Don’t Go Gently

Last Friday, my dad told me Apple stopped producing iPods. I didn’t get it at first. Why would Apple stop making those ubiquitous, overpriced music players? Everyone and their moms has it. Through its many iterations, the iPod is one of those things that defined the past decade. If National Geographic makes a documentary special on the 2000’s, you know it’s going to spend a nice half hour discussing the cultural game changer that is the iPod.

Myself, I never had one. I was never one of those early adapters. I like my cutting edge technology freshly blunted, just a bit late to the party, bragging that slightly uncool hipster cred.

I entered the late 90’s rocking an unbranded 125mb Chinese mp3 player, powered by a single triple A battery. It could fit 15 tracks tops, but I came from a time of discmans and every CD I owned held 12 tracks. 15 seemed like a luxury. My friends with their 5gig iPods could barely listen to all their collected music.

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I told myself that I would never need that much music at any one time. Unless a cataclysm befalls the world and the very fabric of modern society crumbles, I could always go back to my computer and compile a new playlist.

My cheapo mp3 player was stolen somewhere in Shaw Boulevard one fateful night. I hope the thief at least enjoyed my meager collection of underground Pinoy hiphop and ska. The player itself was cheap, so it was easy enough to head to the mall and buy myself another, slightly more pricey mp3 player.

I got myself a 4gig RCA Opal mp3 player. Besides my college education, I swear it is the best thing I spent money on.

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This thing has been with me for 8 years and just keeps chugging. I’ve been around the country, gone to New York and Beijing with this little solider by my side. Once, it fell into a lake but I got it out and it still works. I’ve gone jogging in really bad weather with this in my hand, no protective plastic, and it’s still good. In Ilo-ilo, I was in a whirlwind of a tricycle ride when this thing fell out my pocket without my knowing. The only reason I haven’t lost it was because the ear buds were still in my ears. The player survived getting dragged face down through rough provincial asphalt. It’s not the prettiest music player in the world, but it’s tough as nails.

Once every month, I sit down and format the player, deleting all the music so I can build a new playlist. I found a sort of zen in that, figuring which track goes with which, which artist should follow one another. On my way around the city, I listen to music in the order that I compiled it. No skipping tracks, and only occasionally repeating the last song if it’s particularly good.

More than once, I’ve been asked why I haven’t gotten the newest iPod, or a new phone. I never found the need for those. This beat up music player is serviceable, and that’s all I need.

I might never understand this generation’s thirst for more features, more apps. I broke my phone recently and had to buy a new one. Friends were telling me to get a good phone, something with the best features– something with games, a HD camera, a media player, ebook reader. But see, all I need is a phone. I need to send and receive calls and texts. I already have a really good shockproof, waterproof camera, a sturdy mp3 player, and my books. Why do I need a Swiss knife type of gadget?

So I picked up the cheapest Nokia android, to the amusement of people around me.

When my dad told me about the end of iPod production, I felt a tremor in the Force. I heard the death toll of the single-purpose device and realized that if something should happen to my mp3 player, there might no longer be any other mp3 players on the market to replace it. God help me, I might have to listen to music on my phone.

I went to three malls to have salespeople look at me in confusion when I asked if they still carried mp3 players. The last place I went to had their last three mp3 players on display. They had no intention of stocking any more. So I got myself a preemptive 4gig Sony walkman before the end of the world.

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Live show

I missed going out to watch live gigs. I used to do it more often, get plastered in the brain and blasted in the ears, stumble home blind drunk and half-deaf. Those were good nights.

By now I’d like to think I’m passed my wild and reckless youth phase. I’m in my wary late twenties, and my bones are weary. There is a comfort in heading to Conspiracy and spending Friday nights watching Joey Ayala again and again and again. He hardly ever changes up his set, and his music is consistently wonderful. The waiters have come to memorize our usual table and our usual drinks. While that’s pretty great, it’s become routine.

I thought I’d spend the past month going to live gigs more, discovering new music or rediscovering old favorites. This city can be surprising when you let it.

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Discovered The Jeffrey Zulueta Experience at Tomatokick one fine night. There were other bands playing that night, but these guys held the place down spectacularly. A sort of jazzy/ ska-ish fusion with kickass drums. Check them out at the link, and come find them playing live.

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Talahib was playing at Handuraw another night. We’ve come from a friend’s film screening of the Balangay voyage documentary, and what do you know– the Talahib gig was co-presented by the Save the Philippine Seas movement.

Always great with their world music, covering classics like Asin and The Jerks. Socially aware music for the peoples, y’all. I hear a new album is in the works. Looking forward to that.

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Another night, I was heading to Handuraw to catch Lady I. It was raining when I got off at Anonas extension. Walked a few blocks before the rain became unbearable and I had to find shelter around the area.

A stone’s throw away from Handuraw was a milk tea place. Noticed there was an unusual number of people inside at that time of night. Noticed too that the people seemed to be tripping to recorded classical music. Thought I’d check that out. I walked in to find a string quartet in full swing, playing Sweet Child of Mine and Kissed by a Rose.

The milk tea place was holdingĀ a trial string quartet night and invited The Keystings to jam. Accidentally walking into new, unexpected music– it’s a beautiful thing.

After that, it was time for roots and reggae with Lady I in Handuraw.

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In retrospect, this may have been the first time I’ve seen them play in Quezon City. More often than not, I had to drag my ass to the dirty fucking south, in the hellhole that is Makati, to catch them. I don’t know why that is, exactly. How and why did the south become the hotbed of music that it now is?

The Quezon City music scene used to be more lively than this. But when they closed down Xymaca, Column Bar, Freedom Bar, shit on Cubao X in its prime so that now it’s yuppie ground zero, and renovated 70s Bistro, everything changed.

One type of music in particular hardly ever comes rolling into town: hip hop.

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Oh yeaaaah.

I normally dislike going to Makati. That stinking armpit of Metro Manila. Where cars get preferential treatment over pedestrians, beer costs three times more than usual, there are hardly any cheap eateries, taxi drivers are out to mug you, and people are dicks. I’ve come to realize that Makati assholes are a different caliber altogether compared to the garden variety assholes we get in Quezon City.

But for this one night, I was willing to make peace with that place. Headed there after work last Tuesday, to catch Mos Def’s one night only engagement.

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Hung out with a group of hip hop heads– most of whom weren’t from Makati at all. We came from Project 6, Fairview, or Bacoor in Cavite. Through hell and rush hour traffic, we rode buses and trains and jeeps or hoofed it. The local crowd came in Expeditions, with uniformed bodyguards trailing them. Fuck that. We came to keep it real.

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It was the sweetest thing.

At the end of the show, we decompressed at a friend’s art gallery. Crushed a bit, little bit, rolled it up, took a hit. Then it was back to our daily programming. But it’s those nights out with friends and good music, that keeps us steady on our grind.

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