Wednesday ∗ 12 Nov 2008

The Nostalgia of the Eheads

Many things were said about the Eraserheads Reunion concert, not one of them critical, every one hopeful for a repeat or continuation. Which is understandable for those of us who are fans. To us, a reunion has always seemed impossible, even if – or maybe because – all we knew about the breakup was that it was a bad one. Too, loyal fans who have followed the individual careers and lives of Ely, Raimund, Buddy and Marcus must rightfully feel ambivalent: insisting on a reunion is, to a certain extent, an affront to the lives they’ve lived beyond the Eraserheads. To demand a reunion concert seemed selfish.

But of course it is all these as well that made the Eraserheads Reunion Concert the landmark event that it was. It is also these that make the The Reunion Concert 08.30.08 CD a must-have for any Eraserheads fan (yes, even with all the bootleg versions online).

And yes, even when Ely sounds different, more mature, with a voice that seems to have outgrown the songs he had written a decade ago. Even when the CD made them sound cleaner than they ever sounded live. Even when some songs were, interestingly enough, from their less famous albums (“Kaliwete” and “Lightyears” from Sticker Happy and Fruitcake). Almost as if they’re testing your Eraserheads fan-hood: if you’re a real fan, you wouldn’t just know these songs, you wouldhave them memorized the way you have “Alapaap” or “Huling El Bimbo”. And yes, even when there were no spiels to give us a sense that this was the Eraserheads of old, the ones we listened to at the U.P. Fair and Club Dredd, the friends from U.P. who played music for fun.

More than any of these, it’s how this first set of the concert – the only set performed as it turns out – tells us so much of what it is the Eraserheads wants us to continue to remember about them. That they spoke of love and courtship with a lightness and humor that youth brings (“Ligaya” “Harana” “Sembreak” “Toyang”). That they could speak wittily of desire (“Kama Supra”), as well as they could take on society’s prejudices (“Hey Jay”). That they could speak of uncertainty and displacement (“Huwag Mo Nang Itanong”) as they could the universals (“Huwag Kang Matakot” “With A Smile”).

That all of these songs are grounded in a context that is clearly third world Philippines reminds us of how worthy Ely, Raimund, Buddy and Marcus are of their status as music icons of this country. Ones who deserve our respect more than our adoration, ones whose individual careers speak of more than just the break-up of the band that made them famous.

Listening to the opening song “Alapaap” in this context, we are allowed to imagine that the Eraserheads are speaking of a different kind of freedom: all four members of the band had freed themselves of people’s expectations, of whatever bad blood the breakup had left, of whatever the fans seemed to demand of them. They did this concert and CD on their own terms. To fans, “Alapaap” can’t but resonate differently: it forces us to ask how far we’ve all come since the time we made this our anthem. The goosebumps and the high aren’t just for the Eraserheads but for us as well.

So in the end, what this CD is, all that it brings, is nostalgia for things past. For lives lost in the Eraserheads CDs that kept us alive once, and for a band that articulated what it was like to be young in the 90s. What the Reunion Concert CD reminds us is, that Ely and Raimund and Buddy and Marcus have not dwelled in the past. That there is their present and the maturity it brings. They have all grown up. And apparently, we must, too.*

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