Text by F. Maria Regalado
Over 50 stages were announced for this year’s Fête de la Musique. While the festival had long been hailed for the scale and the variety of its pocket events, this year truly delivered on the promise of having something for everyone—no matter how niche the following.
While matinee shows are a relative rarity in their own right, there was something oddly charming about the thought of cold, intimate music being played in sweltering heat to an audience of strangers. That, and the novelty of seeing Manila’s rock-and-roll nightlife squirm at the mere thought of actual daylight.
In spite of 59C graduating from the venue’s name to terrifying proof of man-made climate change, the show would continue as planned—a feat in itself in light of the gigging scene’s typical aversion to punctuality. Before long, pedalboards were set, and amplifier jewel lights glowed amber-red in anticipation of the ensuing tinnitus.Scene veteran, Manny Gallo, soon took his post behind the drum kit for show openers, Cinema de Lumiere. Sticks went up. The band counted off, and it all went blank again.
Riding the Vapour trail
Shoegaze, despite tending towards the more esoteric end of the indie rock spectrum, is cresting a recent wave of popularity. The term—initially a playful stab at British band, Moose’s apparent lack of stage presence—is now used as a catchall descriptor for artists who incorporate restrained, typically androgynous vocal work, and the dense, textured guitar experimentation of The Scene That Celebrates Itself.
The style, mostly developed in the UK by friends and fans of My Bloody Valentine, the Cocteau Twins, and The Jesus and Mary Chain (among many others), is hard to pin down. There are some shared traits like volume, and the use of vocals as complementary instrumentation, but the only real unifying thread was the loose association of musicians that made up the London and Thames Valley scenes. Everything else was a mixed bag underneath all that fuzz and reverb.
This diversity made for a potently addictive cocktail of sonic bliss—running the gamut from Lush’s saccharine 60s pop inflections, to Swervedriver’s more primal leanings, and even Slowdive’s spaced-out neo psychedelia. If that sounds like a lot of aural territory, the bands that followed in the wake of that initial wave went even further.
American band, Swirlies narrowly tread noise and math rock on They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons, while bands like Bowery Electric, All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, and Curve went on to take shoegaze’s density into breakbeat-abusing, electronica-tinged territory. Tracing the genre’s development almost seems like an exercise in futility with the style’s impressive ability to adapt.
Decades later, and a continent or two away, these sounds would go on to shake walls as far off as the Philippines—all in their own distinct ways. This might only be Furiosa’s second Fête stint, but the Dreampop and Shoegaze Stage felt like something that should’ve always been there, shining a much-deserved light on a fascinating sound and scene.
Members of 2000s noiseniks, Phantom Sizemore recently returned to the stage under the name PNZR—taking their penchant for volume from piercing treble to a newfound love for layered, gliding soundscapes that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Astrobrite record. Density has long been a part of the shoegazer M.O. but between this, Monochrome’s souvlaki-enriched crescendos, and The Rave Tapes’ arena-sized inflections, there was more than enough for discerning tastes.
The sheer aural violence could get overbearing, but true to the style’s nature, the night also reflected more tender sensibilities. Memory Drawers and Davao City’s Tradecraft, for example, both drew on a more cosmopolitan approach to dreampop that married the best of that Captured Tracks shimmer with a bit of local indie shuffle.
That sense of dynamics didn’t just stop with texture or energy—the night also featured impressive emotional breadth. Literal sister bands, Narcloudia, and Polar Lows brought a more melancholy atmosphere to the stage—offset by the swooning pop tendencies of Washington Drama Club, Populardays, and Megumi Acorda.
Heaven or Las Piñas
It might’ve been the promise of free booze, but the shoegaze stage was surprisingly packed given the number of other pocket events—all featuring powerhouse lineups. For something with a reputation for being purposefully obscure, an enthusiastic (if equally inebriated) audience was a breath of fresh air.
