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Monday, September 17, 2012

"Never Say Never" - The Fray (Cover by Andrew Gahol)

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"Never Say Never" - The Fray (Cover by Andrew Gahol)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dispatches From the VMA Pit

What do you think? 

2012 MTV Video Music Awards
09/06/2012 – Los Angeles, CA



Watching artists perform and receive their Moonmen from the main pit for the first time (I was literally leaning on the main stage the entire show!) was so amazeballs that I didn’t even mind the figurative and actual bruises I got on the way.

During the annual MTV Video Music Awards, it is a celebrated custom for artists and fans alike to be wild and frenzied. But what TV viewers don’t see on-screen is how the VMAs could also be really BRUTAL, especially if you’re a fan who’s behind the scenes. 

11:40 AM: I arrived at the check-in area situated at the Los Angeles Convention Center, a 10-minute walk away from the Staples Center, to get my pass to the VMAs. Greeted by literally almost two thousand people standing in line at the gates, I felt my heart shrivel into a raisin like The Grinch. 

This line went all the way five tabs across your web browser.





Apparently, bra straps have ineveitably become part of young people's fashion statements.



1:20 PM: After almost two hours in line and 10 minutes before check-in closed, I finally got my VMA pit wristband fastened and got in! My heart was no raisin anymore.



What my subconscious was saying the moment I got my wristband.
The hundreds left who had only 10 minutes remaining before all hopes of getting in the VMAs was lost suddenly went berserk. Some were already blatantly cutting in line, shoving one another, spitting profanities at the organizers and demanding that they be let in since they’ve been waiting for hours. Some were slumping on the rails in surrender, some due to intense heat and/or dehydration.

3:00 PM: After security check and making sure that we didn’t harbor phones or cameras as recording devices were strictly prohibited, the two thousand of us were finally loaded into the pit.

Upon entering the colossal concert area within Staples Center, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the epic crystal DJ station where Calvin Harris will be spinning his famous hits later in the VMA pre-show.

Directly in front of the DJ section is the ginormous main stage where a glorious Fortress of Solitude-inspired crystal structure stood. By the time I got down from the stairs and set foot on the main pit, the laser tech and special effects team were already testing the their crazy pyrotechnics, jaw-dropping laser shows and towering digital screens.

Best spot in the world that night.

3:30PM: People from the production company proceeded atop the main stage to conduct rehearsals. Yes, all two thousand of us rehearsed our “steps” for the show such as how to clap, how to pretend to be surprised when a celeb attempts to make a “spontaneous” dive unto the audience and how to move around properly and quickly as stages, props and huge apparatuses were being moved across the pit. IT WAS NOTHING LESS OF A LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE!

It’s nearly impossible to make thousands of fans move under the command of only three crew leaders directing them, especially when, every time a major crowd displacement was in order, a lot of people refused to scoot over lest their sweet spots by the main stage be lost to another group. This rehearsal was becoming more fictional than Lindsay Lohan quitting drugs.

4:00 PM: Calvin Friggin’ Harris arrived in the building, took the reins of the crystal DJ Pit and began spinning one heavy-thumping track after another to get the arena crowds all fired up for the show. For an hour, all of Staples Center were fist-pumping and jumping to hits such as “Feels So Close” “Let’s Go”, “Bounce”, and “We’ll Be Coming Back” to name a few. I was badly bruised from all the “combative dancing” that took place as Harris played his songs up from his crystal castle but the pre-show rush was definitely worth it.
This DJ set is epic in at least 20 ways.


5:00 PM: Laser lights started bursting through the air and the giant cobras began filling the digital screen as Rihanna elevated from beneath the stage on her snake-head throne and began singing the opening verse of “Cockiness (Love It)”. The densely packed audience just lost their sense of civility and I spent more time heaving people off my shoulders than partying while Rihanna gyrated her hips next to rapper A$AP Rocky.



Rihanna wrapped it up in a flood of white balloons as she sang “We Found Love” and made it through the audience to Calvin Harris’ crystal DJ station.



