Razorback's Brian Velasco "Bestowed Goodness and Sunshine Upon the World"
I thought it was a cruel joke.
At around 11:00 am on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, news about Brian Velasco's death by his own hand started spreading like wildfire across social media.
I don't need to talk at length about what an incredible drummer Brian was. It's a fact that many music journos have stated before me. A cursory listen to any of Razorback's songs from "Beggar's Moon" up until their recent collaboration with fellow rock legend Basti Artadi will prove it. You don't even have to be a fan of Pinoy rock to sense that when Brian performed, he always went in, guns a-blazin'. He was all heart, all fire, raw emotion and passion, whenever he pounded away on the drums.
And that is one of the reasons Razorback, in this fan's humble opinion, is one of the finest damn Pinoy rock bands ever to grace a stage.
I do, however, want to remember how Brian Velasco was a fine human being to everyone that had the privilege of calling him a friend.
My introduction to the music scene began just before high school. By virtue of having a Cool Older Sister who came of age in the early 90's, and was also a rabid grunge/classic rock fan, I credit my taste in music (and borderline cultish obsession with Eddie Vedder) to her.
This Cool Older Sister was also the person who took me to my first of many rock shows, which almost always included Wolfgang and Razorback in the lineup. The more gigs I tagged along to, the more my love for local music deepened.
We always had the privilege of backstage access whenever we saw Razorback and Wolfgang play, and I eventually made friends with the band members, with guitarist Tirso Ripoll and Brian being the ones I got closest to. Brian was always the first one to welcome me warmly, or would too willingly pass a sly cup of lukewarm alcohol my way when I ran out. That welcoming gesture was a BIG thing for an awkward teenage girl, okay?
This warmth extended outside of the smoky nights in the music scene, and into the daytime, during stolen school hours.
Brian, affectionately known as "Hubad," was a prominent figure at Blady's, my go-to watering hole near my university along Manila. I could always count on seeing him at the spot, and knock back a couple of cold ones while shooting the shit with him about everything under the sun. As intense as he was onstage, he was equally intense as a friend. He would listen—and I mean REALLY listen—to you, which was why it was easy to confide in him. He'd also give perfect well-meaning advice in return, from the worldview of a wizened old coot who had gone through a lot in his lifetime.
Did I mention that Brian was funny? If you ever had the privilege of being around him when he was feeling cheeky, his bawdy sense of humor could induce belly laughs from even the most poker-faced individual, with his awful Monty Python impersonations and fake accents. Hell, even his laugh alone could send you into a paroxysm of giggles.
Perhaps it was this intensity, and even the funny side of him, that were silent "tells" that Brian was carrying a big load on his shoulders that he wasn't telling anyone about.
As of this writing, I'm left with so many questions that aren't going to be answered any time soon. When singer Chris Cornell passed away in 2017, Anthony Bourdain, and rapper Mac Miller the year after, all from suicide, the gaping hole left behind was bigger than I could have ever imagined. I didn't know them personally, but the legacy they left behind has left a profound impact on everyone whose lives they affected.
Now that it's hit a little closer to home, I'm still at a loss. I only wish that I could wake up to find that this was all just a nasty dream, and message Brian about how some fool made up a malicious rumor about his death. I wish I could ask him for the date of the next Razorback show, because I would make time to watch. I know that we would have a good time.
But I can't.
The only thing I can do, I guess, is to be strong, and remember Brian Velasco for all the goodness and sunshine that he bestowed upon the world, even if he himself couldn't see it.
I should probably take a shot of awful brown liquor, and rewatch Monty Python and the Holy Grail again while I'm at it.
See you when I see you again, Bri.