Bazooka Rocks Festival 3: Grander than Ever
Featuring a bigger and more alluring deluge of bands, the Bazooka Rocks Festival 3 was undeniably grander than its predecessors. Enrapturing bigger and more diverse crowds of live music fans this year, Pulp Live World has again outdone themselves by staging quite a thrilling mix of different genres of rock music in a two-day festival.
It was eternally nighttime on the last two days of August at the Bazooka Rocks Festival 3. The patrons of the festival entered a Burtonesque Wonderland, oblivious to time and the shifting seasons outside. In between the vines in the crypt-like passage, the first thing that welcomed you were zombies in lab gowns. If that isn’t strange enough, just a little bit past the entrance, you would easily spot the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Cards, the tiny card soldiers with their tall lances –all of them in full regalia. Occasionally, you’d even spot them having a tea party.
Inside, the venue was marked by a slight eeriness. The temperature was lower than normal– some even had to wear jackets just to thwart the coldness. The concert area was mostly doused in black light, illuminating light-colored things like they were floating gems. If you looked around a bit more and you’d see the huge banners of the band emblems hanging, fashioned in the same way as an old castle – very much like the house banners in Game of Thrones.
Yes, it was an eccentric, mixed-up world over at the SMX Convention Center. For 20 hours in two days, Bazooka rockers were stuck in a place wherein, ironically enough, the only indicator of time is a 60-second countdown, and the only thing that mattered is the band that would appear at the end of it.
The main stage featured a big screen which flashed the performing band’s logo and other event particulars. There was also the much treasured catwalk wherein certain band members lingered upon during their performances, much to the delight of the audience.
There were a few booths and amusements around the corner, too. There was the crowd favorite free beer booth, the shirt customization booth, the giant slide, a photo booth, the Happy Zoo and a few games that exist in school fairs. Then, there was the merch booth, flaunting the official band shirts, CDs and other effects. Right beside it was the Meet and Greet area wherein the bands made their appearance following a fixed schedule. Access to the official M&G was limited to those who availed of the Royalty privilege, but if you were fast and anxious enough when the time called for it, you could catch a glimpse of the bands and even chat with them as they went through their M&G sessions.
The First Day
The lineup for the first day was composed mostly of veteran post-hardcore bands or as more popularly and controversially tagged as “emo” bands during the early 2000s. As expected, the crowd is generally composed of the older generation – those who grew up listening to the bands in their teenage to early 20s. There was none of that expected “emo” behavior (whatever that was supposed to mean back in the day). There was just a bunch of people overenjoying the different sets, singing their angst-filled days away with the music that stuck with them over the good (or bad), old years.
The day started with local acts Brickcity and Runway Crimes along with punk female-fronted Cebuano band Tiger Pussy and Ria Bautista formerly of Paramita.
At around 4PM, Senses Fail took the stage, playing most of their songs from their debut album “Let It Enfold You” which is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. Their set included familiar hits such as “Lady in a Blue Dress”, “Buried a Lie”, “Choke on This” and “Bite to Break Skin”. On the other hand, Saves the Day performed “At Your Funeral”, “1984”,”Freakish”, “Anywhere with You” and “Firefly”, among others.
Putting the crowd on an ultimate high were the evening’s headliners: Taking Back Sunday and The Used, a dream lineup for the majority of the attendees. Manila finally got to see that legendary, suave mic swinging that Adam Lazarra is so great at – it deserves some sort of trademark with his name on it. It was Taking Back Sunday’s 2nd time to perform in Manila, but due to Lazarra’s unfortunate leg injury in 2012, he wasn’t able to show that skill off. This time, he and the band came back with a renewed energy and a new album titled “Happiness Is” from which they played 4 songs – “Stood a Chance”, “Flicker, Fade”, “Better Homes and Gardens” and “All the Way”. Of course, they played their classic hits from their previous albums such as “A Decade under the Influence”, “You’re So Last Summer”, “Cute without the E (Cut from the Team)” and “MakeDamnSure”. As a very special bonus, TBS even entertained requests from the fans they met in their meet and greet sessions – “Bonus Mosh Pt. II”, “Set Phasers to Stun” and “My Blue Heaven” which are songs they haven’t performed live in years.
The Used’s set was marked by a blast in volume and a huge dash of Bert McCracken’s infamous, twisted humor. Leave it to him to be comical and inspirational at the same time. At one point, he commanded massive circle pits and choreographed crowd cheers. At another, he was telling everyone to question authority at all times and even steal their record and give it to the poor. The height of their set was when they consecutively played “I Caught Fire”, “The Taste of Ink”, “All that I’ve Got” and “Buried Myself Alive” – their classics, so to speak. The last song of their set was what McCracken introduced as “the best song ever” as they played the opening riffs of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which eventually melted into The Used’s first single from their debut album “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”.
