In May of 2004, my friends and I formed the band Inhaler. We got the name from the asthma medicine. We couldn’t come up with a band name for days, so we just went with what was on the table, literally. I can’t recall whose it was, but Inhaler we became, with the Gonz on lead guitar, Byugi98 on bass, Nil on drums, and myself on rhythm guitar and vocals.
(edit: I was reprimanded by wifey for forgetting the inhaler on the table was hers and for getting the year wrong)
Now, I don’t really sing, much less sing well. But I guess the chore of singing fell on my shoulders (or windpipe) because we were going to play stuff I had written. As early as then, we were dead set that we’d take the hard road of original music and not be a cover band.
Our sound in the first few jamming sessions was all over the place. But to me, it was great to hear the songs I had written come to life. I mean, Arrogant I already thought they were pretty good. But to hear them played with all the instruments, with effects, and with improvements in the arrangement and instrumentation that I never would have thought of, that was truly great.
For three years, Inhaler would practice twice weekly for two hours at a time. We were able to complete a dozen songs and played gigs in different clubs across the metro at least twice a month. The club gigs started with the guidance and opportunities given to us by Sir Noel Viola and the awesome dudes of Purple Haze Bar. Sir Dax and Sir Bito gave us our first club gig at Purple Haze, which was then located in Marikina City. They (with JP and Jeff) literally gave Inhaler a home, including us in their monthly lineup. Purple Haze moved to Tomas Morato in Quezon City a year later, continuing to give us a venue for our music. The bar closed on March 8, 2008, on its fifth anniversary. I wish Inhaler was there to play, or even just to say thank yous one last time. But the band had broken up by then and, I didn’t know about the closing till much later.
Around 2006, we got more opportunities through Mr. Bobby G’s Neo Jam series of gigs for underground bands. Our first gig with Bobby was at the opening of a new commercial building in Quezon City. That gig was surreal. We played our set well and the crowd liked our music, which was great. But we were totally shocked when a group of teenagers met us backstage and had us sign their jackets and shirts! Who’dathunk? They’re probably grown up now and know that the guys who signed their clothes weren’t big and never became big. But it doesn’t matter, it’s all good. You don’t get that everyday.
And let’s not forget the undying support of friends (Itlugan and Pisay ’94, most notably). Friends who showed up time and again to watch us play. It didn’t matter where we played, at least a handful would be there. Our friends even had their personal favorites among our songs, and there was even a running joke on who was #1 fan and who was #2. Some of my friends from high school who came to our gigs eventually formed Sajama (Lodvig Vancouver, Miggy Pop, JV, Janstiff, and Bridge). Sajama also became regulars at the Haze, playing on the same nights as Inhaler quite a few times. Truly, no man is an island, and a band is not so different.
In all the gigs that we played, we never made any money (just free drinks and food). In fact, we had to spend money to go to the venues, and we lost a lot of sleep (remember that we had jobs to keep during the day). But we kept practicing, we kept showing up and playing, because getting up on stage and playing a set was an exhilarating experience every time (maybe except for that UP College of Fine Arts gig and the Sisig Festival, those just totally blew). Plus we got to listen to a lot of good indie rock! Sandbox, Oremus, Sajama, to name a few.
On a side note, I feel bad for not having photos of most of our gigs. I also have just one video. It’s of the Saguijo gig in 2005, and the audio is not good. Digital cameras weren’t as good and as cheap back then, and my paycheck was much smaller too. Ho hum. But some is better than none, so I’m still grateful.