Friday, October 30, 2009

Up Dharma Down “Rocks” 16th NU 107 Rock Awards

LIVING up to the much-anticipated show's high definition billing, Up Dharma Down, a band that "progressively blurred the lines between genres in a constantly evolving landscape was the big winner in last night's NU 107 Rock Awards.

The genre-busting Up Dharma Down snagged the coveted Artist Of The Year, Album Of The Year for their widely-acclaimed Bipolar (no sophomore jinx there) and in a tie with Sugarfree's Ebe Dancel, Vocalist Of The Year for the foxy-looking Armi Millare, who also sang the national anthem before the main show started.

Having previously won the NU 107 Rock Awards in 2005 for the In The Raw category and again in 2006 for Best New Artist and Best Female Award (no such category this year), the band was a heavy favorite right from the get got, having garnered a total of 10 nominations this year.

While the crowd was noticeably thinner (owing perhaps to the bad weather) even as the awards returned to its well-loved venue at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, NU 107 main man Atom Henares was right on the money when he called it one of the best Rock Awards show in recent memory. For starters, the terrific hosting tandem of Ramon Bautista at ang napakaganda at napakabango na si (translation: and the beautiful and radiant) Iza Calzado certainly knew how to set the pace and liven up the proceedings with their mostly hilarious banter. Just about every performing artist brought their respective A game and yes, there was a moving In Memoriam portion that included a nice tribute to posthumous Hall Of Famer awardee Francis M.

But back to Up Dharma Down, their feat pretty much validated what their producer and Terno Recordings head honcho Toti Dalmacion thought about them all along. In a feature story that I wrote for IMAGINE THE GROOVE magazine on the maverick music guru, here's what Toti said about the band just shortly after the release of Bipolar.

“I guess there’s always one artist in every label where it’s like Boom! And you feel the connection right away,” he enthuses. “That’s how I felt when I first saw them at Miriam College. The sound was refreshingly different with soulful vocals even though the sound itself is not exactly soul.”

Toti is proud to declare that his relationship with Dharma has been “rosy” right from the beginning. “They have now emerged as our flagship artist along with Radioactive Sago but I think Dharma has a more crossover sound,” he beams. He is excited over the consistently rave reviews that the band has been receiving not just here but just about everywhere else. One feedback he’s particularly excited about came from Paul Buchanan (of the influential new wave group, The Blue Nile) who he considers as one of his musical heroes.

“Paul Buchanan declared Up Dharma Down as his favorite group and that’s an encouraging development since I’m already eyeing the international market for Terno,” he says.

At this year's rock awards, Up Dharma Down's performance was also a first of sorts in the sense that Armi was standing up instead of sitting down, which she usually does during their performances' entire sets. While I personally have no problem with the music itself, I've always believed their stage presence could use a big boost if Armi will lose the keyboard (you know she can still play that during recordings and just get a session musician to do those parts on stage) and just simply front the band. She certainly has the looks for it and with a little more confidence, maybe the moves, too. But then, that's just me.

Other winners last night were Peryodiko, Hilera, Rico Blanco, Sugarfree, Bamboo, Chicosci and Kamikazee. I'll talk about some of those other winners in future posts here. Meanwhile, here's the music video for Sana from Bipolar, directed by Pancho Esguerra who also won Best Music Video for Bamboo's Last Days On Cruise Ship:

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