When I heard that punk rock band, The Ataris would hold a concert here in the Philippines last December 2012, my heart raced. The Ataris, here in the Philippines? That was great news! Immediately, I checked the:
venue: SM North Skydome in Quezon City – convenient!
date and time: January 19 8:00pm – calendar, clear!
ticket price: almost P3,000 – uhmm… I still have more than a month anyway!
I got pretty thrilled about the whole thing despite my not being a fan of the band. Yes, I am not an Ataris fan! I didn’t know the band’s history or at the very least, the name of its members! Before the concert, I did not know their faces, and I had never seen any of their videos. I was unaware of the scandals or controversies they had gotten themselves into. I had no idea how long they had been together and how many albums they had under their belt (I don’t even have any of their albums!) But I did know a few of their songs – about eight of them, and out of those eight, I knew only three by heart – “In This Diary,” “The Saddest Song” and the dearest to me, “Boys of Summer.” So why the hell did I get all hyped up about their concert when I barely knew them? Two things: One, “Boys of Summer.” It is one of my all-time favorite songs. If for one night I could hear and watch this song performed live by the boys themselves, then that was enough a reason for me. Second, I had set a personal goal earlier on that I had to learn to do some things completely on my own: attending concerts – whether they may be a major concert or small bar gigs – was one of them (More details about it on my next entry.) I thought what better way to start the New Year but to hit two birds with one stone – attend a concert and attempt to achieve a personal goal. The Ataris Tour gave me the perfect opportunity to do both.
Fast forward to 2013, some changes were made in terms of the venue, time, and ticket price and acquisition. These changes did not deter me in any way. In fact, they even made the affair more doable, not to mention, economical. The Ataris concert was the most inexpensive foreign concert I have ever been to – one P800 t-shirt was equivalent to one pass. And did I mention that it was already the VIP section? Another show at the McKinley Venice Piazza was added on the same day, too. I went to the first leg at the Eastwood Central Plaza instead.
The Eastwood show was slated at 4:00 p.m. and I arrived there about an hour earlier. When I got there, I expected to see endless queues, crowds that formed a sea of black, and a bit of chaos. But all of my expectations were not met. Instead, there were two orderly lines with people wearing clothes of all sorts of colors. The venue was calm and the people either chatted with their friends or took pictures. Ok, so maybe my expectations were a bit stereotypical or even exaggerated, but I had never gone to a punk rock concert before this one. I have attended numerous rock gigs but I just had the impression that the atmosphere in punk rock gigs was more rowdy than ordinary rock events. To be honest, I even checked some live shows of the Ataris abroad just to see how the audiences were. I am no stranger to slamming and mosh pits, but on this specific concert, I was alone, not to mention, still recovering from sickness!
At a little past 4pm, the show was opened by a local band called The Lowtechs. At first, I didn’t know who they were since there was no mention of any front act opening for Ataris, but after the vocalist introduced themselves, their name sounded familiar. Minutes into their performance, they sang “Tears of Fire,” a song that they released some years back, and it made me realize that I did know them after all!
Although The Lowtech’s sound was completely dissimilar from The Ataris’, it did not matter. They sounded great the moment their drummer started to pound on the drums with their opening track. The energy of the music flowed seamlessly from each instrument and melded superbly. Unfortunately, I found the vocals a bit diffused. The instruments rather drowned it out and I could barely understand any lyric. Other than that, they did pretty well. Even the vocalist of The Ataris himself, Kris Roe, commented on his Facebook band page the day after the concert that he “liked [them] a lot” and that [they] kind of reminded him of Joy Division… or Interpol.” Despite The Lowtech’s good performance – just like any other front act – it was not their stage to own… it was The Ataris’. So after four or five songs, they had to usher in the main event.
The Ataris finally went on stage and opened with “In This Diary” and was then followed by other songs such as: “My Hotel Year,” “So Long, Astoria,” “The Hero Dies In This One,” “Unopened Letter to the World,” “Broken Promise Ring,” “Can’t Hardly Wait” (Replacements cover), and of course, the song that catapulted them to unprecedented fame and the reason why I was there in the first place, “Boys of Summer.” (Now any Ataris fan is welcome to complete and/or correct this setlist!)
Each song was delivered with high intensity and was well-received and much appreciated by the eager fans. It was just too bad that they did not play “The Saddest Song [and other tracks that I was (relatively) more familiar with). Since it took them quite a long time to have their first ever concert here in the Philippines, it would have been great if they had maximized their setlist. For all we know, this might be their first and last time to drop by the country.
Despite not being a fan of the band, I still enjoyed every bit of their show. There was this particular song toward the end (if I remember it correctly, the second to the last one) which I liked. It started out a bit high-speed but eventually became more and more hushed before it returned to its original tempo. Whatever that song was, I liked it a lot. I would have shouted at the top of my lungs to show my appreciation if I only had the voice to do so. Damn, sickness.
The concert ended with (I think) “San Dimas High School Football Rules.” By then, the crowd got really pumped up. Who wouldn’t be? I mean, it was fast-paced and loaded with adrenaline. In short, it was so punk! It was fun but it would have been more fun, I bet, if the people had totally got their inner punk rockers unleashed. I actually expected the concert to be rowdy, but I was surprised to see that the Plaza didn’t swell with people and the audience was relatively behaved. (Yes, I was afraid to be caught in the middle of such a fun riotous mess, but since I was already there and it was my first ever punk rock concert, might as well experience it full blast, anyway, right?)
It was only a little past 5:30 p.m. when the boys disappeared from the stage. It was a rather quick gig. No encores were entertained. Lights out and so the audience slowly dispersed. I decided to remain for a little while longer and inhale the lingering residue of what had just transpired. A few minutes later, Roe and Holst reappeared. At first, I thought of taking their photos, but I realized that they came back to help the other people pack up some of the gear and equipment. I didn’t know what to feel about what I was witnessing: a major foreign band putting away the things they had just used for the show. As I watched them do this, I was not sure whether I should be amused or feel sorry for them to a certain degree. I decided not to take pictures instead and simply head home immediately after the two left the stage for good.
The Ataris concert was a pretty memorable event for me, not just because I was able to catch them in the flesh, but also it gave me a lot of firsts:
- First gig for 2013
- First time to attend a concert completely on my own
- First time to attend a concert at 4:00 p.m. (considering they’re a major foreign act)
- First time to purchase a shirt from a foreign band (well, I pretty much had to. It was my ticket!)
- First ever punk concert
- First time to watch The Ataris live
- First time to see a foreign band put away some of their things after the show
- First time to see a foreign act not entirely fill up a (small) venue
Three days after the show, here I am, still replaying the scenes of the event. In spite of being all alone, not knowing the band well, and being sick, I still had tons of fun! Now I am making an effort to discover more things about them – their history, their controversies, and more importantly, their music. If The Ataris do drop by again in the future just as Roe had promised, will I go watch and see them again? I’d say, why the hell not?