The beach was the stage. The lights, a pair of cauldrons on which firewood burned and crackled. The audience, just a hundred or so people, huddled on neatly laid out mats on a plot of sand. They drank or smoked or both — all the while imbibing the music that at times seemed to meld with the swash of intermittent waves crashing on the shore.
It was the third edition of “Campfire Sessions,” a series of outdoor gigs by the Filipino alternative rock band Typecast, which recaptures the sense of intimacy of live music that all too often gets lost amid the noise of today’s technology and itch for social media.
By taking the fans away from the bustle of the city and bringing them closer to nature, the music, unwittingly, becomes the singular focus once again. And true enough, throughout Typecast’s fervent two-hour set, nary a hoisted phone or camera was in sight. The audience sang, cheered, laughed. Maybe some of them cried, too. And then they sang some more.
“It’s not uncommon anymore to have a sea of phones in front of you while you perform. But there’s none of that here. And it’s always heartening to play for a crowd that pays attention; that is preoccupied with nothing but enjoying themselves,” the band’s bassist, Chi Resurreccion, said.
“At bars, there are a lot of distractions and the music can become secondary. But when you’re on a beach, or somewhere relatively more isolated, you disconnect and listen. The show goes beyond entertainment and becomes an experience,” added Chi, who, together with his partner, May Valentino, mount the sessions through their company, Green Turismo.
“Campfire” was conceptualized almost by accident. Chi and his band mates, lead vocalist Steve Badiola, drummer Sep Roño and guitarist Pakoy Fletchero, had always rared to go on a vacation in the town of Sagada in Mountain Province. While Chi was planning the trip in 2016, an idea crossed his mind: “Why not make our visit more memorable and invite people to come over for a small gig?”
The idea seemed farfetched at first. But the response from Typecast’s fanbase was surprisingly overwhelming. And so, the couple buckled down to work, seeking sponsors and looking for potential venues. Before long, the band found itself at the St. Joseph Resthouse, performing for some 80 people gathered around a bonfire one cold April night.
“Somehow, we managed to pull it off,” Chi said of the gig, which was recorded in one take by Tower of Doom Music, and later on, released as a live album on the music streaming service Spotify. “We were stoked. It was a new experience for all us, and we had a tremendous time.”
So did the fans, needless to say — and so much so that they clamored for another outing. It was then that Chi and May realized that such kind of show was something they could actually do more often. Later that year, “Campfire” was held at the Crystal Beach Resort in San Narciso, Zambales.
This summer, the band and its fans trooped to the country’s Pacific side, here at the La Sunshine Beach Resort. And like the event’s past installments, the equipment used were minimal, with regular microphones and amplifiers augmenting the volume of the music.
Because the bare-bones setup compelled the Typecast to play acoustic, the members needed to be creative in coming up with arrangements that are fresh, and, at the same time, fitting of the gig’s cozy atmosphere. “Our songs get what we call the ‘campfire treatment,” which sounds softer,” Steve related. “It’s fun, but also challenging, because the littlest of flaws get magnified.”
The quartet, which originated from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, dished out a 16-song set, including “Boston Drama,” “Reverend’s Daughter,” “The Last Time,” a fanciful ukulele rendition of “February,” “Kono Yakusoku” and “Will You Ever Learn?” — arguably the group’s biggest hit — which elicited the night’s most resounding singalong.
While the performances didn’t have the usual punk-packed punch and frenetic energy that helped Typecast become of one of the most beloved underground acts of 2000s, the band’s stripped down delivery of its songs allowed the fans to fully appreciate the earnest melodies, and made up for a listening experience that felt more achingly raw.
The presence of cellist Jezi Matias in the lineup for this gig, added a layer of drama and whimsy, and all at once further intensifying the exhaustive quality of the the band’s compositions.
Typecast likewise covered and put its own spin on Moonstar88’s “Migraine,” Rivermaya’s “Himala,” and Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” And after the band grudgingly ended its set — amid the crowd’s incessant roars for more — the mic was opened to fans wanting to partake in a casual jam session. (Some of whom participated in a friendly sing-off prior to the show.)
More than a music event, “Campfire” is seen by Chi as a means of exposing the campers to some of the Philippines’ lesser known, but equally scenic places. “It’s a musical excursion, if you will!” he said, adding that various activities or side trips are usually organized for the campers, so they could better explore the locales.
“This is the kind of show we have been wanting to do — one that marries music and tourism,” said Chi, who sees to it that the venues he and May choose are not too commercialized. “We want to help small, local resort owners. And hopefully, in the future, we could also bring the sessions to Visayas or Mindanao.”
Asked if Green Turismo, would consider bringing other local music acts with Typecast in the next sessions, Chi said it’s a possibility that he and May are studying. “There were bands who had actually expressed interest in joining us. But we will see. It’s definitely something we have thought about. The fans might get tired of listening to us!” he quipped, laughing.
In mounting “Campfire” — the next leg of which could happen later this year — Typecast hoped to continue forging a bond with its supporters that goes beyond mere photo-ops and shatters the idol-fan dynamic. In this trip, it was not unusual to see Chi, Steve, Sep and Pakoy mingling with thee fans; they eat with them, have a drink with them.
“This is a place where we get to truly know our fans. New friendships are always made,” Chi pointed out. “And that for us, is incredibly rewarding.”
[An edited version of this article was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, on June 6, 2017, with the head “Music and tourism converge in ‘Campfire Sessions’“]