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The Wolfgang "Hit & Run" ConcertDec. 14, 2009 3:03 PM
No Falter : The Wolfgang “Hit & Run” Concert
By Benjamin Espina
The fans never did have Wolfgang long enough.
Despite having released albums at a relatively prolific rate, the time spent by the band in the limelight -- from their ground-breaking eponymous debut album back in 1995 to the band’s sudden hiatus in 2002 -- left fans wanting a whole lot more. No other band in the history of Philippine music has raised the hard-edged side of rock to a level that was both artistically exceptional as well as being commercially accessible.
Nobody saw it coming. Wolfgang was coming off the release of their fifth studio album “Black Mantra” that featured a track that was included in the soundtrack of the movie “Final Fantasy”. Their last album was a critically-acclaimed live recording of the now- legendary “Wolfgang Silenced/ Acoustica” set at the hallowed grounds of the Music Museum. Things were absolutely on the upswing. No one could have ever expected that vocalist Basti Artadi would be sharing the sad news of the band’s inevitable end.
No one had a clue. Unlike other bands who go through months, and even years, of public internal squabbling and power struggles before ending tragically in a fiery and ugly disbandment, Wolfgang’s story ended with a low note – a message over the internet that contained an announcement that fans didn’t even consider possible until the very moment they were reading that note.
Just after seven years and six albums, the band that a generation of rock aficionados loved ceased to exist. People were left to their albums, posters and autographed concert tickets to ponder on what could have been and how the future of Pinoy rock would be without Wolfgang – coincidentally, the Eraserheads also called it quits around that time.
Thankfully, the grim scenario of life without Wolfgang didn’t last that long. In 2007, Basti Artadi, Mon Legaspi, Manuel Legarda and Francis Aquino joined forces with Razorback for two concerts that totally blew the minds of every Wolfgang fan who had waited for over half a decade to see their favorite band once again in concert. The “Alive” concerts of 2007 allowed both new and old fans of the group to experience the songs and musical prowess of the members in an actual live performance.
In December 2008, Wolfgang did the unexpected when they released “Villains” as their sixth studio album. The members of the band were barely together during the writing of the album so the mere fact that the record came about is a minor miracle in itself. That made the fans realize that yes, Wolfgang was back. Maybe not back in the same way that they were in the late 90s when they were aggressively playing gigs multiple nights a week, but at least the creative force that was Wolfgang was still up and running.
If there is an event that is to be considered as the high point of Wolfgang’s post-2002 hiatus existence, it would be the “Hit & Run” concert last December 1. There were many things that were going against it – it was a week day and having it in a relatively “far” venue such as Sucat repelled a lot of people from the North. It was also done on short notice. (Most people had only a little over a month of lead time for the concert).
But just like before, Wolfgang managed to surprise their fans with the unexpected. After the opening flurry of front acts Playphonics, Salamin and Loquy, the quartet of Artadi, Legaspi, Legarda and Aquino took the stage to face the three hundred or so fans who braved the trip to the south. There was a spring in the step of all the members of the band. After all, this was their first time playing in a relatively small venue – not a theatre or a grandstand --- since returning from hiatus. Wolfgang seemed to have tapped into their primal essence as a musical and performing unit even though they hadn’t really played in 19 East before.
If the earlier concerts (“Alive”, “Black Christmas” and “Two Sides Live”) were to be considered as the live versions of the Wolfgang’s “greatest hits”, 19 East will be remembered as the show where Wolfgang did not just play their most popular songs but also the tracks that only the most die-hard of fans would know. “Bassarab’s Walk” from the “Serve In Silence” album had been rarely played yet the band performed it with much gusto. Tracks from “Black Mantra” – the album that was released just a year before the hiatus --- were also played for the first time after over half a decade of being shelved.
It was a totally new experience. Any Wolfgang fan expects to hear “Halik Ni Hudas”, “Arise” and “Mata ng Diyos” – and they are great songs. But as predictable parts of the set list, the anticipation for the songs is somewhat diminished. Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that makes the moment special. The crowd erupted when Wolfgang dared to play “No Falter” – the first single off “Black Mantra”. People were singing along to the special single “Roadworthy Man”. Hearing the song “Molds” from the “Wurm” album would seem like a blur of noise to the non-dyed-in-the-wool audience, but for those in the know, it was an amazing opportunity to hear seldom-played songs in real time. What once were mere recordings on optical disks (and let’s admit it, cassette tapes) had been transformed to actual memories that the band has generously given to the fans.
And no, it’s not just lost in the afterglow of gratitude and nostalgia. For some reason, Wolfgang was also more on point and precise for the “Hit & Run” concert than any other post-hiatus concert. It seemed like the band was feeding off the energy of the venue – a good old fashioned music bar that forces the audience to stand elbow to elbow while head-banging and rocking out to the band on stage.
It’s also worth saying that the concert was for a good cause. The Maisog Watershed Initiative was the direct beneficiary of the concert. The financial help would go a long way in making sure that at least one more watershed is kept safe and clean. The exposure that Wolfgang has lent to such a worthy cause is also a strong boost as far as making sure that everyone starts caring for our environment. The past quarter has not been kind to the Philippines as far as typhoons go and if there are still clear heads who could decode the message of nature, it is about time to heed the warnings and go into action.
All in all, Wolfgang played 26 songs. That’s quite long for any concert and considering the energy that’s required to perform the songs at such a high level. And yes, despite having heard almost three hours of hard rock from one the best bands ever to come from the Philippines, it was still not enough.
Perhaps, that’s just the way it is. Fans just never can get enough of Wolfgang.