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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Gigs: Where To Catch Your Favorite OPM Bands (v. 2024, Part 1 of 2)

03/26/2024 02:45:19 PM

I first wrote The Gigs as part of the music issue of the Philippine Panorama (Yes, the Sunday magazine of Manila Bulletin) back in February 2018, wherein I featured some of the places which houses live music scene. Add to that is how and why online is also the place to be if one looks for sources of new music.

Fast-forward to 2024: It has been two years since the time the Manila gig scene resurfaced for good. The months of February and March were the times when music events had its full-blown resurrection for good after being halted by another wave of community quarantine at the start of the year 2022. Some of us have to understand that this was an era of a convergence of the new normal and returning norms as some of our beloved venues closed, a bunch of personalities we know passed away (be it due to COVID or not), and everything noisy has mostly been made virtually. As we know it, the shutdown has put us in uncertainty; but eventually, we found our way back to hum tunes with our voices and instruments. 

In 2022, we may have been walloping over the closure of Upperhouse, Conspiracy Garden Cafe and Route 196 (along with other shops and restaurants in various business fields that we didn't have chances to bade farewell), but new houses emerged to serve live music and all the merrymaking we barely missed that two-year stretch. Not to mention, other names which probably rang the bell, also made their respective returns (NOKAL, 123 Block and 12 Monkeys, to name a couple of them) – although, in different locations. 

Add to that are the reopening of the venues that remained alive and kicking up to this day like saGuijo, Mow's, Social House, 19 East, and The 70's Bistro – but we'll talk more of that later on as we now take a look at some of the newest places to hang around and watch live our favorite music bands rock the night away.

Unknown 13 Pub 

Once again, Katipunan has a new musical home, and Katipcore is here to stay, thanks to Unknown13 Pub.

It was mid-2023 when a bar emerged from the top of building just next to Arton Strip and instantly became one of the primary hot spots for small-scaled concerts, album launches, and even other merry-making nightlife events like drag shows and mind you, Karaoke sessions. Unknown13 may be a bit larger and elegant than the famous Route 196 with its roadhouse-like vibe, a T-shaped podium, and a top-notch quality lights and sounds system; but make no mistake about how this place serves relatively-affordable munchies and boozes to compliment the overlooking vibe of its Veranda. 

In addition, the venue also offers fairly good deal with numerous artists and productions. No wonder why the likes of Giglab PH, Old Forest Recordings, Chocolatey Productions, Final Round Promotions, and more used to stage their events here for time to time. However, just like Route, getting to the place via public transportation is somehow difficult, unless you're a brisk walker.

Balcony Music House

Just located at the outskirts of Poblacion, Makati, Balcony Music House became one of the elite go-to places for bar gigs in 2023. Be it a live band or a DJ performance, this venue can deliver with a stage similar to the previous iterations of 12 Monkeys and a 2-floor setting like 19 East and Social House.

Although taking photos for events in this house was quite challenging to a degree during its first few months. But with the system that seems operating in full-swing, they can have every other music bar in Makati give a run of their money to deliver great shows – more so if they're sold out like those nights staged by Gabi Na Naman Productions, Orion Management, Bob Marley Day Manila, or even just having a solo show of either ZILD, Ebe Dance, One Click Straight, Sponge Cola or Franco.

Plus, the food may be out of the typical budget, but they're all worth the price. Go get some baby back ribs there.


Don't mistake for seeing that huge MILENYA word from a place that houses a branch of Gotobox, a KTV bar, and a plethora of automobile parts because as classic as it sounds, looks can be deceiving.

With the interior that resembles a mix of a cabaret, a vintage elegant house and that defunct BGC bar, Milenya poises to be one of the Instagrammable bars in the metro. It is truly a worth to be around whenever you're in Marikina or any other city at the Eastern side of the Metro (even if you walk from Sports Center or the nearby Blue Wave Marquinton), because the place offers a very spacious floor, a well-priced food and drinks, and a live performance of your favorite artists as the MILENYA sign illuminates over them. Not to mention, the windows on the right side serve as an overlooking view of the tail-end of the nightlife-busy Gil Fernando Avenue.

I'm probably glad that from being just a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic, there's a bar that has the ambiance of a borderline sophisticated bar that's not at its core. 


