Reader Advisory

Some articles posted in The SlickMaster's Files may contain themes, languages, and content which may neither appropriate nor appealing to certain readers. READER DISCRETION is advised.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Those Sleepless Nights in Katipunan (My Lookback to Some of The Gigs at Route 196)

12/24/2021 09:38:14 PM

Sometimes, I used to have this silly, randomly-timed routine of updating my tags and descriptions on my Instagram posts. Because I tried marketing my profile there and hopefully landing photography gigs or anything related. One Saturday in August 2020, I happened to do some of that on one of my photographs featuring no less than Jugs Jugueta of The Itchyworms on that gig at Route 196 in early 2019.

The iconic musician suddenly commented, "I miss Route." I admit, at first, I was speechless and didn't know what the meaning of that stride was until Sunday night could come along. I woke up by around 10:45 in the evening. As I immediately checked my Facebook news feed, I saw a very familiar name in a very unfamiliar situation.

Yes, Route 196—hailed as Metro North's Premier Live Music Venue for 14 years—announced its closure in 2020. It sent shockwaves to many modern-day Filipino music lovers across the globe. Okay, some would've probably seen it coming, knowing how the pandemic fucked up the business world in more ways than one. That still has to be one of the saddest news in pop culture, similar to NU107's final aircheck in 2010.

I've only been inside its premises—and the entire live music scene, in general—for five years. Route 196 basically ignited my journey toward a life-changing phase. I have taken almost every role in music event production, from gatekeeper (or to my friends, 'door bitch'), talent/prod coordinator or runner, media person, event photographer, showrunner, and producer.

However, I digress. Instead of posting another ode-form of eulogy, let's talk about how some nights have left a mark on us gig-goers, especially me.

Anyway, here goes the long trip down memory lane.

1. Docdef 061 (January 2015)

Niki Colet

Saturday night in January 2015, the start of everything. I just had a Jawbreaker at a Zark's Burgers branch in Eastwood. Then, I suddenly decided to change my pace in life: go to a bar, have a couple of drinks, and watch a live music show.

Docdef Productions produced some king-sized shows in the early to mid-2010s. Imagine putting Autotelic, Sud, and The Ransom Collective as part of a ten-act billed gig. At the same time, I stay glued to my seat and table (near the old bar) for nearly eight freakin' hours. 

It was then a rare feat, I must say. But since meeting its production head JB Balaquit, it went entire domino from there. I'm now on the scene.

2. Elements Jam Night (May 2015)

The Benjamins (now: Ben&Ben)

My friends from Alasmedya invited me to drop by Route for a rare sighting on a Monday night as they jam with fellow participants from that prestigious songwriting camp.

Elements Jam Night is where I first saw the Guico brothers—then known as The Benjamins—as a songwriting duo. They have the potential to be the next big thing in the industry. And it turns out they do, and they had done it, as the nine-piece collective called Ben&Ben. Kate Torralba, Mic Llave, Thyro Alfaro, and even the folksy Bullet Dumas were also present, taking turns in merry-making.

Man, it was such a rare chill kind of evening to swing by, I must say, especially with this elite kind of music-makers hanging around. 

3. JB Music Battle of the Bars (May 2015)

Tuesday Vargas (Top Junk, The Placidos)

Dubbed 'Fete de la Route 196,' the JB Music-sponsored show became a mini-street party that doesn't really look like a Poor Man's World Music Day. Route 196 put up three stages on top of the festive vibe despite the rainfall on that Friday night.

The hardest part, though, was deciding where and who to watch. On the one hand, you have The Itchyworms in the old Jack Room. Then, Bullet Dumas is playing around on another spot below the tables. And then, Aia de Leon, Top Junk, Ebe Dancel, SUD, and Autotelic, on the main stage.

Though, of course, all of these didn't happen simultaneously. Imagine the uproar of hearing trifectas of music colliding in your ears. Oh, good lord, I cannot!

4. MilesExperience 'Love Supreme' music video launch (July 2015)


There is no question how these young boys from UST can woo every kolehiyala out there. MilesExperience has been running wild alongside Jensen and The Flips, and SUD. These three bands embodied such a 'swabe' sound as they took over the alternatives.

Wednesday night came along in June 2015. Route 196 was already on 'full-house' mid-way through the program. Director Jiggy Gregorio delivered the band's debuting visual that exemplifies the sad-yet-sultry kind that the crew can provide.

The venue was damn packed, which prompted some of us to take the backdoor exit to catch a breather.

5. Where The Light Settles (July 2015)

Maya's Anklet 

Also known through its short alternative "Light Settling," fans flocked the Route on that Thursday night in August 2015 for a music video launching gig like no other.

"Where The Light Settles" flaunted a trilogy of music videos that showcase storytelling in ballet form and emotional songs of TheSunManager (In Darkness), Maya's Anklet (Kung Alam Mo Lang), and Autotelic (Unstable).