5:14 PM: Comedian Kevin Hart, who was hosting the VMAs for the first time, went up onstage with a security team of little people in black suits. To set the show in motion, Hart delivered a side-splitting monologue and poked fun at the Breezy-Drizzy feud, Frank Ocean’s coming out, Kristen Stewart and Snooki's newborn baby.



When it was time to award the Best Pop Video to One Direction, I managed to get a sexy wink from Katy Perry, who presented the award, and also from one of the guys from 1D by accident.

This photo does not do justice to Katy Perry. She is a bazillion times more gorgeous  five inches away and from down the pit.
5:29 PM: I desperately wanted a take photos. When I noticed a girl who sneaked in her camera to the pit (even though it was prohibited) I asked her, “Do you mind if you e-mailed me all your photos from tonight?” I gave her my e-mail to which she responded, “Yeah, sure! You a One Direction fan too?” Something told me that my baby blue Adventure Time hoodie was sending the wrong signals.

5:42 PM: P!nk tried to drag three of us onstage but ultimately failed because of the weight near the end of “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”. By then the pit was already sprinkled with glowing red plastic lips.

That's me looking stupid during P!nk's song.

5: 50 PM: One of my favorite moments of the night has got to be when Frank Ocean graced the VMA stage for the first time with his slowed-down yet wistful rendition of “Thinking About You”.  His performance will always be one of the most memorable 2012 VMA offerings to me. His genteel yet heartfelt number was a refreshing change of pace from the all craziness that had happened earlier.


6:12 PM: I think the most brutal and life-threatening performance of the night for me was when One Direction hit the stage to perform “One Thing”. My face also hit the stage HARD the moment 1D became visible. Luckily I made it out of Staples Center later that night with all my extremities intact.

I don't need to tell you how excited I was when 1D hit the stage. I mean just look at my face! Priceless!

6:21 PM: 2 Chainz made his VMA debut and got a little help from Li’l Wayne as they performed “No Worries”. I tried to catch Weezy’s beanie but with my knee joints throbbing, I could barely move at this point.



6: 33 PM: Green Day brought some much needed punk rock flavor to VMAs as they tapped into the fans’ trapped inner selves and set them free with “Let Yourself Go”. By the end of the song, drumsticks were flying in the air and I was frantically trying to grab hold of one.



6:39 PM: I got to pat the stunning Ke$ha (who looked more gorgeous thane ever) on the shoulders. She instantly turned around looking she was about to slap me but then she just smiled. Needless to say, I melted.

It's not everyday that KeSha shoots you a smile. I melted.

6:45 PM: Alicia keys belted out her new single “Girl On Fire” off her fifth studio album of the same name. A yellow-haired Nicki Minaj was also onstage rapping a couple verses and Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, who I got to give a high five to before she sauntered into the stage, also demonstrated a series of splendid gymnastics routines to accompany the song.



6:55 PM: Taylor  Swift punctuated the 2012 VMAs with a whimsical rendition of her new single “We’re Never Getting Back Together” complete with dancers dressed as teenyboppers and band members clad in animal costumes.



After Swift’s song, a depressing hush fell unto the venue. In what seemed like a dream, we were in the same square meter as these amazing artists one minute and they were completely gone the next.

7:11 PM: The same two thousand of us lucky main pit fans who exited the Staples Center weren’t a picture of excitement and wild fanaticism anymore. Instead, we all looked like zombie pilgrims with our wobbly legs, exhausted slouches and worn-out faces because of standing for more than eight hours.

I was still bummed that I didn’t get to take pictures from inside the Staples Center. Instead of photos, I brought home several bruises on my arms, back, abdomen and legs; scratches on my neck; a sprained foot; sunburn on my face and the incredible memory of having experienced the 2012 MTV VMAs by the main stage.

And if what it takes to redo this experience is to have my body broken beyond repair once again, I would gladly agree in a heartbeat. 