Earlier in the day, Gallo mused, “Alam mo, buti na yung ganito kesa mapunta sila sa [Top 40],” radiating quiet satisfaction over indie rock finding a newer, younger audience. “I don’t know how we all got into this stuff,” said Chesby Gabalones, a college student and member of several online music groups. “Ah yes, definitely the internet!” she interjects.
As people started trickling into the shoegaze stage, it was clear to see that the crowd was as diverse as the sounds on offer. Stumbling his way back to the venue after a long journey for cigarettes, Josh Crae of bizarro punks, Beast Jesus recalled, “Kanina, naka-Grab ako, tapos nahirapan akong hanapin yung venue. Nung nakita ko na yung naka itim pati naka Doc Martens, bumaba na ako. Ayun, nahanap ko na!” (I was on a Grab and had a hard time looking for the venue. When I saw this group wearing black and Doc Martens I got off and then I found it [the venue])
Sure enough, there was an abundance of leather stompers, but the venue was also teeming with young, teenage indieheads, pop-punk kids turned on to reverb by the advent of soft grunge, internet music trolls, and dyed-in-the-wool DIY punk veterans.
Like the original scene that celebrates itself, there was something special in the way shoegaze worked behind the actual music—with a unifying ethos to anchor all the wayward sound. Furiosa head honcho and Rave Tapes fuzz-slinger, Romel Chua noted, “We got in touch with Fête mismo. Kasi kung di namin gagawin ourselves, paano siya mangyayari?” (We got in touch with Fête ourselves because if not, how would it happen?) Without realizing it, his off-the-cuff remark cut remarkably close to another reverb-drenched period in Philippine music history.
Few may remember the height of Valenzuela’s incredibly vibrant indie rock scene, but its influence still stirs in the hearts of today’s crop of shoegazers and pop kids. Seminal indie figurehead, Dale Marquez of Sonnet LVIII, Apple Orchard, and most recently, Some Gorgeous Accident, sheds some valuable insight on the earlier scene.
“New wave was pretty big in the Philippines eh—back in the 80s,” he recalls. “I think that’s where it really started. In Valenzuela, it was only natural for music fans there to be familiar with [bands like] Aztec Camera and [The] Pale Fountains.” With a mutual love for alternative music, Dale and his childhood friends went on to form pioneering local shoegaze act, Sonnet LVIII.
Between new wave’s decline and grunge’s meteoric rise to prominence, the 90s indie scene would turn to niche styles like twee pop and shoegaze as an outlet for their insatiable thirst for new music. “It’s important kasi other fans then… wanted a different sound,” he continues. “There were no gigs. Sonnet LVIII auditioned at Club Dredd, and it was so lackluster. We were rejected.”
That rejection would only serve to stoke the band’s independent spirit. Acts like Allan Montero’s Candyaudioline, Shoemart (the band, not the mall chain), and Francis’ pre-Archaster band, Fingernail Cocktail, would later spring to life alongside No Zone and Awakening shows, and an untold number of fanzines. From constant frustration to a self-sufficient community of bands, promoters, and writers, this little pocket of the greater indie scene practically willed itself into being. At the very least, Sonnet made it back to Dredd several times after.
Warping back to 2019, the fog of sonic annihilation would lift in the wake of the last band. The open bar’s worst casualties were slumped over the venue grounds. Those who remained conscious didn’t fare much better—shell shocked, but satisfied nonetheless. Two figures would dig their way out of the wreckage.
Musician and recording engineer, Johann Mendoza and his partner, artist, Ches Gatpayat, sat outside the venue, putting the night into perspective. “What really drew me to shoegaze was the atmosphere and the density,” Johann, confesses. “I mean, even socially, with what I’ve read, it seemed a lot more progressive at the time as well. And it’s kind of like that now.”
Ches agreed. A subtle smirk traced its way across her face—still under the reverb’s lingering charm. “It’s a sound, and I—I have no more words.”