Indeed, you can tell that different art forms collide in such a dramatic fashion. Yeah, especially when other bands (Farewell Fair Weather and Jensen and The Flips) backed up these headliners.

6. AMPLIFIIED: Amplify.PH 2nd anniversary (July 2015)

Ebe Dancel

Some of us were probably familiar with a website that does not feature music news—it also allows us to download songs legally. That's the role of Amplify.PH was best described during its time.

The website celebrated its second birthday with a party at Route 196, featuring one of the most diverse lineups I have ever witnessed. It was a good mix of pop (Autotelic), acoustic and alternative (Ebe Dancel), rap (Assembly Generals), rock (Lions and Acrobats), and metal (Cog).

This event made me notice why producers picked Ellie Centeno as one of the most sought-after hosts in the bar gigs at the time. Not to mention, Dancel's set was always a spectacle, especially when he goes solo and intimate for a song.

7. Oh, Flamingo! EP launch (November 2015)

Oh, Flamingo! in an elevated stage during their EP launch

This young pop-rock quartet from UP raised the Route 196 stage, literally. The venue has elevated its platform by two feet (not coinciding with one of their songs). And the result? One of the most crowded parties of all time. I mean, Oh, Flamingo! managed to bring 300+ people to your show during that rowdy Saturday night? Damn. That has got to be a record of sorts.

Additionally, Raymund Marasigan of Sandwich made an improbable move of crowd surfing that sent the place into pandemonium. If that doesn't define memory in such a ruckus form, then I don't know what it is.

8. The Rest is Noise Yearend (December 2015)


It was rare for someone like me to go to three different places and gigs in one evening. Route 196 became the first and final place listed in my itinerary. I clocked in at 7:00 PM, and suddenly I have seen such a crowd of youngsters in a frenzy. 

And returning to the said venue almost seven hours later didn't change a thing. After all the time I spent inside Mow's and The 70's Bistro due to prod duties, The Rest is Noise's first year-ender show is, without question, a box-office draw. Hence, a testament to how this young group lives by providing sold-out festivals and concerts every quarter.

9. Stripped x Docdef (December 2015)

Neala Medina

Someone surprisingly handed me the reins to manage a show for the first time. But it didn't happen alone because I was with Myrel and Ene Lagunzad. STRIPPED x DOCDEF happened and was billed as another chill Monday night gig. Route 196 installed its new logo signage. And, for the night, seats are placed closer and lower. Little did I know they would make such intimate vibe shows that only comprise bare acoustics.

It's like a Sunday night that got extended. Plus, the Christmas season was approaching nearby. It appeared like an early holiday getaway, or so we thought. 

10. Banna Harbera 'Persistence' EP launch (April 2016)

Tom's Story

The 5-piece alternative music makers Banna Harbera just had their sophomore EP. Its launching event appeared to be a kickoff show on a big, solid weekend of music shows.

And true enough: over a hundred people showed up to this young hip band of students from College of St. Benilde on a Friday evening. It worked well as the upcoming Runway Hits, and then-notable acts Farewell Fair Weather, Jensen and The Flips, SUD, and Tom's Story joined them.

11. Autotelic 'Gising' music video launch (August 2016)

Pop-rock band Autotelic made it to the big time in 2016 when it signed with MCA Music, Inc. It helped them further when Urbandub frontman Gabby Alipe took the band under his wing through Nemesis Music Group.

Perhaps, the music video launch of Gising was the first grand salvo of the new chapter for the crew. It might be less crowded than I initially expected for them on a Thursday night. Still, the media takes turns interviewing the band. From then on, it is evident: I once considered them the next big thing in pop music, and indeed they arrived in fashion.

The party still rages on even with the iyak-sayaw pace taking complete control.

12. Route 196 10th Anniversary (October 2016)

Tandems '91

The Metro North's Premier Live Music Hall reached its first decade. We obviously heard a lot; we cherished memories, and some waged their legacies. Hell, there was even a line for those who wanted to get in for free.

And the blockbuster party delivered with Jensen and The Flips, Lions & Acrobats, Tandems '91, Autotelic, and Brass Pas Pas Pas Pas anchoring all the merry-making inside the halls of Route 196.

It was just a chapter that depicted one of their milestones in the industry and culture for some of us. Little did we know that they would only be around for a few more years amidst the changes, from the set-up, trends, and landscape.

13. Never Me: A Valentine's Special (February 2017)

Tonight We Sleep (Yes, he's fronted by the same fella who's known more as I Belong To The Zoo)

Sakitan Nights will never go out of style, even if Valentine's Day has passed us by.

Coinciding with the return of Argee Guerrero to the scene, Move Forward Productions did a great job in putting a show to remember. It was indeed monumental for the guy we used to see as a frontman of the emotionally heavy rock band Tonight We Sleep. Hell, more so when he emerged as the solo act named I Belong To The Zoo.

Oh, not to mention, I was digging his Certified G shirt there. (How Ya 'Doin', nZo?)

