Live music is the best, bar none. Seeing your favorite bands on the makeshift stage playing your favorite songs, standing behind them at the queue for the loo, standing thisclose to them at the bar. We lined up 10 bars from where you can always expect good live music experience.
1. Handlebar Bar and Grill
31 Polaris St, Bel-Air Village, Makati; +63 2 8982189; www.handlebar.com.ph. Thurs-Sat 11am-3am, Sun-Wed 11am-2am.
The big motorbikes parked outside should clue you in on what to expect inside: rock ‘n’ roll music plus a rowdy (but fun-loving) vibe. Because this is also a sports bar, there pool tables and several television sets showing football, rugby, or cricket matches.
THE MUSIC: Handlebar’s roster of 50 bands covers the most interesting genres of music: rock, blues, and reggae. The action kicks off on Wednesday acoustic nights, but to experience Handlebar’s signature rock ‘n’ rollin’ good time, make it on Friday where the likes of Tempestuous Jones come out to play.
THE CROWD: Between Zeppelin-like songs, you’ll hear loud laughter from coño haciendero types and their expat friends. This could mean two things: beer isn’t cheap (PHP100 for a local pop; PHP70 during happy hour; PHP220 and up for imported beers) — and the occasional sighting of working girls. But don’t worry. Handlebar is not cheesy rock ‘n’ roll, and beer is always served cold.
THE GRUB: Big bikes, big appetites. Steak is a popular choice here (from PHP445), which you can prepare yourself if you sit in the al fresco area. You can also help yourself to the side dishes. If you don’t feel like having meat, the Thai seared tuna (PHP390) is ace.
2. B Side at Collective
7274 Malugay Street, Bgy San Antonio, Makati; www.bsidemanila.com. Wed-Sat 9pm-4am, Sun 7pm-2am.
Located inside an old warehouse, B-Side offers quite the space for music fans to enjoy live gigs. Gigs are held either in the bar area — there’s a sofa right in the middle of the room with tables surrounding it — or in the far corner of the atrium, when a lot of dancing is expected. There is a bar set-up outside, too, for convenience.
THE MUSIC: B-side is best known for its Irie Sunday, when dub step and reggae are celebrated. That said niche genres like goth or soul and even rockabilly have found a home at B-Side.
THE CROWD: Welcome to hipsteria. Pretty, little, rich and artsy folk abound.
THE GRUB: In case you get the munchies and must eat, B-Side has the usual bar chow that goes well with the PHP60 beer. We say you can’t go wrong with the nachos (PHP200). But take note: there are other food establishments at Collective, and manong fishball outside is popular with the bands!
3. Saguijo Bar + Café
7612 Guijo St, Bgy San Antonio, Makati; +63 2 8978629, www.saguijo.com. Tue-Sat 6pm-2am.
A live-music scene list isn’t complete without Saguijo. This establishment — and indeed it is already one! — revived the dying music scene during the aughties. It was one of the few places back then where rock bands were welcome and encouraged to turn it up, no matter how small a space the place. It’s tiny and can get terribly hot, but as soon as the music starts playing, the crowd goes dancing and the room is filled with unbelievable energy.
THE MUSIC: There isn’t a successful band today who hasn’t played Saguijo. Even large size bands like Radioactive Sago Project and Brigada who look like they can’t fit the space have managed to squeeze in and make a ball of it. While some of the bands that were in Saguijo’s stable have moved on to other things, some gigs remain the same — like the always looked-forward to Terno nights.
THE CROWD: Alt-rock aficionados wearing jeans, sneakers, and a shirt, that goes both ways for locals and foreigners alike.
THE GRUB: Beer is uniquely priced at PHP66 a pop but that’s because service charge is already included. Pork sisig (PHP215), nachos (PHP250), and four cheese pizza (PHP220) are all good for sharing.
4. Craft Rock & Grill
Unit E Fort Entertainment Center, 5th Ave cor 26th St, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; +63 2 8461715, www.facebook.com/craftrockgrill. Daily 6pm-3am.
It’s strange to find a rock joint amid the clubs and fancy gastropubs of BGC but here Craft is, proving there is a gap that needs to be filled. Almost like 19 East in its polish — proper stage, pretty solid sound system, big floor space, clean toilets — but on a much smaller scale, and made specifically for the rock music audience.
