Years of diligence and learning paid off for a Metro Manila band as they were hailed as the champion of the 2012 Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Rock Challenge grand finals held last Feb. 2 at the reclaimed field at the corner of Edsa and Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City.
A Music Theory (AMT), formed in 2008 by four college students of the De La Salle University, took home P500,000 cash prize, an exclusive recording contract and a big shot at Filipino rock superstardom.
“When our band was announced the grand champion, it felt magical,” described lead vocalist and band leader Jaime Miguel “Cholo” Pabalan. “It was the kind of happiness kids feel when they walk through the gates of Disneyland for the first time whilst an instrumental version of ‘A Whole New World’ is playing in the background. It was just pure, unadulterated happiness. After over four years as a band playing gig after gig after gig around the metro, it felt as if the hard work finally paid off. Also, we felt honored to be given the chance to hold the Red Horse banner just like the industry’s finest bands do.”
This was the third time AMT joined Muziklaban.
“We got booted at eliminations back in 2009 and 2010. We decided not to join in 2011 to concentrate on band growth. Luckily, the third time was the charm in 2012,” Pabalan related.
AMT traces its beginnings in 2006 when Pabalan, JC Santos (lead guitar/backup vocals), Lorce Manaois (bass guitar), John Jo Presingular (drums/backup vocals) and other classmates made a music video project for their Filipino class, calling themselves Sevensticks. After the project, they thought of starting a real band. The group fizzled out with the remaining members calling themselves as BFKAS (Band Formerly Known as Sevensticks). Manaois met Santos again in a philosophy class and revived their intent of forming a band, now calling it A Music Theory, officially born on Oct. 24, 2008 at the JNJ Studio in Malate, Manila.
AMT started doing gigs and eventually joining Muziklaban.
“The Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban is the premier amateur band competition in the country. We saw it as an opportunity to break into an industry we love to get a chance to get to do what we all love doing. We want the songs we play to be heard so that people would be able to appreciate it and feel all the emotions it holds just like we do. Also, we would like to someday be able to contribute to our country’s rich history of music,” Pabalan said.
Now on its 14th year, the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Rock Challenge, an annual rock band competition to promote the strong beer brand of San Miguel Brewery, the Philippines’ leading beer maker, has become an influential force in the music industry, discovering new talents and establishing itself as a major rock event in the country.
Pabalan explained: “The opportunity Muziklaban brings to an amateur band is golden and opportunities like that do not come often in the indie band scene. And being a Muziklaban champion is really something to be proud of. It’s a title that a band will carry forever. Winning at Muziklaban is possibly the best opportunity that any aspiring amateur band can get.”
Past winners include 3rd Degree (2001), 18th Issue (2002), Fuseboxx (2003), Hardboiledeggz (2006), Mayonnaise (2004), Sunflower Day Camp (2005), Gayuma (2007), Even (2008), Hatankaru (2009), Light of Luna (2010) and David vs. Goliath (2011).
Months of elimination rounds conducted around the country precedes each Muziklaban grand finals. This year, Red Horse Beer came up with five bands to represent the different regions — A Music Theory for Metro Manila, Memoronnie for Mindanao, Fidortchi for southern Luzon, Diesngage for the Visayas and Katulad for northern Luzon.
Based in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, in northeastern Mindanao, Memoronnie plays indie/alternative rock with four members — Rosaire (lead vocals), Philip (drums), Jfoi (guitar) and Dancapz (bass guitar). The band is named in memory of a deceased member, Ronnie. On the other hand, Disengage, based in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, in Central Visayas, plays hardcore and Death Metal rock. Formed in 2011, it is composed of Julius Mananquil (vocals), Jesse Antiquiera (guitar), Kim Nochefranca (bass), Matthew Lee (guitar) and Joseph Corleone (drums).
