If you were a budding local music fan in the 2010s, chances are you headed down to Route 196 on a weekend or two to watch then-up and coming independent acts perform on a small, cramped stage filled with charm. This was the magic that encapsulated local event production house Gabi Na Naman’s year-end gig held last December 15 at 123 Block in Mandala Park, Mandaluyong.
Gabi Na Naman has had a truly eventful year — from staging large concerts like the Sugarfree Sa Wakas 25th anniversary concert, Barbie Almalbis’ anniversary concert, Kyla and Jay-R’s reunion concert, and much more. They decided to end the year with a nod to their own roots in the local independent music scene of the 2010s, channeling the energy of a Route 196 gig.
The gig was billed as just that — a tribute to the indie Filipino music scene of the 2010s and beyond. They had assembled a line-up of Route 196 regulars: one of the OG purveyors of the “indie rock” sound in the Philippines, Ciudad; long-time local favorites like Ang Bandang Shirley and Oh, Flamingo!; indie-rock-turned-electronic band SOS (who frequented Route 196 when they were known as She’s Only Sixteen); and the much-awaited reunion of folk-pop act The Ransom Collective.
With five bands and 40 minute sets each, each band played longer sets than their usual — and of course, the crowd loved it. The audience was a mix of the millennials to late Gen Z-ers who had seen these acts perform in Route before as well as younger Gen Z listeners who started going to gigs after the pandemic. Despite the different age ranges and people in different parts of their lives, the energy was so palpable as everyone was jumping, singing, and dancing like it was 2016 again.
With such an engaged crowd, people weren’t afraid to chant requests for songs, and to everyone’s surprise, some of the bands played crowd requests. SOS brought everyone back to 2017 when they played the first few notes of “Magic,” with the crowd screaming in excitement from the start. The crowd was especially riled up to see Ang Bandang Shirley, who ended up playing an extra, extra long set along with some songs that they never usually play live, like “Theme Song” from their amazing debut album Themesongs. The venue was packed with Shirley fans, with people singing along to the instrumentals, counting “1, 2, 3, 4” with every drum beat, and singing every word of each song.
One of the most highly awaited sets was The Ransom Collective’s, who haven’t performed as a complete band since their reunion show in February. They played all their good favorites — “Settled,” “Fools,” “Open Road,” and the like. One particular little girl made her way to the very front and sang her heart out to all the songs.
It came to the point where the crowd didn’t feel like strangers who were individually seeing their favorite artists. It felt like a true community — everyone dancing along with each other, making jokes, laughing together. Nevermind the torrential rain and hour-long taxi wait-times; I’ve never seen a gig that was able to truly replicate that feeling of falling in love with local Filipino music in the mid-2010s. As people would say in regards to Route, it felt like home.