A long queue of people in plaid shirts tied around waists, faded jean shorts with the pockets spilling out the hem, bleached out pixie cuts accentuated by headwraps, and laced up Doc Martens wrapped around the NBC tent as early as 9 a.m. of November 25, 2013. Seeing people as upbeat on a Monday morning was only telling that another remarkable event was about to happen for the christened indie rock loyalists who, mind you, robustly refuse the hipster label.
A striking majority of females were in line, and if one happened to be passing through that day, a quick take at the venue would have them believe that a women empowerment display was to happen. From best friends to beaus, the attendance of women tremendously beat out that of men and the same was apparently true for the gay-straight ratio—not an uncommon occurrence for the band that is Tegan and Sara.
That morning signified the long wait’s end, as people woke up looking forward to the nighttime where they get to finally see their fashion icons, their indie rock goddesses, and their LGBT equality advocates perform a one-night-only show.
Tegan and Sara, the Canadian indie pop rock duo behind this year’s chart topper Closer, toured Southeast Asia for a second time, but only considered dropping a first time visit to the Philippines this year after releasing their seventh successful album aptly entitled Heartthrob. With at least two dates set for their other stops but only one for Manila, snubbing the opportunity was not a selection their dedicated fans could bear to think about. These fans could not have been any more excited for this particular Monday to roll around, and amusingly enough they all dressed the part — an ode to the fashion-savvy twins.
As the gates opened at seven that evening, the queue swarmed around the stage, each one finding their own ideal space in the standing set up. There was polite pushing lasting very briefly as the crowd quickly settled. Within 30 minutes, opening act Up Dharma Down warmed up the stage with five songs off their recent highly praised album Capacities. By the third song, femme vocalist Armi Millare sensed the crowd’s impatience and assured them, “Two more and we’re out of here!” Fortunately, the crowd was tolerant and even sang along to the last two songs as their excitement built up.
After what may have been an impressively fast set change, the first few notes of Drove Me Wild played and the crowd went…well, wild. Identical twins clad in leather jackets strut out into the stage in their Doc Martens. They sang to a raving crowd that responded to every lyric sung. After the four minutes were over, Tegan commended the group exclaiming, “You put so many other countries to shame!”
The concert was as much a show of lights as it was a band’s performance. The lights contributed to the ultimate Tegan and Sara concert experience as hues and rhythm were made to complement and correspond to each other, defining each song and moment as pertinently as possible. Cameras and smartphones were whipped out of their bags, the audience no longer able to resist. For a while, people were content capturing memories instead of marinating in the moment. But who could blame them when, that night, seeing the Walking with a Ghost hit makers perform live ceased to become a dream that stretched out for years? However, the party was definitely on for the Silver ticket holders as they kept the exhilarated atmosphere while Gold ticket holders stayed concerned about taking souvenir videos.
Although Tegan and Sara were touring their 2013 mainstream album release, Heartthrob, their set list accommodated songs from their earlier albums, The Con (2007) and Sainthood (2009), after every other Heartthrob single. The twins played one song after the other, keeping the audience on their toes for the next one. And while the energy in the room was soaring, many started to wish the twins slowed it down, as they feared the end. Manila unfortunately did not see much of the amusing sisterly banter the two were known to engage in during their sets, which fans in turn have noted to be a valuable part of a typical Tegan and Sara show.
It was hard to tell which the audience could not get enough of, but each time Tegan pulled out her acoustic guitar to play that familiar raw recorded-in-our-garage sound that had caught Neil Young’s interest back in 1999, the crowd cheered and sang along aggressively as if to show Tegan and Sara that they have been listening all these years. Crowd favorites included Walking with a Ghost, Where Does the Good Go? and You Wouldn’t Like Me , all off of their first vastly acclaimed album So Jealous (2004). Memorable songs from The Con also caused a liberated frenzy so much so that the crowd sang the first lines of Call It Off before Tegan had even approached the mic. Sara was so surprised by the crowd’s enthusiasm, sharing that in their years of touring and doing shows, the response had never been as overwhelming.
The night was no doubt a special one for those who were a part of it. And really, it no longer mattered that the attendance was noticeably low compared to a previous concert held at the same venue some four months ago. What mattered was that the crowd that turned up was telling of how far the 5’2″ twins had come since they started 14 years ago. Their sound may have drastically changed and their discography may have gotten diverse, nonetheless, they earned themselves a profoundly loyal fan base.