back when rivermaya was a sellout band

In a segment of last night's news, a reporter interviewed celebrities for their opinions on a COMELEC proposal to basically ban entertainers from endorsing candidates for the upcoming elections. In a brief snippette were a few members of the rock band Rivermaya - endorsers of presidentiable Gibo Teodoro and performers of his campaign jingle. I caught a glimpse of guitarist Mike Elgar and couldn't help noticing that he still looks a lot like he used to in high school.

I also couldn't help notice that the band called Rivermaya is an immensely different reincarnation of the band that was born sometime in the early nineties. Aside from the member overhaul, they kinda even have an all-new sound and overall personality.

I never was a fan of Rivermaya. I always found their songs ... er... too ... mainstream. The lyrics are clever (but not brilliant), their music kinda lacks edge and personality, like they were the kind of band that was afraid to experiment or go too extreme because it's all about producing something entirely "sellable". I don't know for sure of course; it's all just my opinion. "Rivermaya has always been a sellout kind of band," some stranger told me once in retrospect. And yeah, one could say they were good artists in a mainstream, pop-rock, sellout kind of way.

It was 1994 when Rivermaya's first single Ulan, was first (over)played. I was a sixteen-year-old high school junior then.

Ulan was an almost-instant crowd favorite; it gained the band A-list status and was the first of many hits. Bamboo was on vocals, Perf De Castro on guitars, Mark Escueta on drums, Rico Blanco and Nathan Azarcon somewhere in there. Those guys were all under twenty years old when they became famous.

One interesting trivial tidbit that people must have forgotten is that the young Bamboo used to have long hair (Whenever I saw him on television, I would always remark that that look just didn't work for him; his hair was always was too flat and greasy-looking. And with that big mouth and those puffy eyes he was plain UGLY. He's a lot less upsetting now that he's bald).

At that time, Michael Elgar was a senior at ADMU High, already acknowledged by his peers as a guitar demigod and band-competition winner. (If I remember correctly, he had a band called Elgy's Blueberry Juice then ... and he had another called Black Roses in his elementary days. I never knew him personally, but ever since grade school, he was the kind of guy that girls knew about. And oh - he had braces back then). Not yet the rock star we know him to be today, he was then just one among the sea of fans of Bamboo et al.

Rivermaya remained one of the country's most popular bands through the '90s. Their singles were played massively to the point of easy recall. They weren't only on the radio and music videos; their songs were used as commercial jingles, movie soundtracks and cover band performances.

As much as I disliked their music, you gotta admit they made for good soundtrack. In a project for Electronic Media class back in college, my groupmates and I included Hinahanap-hanap Kita in a "romantic comedy" short we produced (And a bit more trivia: among my groupmates were Paolo of Moonstar '88 [then called Orphan Lily] and his missus Mara, Monsterbot's Karl and direk Avid. Our lead actor for that video was then-CFA-tambay now famous as Kamikazee's Jay).

At the turn of the century, Bamboo disappeared from the band and Rico Blanco took over as frontman (by then, Perf De Castro had already long dropped out and formed a flopped band called Triaxis; I vaguely remember it for cheesy, jologish, mid-'90s rock ballads in Filipino).

With Rico Blanco at the helm, the band seemed to have developed a more distinct personality and maybe a bit more sex appeal. Some people would have argued that Bamboo's departure made the band tank, but the way I see it, it just made them a bit less mainstream - which isn't exactly bad if you think about it. I.m.h.o., the Rico Blanco songs were more brilliant than the Bamboo ones. Bamboo may have been the more spirited performer, but Rico was the artist. Besides, it's more fun to watch a sexier, more attractive frontman. Bamboo just couldn't rock the shirtless look.

Meanwhile, Bamboo formed his own band named after himself, which I think was equally if not more successful.

I think Mike Elgar became the new lead guitarist around the time that Rico Blanco moved up front. Like i said, I never was a fan of the band and I don't follow them, so I didn't really notice. I just spotted him on television one day - Uy, si Mike Elgar yung bagong gitarista?! It was easy to recognize him because like I said, he still looks pretty much the same as he did in high school.

I remember catching the closing act for MTV Pilipinas on the telly (I don't quite remember what year; it was the one in which Pepe Smith was souped up as usual and was "improvising" onstage) - a few of the country's top rock icons came together for a smashing performance. Mike Elgar performed a guitar duet side-by-side with Francis Reyes of The Dawn. The Francis Reyes. I was just amused at seeing an 80's guitar titan with a "younger" star. Reyes was the inspiration and aspiration of guitarists of our generation from when we were kids; I'm quite sure Elgar used to dream about meeting him, and now happened to play on the same platform as him. Kinda reminds me of that Mark Wahlberg rockstar movie whatzitcalled - of how a former fan could play in the band he admired in his youth. Elgy is now an icon of sorts himself, prolly the new Francis Reyes of this generation.

Also amusing is how Rivermaya seemed to have done the reverse of what most bands from the '90s did. While most crossed over from the alternative scene and sold out into the mainstream, Rivermaya went from mainstream into a sort of alternative. Not entirely of course - they're clearly still holding up a certain sellable quality. And speaking of sellable, I also notice they're now more of a "pogi band" - stylish duds and tons of hair product, far from the unkempt look and slouchy clothes the original group donned in the mid-'90s.
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