This last weekend Grungella and Ernie escaped the summer torment by hanging out at Gateway mall in Cubao. Grungella told Ernie about a Roz Chast cartoon she’d seen that morning. “It’s in three panels. Bad: Person over 40 with a MySpace page. Worse: Your dad with a MySpace page. Worst: Your dad’s band with a MySpace page.”
“Sad, sadder, saddest,” said Ernie. Little did they know that this would be the recurring theme of the day.
They wandered into a T-shirt store that was having a sale. Ernie bought two shirts. The salesperson informed him that his purchase entitled him to free tickets to a concert that same night at the Araneta Coliseum. “That’s terrific!” Ernie and Grungella chorused. “Who’s playing?”
According to the ticket the show was called “Lost 80s Live”, and it featured three New Wave acts from their distant youth: When In Rome, Real Life, and A Flock of Seagulls.
Sad: The show’s title made it clear that the performers were has-beens: “Lost” pretty much sums up their careers.
Sadder: There’s always an audience in Manila for bands two (more often, four) decades past their sell-by date.
Saddest: Ernie and Grungella knew A Flock Of Seagulls but weren’t exactly sure who When In Rome and Real Life were. (Our apologies to hardcore fans of these bands; our characters were not hip in the 80s. Or today. In fact they disapprove of the word ‘hip’.)
“How many Flock Of Seagulls songs do we know?” Ernie asked.
“I Ran,” said Grungella.
“The More You Live, The More You Love,” Ernie said.
“Space Age Love Affair,” Grungella added.
“I don’t remember that,” said Ernie.
“It was in the soundtrack of The Wedding Singer,” explained Grungella, who loves Adam Sandler and believes he should collaborate with Jean-Luc Godard.
“Who are When In Rome?” asked Ernie, who was delighted by the wording of the question.
“Did they sing, ‘I’m sorry I was just thinking of the right words to say. . .’?”
“Right! And Real Life?”
That one drew a blank.
Ernie got four complimentary upper box seat tickets to “Lost 80s Live”.
Sad: Since there were only two of them, they tried to exchange the four tickets for two better seats, but the store only had upper box tickets.
Sadder: They called Big Bird and asked him to join them, but he had a family dinner. Kermit was out of the country. Bert considered their invitation for five minutes but decided he would catch up on his sleep instead.
Saddest: Getting free tickets to a concert and having no one to drag to it on short notice.
“I know,” Grungella said. “Let’s give the tickets to total strangers! We’ll look for people with 80s hairstyles or 80s attire.”
“Or people we find attractive!” Ernie added.
Sad: They could not agree on the criteria for “attractive”.
Sadder: There were a couple of people in 80s fashions, but Grungella and Ernie did not want to have to break the news to them that the 80s were over.
Saddest: The fact that they remembered the 80s established that Ernie and Grungella were the oldest people in the mall.
So they decided to show up at the coliseum at 8:30 and give the tickets away by the entrance. Presumably the people milling there would be interested in watching the show. Why else would they be milling by the entrance? Oh right, this is Manila. People mill for no reason.
Grungella and Ernie saw a poster for the concert that explained the provenance of the performers.
Sad: When In Rome and Real Life were one-hit wonders, their hits being “The Promise” and “Send Me An Angel”, respectively.
Sadder: A Flock Of Seagulls had more chart success, but is better remembered for those hairstyles.
Saddest: In the photo on the poster, A Flock Of Seagulls no longer had that hair.
Either all the ticket-holders had already gone inside, or they were all late, because there were no queues of any sort. Ernie went up to some people standing by the flower beds and asked them if they needed tickets.
Sad: They all said, “Hindi kami manonood niyan (We’re not watching that),” with matching expressions of loathing.
Sadder: A woman glared at Ernie and said, “I already have tickets.” What she meant was, “Extra tickets to an 80s concert is a problem I don’t need.”
Saddest: Later, Grungella realized that they probably mistook Ernie for a scalper.
Positively funereal: Being mistaken for a scalper to A Flock Of Seagulls show.
Lugubrious: They literally could not give the tickets away!
Feeling slightly put out and not particularly thrilled—”Pinabili lang ng T-shirt, nanood na ng concert”—Grungella and Ernie trudged up the dark stairs to the desolate upper box, which was occupied by mosquitoes and a few people. Judging from their lack of enthusiasm, they too had gotten their tickets free with T-shirt purchases. As the coliseum was half-empty, Ernie asked the ushers if they could move down to the lower box. This would put them in the same city as the bands. The ushers considered his polite request, then agreed.
Sad: The lower box was two-thirds empty and people weren’t exactly streaming into the place.
Sadder: They kept showing ads for the next “Lost 80s Live” concert featuring General Public, Gene Loves Jezebel, Wang Chung, and Thompson Twins, a line-up they infinitely preferred to this one.
Saddest: An usher went up to Ernie and said, “Kung mapuno dito, balik kayo sa upper box.”
Grungella and Ernie held back shrieks of laughter.
After another hour of ads for “Lost 80s Live” part two and Rick Astley (Roderick Paulate should be the front act), and a band doing covers of covers of songs by The Cure, When In Rome appeared on stage. They were three guys with a synthesizer and a drum machine.
Sad: They opened their set with a song some audience members recognized, then moved on to new material which, how shall we put it, had not yet found a broad audience.
Sadder: The very energetic bald vocalist announced that their new song was available. . .on their MySpace page!
Saddest: When they finally played “The Promise”, the woman sitting behind Grungella said, “Dapat kanina pa nila tinutugtog yan kasi yan lang ang alam ko! (They should’ve been playing that from the start because that’s the only song I know!)”
“Maybe the Lost 80s should’ve stayed lost,” said Ernie. Grungella figured that with the audience participation games and the Real Life set, it would take another two hours before A Flock Of Seagulls appeared.
Sad: They were really not into When In Rome.
Sadder: Or Real Life.
Saddest: Or A Flock Of Seagulls.
So they went home.