SWEATY men in matching black shirts… The smell of beer and nicotine that swirled in the evening air, along with the humming of friends and strangers…
Under the stars, artists made music, and the kind of melody they manufactured didn’t matter. The world listened just the same.
This is how I recall my first “Fête.” It would be 13 long years before I got another taste of it. And as it turned out, it will be a festival that will also remain in memory for long.
Fête De La Musique, which translates to “music day” or “make music day,” is one of the world’s longest-running music festivals. It started 38 years ago in the streets of France as a free-for-all event. No paid tickets, no boundaries.
Fourteen years after its founding, the Philippines followed suit. This year, the country celebrated its 24th “Fête.”
With the downloaded “Fête” app in hand, I made my way to Makati City to start stage-hopping; this time, with my six-year old. It’s her first “Fête;” her first attendance in a music festival, for that matter.
Unlike other rock events, “Fête” celebrations tend to be free from disturbances. Crowds, however massive, seemed to be on the calmer side of the rock spectrum. They are there to simply enjoy music in peace, making it safe even for young ones.
ON the 3-hour bus ride from my house to Makati City, I’ve mapped out which stages I preferred. The app was a necessity. As the largest gathering of music artists and music lovers, this year’s “Fête” featured two main stages and 38 pocket stages dedicated to different genres—all playing simultaneously—scattered in bars, parking lots, and work spaces from Ayala Avenue, Barangay Poblacion, to Chino Roces.
Even though a few of the stages started between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., it was still impossible to see all stages in one day. As a festival goer noted, “It’s overwhelming to have to choose, because every stage has a great act.”
And what great acts they were, indeed. While “Fête” showcased mostly independent artists, some stages also featured well-known musicians. Many of them, including Basti Artadi, Reese Lansangan, and The Ransom Collective played in the acoustic stage in Ayala. By early evening, it was a lost cause trying to penetrate rows of fans lined up from inside the workspace to a kilometer outside.
It was astounding to think how “Fête” had grown since its early days. When I first attended in 2005, there were only seven stages. In an era when the musicsphere is saturated with foreign acts, the annual concert had proven that there is still much to be heard in the local music scene, and for as long as locals musicians make music, there will be Filipinos who will keep on listening.
Nearby was the Greenbelt main stage, whose impressive lineup included Kat Agarrado and Pedicab. Set up in the midst of Greenbelt’s restaurants and bars, this platform was rather intimate. My daughter and I sang and swayed as Orange and Lemons performed their hits, and at the end of their set, all of us strangers raised our red beer-filled cups (complimentary to attendees who booked the app).
Good ‘til the end
IT’S one thing to be able to experience music on your own, but to experience it with strangers who know the same melodies by heart—and even better, with your kid—was unparalleled.
BP Valenzuela, a 22-year-old DJ and solo artist, was one of the last to perform. Though I have never heard of her before, we were compelled to stay until her last song. I watched as people danced and lifted their hands in the air, then later on, found myself doing the same.
An hour before midnight, we transferred to the A. Venue main stage to see Kjwan. They were brilliant as usual, but what was more surprising was Motherbasss, a drum-and-DJ duo who served as the closing act.
Like Valenzuela, the duo was unknown to me before “Fête,” but having listened to them for 45 minutes, I saw the ecstatic crowd upfront clamor for them. One of the best things about music fests like this one is that it has the power to keep you grounded; to let you discover and appreciate musical brilliance even if it is something you never thought you would like.
There was still much to see and hear as midnight crawled in. Several stages, in bars and bistros specifically, were open until 4 a.m.. The streets of Poblacion brimmed with energy and youth, without a sign of waning. After spending half an hour trying to find a stage that was neither off-limits to children nor overflowing with people, we found ourselves in WOKby 4900, a small eatery which serve grilled meats. From across the facility, every alley was packed with people trying to get in bars housing some of the stages: young and old, local and foreign, hip and the not-so.
We managed to get past the flurry of teens from the door to a corner where independent shoegaze and dream pop artists played. I looked at my daughter, with neon lights that glimmered against her face as she sat beside the drummer and swayed her feet. It was well-past midnight and I had yet to hear her complain. For a child who shies away from anything extremely loud, my girl was having a blast.
An hour after, as we laid in our hotel room, I asked if she enjoyed her first music fest. Smiling, she replied a happy “yes.” Maybe all it needed for her to truly listen was to see artists make music.
On that night, it was “Fête” that gave her that gift.