Here are more photos of me during the VMAs:

My high school classmate and friend Inna and me standing in line at the check-in area.


Inna, me and my sister Patricia.

Making Sounds That Aren't Human

What do you think? 

          People do the craziest things when they're bored out of their wits. I’ve recently posted my first publicly posted song cover on SoundCloud. I did a little song called “Never Say Never” by The Fray, which I’m sure everyone in the English-speaking world knows.

As far as cover songs go in my case, the outcome of my vocal performance could only go two ways: “Meh!” or “Fail.”

Listen to the track and decide for yourself. Warning: the performance could prove cringe-worthy!

"Never Say Never" - The Fray (Cover by Andrew Gahol)


Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Won a Guitar Signed By Gavin DeGraw Y'all!

What do you think? 

Illustration for the adjective "awesome" in the dictionary.


                         Amongst the people of this world who identify themselves as believers in the grace and glory of online contests and promos, I would be a zealot.

Life has many good things in store for those who actively seek them. Contests are nothing less than these good things, only that they come with instructions, promo periods and shipping. I have witnessed the marvel of joining these online contests a handful of times already with utterly fulfilling results. But so far, nothing comes close to what I’ve just won last week from watching a live TV concert: A SIGNED SQUIER ELECTRIC GUITAR SIGNED BY ONE OF MY MUSICAL HEROES, GAVIN DEGRAW! (Courtesy of the cool and incredible people over at AXS TV Concerts!). And it just arrived at our doorstep earlier today!

So now you might be asking, “Who is this Gavin DeGraw? And why is this overly dramatic yet fine-looking  pseudo-blogger so hooked to his music?”

For starters, if you’re a fan of the popular TV drama One Tree Hill, then you’d know that its theme song “I Don’t Wanna Be” was written and performed by Gavin DeGraw himself. DeGraw is also the voice behind hits like “Chariot”, “Follow Through”, “In Love With A Girl”, “Not Over You” and “Sweeter” - songs that you should definitely give a whirl if you haven't heard of them yet!

I can play the guitar like Bentong can do quantum physics.
Gavin DeGraw’s voice can best be characterized by heavy amounts of soul, voltage and lyrical passion that I cannot associate with any other artist. His catchy lyrics, larger-than-life vocal style and musical muscle-flexing all mesh together to form a powerful sound that demands everybody’s attention and yet is so smothered with poetic fragility at the same time.

I’ve been a DeGraw fan since his first album dropped in 2003 and many of his songs have served as my life’s anthems from then on. Anyone who’d want to dip his toes to test the waters of his lyrical ability should listen to “We Belong Together”, one of the most poetic and intimate works in his entire repertoire. “Radiation”, “Crush” and “I Have You To Thank”, on the other hand, are some of DeGraw’s more vocally-oriented offerings.

I’d do much lesser convincing through words than you could by just checking out his music for yourselves. So if you have a computer and an internet connection, his music is readily available on iTunes or YouTube. So please check him out!

FUN FACT: Gavin DeGraw had also been a contestant on the 14th season of Dancing With the Stars. But I forgave him eventually.

To celebrate the arrival of my new swag, here are some of Gavin DeGraw's songs:



Monday, June 25, 2012

My Second First Day in LA

What do you think? 

My sister's blurry shot of  the LAX sign

Me and the family, my second time to arrive at LAX.

               Touchdown, Los Angeles!

            I apologize for this very late post. I should’ve updated you guys as soon as I arrived here at the Entertainment Capital of the World, but it sorta slipped my mind since I was too busy doing new things with my life. 

            For starters, here’s a list of things that I am currently preoccupied with and/or new with me:

1.      Started working out for the first time in my entire life. Been doing crunches, lifting weights, jogging a lot with barely any physical results at the moment, just results that are imaginary.

2.      Been eating healthy foods to promote faster metabolism and muscle buildup.

3.      Been eating non-healthy non-foods to cancel out what I just said.

4.      Been hitting the California Driver Manual to study for my written driver’s exam.

5.      Sent CVs and resumes to establishments like Petco, Wells Fargo, RCA Records as well as a bunch of Sunset Blvd. nightclubs where musicians play.

