Beautiful Wounds: Music, Memories, and Nostalgia

It was a Friday night. Friends were too busy to meet up, and I was too tired to do the same. I decided to stay home and forget about how boring the night was. I shuffled through my meager DVD collection and chose something I had not seen yet. I opted to watch something that had a great story line, compelling conflict, and something that would make me think.  I got the disc out of its case and popped it in the player. From the sound of the title alone, I knew it was a classic: Music and Lyrics.

It has been years since this movie came out and I actually planned to watch it when it was released, but was not able to do so, which is something I never really regretted. I saw bits and pieces of it on cable a few years back and those bits and pieces actually discouraged me to see it as a whole. However, my 9-year old student, who was leaving the country a couple of months back – gave me that, along with other movie titles – as a small token of appreciation. Since there was nothing good on TV, I settled on watching it instead.

Though I could not really say that the movie was remarkable, one particular scene did amuse me. It was the part where Sophie (Drew Barrymore) told her sister, Rhonda (Kristen Johnston) that she met Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a former member of a famous 80’s pop group, which Rhonda became obsessed with decades ago, and that Alex invited her (Sophie) to attend his gig on that night. Rhonda hyperventilated, and for a moment was speechless because of Sophie’s shocking news. Overflowing with excitement, Rhonda grabbed Sophie and dragged her to the convert venue where she and other women got their inner fangirls resuscitated.

There’s nothing really extraordinary about this scene but why did it amuse me? Because it reminded me of my own sister. The scene made me wonder if decades from now, my sister would also react the same way if she found out that Incubus front man, Brandon Boyd (at that time would no longer be part of Incubus) were in town for a solo gig (thanks either to Ovation or Steve O’ Neil Productions most likely!) Would she also hyperventilate and force me to go to the venue to watch him? “Most probably, yes!” my brain immediately answered.  However, I realized that she wouldn’t have to drag me because, as embarrassing it is to say, I would do it willingly!

Suddenly, my mind floated away from the movie and remembered an article I had read a while back about Incubus and about bands in general.

“[…] let’s say that they do actually manage to engineer an extended run and years of critical and fan darling-hood. There will still come a time when they’ll release something that fans will convince themselves they love, but deep down know just isn’t as good. When they scroll past it on their iPod or see it on their CD shelf, they’ll say, “nah, I’ll listen to it another time.” And there it will sit.

[…] A relationship with a band normally will end not with a bang, but a sad whimper. Slowly you’ll just find other things to listen to. You’ll grow into different people. You might rediscover that first album of theirs you bought and remember how much you really cared for them, but they won’t be a band in your current heart, they’ll be a band in your memory.

One day you might pick up a newspaper or run into a friend and they’ll tell you:blah-blah-blah is coming! And you’ll swear to each other you are getting front row tickets. And you’ll find their t-shirt in the back of your closet and you’ll remember who you were back then. You’ll promise yourself a good time. But when you do this, you don’t do it to hear the new album, You do it to hear the band you once loved.”

~excerpts taken from “Bad Things Come To Those Who Wait: Incubus Live in Abu Dhabi” by  William Mullally (emphasis added)

When I read that article, I just could not help but agree with the sad truth that resonated in the words of the author. There have been so many bands that I have once loved, now buried in the clutches of memory, and rarely brought back to life again. And how the first part (of the quote) especially stings because it is true to the band in spotlight! I bought their last album, listened to it intently, and even uploaded their tracks in my iPod only to delete most of them because they did not really create much of an impact on me. I bought “If Not Now When” mid-last year but I do not think I have played the entire thing for more than 10 times (without skipping). I did an album review, tried to be as objective and kind as possible but Mullaly could not have said it any better: “deep down [it’s] just isn’t as good.” And yes, their CD is still there sitting in my shelf.

While some bands slowly melt into oblivion, others die while being at the height of their glory. They either wholly dissolve or break up only to form another one. And sometimes, the only reason why one supports the new group is because of the memory one still keeps of the past. Applicable to this category is a local band that once occupied a space in my heart. I am talking about rap/rock group Dicta License and the new band that formed because of the former’s dissolution.

Though I had heard about Dicta License when they first came out sometime 2002 (or 2003?), I did not really appreciate them until they released their first album “Paghilom” in 2005. I distinctly remember the instance (though not precisely the exact date) when I was truly captivated by their music. The band guested in an NU107 morning show hosted by DJ Trish (if memory serves me, in the summer of 2005.) They sang tracks from their upcoming album, but it was an acoustic version of a song called “DOTFB” that simply mesmerized me. I remember the passion and the brilliance of the voice, which at the end of the performance asked Trish, “Ok lang ba ‘yun?” (Was that all right?) I was simply blown away by that performance. I could only utter, “wow.”

It would take more than a year for me to be able to see Dicta perform live. It was the beginning of an addiction. However, that addiction was short-lived as the band announced their split in October of 2007.

Fast forward to 2010, Pochoy Laboy, the main vocalist of Dicta, slowly crept again into the gig scene, but this time with a new set of band members, a new name, and a new sound. Welcome, Malay.

As a former Dicta supporter, I was ecstatic to hear this new band. What new pleasure would it bring me? What kind of new music would I treasure? What new inspiration would it offer me? But as much as I was excited to experience this new band, I must admit that my main motivation to experience them was still rooted in the past. A memory of joy still related to Dicta – the desire to feel the same passion, to be burnt by the old fire. However, when I finally saw them perform, they simply glinted. If with Dicta, I was blown away, with Malay, I only felt a breeze. And yes, it was my fault to begin with; I expected. And maybe even too much. I expected mainly that Labog could bring to the stage the same intensity I had witnessed with his previous group, as well as to experience the same energy, chemistry, and appeal that he and former bandmates had exquisitely woven once upon a time.

Dicta License and Malay are two dissimilar groups, and that comparing the two is unfair. However, there lies the point, although to a different degree as to what Mullaly has expressed – one goes on to support a band because of what that band (or at least former band members as in this case) once meant to you, and not necessarily support them based on their merit or work as of the moment.

I rid myself of any partiality I had and decided to give their sound a chance, and moreover, to give myself a new chance to appreciate something that my nostalgia might had prevented me in the past to do so; consequently, I continued to attend their gigs.

I cannot really say that I have been converted. All I can say is that they they have considerably improved (performance-wise) from the first few times I saw them in the last two years and that they actually might have the potential to make it. They are still in their infancy stage and there is still a lot of space for improvement. I am reserving further judgments for now, especially since I do not have in my possession their debut album yet.*

Memory is indeed compelling, and nostalgia, even more intoxicating. I have read somewhere that the word “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound” in Greek. And can you remember how many times you have given in to this peculiar thing? You talk to your friends about your senior prom and how you’re still annoyed that your crush didn’t ask you to dance! Your parents talk with much zeal about how this part of the city was once covered, not with buildings, but with tall grasses (and how they still believe that life was better then.) You remember your first love and all the sappy things the two of you once did. You flip through photo albums and see your old self – wide eyed and young. And as if by sleight of hand, you are again transported to “that old wound,” experiencing its “pain”, in the now.

In time, everything will be an old wound – bands, friends, family, lovers, etc. We would all inevitably fade, but at least strive to be a beautiful wound, because when you will have become one, you will find that people would always find a way back to you.
* I was supposed to purchase one during the launch but I had to leave the event early. In my haste, I forgot to buy one. Although the album is available for streaming at their bandcamp site, I am old school – I still prefer to listen to the physical CD.

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