5 Gig Places in the '90s that Shaped Filipino Music Today
The '90s was a golden age for live music in Manila. There weren't as many gig places then as there are now, but there were a handful that shaped the OPM landscape as we know it today.
These bars played mostly alternative music, hosting then-unknown musicians that had little to no place in radio. (Joey Ayala, Wolfgang, The Jerks, Razorback, Tropical Depression, Yano, Eraserheads—those "small" names.) Their music didn't quite fit the FM formats at the time, as most radio execs didn't want songs that didn't sound the "ka-ching!" of a million cash registers when played over the airwaves. But Pinoy alternative rock was an unstoppable force in that decade, with an eclectic bunch of musicians introducing all kinds of new sounds to a hungry listening audience.
Though record labels and radio programs like NU107.5's In the Raw also played their part in shining the spotlight on the fringes, the lifeblood of the alternative rock scene was in the live-music circuit. Most of these venues are gone now, but if you're enjoying a robust and varied music scene today, you have these iconic bars to thank.
The regulars of Club Dredd on its original location near Timog Ave. came from a radical mix of subcultures—you had the goth kids, the punk rockers, the alt-rockers, the metalheads, you name it. Every gig night was different, and the acts vary in style depending on who got a coveted gig spot. Bands like After Image, Alamid, Color It Red, and the Eraserheads found their spot in the industry after holding court at Club Dredd. Other bars may be cozier and others may boast bigger names in gig posters, but no place in Quezon City was as consistently authentic as Club Dredd.
Club Dredd has gone through a number of facelifts and moves since owners Patrich Reidenbach and Robbie Sunico first opened its doors in 1990. Having taken over for another iconic gig spot, Red Rocks, for their original Timog location, it moved to a larger and better-managed location on EDSA, Cubao in 1994, where it managed to thrive until 1998. It continued to showcase fresh talents including Datu’s Tribe, Parokya ni Edgar, Greyhoundz, and Sugar Hiccup.
The venue reopened quietly in Eastwood in 2007, where it continued to give breaks to up-and-coming musicians until 2010. Now under new ownership, Club Dredd is now found at The Avenue in Cainta, Rizal.
Mayric's started operations in 1983, on the ground floor of an old building along España Boulevard, near the University of Santo Tomas. Although Mayric's was a little rough around the edges, its audience capacity made it attractive both to bands who were just establishing themselves and to big names who wanted to play a venue more intimate than concert halls.
"Folk house 'to dati. Tapos, naging duet, naging trio, naging banda. During the '90s, dun na na-conceptualize yung, 'Where all great bands are born' (na tagline), kasi, dun ako nagbigay ng policy na before you can audition here, you have to have five originals," Sazi Cosino said in an old interview with GMA. It was the home of folk and reggae music, and the band Cocojam reigned as kings. In 1994, The Jerks recorded their debut album The Jerks Live here, under Gary Granada's Backdoor Records.
Upon entering this grimy, sweat-stained Manila gem, you were likely to see established and college bands making one of their stops on a "lagare" night. True to the aesthetic of the 90s, the interiors were drab, but it had a distinctly homey vibe, turning artists and fans into a family gathered in an intimate setting. In 1998, Mayrics started putting up its popular Sunday Grabe Sundays prod nights, headlined by bands like Sandwich, The Pin-up Girls, and Imago.
Mayric's was renamed Sazi's in 2009, staying open for three more years after that. But, despite the name change and demise, Mayric's managed to hold its place in the hearts of every musician and Manila college student as a damn fine rock club.
The true test of a band is whether or not they can get the audience to really listen, and Kalye was the place where bands aimed to perfect their act. The venue, in the heart of Makati's Legazpi Village, catered to a somewhat more well-heeled but nonetheless tough crowd, and this is where Wolfgang, Advent Call, and Razorback earned their stripes.
Wolfgang played Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots. Razorback covered Juan de la Cruz and Black Sabbath. Advent Call's repertoire went from mainstream to metal. No easy task, but the bar's lineup got people's ears glued to their sound system. Its solid sound and sight lines drew in the South gig-goers and bar residents looking to get up close with them.
If the Quezon City and Manila venues required bands to play originals, Kalye was more open but equally brutal. All-star jams and impromptu covers happened here a lot (remember Karl Roy singing EMF's “Unbelievable”?). After tirelessly serving Makati’s rock community for what seemed like centuries, Kalye closed down, but 6Underground readily took its place.
At one point, Anonas St. in Quezon City became a hotspot for live music, and Freedom Bar and 70's Bistro were its busiest centers. Here, local bands were encouraged to play originals to jampacked crowds. Busy Anonas St. also accommodated a network of fans and musicians, providing an opportunity for folk and rock musicians to bump into one other.
70's Bistro can still be seen standing on the same site it's had since it opened in 1993. A known folk house back then, the bar first had to stick to “unplugged” programming because neighbors complained about the noise. Thanks to its two-decades long history, it's managed to rack up an incredible list of musicians who have taken its stage: everyone from folk musicians Joey Ayala, Grace Nono, Gary Granada, and Noel Cabangon to rock bands like The Eraserheads, Yano, Color It Red, Parokya ni Edgar, and Kamikazee. The bar continues to welcome musicians nightly, as it has without fail for 25 years straight. It’s where bands want their names to be seen. In bold black letters superimposed on a white light-up board.
In 1996, an old compound's second floor became a famous music destination. Unless you know where it is, getting to Freedom Bar isn't easy, but once you got there, you entered a known sanctuary for artists.
This has always been an anything-goes kind of place, where everyone came in whatever clothes they had on at the time, and nobody cared. There were poetry nights, multi-genre gigs, and, on some occasions, you could even catch artists decorating the walls with murals. Monday used to be their Jazz Night, led by resident band AKASHA. Metal bands (literally) wrecked the place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays played all sorts of rock ranging from classic to punk, glam rock held throw-downs on Thursdays, and Fridays and Weekends were reserved for productions and private functions. In the 2000s, it became even more open to productions as FlipTop Rap Battles eventually found its way there. After serving live music to its QC patrons for more than a decade, Freedom Bar relocated to Marikina.