TO BLUES BANDS IN THE PHILIPPINES AND EVERYWHERE: Brat Pack has just set the standard in Asia for what a “blues performance” is. The occasion was the Final Five in the 2nd Philippine Blues Competition, held to choose a band to send to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. These guys didn’t just play the blues, or just jam. They put on a GREAT PERFORMANCE. The energy even comes across in the amateur video below — so you can imagine what it felt like in the room at Roadhouse Manila Bay.
Each member of the band is FUN TO WATCH — because they are each obviously having a great time themselves. Just look at the smiles and the body language. Their INTERACTION with one another is electrifying. Their MUSICIANSHIP, each and every one of them, is absolutely top class — and each was given space to shine. The ARRANGEMENTS were captivating: full of amazing twists and turns, always keeping one on the edge of the chair waiting for what comes next. And the vocalist really knows how to DRAMATICALLY CONVEY THE STORY. It is no wonder that Brat Pack was chosen #1 on the scoresheet of all seven judges, as well as becoming the clear crowd favorite.
I learned, after the event, that to prepare for the competition, the keyboardist moved in with another band member and worked on his blues chops for three straight weeks in order to be at top form in the finals. The preparation by the entire band for the competition is so very impressive.
Moreover, each participating band in the PBS competition was presented with an article written several years ago by a former participant in the International Blues Competition. Her band did not win, though it got into the finals. The writer explained what she learned from the experience. PBS officer Allan Magturo observed to me: “Brat Pact must have studied that article closely. They stepped up to meet every single point made in the article. That’s the kind of thorough preparation they made for our competition.”
But it wasn’t only Brat Pack, a newcomer to the competition, that came really prepared. The other four finalist bands were in the competition last year. And they all demonstrated remarkable improvement. Personally, I was very impressed with Kulikati, which returned to the competition for the second time. What particularly caught my attention was Kulikati’s very strong and very original arrangement of Hoochie Coochie Man, one of the most over-played blues songs ever. Even with the best-known blues standards, creative arrangements make a big difference.
In fact, that is what the Philippine Blues Competition and the International Blues Challenge are all about: letting bands experience first hand what it takes to achieve success, to become a truly notable band worth going out and paying to see. And in the process, making new friends as the blues community continues to grow.
Another observation: Filipino audiences have never really been exposed to piano-driven blues. If a band has a keyboardist, he/she will usually just play quiet backing chords, usually with an organ sound. Brat Pack is way different, going back to the amazing blues keyboardists of the past. Some in the audience, like the person sitting next to me, thought Brat Pack wasn’t playing blues — but as soon as the next band stepped up and guitarist started playing, my neighbor said, “Now that’s the blues.” Well, actually the Brat Pack were firmly in the blues tradition — but blues keyboard is a very different animal from guitar blues. The Roadhouse crowd not only got a great performance, they learned about another exciting branch of the true blues tradition.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL the participants. Keep at it. And maybe, who knows, your turn will come around next year at the 3rd Philippine Blues Competition. And above all, enjoy the music and the experience the next year will bring to you. After all, there are more objectives to entering the competition than winning the trip to Memphis. Bands are also, essentially, auditioning for future bookings at Roadhouse Manila Bay. They are showing off their skills in front of a very appreciative audience. Their band name is getting spread around in the press, on radio and TV spots, on competition signage, etc. And then, finally, the most important of all, working together all the bands are helping to build an audience for the blues, which will open up new opportunities for everyone.
PBS wishes to thank especially the major sponsors of the PBS Competition. First and foremost is FedEx Express, ;which is based in Memphis and which is a big supporter of the International Blues Challenge. Their sponsorship has really made this event possible. And second, and equally important, is the sponsorship by Roadhouse Manila Bay, which is fast becoming one of the most notable blues bars in the entire world, featuring live blues 7 nights a week. Thanks also to our major media sponsor ABS-CBN, which through its various programs and outlets will continue to cover the blues throughout the year. Other media sponsors have also helped to spread the word about the blues: Radio High 105.9, Radio Republic, Business Mirror.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE MORE OF BRAT PACK: Visit our YouTube page, where we will be uploading two more videos of Brat Pack’s performance by October 10. Thanks to PBS Director Peng Perez de Tagle, who captured these videos.
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