THE MUSIC: Like in most bars, the lineup depends on the promoter or the gig organizer — the bar can swing from one spectrum of the pendulum to the other. But just to give you an idea: Zia Quizon has performed here, as well as Kate Torralba, Kwjan.
THE CROWD: A little bit confused, or maybe out of place? As this rock joint is in BGC, the casual jeans-and-shirt wearing crowd can sometimes look out of place. Suddenly, casual doesn’t look very cool.
THE GRUB: We’ll be honest: We were massively disappointed with their nachos (PHP345) and buffalo wings (PHP355/12 pieces). They’re overpriced and taste bland. So grab dinner elsewhere but get your beer (PHP100) here.
5. The 70’s Bistro
46 Anonas St, Project 2, Quezon City; +63 2 4343597, www.facebook.com/the70sbistro. Mon-Sat 6pm-3am.
One of the older bandstages in Metro Manila and a major fixture during the ’90s music kaboom, The 70’s Bistro in Quezon City recently got a facelift — lighting is much more ample and the stage has been expanded. Actually, the entire bar feels a wee bit bigger than what we’re used to. The 70’s Bistro built a name for itself because it was here that folk stalwarts like Noel Cabangon, The Jerks and Jess Santiago built a home. Of course the famous sons of UP Diliman like Eheads, Parokya ni Edgar, and Yano played many a night here, too.
THE MUSIC: Despite the physical changes, we’re happy to report it’s still the same 70’s Bistro — folk music is alive and well here, as are the many alternative bands of Quezon City. The Jerks and Brownman Revival remain a fixture here.
THE CROWD: Smart academic university types and makibaka-esque crowd.
THE GRUB: Pizzas named after bands: Heads Pizza after the Eraserheads, PHP195; Color-it-red Meat pizza, PHP220; Picha ng Parokya (PHP220) with garlic beef, pepperoni and double cheese remains a favorite.
6. BKB Black Kings’ Bar
Unit 101 Westlife Building, 107 West Ave, Quezon City; +63 917 8432708, www.facebook.com/bkbbar. Daily 10am-3am (closed one Monday of the month, check their Facebook Page for schedule). Cover charge: PHP50-PHP300 depending on production.
Black walls, black tables, red lining on the wall. BKB Black Kings’ Bar on West Avenue is truly a “rakrakan” kind of a place. The owners are not afraid to host metal nights like the, ehem Bagsakan Nights and Rakrakan Festival. Get the drift? It’s that kind of a dig.
THE MUSIC: We’ve mentioned metal, in all its forms. Some artists you can expect to play here: Typecast, Chicosci, Saving the Dying Hope, Rebelde, Mutya.
THE CROWD: The really hardcore metalheads with a massive appetite for, well to borrow Guns N’ Roses, destruction.
THE GRUB: The menu is an entertaining read: they call their chili cheese sticks (PHP120) “Lumpiang may sili (Fingers of Death)” and their French fries (PHP100) “Frentz Fries (Thundergod’s wrath)”. Their pork and tofu (PHP130) meanwhile is called “Tokwa’t Baboy (Aegis of the Immortal),” while the pork knuckles crispy pata (PHP400) they lovingly call “Power Treads.”
7. Tago Jazz Café
14 Justice Lourdes Paredes San Diego Ave cor Real Ave, Cubao, Quezon City; www.www.facebook.com/tagojazzcafe. Tuesday-Sunday 8pm-2am.
One of the city’s best kept secrets, Tago Jazz Café was born because “there is nothing, no jazz club in the country,” explains Nelson Gonzales, owner of the bar. “This is also a way of paying homage to the greatest musicians of our era.” Most of 2012 saw him renovating his lola’s house around the Bgy Mariposa area in Cubao and in March 2013 opened Tago. “It’s a very intimate place where you can listen to music and talk,” he says.
THE MUSIC: Why it’s jazz and typical of jazz, it’s personality-driven. You can find musicians who aren’t necessarily bandmates, jam with each other. So you have personalities like guitarist Noli Aurillo performing with, say, saxophonist Pete Canzon. Some of Tago’s regulars include the Swingster Syndicate, Jireh Calo, Rick Countryman, Baihana, Triple Fret, The Brass Munkeys, and Skarlet.
