In the end, there was no Fruitcake.
But there was so much else—including an epic Ang Huling El Bimbo complete with fireworks above SMDC Festival Grounds, Superproxy featuring a holographic performance by Francis Magalona, the late rapper and “fifth Ehead,” plus most of “Cutterpillow” and “maestro” Mel Villena leading the AMP (Asosasyon ng Musikang Pilipino) Orchestra, and there was Buddy and there was Marcus, and there was Raimund and Ely. It was the final Eraserheads concert you wanted all these years, without maybe even realizing it.
And the fans. They came by car, by motorcycle, by scooter, and by foot: they all trooped to Parañaque on Dec. 22 for the Eraserheads’ “Huling El Bimbo” concert, which had built up a groundswell of tectonic online buzz as soon as the final “goodbye” event was announced. (Those who were fortunate enough booked hotel rooms nearby, which made trooping back through the crowded streets surrounding Aseana City much easier. See sidebar below.)
Concert organizers promised “surprises,” and there were plenty—including the appearance of Francis Magalona in shimmering form (his daughter Maxene, whom we spotted in the crowd, must have been so proud), and a spirited Christmas Party with Gary V on vocals and percussion.
Onstage, the band sound was bolstered by close friends—Itchyworms’ Jazz Nicolas on keys, Ciudad’s Mikey Amistoso on acoustic guitar, General Luna rhythm guitarist Audry Dionisio and The Huling El Bimbo backup singers.
As we’ve seen in past Eheads “reunion” shows, there were video collages reminding us of the band’s UP Diliman roots, and in many ways, the show was a love letter to UP campus. (The UP Pep Squad even took the stage during the first of two band breaks, accompanied by The Diegos, DJ-spinning Diego Castillo and Diego Mapa.)
It was a time machine to the past, the impossibly young band members in early music videos and candid bits of film, played against a state-of-the-art stage in which a single backwards “E” hovered above the band throughout, the backdrop splashed with hyperkinetic, often psychedelic graphics. (This feels like a permanent roadshow set more than a one-off production, and we know the Eheads do intend to tour the US next. Whatever controversies surfaced with their announced final “Huling El Bimbo” were quelled, with Ely even making a point of talking about leaving “the past” and focusing on the future.)
In so many ways, it seems the Eraserheads—Ely Buendia, Buddy Zabala, Raimund Marasigan and Marcus Adoro—have lived most of their lives on a series of stages, and we’ve spent a lifetime watching them do it. From early gigs at Club Dredd and ‘70s Bistro to splashy events like this (tickets ranging up to interstellar P17,000 prices, we hear), the band has weathered fights and heart attacks and money matters and domestic abuse issues surrounding Marcus (ABS-CBN reported that part of concert proceeds will go to advocacy organizations for women and children). And being onstage is where we finally find them, once again.
There was no Fruitcake, but a Christmas vibe extended from the set list nonetheless, with early hits like Fine Time, Overdrive, Huwag Mo Na Itanong and Torpedo sprinkled throughout the first set.
Starting around 8:30 after a 45-minute set by The Diegos, the band kept the pace until a half-hour break around 9:40; set two launched into deep cut Pop Machine, Sembreak, then Sabado—which a droll Buddy announced as “our new single from 2014,” urging people to “like and follow us on Spotify.”
There were solo numbers by Raimund and Ely and Buddy (a song he wrote with wife Earnest Mangulabnan), and some of the most dug-in, rust-bucket soloing by Marcus we’ve heard in years.
Then there was an orchestral shift with Ligaya featuring Mel Villena on sax, “Fruitcake” classic Lightyears with the AMP Orchestra, Saturn Return featuring Arkin Magalona.
Then things took a more reflective turn towards the final third, with the anthemic With a Smile lighting up an ocean of cellphones across the festival grounds, before bringing out Gary V’s impossibly energetic showcase, with Mr. Energy drumming like the dickens on his own electronic pads and timbales.
Spoliarium lit up with drug-warning (-friendly?) graphics, and Magasin closing things before the band took a short break to change outfits.
As expected, the final “finale” would include classics like Pare Ko (Ely gradually leading the band from a solo spotlight), Minsan (Jazz filling in on drums for Raimund, who was busy roaming the stage with camera and glass of red wine in hand), then an epic Alapaap followed by a majestic Ang Huling El Bimbo that hung in the air like the shower of confetti that sprayed upward as the audience, dazed once again, gathered up their memories and phone mementoes and slowly marshaled towards Aseana Drive shortly after midnight.
After all the buzz and blur, it was Headstock 2022, bringing us forward into whatever 2023 has in store for the band, and for us.
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Much thanks to IndiEvents, Inc. and Jad Deveza for our Moshpit tickets.