Wednesday, December 12, 2007


NEW YORK — The last time I saw Gino Inocentes and Rubberband play live, at Tribeca Rock Club in New York in the fall of 2005, I had to help break up a fight between two groups of Pinoy youths from Queens and Jersey City who came in droves to watch these amiable homeboys rock their big-city funk and homesick blues away.Don’t overread that. It was not the usual CBGB-toned punk anguish that makes “underground rock” a grossly-misread cross-cultural escape. These kids were alright, and the music’s fine. Just some petty “barangay” level exhibition of raw passion and mishandled exuberance. After the smoke has cleared, it’s all back to good old “barkadahan” fun.

Rubberband is Inocentes on guitars and lead vocals, with guitarist Warren Daya, bassist Mark Lamar, and drummer Germain Lopez. Inocentes, 32, is also the band’s lead songwriter.There’s an anomalous mix of sidestreet mischief, wounded valentines, and subversive romanticism in frontman Gino Inocentes’ songs that make Rubberband click. The band’s music is not the kind that you hear in nicotine-drowned downtown open mics or on a Friday night A.M. radio either. Despite the accessibility of Inocentes’ tunes’ melodicism, and the illuminating simplicity of his words, this prolific songweaver’s genius doesn’t border on high-handed populist histrionics, but on a very introspective, very intimate, person-to-person musical astuteness and brevity.

Simply put, Inocentes’ music is mass-oriented but not necessarily universal. His songs are not going to coax the world to shake their booties or prod the working class to launch into a maddening growl, but no doubt – these gems of pop-rock sorcery stand more chances at igniting sweet hysteria on a suburban block party, period. It’s all about village-level, basement dalliances on a hot August night. Nothing heavy but it’s pure, unadulterated fun – from dusk till dawn.

No buts about it, Rubberband is your straight-down, no-chasers, bottoms-up musical embodiments of kabataang Pinoy-in-America community. The infectious Beatles-friendliness of their tunes can easily entice 20 hits an hour at a cornerstore jukebox, but that’s not the real charm behind this foursome’s grit and grace. Their magic lies on the rough-textured exclusivity, or local-ness, and oft-times aching subjectivity of the songs; deeply personal, unabashedly intimate, but very pleasing to the senses. That’s what matters. The songs speak to you – straight down.

That, I believe, is the foremost reason why Rubberband remains as the most popular, most sought-after all-originals Pinoy rock combo in New York City, New Jersey, and probably the East Coast. The ever-growing mass of supporters and fans who troop to their shows definitely expect to boogie-till-they-drop while chanting in ear-splitting unison each syllable and consonant of the songs – all no-holds-barred paeans to immigrant woes, neighborhood camaraderie, “tampuhan ng mag-syota,” and “barkadahan” spicks and specks.Rubberband has opened or played alongside more mainstream Filipino acts, notably Mike Hanopol, Apo Hiking Society, Razorback, Teeth, Rizal Underground, Advent Call, Parokya, Kamikaze, and Bamboo.

Among others, they have played in prominent rock dives in NYC, notably The C-Note, Tribeca Rock Club, The Knitting Factory, CBGB’s, The Pussycat Lounge, and Kenny’s Castaways. Two years ago, they opened for Apo Hiking Society at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. They have recently concluded a mini-tour that took them to Winnipeg in Canada (with Mike Hanopol), Los Angeles (to open for Parokya and Kamikaze at El Rey Theater), and San Francisco.

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