In addition, Runway Crimes, Lions & Acrobats, MilesExperience, and Paranoid City joined the party as part of the performing bands.

14. Stereodeal 'New Jersey' music video launch (July 2017) 

Stereodeal (Photo by Randy Maghari)

For once, a musician-geek-filmmaker named Adrian Arcega spoke in my podcast and gave one of the most 'real talk' statements. I'm actually surprised he remembered the night I crossed paths with him. I was probably too drunk or dizzy to do so.

For him, it wasn't just the launching of the music video "New Jersey." And it was not also the changing of the drum guards for his band Stereodeal. Also, the special night featured a sneak peek of his thesis project, a documentary about the local music scene called Ground Zero. That immediately got my head turning. As someone fond of watching documentaries and special feature shows, I suddenly wonder, "Why don't we talk about music in that type of show?"

That gave me a glimpse of hope, an answer, and proof that I was wrong with my skepticism.

15. Offshore Music's Check In, Trip Out (November 2017)

Ely Buendia (Apartel)

For someone who's either a fan of Ely Buendia or otherwise, it is rare to see a legendary frontman perform in a small bar gig.

His label, Offshore Music, made it possible, though, as his soul project Apartel headlined a show there alongside then-returning Orange & Lemons. So, imagine hitting two birds with one stone, eh?

Not only that: One-Click Straight and Coeli warmed up the evening that did not only feature two of the country's most revered songwriters. There was a rare jam session, too. Clem Castro's band (Orange & Lemons) and Buendia shared the stage when the former performed the famous song of The Smiths.

16. The Itchyworms 'Sisikat Muli Ang Araw' jam party (May 2018)

Itchyworms and Brod Pete

Once upon a time in 2018, I worked with The Itchyworms as a gig photographer (not during this night, though). This event became its root witness when Jugs approached me regarding that matter.

Following the launch of their music video for Sisikat Muli Ang Araw, this staple pop-rock band staged a free-for-all hangout with Herman Salvador—known as Isko and the more notable Brod Pete—in a couple of jam sessions. It was all wild and wacky for a Monday evening. The band Stereodeal also played during the night.

17. Send-Off (November 2018)


Then newlyweds—director Marie Jamora and her husband—were scheduled to migrate to the United States in late 2018. This event became a fitting send-off for her, considering her role in a band called Boldstar alongside Echo Singson, Jazz Nicholas (Itchyworms), and Justin Sunico (Ciudad).

It was a sure-fire hit night, with these bands putting a spin and recalling the good times. Hey, Tanya Markova even performed there.

18. Adriancon (February 2019)

Tanya Markova

My good friend Adrian Arcega celebrated his 40th birthday with such grandeur that I thought it was a comic convention. No kidding, though, as Adriancon became a night full of music, film, and nerd talk, thanks to our good friend. 

It was a damn good mix of young and young-at-heart stalwarts such as The Itchyworms, Tanya Markova, Stereodeal, Finding Zonko, and Inky De Dios gracing that Wednesday night.

19. The Bed Bites 'Hatinggabi' single launch (September 2019)

High Hello

Seeing The Bed Bites perform was actually months in the making. The single launch marked the first time I saw them on stage. Finally, after months of no-hits-and-all-misses!

The single launch would be the first of only two events wherein I would cross paths with this synth-pop crew. A couple of years later, the group eventually rebranded as Sunflower Station.

That's not all: Rob Equiza, Bita and the Botflies, Autotelic, and the visiting duo of High Hello from Palawan were also the high spots during this special Thursday outing.

19.6. Chocolatey Productions Indie Rock Night (September 2019)

Hit The Road Kat (Now, Kat Darling)

As I chronicled my journey in this venue, Chocolatey Productions's Indie Rock Night became the last gig I attended at Route 196. It was probably one of the few times I dropped by at a live music show where no one knew me except the bar boys. 

You know what? It feels good to have that sense of anonymity sometimes, so I can enjoy watching bands and probably photograph some of them.

The strangest thing about that evening is that I never knew anyone except Kat Maraña, a frontwoman for the blues band Hit The Road Kat. Consequently, she played last, and her sound differed from what has been supposedly an Indie Rock Night.

Honorable mention: A Gig Outta Nowhere (October 2017)

We Are Imaginary

Route 196 also became the birth haven for me as an event producer. A few days after I turned 27, Bel Certeza of Indie Manila asked if I wanted to create a gig. Hence, that became the reason why there's A Gig Outta Nowhere. I had Tom's Story, We Are Imaginary, Paranoid City, Drive of Daydream, and Alex Corner, in the bill. Hell, I almost booked IV of Spades there, too.

Only 17 people showed up, but regardless, I'm okay with the outcome. Bel made me realize I could do this aside from my other roles in the industry. 

Oh, wait. Did I tell you Dong Abay also dropped by the venue before the show? There you go.

Author: slickmaster | © 2021-2023 The SlickMaster's Files

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to make a comment as long as it is within the bounds of the issue, and as long as you do it with decency. Thanks!