Flickering lights, fair-goers moving at a glacial pace – I stopped. The mini-Octopus ride next to me starts spinning. As the riders shout on top of their lungs for the temporary high, the familiar sound of the first piano key of ‘Oo’ started playing. Behind a sea of blurry heads nodding and hands waving, that moment, I swear, I was liberated.
That Overdrive: UP Fair moment would probably be my best memory of Up Dharma Down, right before changing their name to UDD the following year. There is something about the band that captivates even the unbelieving of men – ergo me.
Seconds of staring at this transparent vinyl of Capacities, I move the pin of the turntable. “This is very meta,” I said; the first song in the album, Turn It Well, is playing. It’s as if it’s commanding the turntable to spin it right, do it well, turn it well.
Offbeat Sound of UDD
It could be the introduction of synth-pop in Filipino radio waves. It could also be the haunting voice of Armi Millare uttering every syllable of every word, delicately embracing everyone in the crowd like a gossamer scarf.
They were different. Different in ways, they are similar to others. They expertly use elements in their music that would make one say, “Uy, that’s UDD!” and to have that sense of authenticity and trademark in a sea of repetitive beats and dullness will make any band cut out from the rest. They started the trend. A trend they may or may not know has affected future artists and listeners who carved out memories through every drop of the beat of their music.
“Magpapaalam at magsisisi. Habang papiglas ka, ako sa ‘yo ay tatabi “
UDD is instrumental in paving the way to more indie synth-pop music in the country. They made a space for the genre in an industry filled with novelty, honest lyrics, and what-you-hear-is-what-you-get music. No shade right there; that is just how the market works. That is what sells. Despite that reality, UDD chose to put premium on their craft by carefully curating songs that are sometimes too personal to perform.
Of Emotional Catharsis
Armi Millari said in an interview a few years back how performing could sometimes take too much from the person delivering the words in a song. She mentioned that some songs, like Tadhana, require emotional catharsis that could leave an artist spent from all the emotion that the song needs to let out. Nevertheless, this just proves UDD’s caliber. And isn’t this how music works? When a song impacts the listeners’ lives in such a way that they tailor-fit the words and beats to their experiences, it becomes theirs.
“Tonight we say the words that are due to each other. Can you pretend like you lived one life for my love?”
UDD filled an empty space in the music industry that unsurprisingly attracts people from different walks of life. It’s almost as if people were just waiting for someone to stand at the center of hallowed ground for it to be filled seconds later. This is how I will remember UDD. In that one UP FAIR night, with people scattered all over the Sunken Garden minding their own business, UDD managed to pull us all in. That power – that influence to be heard, to be listened to, is such a gift. For stories to be known by many and for them to apply it to their own lives is an impact UDD emulates.
When they come back to the center stage, we know for sure, people will listen, and once again, when our words fail us, we will find words for our feelings through the lyrics of Parks, Turn It Well, Indak, Oo, Tadhana, and a lot more. That’s the power of UDD – they describe such feelings through a language we never knew existed before.