THE CROWD: Big music heads abound at Tago. Students of UST Conservatory of Music as well as UP’s College of Music like to come here and play or chat.
THE GRUB: Beer is at PHP50 and the food is “bachelor cooking 101.” The most popular dish here is their kebab (PHP175).
8. Route 196 Bar
196-A Katipunan Ave Extension, Bgy Blue Ridge A, Quezon City; +63 2 4391972, www.twitter.com/route196rocks. Mon-Thu 6pm-2am; Fri & Sat 6pm-3am.
Tiny and cramped, Route 196 Bar is everything you imagine a college hangout to be like. Precisely because of its size, you have a likely chance of bumping into your favorite rockstars. If your boyfriend is more into music than you are, opt to stay outside where you can smoke yourself to cancer; or inside, at the lower section opposite the stage, where you can sit on the couch and yap away.
THE MUSIC: Gig producers and event organizers adore Route 196 because the place is unpretentious. That said, you can expect a myriad of bands here, from Toti D’s high-brow Terno and collegiate start-ups from nearby universities to really popular bands like Sandwich and Itchyworms.
THE CROWD: It’s the yuppie crowd of QC: unpretentious, smart, and decent.
THE GRUB: Route’s pizzas are amazing! The crust is thin and nicely toasted, and is a perfect match with an ice-cold San Miguel (PHP45). Try the Noypi (PHP265), topped with tinapa and quesong puti.
9. The Bar@1951
1951 M. Adriatico St, Malate, Manila; +63 917 8583009, www.bar1951.weebly.com. Tue-Sat 6pm-2am.
Old-timers will probably recognize The Bar @1951’s previous incarnation: it is run by the same guy who owned Penguin Café down Remedios Circle (we are going to conveniently forget that Penguin tried to make it in Makati). The bar and gallery, beloved by artists, bohemes and the Lonely Planet, is now in a converted 1950s two-story house where Bambi Harper’s pocket restaurant Cosa Nostra used to be. Bands perform on the first floor (there is no elevated stage), while artists hang their stuff upstairs.
THE MUSIC: Expect live music from Thursday to Saturday, with a solid roster of regular bands playing anything “from blues to reggae/dub world and everything expect k-pop”. Check their Facebook Page for the weekly schedule.
THE CROWD: The carefree souls of Malate, including celebrated tour guide Carlos Celdran, are regulars here. You’ll also bump into artists, writers and students who like to discuss philosophy while getting drunk on Red Horse.
THE GRUB: Favorites from Penguin Café like the eggplant lasagna (PHP150) are still being served here. The kitchen gets its ingredients at the nearby local market and as such, everything is made from scratch. The pizzas (from PHP250) are bake in their own brick oven!
10. 19 East Bar and Grill
Km 19 East Service Road, Bgy Sucat, Muntinlupa City; +63 2 8376903; www.19east.com. Tues-Sat 6pm-2am.
Blame its suburban location: most nights at 19 East Bar and Grill can give off a squeaky clean Top 40s vibe, but that hasn’t stopped rock musicians from coming here, thanks to the fantastic sound and light system — best in town, we dare say. The place is massive and sprawling: outdoor areas for those who need an audio-break, a top floor for VIPs and, most importantly a proper stage. There’s also a breathtaking (and twinkling) view of Laguna de Bay.
THE MUSIC: If easy listening, mainstream music is your thing, 19 East is for you. Freestyle, MYMP, Juris and Side A are in their list of regular performers, though every now and then you get the likes of Bamboo or Pepe Smith on stage.
THE CROWD: People living uncomplicated lives and work nine-to-five jobs who get teary eyed upon hearing the first few bars of “Tuloy Pa Rin Ako”. On days when special gigs are cooked up, you’ll find a lot of record industry exec-types and “rocker” fan kids.
THE GRUB: Tuck into dishes like kare-kare and steak — for record industry executives having their meeting, we’re guessing — as well as the usual bar fare of pork sisig (PHP229) and calamares (PHP218).
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