By Jean Claire A. Dy
*originally published in http://www.mindanews.com and the Mindanao Times, November 2004
“If he was around, Gene Boyd will be grinning ear to ear tonight,” I said aloud. Penny nodded at me with a knowing smile. That Friday night, November 19, the night right after Gene Boyd’s sunset burial, friends, relatives, and colleagues from the media crowded in Kanto Bar at the Matina Town Square to celebrate Gene Boyd’s life through a tribute concert.
Staring at the huge crowd, I could imagine Gene Boyd wearing his Cheshire cat grin, his eyes twinkling while dancing his funny dance. “Fudge Mehn!” he would say in lieu of a “thank you.” Penny Sanz and I knew he would have been very grateful for the special attention.
Flashback to Saturday night. Gene Boyd’s body had just arrived in Davao. Penny and I found ourselves in Cosmopolitan Funeral parlor, dazed and confused over how unbelievably surreal the moment was. There we were sitting inside a cold brightly lit room staring at the white coffin where our friend’s dead body lay, and dealing with the silent void that was slowly engulfing the people around us.
I don’t remember how we started talking about the tribute concert. The only thing I can recall was that collective need for us to fill in the silences just as Gene Boyd would have done: play music and sing loudly to his heart’s content until his voice would crack. “If you walk out on meeeee, I’m walking after yooooooow,” he would shriek.
This we knew and agreed on: aside from his love for photography, Gene Boyd loved music. It was one of those constant variables in his life. And so we decided right then and there that we owe him that tribute concert. A concert featuring the music Gene Boyd loved listening to; knowing that he was a child of the nineties, it would have to be grunge, alternative, and a mix of everything in between. Never mind if for some people it would be too noisy. Never mind that we had to prepare for a concert in such short notice. We knew we had to do it.
“It should be on Friday night right after the burial,” Skippy, Gene Boyd’s brother had told us. Boyd’s childhood barkada also agreed. Friday night was a fitting choice indeed. It was the best time to pay tribute to a life less ordinary. And over bottles of beer, loud music, lively chatter, and a few tears, to wax nostalgic over memories of a life lived fully.
Flash forward to Friday night. The sun had already set with Gene Boyd’s body six feet under the ground and the moon had risen just as it was expected to. There we were again, Penny and me, sitting side by side in Kanto Bar staring at the sea of faces eager to celebrate. Ah, the paradoxes of life, I thought. The other side of grief is celebration.
There were almost ten performers who came to play that night, which was a far cry from the estimated five bands we initially listed. At some point during the week, I even thought that the concert was a lost cause since I knew it was difficult to book groups in such short notice. Most of Gene Boyd’s musician friends (Geejay, Maan, and others) were unavailable since they were out on a tour of Salima. But I learned that they dedicated Salima’s Mindanao tour in memory of Gene Boyd. Later that night, I was touched to see Eric Gancio (who is part of Salima) arrive lugging his guitar with him. And I knew I was proven wrong—the gods were with us, I think.
The concert kicked off with Spaghetti Incident, a band composed of Boyd’s friends from the Davao Camera Club. The band’s heartfelt rendition of 311’s cover of the Cure’s “Love Song” took us back to the days when Boyd, after watching the movie 50 First Dates, constantly raved about the movie soundtrack. “Whenever I’m alone with you…. You make me feel like I am whole again…,” he would sing. And while he was initially put off by 311’s version saying he’d rather listen to the original, eventually he learned to love it. And as though echoing what most of the audience wanted to say to Boyd that night, Spaghetti Incident’s vocalist sang on: “however far away, I will always love you….”
Stella by Starlight’s cover versions of Alanis Morisette’s “Your House” and Pinoy rock band Sandwich’s “2trick Pony” were also memorable. With the first riffs of the electric guitar in “2trick Pony’s” intro came a memory of Gene Boyd slamming in the middle of a pseudo mosh pit in front of the stage where Sandwich performed sometime in August during the Kadayawan Festival.
“Clairrrrre! Ali na ba! Slam na ba! Remember you’re not in a classical music concert,” he shouted above the din of the screaming electric guitars as he pulled me out of my little cocoon of a monoblock chair. “Basin last time na ni nimo ug adto concert with me.” And a few minutes after, he emerged out of the mosh pit, all sweaty, joking: “Daghanag bahog ilok didto uy.”
It was really such a shame that he couldn’t be with us that night. But somehow we knew he was around in spirit, smirking at the conscious attempt to do perfect covers of the songs he had held close to his heart. At the same time, we could imagine him nodding his head to the tune of Back by Midnite’s rendition of the Cranberries hit “Zombie.” Then raising his arms in glee as Diego Maton played Dishwalla’s “Somewhere in the Middle” and “Every Little Thing.”
