Dropping the Ball: RIVERMAYA: BAGONG LIWANAG


This was something I wrote almost a couple of years ago (September 23, 2007 to be exact, but I did I little bit of tweaking… just don’t mind the “outdatedness”). Anyway, the show happened because of long-time frontman Rico Blanco’s departure. Fact is, while Blanco’s new album is enjoying various accolades (add the fact that the album was almost halted due to lawsuits), the new Rivermaya led by long-time drummer Mark Escueta and vocalled by Japs Sergio and audition winner Jayson Fernandez (the quartet has also Mike Elgar) is “alive” but “not really kicking” the mainstream scene.

Actually they had a chance to make their search for their vocalist grander. Unfortunately, a crappy reality show thwarted the chance of them exploiting the situation.

Read on.


Since Rico Blanco’s departure, Rivermaya has been searching for the “voice” to bring them back to the top. As we all know, Rivermaya is one the three bands that catapulted the band scene in the country (the others are arguably Parokya ni Edgar and the Eraserheads). Guys like Rico Blanco, Bamboo, Nathan Azarcon, and Perf de Castro are some of the names hoisted to the spotlight due to the band’s success.

The band produced hit after hit, new tune after new tune, and passion and success cradled with hits like Ulan, 214, Elesi, Kisapmata, Bring Me Down, Himala, Awit ng Kabataan, Princess in Disguise, Nerbyoso, If, Kung Ayaw Mo Wag Mo, Ballroom Dancing, Wild Angel Candy, Tea for Two, Shattered Like, Hinahanap-hanap Kita, Luha, 241, Balisong, Rodeo, Panahon Na Naman, You’ll Be Safe Here, Bandila, Wag ng Init Ulo Baby, Alab ng Puso, Umaaraw Umuulan…

And you know what? The list goes on and on.

With their legendary resume, you can expect a network to milk this! Yes, of course! DEFINITELY! This could be the Philippines’ version of Rockstar: INXS and its unsuccessful baby brother Rockstar: Supernova! All their songs are well known… videoke favorites amongst male bystanders! You have an established band looking for a new vocalist! WHAT CAN GO WRONG?!?

Everything.

For starters, hooking it on Studio 23 was a braindead decision. How can it NOT be on the main channel? I mean, KAMAO, the boxing reality show got in. BENCH, the reality model show also passed. So why can’t a Rivermaya singing contest pass?!?

Plus, the way it was produced… what the fuck! Sure, Ideal Minds made many good things like Maverick and Ariel, On-Air, Single, and that Blogged guy in RPN, but this Rivermaya thing wasn’t all that attractive! They brought in an unknown to host the show, the set design was horrendous (too garage-looking rather than gig-looking), the lighting was “dim and awkward” rather than “dark and goth”, and everything else is a mess! Remember the 90’s show Dread Sessions? IT LOOKS BETTER THAN THIS CRAP!

I remember one critical failure from ABC’s Philippine Idol. If you can’t get the network sound fixed, then all hell will break loose. Pinoy Idol’s pilot scored 8.0 in the ratings (a high for the non ABS/GMA shows) but as the show’s sound precision dropped drastically, ratings also plummeted. By the last episode, ‘Idol’ scored just 4.0, a remarkable bust that was supposedly the flagship program of the then-Cojuangco owned station (Actually, the sound check would be seen as just a mere reason of the franchise’s lack of fanfare. Philippine Idol… and Pinoy Idol are those shows that won’t fit the Pinoy audience).

Anyway, as I realized Rivermaya: Bagong Liwanag is a block timer (meaning ABS didn’t produced it), I now know that the network is not accountable for this production. But for the handlers of Rivermaya… what the hell?

The object of these competitions is not just to get a vocalist for the band, it is also to get that no-named vocalist recognition from the public! Since ABS used the band to help their late night newscast, ABS can easily do a “Pinoy Dream Academy” edge to this show. Making texters choose the persons they like but let the band mesh with the individuals to give them a clear idea on how this rockers operate.

It is hard to sell the Rivermaya name if the vocalist doesn’t stand out and perform. Just like the “new” E-heads. Sure, they are now called Cambio – after the entry of Sugarfree’s Ebe Dancel and Monsterbot’s Diego Mapa. Kris Dancel, Ely Buendia’s “Superproxy”, is a indie legend but she’s not that known in the public’s eye.

The vocalist is the most important player in the band in terms of imaging and fandom. I hope that the winner of the contest will get his spurs in the gig circuit. Despite the lack of actual Rivermaya band sightings, the talent seen in this show is great. I’m going to bet my ass on the 18-year-old musician whose name escapes me because he actually knows his shit in terms of making people jump to the sound.

Talent alone though can’t propel a show to success. It was a golden opportunity that was wasted.

(The first time I saw Jayson sing was at the Lala gig (hot girl from the bus-lifting ad) where he tried to sing Himala. Ugh… ambitious choice since even Blanco finds it hard to perform Bamboo’s awesome rendition).

REVIEW GRADE: 2 of 5

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