From a small-scaled bar that had its stellar sold-out opening night in the third quarter of 2022, 88Fryer immediately went to renovation and expanded their space, aiming on catering to more audience and artists alike. But still, they retained that pin-light intimate vibe that only smartphones and camera lens that have wide apertures can capture. Not a bad thing at all.

Two years later, here they are, serving well-curated live music like pancakes (pun intended) at the ground floor of ITC Building in Panay Avenue every week. But make no mistake about their food, too, because their signature dishes are damn good. Their beef salpicao was a hill to die on, if you ask me. 

Plus, they remain open until the wee hours, so that for any other night by either Hellcat Entertainment, Owl Productions, CAPO MNL, Maverick Productions or any other outfit, you can spot your idols and artist friends still chilling out at 1:30 in the morning and beyond.

PIT88 Restobar

Placed just at the other side of Gil Fernando Avenue (formerly D. Tuazon and near Marcos Highway), PIT88 Restobar was a product of transformation from being a betting house into a music hall. They're spacious; they have a stellar stage that can easily be compared to the legendary ones; they also have affordably good bar chow, and not to mention, they're also one of the bars which are most friendly to the gig producers. No wonder why the likes of Final Round Promotions, Stellar, Turquoise Productions, CD's Atbp., and Old Forest Recordings keep on going back and bringing other artists to come together almost every night. Add to that, by the way, is their own parking space at the back.

Plus, if indie prods aren't enticing much, how about The Dawn, Freestyle, South Border and even Razorback holding their own special bar shows here at a random time of the month?

Besides, when the show's over by midnight? You can still stick around and have a drink as the staff goes for a live karaoke session or just hang at the Old China Dimsum house for more of their food. 

Imajin: Arts and Music

From the first look, you can tell that Imajin is like the counterpart of Jess & Pat's in Maginhawa – except the former is serving either San Mig Light or Pale Pilsen whenever they're available. Hey, their food is affordable, too, be it any of their Sloppy'Chos or their Crispy Chicken Sandwich which is “oh-so-yummy” from looks to taste buds.

But more than the first impression, entering Imajin: Arts and Music through the Narnia-like door is like  entering a different dimension. Inside this place lie avery studio-like very-artsy stage, as if it's painted in an all-black canvas. Yes, it's beyond imagination, as I can say. Plus, accompanying the intimate look is the sound system that is so good in the ears. 

Various prods – most especially Partypau Prod, Extra Sauce, and Paniki Nights – used to stage their events here, and staging events here can be easy to reach, too.

Rabbit Hole

Somewhere in the streets of Extramadura in Sampaloc once had a place called Troika where people would dine and watch gigs at a random night. Unfortunately, that's just one of the places I have never been into during all these nine years in the scene.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2023: The nightlife in the street re-emerges in the name of Rabbit Hole, which was just a block away from the now-defunct venue and ran by some of the people I know during my days with a certain production. A coffee and vinyl shop by day, Rabbit Hole transforms itself into a cramp-like yet intimate venue for anything that's live music. Good to be there as a fan, but just prepare to shoot for low lighting conditions once you're planning to go there for a gig.

Young people – be it from the nearby University of Santo Tomas or anywhere else – would drop by to see some of their favorite artists and friends perform; with various productions like SorryNotSorry and even artists like BennyBunnyBand and Modry-Modry doing their shows here on an almost-regular basis. Hey, add to that is the recognition by the City of Manila's Department of Tourism, Culture, and Arts. That alone, is something worth bragging.


Beyond the usual suspects of Bicutan, Sucat, and Alabang districts, there's a music venue that can say it's literally at the down south of the Metropolitan. At the third floor of Kaibigan Commercial Complex at Poblacion in Muntinlupa City, Gighouse may be a tough hill to climb on, but they're worth the visit once you made it. They have a very spacious place which can accommodate to around a hundred people, they have a stage backdrop and lights & sounds system that reminds you of seeing a mini-theater studio with all the props and signage surrounding them. They can definitely have every other bar a run for their money.

Add to that is a room that is solely for the performers and organizers only which definitely puts security as one of its priority for them.

But perhaps, the challenging point here, though is travel. Not because South Metro Manila has been very hard to traverse for the longest time, but the traffic from Alabang to here is something worth pondering on. Oh, yeah, add the ridiculously priced toll fees, too.

Simon's Place

Located at the outskirts of the Timog-Tomas Morato nightlife district (and just near the corner of Morato and Kamuning avenues) Simon's Place appears to be just another Supreme restaurant-bar for the elders which are basically dining style plus the stage for jamming. 