The northern Luzon band Katulad is from Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, and was formed in 2011. Its members — Dave Gualberto (vocals), Allan Teneza (bass), Andrew Sardillo (guitar), Paul Tumaliuan (guitar), Dan Calling (percussion), Gudo Dela Cruz (percussion), Gideon Reyes (drums) — were formerly members of other bands. With Pinikpikan, Kalayo, Francis Magalona and Eraserheads as influences, Katulad fuses ethnic and modern music to form what they call “malayang musika” (literally, free music).
Fidortchi hails from Naga City in the Bicol Region and is composed of Rommel Sandagon (vocals), Alvin Bautista (drums), Mario Bulao (bass), Mark Owen Mendez (guitars) and Nong Legacion Jr. (guitars). Formed on October 2010, the band has been visible in the Bicol music scene, as well as numerous band competitions.
Hosted by Francis Brew Reyes and model Phoemela Barranda, the grand finals attracted hundreds rock enthusiasts, beer drinkers and anyone in between. Aside from the performances at the main stage, there were many things going on. The Pinoy Ink Tent featured tattoo demonstration and exhibit by Chris Garcia, notable tattoo artist in Hollywood and brother of Slapshock’s lead singer. The Extreme Sports Zone had BMX and skateboard stunt riders. The Horsepower Zone highlighted amateur bands poised to join next year’s Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban Rock Challenge. There were also wall climbing activities, ring toss games, etc.
At the main stage, guest performers included band ambassadors Slapshock, Kjwan, Wilabaliw, Greyhoundz and Razorback as well as past champs Mayonnaise, Gayuma, Even, Hatankaru and Light of Luna. Pepe Smith and his band Juna dela Cruz and Ely Buendia with his band Pupil provided the highlights. The event also unveiled the Red Horse Beer motorbike customized by Hardcore Brothers, which boasts of an original Red Horse airbrush paint finish, bobber fender, Vance and Hines exhaust, Cobra Chrome Pwerflo Air Intake custom rev meter, fuel cap, handle bars, solo saddle, tail lights, deuce-style signal lights and Kuryakin grips. This was raffled off to patrons.
In between the established bands, the contenders performed like no tomorrow. This year, they performed original songs as well as covers. AMT’s songs caught the attention of judges and audience.
“The two original songs we played during the finals were ‘Anthem’ and ‘Endgame,’” Pabalan said. “‘Anthem’ is a song about feeling your way through life and not just living by so-called rules and norms dictated by society. Endgame, on the other hand, is sort of an emotional love song based on certain personal experiences by the band’s bassist.”
Pabalan related their journey: “The semi-finals (which was also Rakrakan Series XVII) and the grand finals of the Red Horse Beer Pambansang Muziklaban were the first two times wherein we got to play on a huge stage in front of a huge crowd. We learned that bar gigs are so much different. The nervousness comes at a different level on a big stage with thousands of people watching as compared to a bar with dozens. Also, we learned the true meaning of perseverance.”
He further said: “In preparation for the RHB Muziklaban Grand Finals, we rehearsed for two hours, two to three times a week. We also took a couple of gigs to help us prepare for the finals. Also, we tried our best to eat right and stay healthy to avoid any and all kinds of illnesses that could come upon us. Murphy’s Law was on the back of our minds so we took extra precaution in almost everything. However, it didn’t hurt to have a little fun. We still went out and chilled as usual to keep the vibe warm and happy.”
AMT’s win followed the victories of National Capital Region bets Mayonnaise in 2004 and Hatankaru in 2009.
“We will be touring with the industry’s finest bands, learning from them every step of the way. And we’ll also be starting on our first album very soon. Hopefully, it all rolls on the right direction from there,” Pabalan said.
With a Muziklaban feather in their cap, Pabalan revealed the band’s dreams: “Because we love what we do, we’d love to tour and play around the country and even abroad if given the chance. We’d also like to release an album or two so that our music would be heard. And who knows? Maybe we could even become a successful, international band someday which harbors national pride and serves as an influence to others to achieve greatness and be conferred upon the Order of Lakandula. Dream big, right?”
For more information, visit www.redhorsebeer.com.