6.      Enjoying the fact that our family is finally complete and together after a very long period of time.

7.      Been playing with the hot and cold showers a lot, which ultimately scalded my skin or gave me slight frostbite.

8.      Almost fainted when I saw a wild fox scurrying on the city streets while jogging thinking it was about to attack. Luckily, it just needed a place to pee in.

9.      Been having a hard time trying to explain that I’m not Hispanic and getting them to speak English when talking to me.

10.   Missing the Philippines and all the wonderful people I love and depended on for back rubs.

Also here’s my last Facebook status posted in the Philippines dated June 22, 2012:




Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Every Long Sip"

What do you think? 

                 If you’ve been hanging out in my blog long enough, you’ll know that I am a firm believer in my constitutional right to join online writing contests and make a fool out of myself by asking Facebook friends in Facebook and/or Twitter to read and/or like it.

            So allow me to indulge myself in yet another online writing contest that I’ve entered. My joining this contest is not so much to gain intellectual merit as to win money. (I’ve indicated that I am a writer many times before and I intend to mean that as an earning profession.)

            I sent a poem entitled “Every Long Sip” to the World Poetry Movement Open Amateur Poetry Contest as my official entry in hopes that I could win $1,000, which, in Pesos, is estimated to be A LOT OF MONEY.

            I must say, I really put a lot of elbow grease on this one. And I must also say that I think I did a decent job considering that I could not exceed 34 lines and I am often a very bad poet. A friend back in UST actually mistook my compilation of six poems as a thesis bibliography, but I digress.

            Anyway, please check out my entry at http://poets.com/andrew-gahol/every-long-sip. If you’re feeling a little Shakespeare or Robert Pinsky today, you can also join the contest (http://www.poetrycontest.com/navlinks/default_028.html). The rules are pretty easy and what’s there to lose?

            Here’s “Every Long Sip”, enjoy:


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chasing My 'Sweat' Dreams

What do you think? 
     
                 Anyone who knows me and/or who has come into physical contact with me could tell you that I am nothing if not a profuse sweater.

Buy Now!
Techni-Ice: All I Want For Summer
               I literally sweat all the time and in amounts so unsettling you’d always think I just came from an intense workout – or an oven. The sad thing about all of this is that I don’t even do exercise nor do I bake, and still I’m often greasier than a lechon. I’m naturally just a sweaty guy.


            Needless to say, summer weather has never been kind to me given the abnormally active sweat glands that I’ve been endowed/cursed with. And even the least energy-consuming of human activities such as walking or just plain staring at the TV while sitting on the sofa could bring me to an amount perspiration equaled only by the amount of water in the La Mesa Watershed.


             It doesn’t matter if you throw me in a skydiving wind tunnel, my perspiration will always manage to come out like zits on a teenage boy’s face and dampen my spirits and t-shirt. 

           I wish I were exaggerating, but I’ve given up on trying to find ways to hold my sweat in and just embrace my hyperhidrosis (The medical term for “excess sweating”). So you could only imagine my massive ecstasy when I came across this contraption called Techni-Ice when we visited my aunt’s house in Manila last April.

Me ruining my friend's debut by sweating
profusely.
I was sulking in a living room chair while cursing the ridiculous summer heat wave at my Aunt’s home in Quezon City (Need I still point out that I was soaked with perspiration?) when my cousin noticed my armpit splotches and handed me a cool, puffy, frozen sheet of ice. I was vastly relieved by this offer though I didn’t know what to do with it at first. 


              My cousin said that I should slab it around my neck and body to douse the absurd heat. I did what I was told and to my surprise it was nothing less of amazing. It's like covering yourself in ice cubes without the unpleasant wetness!

When I asked what sorcery this was, she explained that it was Techni-Ice, something my aunt bought in Australia. It was something they used as a cold compress to beat the heat and to keep food and beverages cool and crisp on out-of-town family excursions.

