like these was commonly marketed to. He kept the mic open most of the time, pounding rhythm on a phone book and ad-libbing comments like “Yeah, daddy! Let’s rock and roll!” That was about the time that Alan Freed started using the phrase “rock and roll” in his show which, of course, was a very old blues phrase—and by old, I mean 1920’s-old—that has to do with fornication (God, I’m being biblical!). Surprised? Fast forward to the dawn of the 21st century, rock-and-rolling now is supposed to mean differently by evolving naturally from the voices of the 1950s youth to today’s generation.

Ill City Indie Festival - Project Iloilo
Death Shunayne (L) & Trooper (R)

Since the first wave of rock and roll in the 1950s sprung different genres of rock music like classic, punk, metal, grunge, goth, psychedelic, emo, electronic, death… you name it. Subgenres of rock music were even fused to produce distinctive hybrid sounds. In a broader sense, rock music has already become a part of our culture and lifestyle, and it is inarguable that it played a role in shaping our outlook, at least at one point in our lives. It is the only type of music where you can be as cool as Pink Floyd while listening to “Another Brick in the Wall” on your iPod when walking to school, where you can be as badass as Kurt Cobain while washing the dishes with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the stereo, and where you can be a young gun ruminating about hardcore life decisions while taking a shower with Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” looping on the background, or listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication” while—yes, I’m saying it—gardening. Rock and roll is almost everywhere.

Ill City Indie Festival - Project Iloilo
Phatclaw (L) & Slipsyndrome (R)

That being said, even in the City of Love, the rock and roll scene still flourishes. Some Ilonggos make sure that rock music is always alive and felt through initiatives from various independent organizations such as the Iloilo Rock Community, Grindhouse Productions Iloilo, Horns Up Productions, Iloilo Lokal, and Sneeze Magazine, just to name among a few. Furthermore, even the “Greek-letter community” which is comprised of the fraternities and sororities from various universities in Iloilo City also host battle of the bands like Upsilon Phi Sigma’s Ruptured, Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Sounds of the Underground, and UP Hamili and Hamilia’s Sigabong, etc. in order to support and uplift the morale of our local musicians.

Just recently, Zirtal Productions—working in collaboration with Dernavs Recording—hosted the Ill City (shorthand for Iloilo City) Indie Festival 2015. This is the first on a series of events for 2015 in Iloilo City celebrating the musicianship of our local talents, their passion for music, and the network and camaraderie among bands and between their audiences.

Ill City Indie Festival - Project Iloilo
Surebol (L) & Diet of Wormz (R)

The cold night of January 31st on SM City Iloilo Southpoint’s rooftop did not hinder the fiery passion and support for independent rock music or “indie rock”, as is popularly called nowadays, among local musicians and spectators. In fact, it appeared as if it’s an exclusive and intimate gathering of people from all walks of life sharing one commonality: the love for music. You can feel the brotherly vibe and connection from the hosts, to the musicians, and literally down to the people who are just jamming in front of the stage. Performing bands that rocked the night were the following: Liberation Front, Death Shunayne, Troopers, Honor to Kill, Phatclaw, Slipsyndrome, Beggars Description, Pulsing Chunky, Surebol, Drive Letter, and Diet of Wormz.

The highlight of the event was the performance of Valley of Chrome, a metalcore band from Laguna who made a name in the Philippine rock scene since the early 2000s up to the present. It’s actually their second time to play their songs in front of an Ilonggo audience since their first visit in 2008 as part of underground recording studio Tower of Doom’s Siege Tour roster of artists. And, much to their delight, they were surprised that those who attended the show moshed and sang along as hard their “mainland” counterparts from the indie music mecca of Manila (and yes, we can claim this because we asked them about it after the show).

Valley of Chrome - Project Iloilo
Valley of Chrome

On a more personal level, for someone who appreciates classic rock like The Beatles, ACDC, Guns ‘n Roses, Black Sabbath and the like, indie rock in Iloilo City isn’t that far off, music-wise. In fact, in terms of the execution and musicality of the songs—both covered and composed originally—by our local bands, they are almost at par to other foreign indie artists I am familiar with. Though appreciation from the general public is hardly felt, they still continue to pursue what they believe they have: talent.

Further, Eman Abatayo, a musician and the former lone Ilonggo contender in the reality show Pinoy Dream Academy, was also there at that night and he said: “It was not easy for the bands to get accepted by people in Iloilo’s rock scene that was dominated mostly by EDM/electronic music, but I’m glad somehow there are still groups of people in Ill City who are supporting and pushing local talents.”

Man, ditch mainstream garbage music from your playlist and let’s all unite and support the local independent ones. They are the ones that trigger social and cultural revolutions. Though there is still a long and winding road ahead of them, they radically change the way music is performed. They alter our very perception of what true music is. You’ll never know you’ll love them until you try listening to them. Come on, I dare you. Just give it a shot.

“Yeah, daddy! Let’s rock and roll!” \m/

(Photos by Xtian Evren “VanS3n” Lozañes)