When Luis suggested that we attend the Sandwich S Marks the Spot album launch at the UP Fair, I was more than raring to go. It's been a while since I've attended a rock gig, almost a year, in fact, since my corpie job kept me from staying up late, even on weekends. “It's going to be like Mordor,” he texted, “Dress accordingly.”
I would like to say that I donned mithril and had use of Sting, but that's not true. Instead, I found myself in jeans, my Khao San Road t-shirt, and Salomon sneakers. It's been a while since I've worn rubber shoes, having lived the past year in my Havianas because I was too lazy. I couldn't believe how much I missed my Salomons. Wearing comfortable, lace-up shoes freed my mind from worrying about my footwear. I also decided to travel light, stuffing everything into my jeans pocket instead of using a bag. The effect was liberating. I felt like I had nothing to worry about, that I could do anything.
My 0-Encumbrance essentials are:
1.Money (More than enough, so that I would not need to withdraw)
3.Phone (I can do most anything with my MotoMing)
4.Lip Balm (I brought my Khiels)
5.Oil Blotting Sheets (Unfortunately, I didn't have the powdered kind)
We had dinner at the Middle Eastern restaurant near the UP swimming pool, then made our way to the Sunken Garden, where the fair was being held. We could hear the concert from afar – there was Hilera and Pedicab, two bands that I like.
We bought tickets then were herded like sheep through male and female entrances, our tickets torn, our bodies lightly frisked, before being allowed to duck under an overturned soccer goal post which signaled the entrance to the fair proper.
What we saw surprised us. The UP fairs we were used to had a few people standing near the stage watching the show, with a couple hundred groups sitting on the grass while everyone else weaved through the different booths or went for the rides. This year, almost everyone was watching the show. In fact, the crowd around the stage was so thick that they reached way, way back, taking up (what looked like) half the Sunken Garden, almost touching the food booths.
We heard the Itchyworms play as we walked around, examining how the booths had changed over the years. Now, t-shirt and a henna tattoo/ body piercing booths dominated the landscape, when they only had about one or two before. Also, small but popular restaurants like Tomatokick and Cow King made their presence felt via booths. There were also an inordiante number of shawarma stands, which was surprising because I had thought that the shawarma craze had died in the 90's.
Luis got a text telling us to head backstage, so we ambled over to the side of one of the stages (there were three stages, also a first, with one of them dedicated to Sandwich). Either we look like rock stars or we look older than the college crowd or Luis has become a bigger celebrity than he already is because no one gave us any trouble while we went backstage. The guards let us through without question while keeping students at bay. When we found the person who had texted him, she informed us that we were on the guest list at the backstage entrance, which means that we paid Php85 x 2 for nothing!
It was my first time backstage at a UP fair. The atmosphere was electric. There was an open bar that served vodka-infused cocktails. Musicians and their friends hung out, with a constant stream of people coming in and out of the area.
Ace of Bagetsofonik, one of he earlier performers, described the scene best. He said, “I'm glad you guys are here because this,” he said, indicating the crowd beyond the stage, “has never happened before.” He went on to describe the three stages, the way the crowd had slowly trickled in during the afternoon until they had become the mob that we saw in front of the stages.
We stayed backstage, hanging out with Ace and Jovan, listening to Sugarfree, The Dawn, Chicosci, Urbandub, and Sandwich's one hour set, which included songs from their new album, as well as old favorites. They even played my favorite Sandwich song, “Butterfly Carnival,” with Marc Abaya, their original frontman, as guest. I have always wanted to hear the song performed live, and now I have. A tiny part of me wished that I was in the mosh pit while the song was being performed, but I was content to stand where I was and sing along.
I saw Ronnie, who had been drinking since 4pm and who made me drink one of those flaming cocktails that were being served, a yummy, guava and grenadine-infused shot of vodka lit up with a torch so that you had to drink the whole thing through a straw. It was, I think, the reason I was slightly tipsy the whole night after. So Ronnie, it's all your fault, not that I mind. :) Ran into other people too – Denise, Zach, Erwin, Quark, Nina... it was one big party and to someone (ie. me) who hadn't been to a rock gig in so long, it was as if I had been let lose from a prison, returned to a world I thought I would have to leave behind but now, thankfully, I had found again.