At the back of mind, I was thinking what a convenience it would’ve been for me if I had one of these babies. I heard that they cost around 300 pesos and I was willing to spend some of my savings for some heat relief. But sadly, I didn’t know where to buy Techni-Ice.

I only coveted the Techni-Ice even more when she demonstrated how it worked. It was the coolest thing ever! She just ran water unto it, slid it in the freezer and in a matter of minutes, it was rock-hard solid and ready to help me fend off the heat! I remembered something about its New Millenium 4 Ply Construction inscribed at the back of the sheet and was wide-eyed at how ingenious our technologies have become.

A part of me (meaning all of me) was hoping that they would give me a Techni-Ice as a keepsake before we headed back home to Bicol. But unfortunately, they didn't. 


          The heat here in Bicol is probably just as vicious as that in Manila and I am so desperate to get my hands on some Techni-Ice that I’m willing to claw through mud and barbed wire for it. This is why I consider myself incredibly lucky to have found this blogging contest organized by Techni-Ice Philippines itself in no less than the last, I repeat, the LAST day of the competition!

Once I found out that I had only 4 hours before the deadline, I sprung into action and wrote this official blog entry for the Techni-Ice Blog Your Way Blog Contest where I have the chance to win THREE TECHNI-ICE SHEETS, which would be literally a dream come true for me!

Oh yeah, they’re also giving away a Samsung Galaxy Mini 2, a Techni-Ice mug and a Techni-Ice T-shirt, which are also very cool. But for me, I’d have everything if I had my Techni-Ice sheets! So please judges, I'm just a boy with glandular problems sitting in front of his laptop asking you to let me win!


Another photo of me NOT being dry, in case the judges need  to be more convinced.


            Visit their website at www.techniice.com.ph!
        They also have a Blogspot page!


             Check out this vid:  http://bit.ly/techniice
                                     
                                                           

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Looking Back at the Sitcoms of Yesteryears and Away From PBB

What do you think? 