The Second Day
The crowd’s energy was far from dying down during the next day. If anything, it reached its peak as it drew in a younger and highly fanatical pack of people. Showcasing a mix of contemporary pop-rock acts, the bands for the 2nd day are the anthem makers of today’s youth.
Opening the event were local acts Nyctinasty, Paranoid City, Gracenote and Chicosci. Miggy Chavez perked up the crowd by playing their most recognized hits such as “Chicosci Vampire Social Club”, “Paris” and “Seven Black Roses”, inducing a loud sing-along among the audience.
Coldrain was a distinctive act, being the only metalcore band to play in the festival. Also, they’re Japanese. One thing that stood out in their set was the well-defined quality of their sound – from the piercing guitar riffs to the pulsating beats. Granted, the sound engineering of the entire BRF was excellently done, but still, Coldrain’s sound was somehow more strikingly well-balanced. It’s also worth noting that the band members tuned their own instruments by themselves prior to their set, and they were visibly more meticulous at it than others. The band’s frontman, Masato David Hayakawa, was also magnetizing presence onstage as he went singing around with a vintage-looking microphone, his screaming voice clear and unfaltering. “The Revelation”, “Behind the Curtain”, “The War Is On” and “No Escape” were included in their set.
The most refreshing act on the 2nd day was Echosmith, an indie pop band composed of the young Sierota sibling. By “young”, we’re talking about 15 to 21 years old – with drummer Graham being the youngest and guitarist Jamie being the eldest. The band was not only visually stunning (given that Sydney and her brothers are actually quite eye-catching), they played amazingly well, too. Brandishing their unique brand of catchy danceable tunes with infectiously relatable lyrics, their live set was electric, taking the crowd’s attention in an instant. Echosmith played tracks from their debut album “Talking Dreams” including “Come Together”, “Bright”, “Cool Kids” plus a cover of “I Melt with You” by Modern English.
Up next was pop-rock band The Summer Set who marked their 2nd visit in Manila by garnering a strong fanbase. “Chelsea”, “Someone Like You” and “Maybe Tonight” were some of the songs they played. Overwhelmed by the crowd’s response, frontman Brian Dales announced that they were on the process of making their next album following their 2013 release, “Legendary”. Also, a piece of interesting information: the band’s kickass drummer, Jessica Bowen, is half-Filpino – a fact which Dales fondly reiterated over their set.
The 3rd timers, We Are the In Crowd found themselves comfortable with the Filipino crowd and vice-versa. What made their 3rd visit different, however, is the inclusion of new songs off their recently released album titled “Weird Kids” including “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)”, “Manners” and “Long Live the Kids”.
You Me At Six took over the closing of the two-day festival. The British alternative rock band waited 9 years to get to Manila and in the process, they managed to horde a whole lot of ardent fans. Majority of the people in the crowd were singing along to their songs. Josh Franceschi, the band’s frontman, expressed his gratitude for the overwhelming support of the Filipino crowd, and promises that they wouldn’t take another 9 years to come back. The band played “Too Young to Feel Old”, “Stay With Me”, “The Swarm”, “Forgive and Forget” and “Room to Breathe” among other.For their encore, they performed “Bite My Tongue” which was originally a collaboration with Oliver Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon and “Lived a Lie” which was from their latest album.
Ultimately, what makes the Bazooka Rocks Festival unique is the high premium it places on the fans. It’s rare to see an indoor festival with such a strikingly full lineup, yet the tickets are set at a moderately affordable price. Plus, the whole shindig is more personal – it’s not so big that you’d get lost in a sea of people, but it’s not so small as though you’d feel left out. The venue was spacious yet compact. Even from the farthest area at the back, you could still see get a good view of the band playing.
The catwalk was also a nice touch as it allowed for more intimate interaction between the fans and the bands. Those who patiently stood their ground at the front rows got their most valued selfies, skinship and the frequent eye contact with their favorite bands that played their anthemic hits one by one.
“Fanatical” would be the proper word for the reaction of the crowd. Even with the shift in genres, it was astounding how there were always be a group of people who would go completely wild over the bands regardless of how obscure they seemed to be at first. It was surprising to see how that they could sing along to every song the bands played.
To sum it up, Bazooka Rocks Festival 3 was another grand success. Beyond generation gaps and the innate prejudice in musical preferences, it thrived in bringing together different sets of crowds for the love of live music. Let’s face it: there were patrons who solely came to see certain bands – the difference in lineup for the 2 days revealed as much. At the end of the day, however, most of the people in the crowd watched the festival in its complete 20-hour glory, and that in itself was a feat conquered.
We can only expect BRF to get bigger and better each year. In fact, right at the end of the show, a lot of people were already making their dream lineup for the 4th Bazooka Rocks Festival. Which awesome bands will we see next year?
Written by Sandra Mae Laureano
Photos by Peter Tolibas