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Ebe Dancel revisits Sugarfree’s Sa Wakas

SINGER-songwriter and former Sugarfree lead vocalist Ebe Dancel.

TO write original songs, and play at intimate venues were the alternative rock band Sugarfree’s goals when they began playing music in the 1990s. Their demo album Sa Wakas — which later was launched as their first studio album in 2003 — sparked the band’s rise to fame.

This year, singer-songwriter and former Sugarfree lead vocalist Ebe Dancel celebrates the 20th anniversary of the release of the album with the concert Sa Wakas: 20th Anniversary Celebration on Jan. 28 at the 123 Block, Mandala Park in Mandaluyong City.

“I spoke to Mitch [Singson], who was the former drummer of the Sugarfree because he owns the 123 Block,” Mr. Dancel said of the initial idea for a show.

“So, I mentioned that to him. Tapos sabi niya (And then he said), ‘Yeah, I remembered its [turning] 20. You don’t?’ ‘Sabi ko (I said), ‘Actually, no…Sige (Sure), let’s do a small show here. Tayo-tayo lang (Just us), just to celebrate with especially fans of that album na matagal ko nang hindi nakikita (whom I haven’t seen in a long time),” he said during an online media conference on Jan. 11.

Before the band — composed of Mr. Dancel, Mr. Singson, Jal Taguibao and Carlo “Kaka” Quisimbing — became a big hit, selling albums and playing in big events, they recorded Sa Wakas as just a demo.

“With my lifetime savings, we recorded a demo in a studio — which was far more expensive than the technology we have these days,” Mr. Dancel recalled, adding that back then recording music from your own home was impossible, and the required equipment was only found in a professional studio. After recording, Mr. Dancel personally brought copies of the demo CD to radio stations.

“I’m so blessed that that night I was giving away demos at Freedom Bar, Francis ‘Brew’ Reyes of [radio station] NU107 happened to be there. He had a show called In the Raw where he features independent bands. So, I said, ‘If you like it, you can play it on your show, please’,” he said.

That the songs from Sa Wakas aired on the station, Mr. Dancel said, was an integral part of their success as a band. “They were the first radio station that played [our songs] regularly. Even before the albums was released, our albums were already on NU107’s playlist.”

In 2003, the commercial version of the 12-track album was launched at Freedom Bar. The first two singles, “Telepono” and “Mariposa,” were played in radio stations. In the same year, Sugarfree released their hit song “Burnout.” The band went on to win Best New Artist, Album of the Year, and Best Alternative Recording for “Burnout” at the NU Rock Awards.

After hitting the mainstream, Sugarfree released five albums before disbanding in 2011.

A SCHOOL FAIR THEMED CONCERTSa Wakas: 20th Anniversary Celebration is presented by GNN Entertainment Productions and Backspacer Records, in partnership with 123 Block and Balcony Entertainment.

“At the core of Sa Wakas is nostalgia shaped by bittersweet memories and adolescent discoveries,” Ian Urrutia, PR and Marketing Director of GNN Entertainment Productions, said in a statement.

“We want to honor the impact of Sugarfree’s debut album by reliving the simple joys of going to college or university fairs with friends, family, and loved ones. Looking back doesn’t have to be getting stuck in the past. Sometimes, it’s okay to experience the old times with fondness and a different perspective as it gives new meaning to these memories. We’re finding means not to reimagine Sa Wakas, but to celebrate it: a record that feels like a tight embrace at the end of the dark days,” Mr. Urrutia said.

The concert will feature a full-length all-Sugafree set (16 songs) by Ebe Dancel, with the special participation of Mitch Singson. It will also feature guest performances by the Cheats, Johnoy Danao, and The Itchyworms.

“It’s definitely more of reminiscing… Many of the songs, I don’t really perform them anymore. Some of them, I forget the lyrics,” Mr. Dancel admitted. “Promise ko iyun sa Sugarfree fans, just for one night puro old hits iyung tutugtugin ko (It’s my promise to Sugarfree fans that just for one night I will be playing just the old hits).”

Not only will there be live music, but Mandala Park will also be turned into an amusement park with carnival games and rides, arts and crafts booths, food stands, and other immersive activities. Special band merchandise will be sold exclusively at the venue and select Ebe Dancel albums will be available via Backspacer Records.

Mr. Dancel said that it was the producers’ idea to pursue a school fair concept for the concert.

“I think a lot of the fans, una nila akong napanood sa UP Fair (they first saw me perform at the UP Fair). So, I guess, my intention [is] to recreate that vibe [of] when they met me for the first time,” Mr. Dancel said.

Having been in the music industry for more than 20 years, Mr. Dancel says not much has changed. “May nagbago ba? Tumanda lang siguro ako (Did anything change? I guess I just got older),” he joked. “Ganoon pa rin naman ang pananaw ko, na ’yung next show ko might be my last (My perspective remains the same, that my next show might be my last).”

LESSON LEARNEDMr. Dancel, now a solo artist, said he has learned three valuable lessons throughout his career.

The first is humility, which 46-year-old singer admits he “didn’t have a lot of it when we started out.”

“We went from a band what was largely ignored by labels. Suddenly there was a switch that turned on and we were doing big shows. Personally, I don’t think I was ready for it. Baka wala akong humility noon (I don’t think I had the humility back then)to be grateful and to accept things,” Mr. Dancel explained.

Having worked withmembers of the Eraserheads, Rivermaya, and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, among many others, the band has always been told to keep learning. “Don’t stay put. You can’t be happy with just one hit song or one hit album. Go out and talk to people and explore,” he said.

And finally, keep a guitar tuner handy.“Bumili kayo ng tuner, importante iyun (Buy a tuner, it’s important),” he said.

For more information on Sa Wakas: 20th Anniversary Celebration, visit — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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