But as the scene resurfaced in 2022, they became open for prod gigs, thanks to The Flying Lugaw's gutsy move when they hold their first pre-pandemic events there. Other prods followed suit since then; reigniting the love for the scene as a whole as they scour for more venues based in the City of the Stars.

While they still stage various themed nights for show bands and ballroom dancing, it's a good thing that Simon's Place Supreme Resto Bar has been considerable in putting up indie rock, alternative and pop band shows like those organized by Mendira, and Parayaoski, to name a few. 


It used to be a small restaurant located at the heart of Marikina City in the early 2020s. But as the scene resurfaced in resurrection in 2022, Ruins joined the party. Hey, after all, it was the city's turn to put themselves on the map of music lovers.

Say what you want about the subpar acoustics or the humidity of the venue, but Ruins fit perfectly for the loudest ones. No wonder why some of the punk and metal bands loved to be around here. Add to that is the tattoo shop located upstairs.

Not to mention, one of the bar with the most affordable beers and food. Plus, it's just walking distance from either Sports Center or the Market Mall. That, along with the nearby Save More Supermarket and an Andok's (in case I ran out of my preferred beer) being placed in between this bar? That's definitely a win-win for a Marikenyo like me. 

TakeOver Lounge

Before the shutdown happened, Takeover Lounge used to be a gaming lounge called Game Over. As far as I recall, there were also events there involving live music. But then, when the live (and I mean physical) events world resumed into normalcy stages, TakeOver has started accomodating gigs.

Although it's a bit far and with only a tricycle as its primary access of transportation, TakeOver Lounge at then-Xavierville Avenue was still one of the go-to places for a random Giglab PH or CAPO MNL show. Hey, even the iconic singer-songwriter-and-actor Ice Seguerra once performed here for a solo show.

Recently, TakeOver Lounge moved from Xavierville (just opposite the Rumble Royale office) to Pop Up Katipunan, providing alternative for the latter which used to join B-Side at The cOllective as the then-large venues for staging events.


Don't be deceived by the Sandugo branch located just past the regional boundary of Marikina and Cainta (Rizal Province) as the place itself has a warehouse-like Eastside Events Place has slowly emerging as one of the largest (and probably wildest) go-to venues for concerts. 

Eastside may be one of the very distant places ever, but it is surely worth the travel as very spacious events place offers a wide menu of food plus very affordable drinks – and obviously a shop of Sandugo footwear apparel. Add to that is the stellar setup of the lights and sound system, a T-shape catwalk-like stage and a clean comfort room. At the height of the emergence of the venues from Eastern Metro Manila (specifically, those based in Marikina City), Eastside is probably in the similar scale to that of the new 123 Block.

Perhaps, some of the living testaments in this place are the shows usually organized by producers like Purple Cat Events and Sleeping Boy Collective; as well as special shows like Sandwich's Grip Stand and Throw 25th anniversary + vinyl launch and one of the 30th anniversary/reunion bar tour of the legendary 90s Pinoy Rock band Teeth.

Sari Sari

I once visited Sari Sari during last year's Fete de la Musique. That speak-easy bar in Washington, Makati had something in them with all the foreign cocktails and other liquor available (although reasonably priced), a trendy interior look (a tree inside that bar? Come on.) a damn refrigerator-looking door, and a decent stage that's good for live entertainment like music and even comedy?

That rocks. No wonder why other prods I know (like Shoplifters United, Giglab, Locked Down Entertainment and Final Round) are started following suit to make the nightlife on other side of Makati City as vibrant as it was before. Hell, even the legendary comic Mike Unson would stage their stand-up shows here. Not to mention, looks like acoustic nights appeared to be served best here. Come on, who wants to sip one of their Thai beers while looking at the saturated red and greenery setting as you sit on that couch near the wall and hear some chillax acoustic tunes? I do, and hopefully will do so soon.


These are just some of the newest kids on the block when it comes to gig venues. I'm pretty sure there are more names and places I have yet to visit, so this part of the list will be updated soon.

Also, on the next half of our The Gigs series, we will tackle some of the venues that stood the test of the toughest times – the same ones who survived the pandemic by either sticking to their original locations or relocating to a much better area. But for now, give these places a visit and see for yourself. You can also share your experience by dropping a live below in the comment section.

Author: slickmaster | © 2024 The SlickMaster's Files

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