Stroke of Pepe Smith causes drastic change in his career; rock icon to join On The Job sequel

IMAGE From Facebook page of Pepe Smith / Yugel Losorata (right frame)

Pepe Smith (left) and Lolita Carbon were among the rock acts who performed at the Full Blast Pinoy Super Bands concert held last October 20 at the Cuneta Astrodome.


The iconic Juan Dela Cruz Band may have performed live together for the last time on their October 20 concert at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The rock band—composed of Pepe Smith, Mike Hanopol, and Wally Gonzales—was one of the acts seen at the event titled Full Blast Pinoy Super Bands.

Because, if things go as planned, Pepe Smith is retiring from the music industry as a performer, but grandly: he will spearhead a rock festival named in his honor scheduled for this November.

Pepe's manager, Mark De Leon, told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) that a number of factors led to the decision to have Pepe stop performing live on stage.

He explained, "Maraming factors. Isa na dun yung effect ng stroke niya kasi apektado ang singing niya."

In a recent interview, Singing in Graveyards director Bradley Liew, who worked with Pepe after his stroke, recalled: "It wasn’t like paralysis or anything, but it really took a lot of energy from him, and his tongue, I think, had maybe a 20 percent speech impairment."

(Read: Pepe Smith suffers stroke before doing indie film Singing in Graveyards)

De Leon, also a member of the band Drivetrain that backs up Pepe, noted that his iconic talent is set to concentrate on producing events and acting in movies.

The Pepe Smith Rockfest, scheduled November 18 at Amoranto Stadium in Quezon City, will be the first.

Pepe will also be shooting scenes for the sequel to Erik Matti's action-drama film On The Job. The original 2013 movie was top-billed by Piolo Pascual and Gerald Anderson.

De Leon did not confirm whether Pepe will perform at his rockfest, although the two other famous members of the Juan Dela Cruz Band, Mike Hanopol and Wally Gonzales, are in it, listed as separate acts.

ROCK ICONS. The lineup for last Friday night's Full Blast Pinoy Super Bands at Pasay's Cuneta Astrodome featured only one lady rocker: Lolita Carbon.

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Yet she shone like no one else, both in vocal supremacy and classiness on stage. She was an empowering presence as she stood for what is Pinoy rock: aggressive, emotional, melodically invigorating, and grounded.

Technically, she plays folk rock. However, that she got included in the lineup simply spoke for what she's worth.

"Buhayin natin ang Pinoy rock!" she exclaimed in one instance, her message echoing local rockers' need for more mainstream exposure.

Lolita Carbon and the Boys performed five songs, the standard time given to the nine rock icons in the lineup.

She began with the classic "Kapaligiran" and concluded with "Usok," with her drummer delivering a solo spot, much to the crowd's delight. The lead guitarist also showcased brilliant riffs.

It was Lolita's voice that carried the group with emphatic sustainability. It is a voice that has kept alive the legacy of Asin. It is a voice that's raspy, raging with veteran authority.

She told the crowd, "Kailangan natin ng pag-ibig. Para sa nagtutulugtulugan, dapat gumising na kayo para sa ikakaunlad ng bayan."

It was call to recognize that social issues of yesteryears are still relevant today.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY. Ever the professional, Lolita quickly knew what to do when her acoustic guitar lost its sound: she stopped playing but kept on singing.

There she was, a woman who would make use of her last weapon available to her, to stress her point.

She said, before playing a track that lyrically sounds from the south, "Di po ako Cebuano, Pilipino po ako."

Sensibly, it is a line that connects her to being arguably the quintessential Pinay rocker. She is not a trained voice but one born with it; she is not a pop artist branded as a rocker.

She is one relatable to regular Filipino mothers commuting with their children, breathing as principled, no-pushover ladies who don't apologize for their figure or their age. Her voice is a shoutout to every Filipina, expressing her emotions for real, wearing her crown as she is, weight and experienced gained—a beauty with no pretensions.

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PIONEERS OF ROCK. The male-powered bands comprising the Full Blast Pinoy Super Bands concert were among the pioneers of Pinoy rock, mixing it up with '90s alternative rock biggies, minus the mainstream colossal trio of Eraserheads, Rivermaya, and Parokya Ni Edgar.

Maria Cafra frontman Resty Fabunan delivered a prolonged guitar extro and lighted up the instrument on stage.

Basti Artadi performed, too, with no hint that he'd suffered a benign facial turmor in 2016 that almost rendered him unable to sing.

Then The Youth appeared as expected: blunt and brave.

Prior to singing their seminal hit "Multong Bakla," bassist Robert Javier quipped, "Sunod naming awitin ay para kay Xander Ford."

Somehow, it was a playful slap to millennials behaving indifferently. The '90s babies needed no pricey makeover to get public attention. They were who they were, warts and all.


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Pepe Smith suffers stroke before doing Singing in Graveyards
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Pepe Smith plans to retire from music; wants to concentrate on acting
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