He may have listened intently when two of Davao’s homegrown talents, all-girl-band Back by Midnite and Lizard Chips, performed their original compositions. I could imagine him making comments here and there about the guitar riffs, the bass line, and the lyrics. And when contented with a good refrain, he may have grinned and nodded his head approvingly.
For their set, Lizard Chips started with an anecdote about Gene Boyd, the photojournalist. The bassist told the crowd of his first encounter with Gene Boyd a few years ago. It was during an anti-Erap rally organized by the students of the U.P. in Mindanao and Gene Boyd took pictures of that event, which to the students surprise was published in a daily the next day. It was comforting for us to hear such stories about how Boyd was able to touch other people’s lives in his own ways—photographing images as though documenting other people’s own feats worth remembering.
Perhaps Gene Boyd, or Kuya Boyd as he was fondly called by some, would have either shed a few tears or laughed at the fact that he made his surrogate younger sister Jaybee Arguillas sing Bush’s “Glycerine”. And not missing a beat, Jaybee dedicated the piece for him. “For Kuya Boyd, wherever you are!”
A quick shift in the mood happened when Katribu offered a few of their world music pieces with political undertones. While percussion beats and chanting pervaded the air, a performance artist roamed around the tables holding several candles in his hand and wearing a sign on his chest that somehow denounced Gene Boyd’s murder. For a while, the place had an eerie feel but such mood was diffused when Jeffrey from PDI sang “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan accompanied with guitar strumming by Chuck from Sunstar Davao. The performance was a different take on the hit song. Jeffrey made it more personal as though he was talking about Boyd and touching our hearts with the way his voice lilted and soared—comforting, reassuring: “in the arms of the angel far away from here….”
The tribute concert proved that there was more to the cliché “saving the best for last.” The best moments started off with the audiovisual presentations prepared by Geneboyd’s family and MindaNews, and then a reading of Arnel Mardoquio’s Cebuano poem by Gene Boyd’s father Tatay Rene.
Then the evening rolled fluidly with music as the tables outside Kanto Bar became almost empty and the ones who were left behind in the crowd were those closest to Gene Boyd.
At around midnight, the sky finally shed tears as the first notes of Blind Melon’s “No Rain” entered the room. It was an acoustic version of the Blind Melon song, Boyd’s all time favorite, performed fittingly enough by his barkada’s band called The Band. And true to his weird sense of humor, it was Gene Boyd who came up with the band’s name—very tongue in cheek indeed. Penny and I couldn’t help but laugh at the image of Boyd saying those two words “The Band” with feigned solemnity putting the stress on the letter A.
But more than anything else, The Band’s performance of “No Rain” was a gem. “Mao ni tribute bai,” Mars said adding with sincere conviction, “our music is for free.” The instruments blended perfectly with the vocal stylistics of the three female vocalists. So when you hear the lines “All I can say is that my life is pretty plain, I like to watch the puddles gather rain..,” you couldn’t help but smile, nod in agreement about the profundity of it all.
Other showstoppers were Davao’s human beat box Marvin Meycayabas’s hip hop number, which we thought would have made Boyd really groove his secret “Boydi dance,” and MindaNews’s Churchill who sang Mongols’ “Bakit Nga Ba?” and Parokya ni Edgar’s “Gising Na.” Laden with so many ironies, Churchill’s version of “Gising Na” was more than perfect. It sounded like a secret handshake between friends; an amalgam of longing: “gising na, buksan ang iyong mga mata…” and acceptance: “di nalang kita gigisingin.”
Outside the sky had stopped mourning leaving in its wake the puddles that gathered rain. “Sa bandang huli, hindi pa huli ang lahat,” Eric Gancio, with that last caveat for the night, sang earnestly onstage a song of hope. After his third song, the crowd started jamming with him. Boyd’s friend Omar the percussionist took his cue and accompanied Eric. Kitoy suggested songs to play with half a smile while Churchill, Amy, Froilan, Awi and others took sips of their beers and went on trading stories into the night.
As for Penny and me? We slowly edged our way out of Kanto Bar at almost three in the morning, sisters and friends in tow. Under the blue light of the moon, the puddles on the ground appeared like mirrors reflecting ourselves. For a moment I looked down, stared at my reflection in the water and wondered that if one day, when I die, would people give me the same tribute. Would my life be “pretty plain” yet extraordinary like Gene Boyd? The puddles don’t hold answers to that, I said to myself. And so I went on with Penny, humming “It’s not sane… It’s not sane…” On into the night, waiting for my own sunrise with Boyd just up there, wearing a sly smile and saying “Fudge Mehn!” in lieu of a “thank you.”