            You know that disquieting feeling when you’re watching two dogs go downtown on each other right in front of you on the street? Well, that was what I felt when I last watched Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition 4 realizing that this was absolutely the biggest pile of rubbish anyone could ever put on television, even in ABS-CBN standards.
          Picture this: Millions of Filipino youngsters ranging from puerile tensomethings to creepy eightysomethings would actually stay up late to watch this piece of cow shit for what? To witness how emotionally scarring it is to fall in and out of love all in a span of forty-five minutes? To stay in the loop about the latest breakthroughs in shameless underage canoodling and crotch-handling? To guess which teen housemate will have a baby on her prom?
Yes, what you’re feeling now is a socially concerned parent’s rage.
            Personally, I have nothing against PBB. Well, except maybe Big Brother himself who’s always cooking up ways to impose and sermonize the show’s viewers with morality through challenges and tasks that are ironically completely against any moral code known to man.
But other than that, PBB used to be buttloads of fun to watch, especially those seasons where Kim Chiu, that guy and that other guy emerged as the Big Winner. Recently, it has been just socially irresponsible and downright gimmicky.
I don’t know where our world is heading but PBB Teens isn’t a good sign for anything.
Which brings me to my next point: What does Philippine television have in store for us? If PBB is a microcosm of one thing, it would be for how Philippine media is capitalizing on two things: pretty faces and sex.
Anyone who knows me could tell you that, just like hot sauce on anything, I love me some occasional dash of pretty faces and sex in my TV shows. The problem with Philippine TV is not so much the face value and sex itself as its quality and repetitive nature.
There’s always a recurring story formula in Philippine TV that is always overly used to the point of mind-numbing exhaustion. Here are my personal favorites:
1.      Mara archetypes get bullied by Clara archetypes.
2.      Boy meets bimbo. Boy has sex with bimbo. Bimbo aborts baby. Bimbo goes to Church in pekpek shorts to beg for absolution.
3.      Instead of using systematically written story arcs to push the story forward in a cinematically tasteful manner, half-baked, shameless writers cheat by using soliloquies and flashbacks that take up about 90 percent of the entire teleserye.
4.      Piolo Pascual as a reluctant priest, reluctant tycoon, reluctant playboy or reluctant male. (If all aforementioned could pass what viewers may consider as “TV-acceptable”, we might as well expect a teleserye about Mahatma Gandhi to be played by Renato Corona.)
5.      If all else fails, dispatch goons in a black van and kidnap the fucker.
Evidently, primetime television has taken a turn for the worse and has been reduced to Cristine Reyes in a see-through dress pointing a gun incorrectly.
I miss the days when primetime was wholesome and fun. When it wasn't all that embarrassing to be  jologs because cultural and societal rules were much simpler back then and hipsters and douchebags haven't been invented yet. When Marvin Agustin was still taken much more seriously in Whattamen in 2001 than he was in GMA's Iglot in 2011.
Have you wondered what ever happened to the good ol’ sitcoms that used to swarm our TVs when we were little? Or in the case of our parents, when they were less OLD? Why did they die? How did reality shows suddenly replace sitcoms in the early 2000s?
Lest you’ve forgotten what a real primetime good time looks like, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and recall all those wonderful sitcoms that have provided the Filipino viewing pubic its cultural identity. An identity which was apparently taken to the grave along with these sitcoms.
See if you remember these! Here are some sitcoms which obviously existed before Photoshop was created and before people didn't care much about proper spelling:
Home Along Da Riles (1992-2003)
Kool Ka Lang (1999-2003)
I couldn't find a photo for "Beh Bote Nga" (1999-2003) so please indulge in this photo of Tiya Pusit.
OK Fine Whatever (2003)
Abangan Ang Susunod Na Kabanata (1991-1997)
Okay Ka, Fairy Ko (1987-1997)
Palibhasa Lalake (1991-2000)
Whattamen (2001)
Ober Da Bakod (1992-1997)
Oki Doki Doc (1993-2000)
It’s hard to believe that Philippine primetime used to be a treasure cove of humor, good-natured fun and societal parody - something unrecognizable from today’s flurry of scandal, melodrama and boys discovering their first boners.
I would like to return to a time when TV was still a mirror of society, albeit a comedic one, rather than PBB and endless crude mutations of Mara Clara.  
There is more reality in the sitcoms of yesteryears than in the reality shows of today that claim to be the “kuwento ng tunay na buhay”. PBB and these overly dramatic teleseryes aren’t reflections of society, they are distortions and exaggerations. Their twistedness is so uncanny yet appealing that a lot of viewers take them as reality and regard them as the norms and values that should dictate their lifestyles.
To put it in a more simplistic view, if people watch kids' kalandian as they exchange spit  and other bodily fluids on PBB, it would give kids the impression that engaging in animal behavior is okay and parents would subsequently buy tire swings for their rooms.


At the level of overall social relevance, the ol' sitcoms will always be tops in comparison to the filth on TV today. And it's pretty weird how slapstick humor or Tessie Tomas in Abangan... will always have more true moral and historical value than Santino will ever have. 
It’s so depressing that we’ve entered a world where people are pressured to emulate the people they see on TV just because they’re oh so gorgeous or oh so chic or oh so greased-up in a skimpy bikini. TV is no longer about idols, it’s become a cesspool of people to emulate. We put people like Kim Chiu on TV, not because she's great at acting. I've seen better dramatic conviction in Disney Channel's Upin and Ipin, and they're not even real people! 


            We put people like Kim Chiu there solely because people want to BE like her and dress like her. TV stations recognize this reality and make profit out of it at the expense of turning people into mindless zombies. Networks forgo actual entertainment quality to make way for Zanjoe Marudo in a loincloth.
But those network execs will never get me. I’d choose watching Dolphy smack Vandolph with a newspaper over Marian Rivera anyday.