Gig Places in Manila: Where to Go for Live Music from OPM Talents

My then night life—where I went to watch gigs and new places that you can check out to enjoy live music from OPM talents.

I was once that woman who can stay out and catch live bands perform every night. I was actually part of a band (I sang in one) and we might have not performed regularly, but my job as a writer for a music magazine entailed that I cover gigs. I’ve lived in Laguna all my life and I’m not sure where I got the power to commute at the wee hours of the morning to go home, sleep for a few hours, then wake up early to go to work after a night out. Me and my tolerance for insufficient sleep as a youngin. But don’t get me wrong, it was a phase in my life that I would never regret. Being able to watch really good OPM bands at different spots in the Metro is an exhilarating feeling especially when you’re someone like me who’s a fan of music. Here were a few of my go-to bars to catch local bands live and why these venues are still worth checking out.

1. SaGuijo Café + Bar

612 Guijo St., San Antonio Village, Makati | FB: /saGuijo.Cafe.Bar.Events

The popular door filled with stickers in Saguijo

Saguijo is a familiar place to me because my band and I performed there a bunch of times. It’s an apartment unit wherein the first floor has been converted into a performance area and a bar and the second floor, I’m not sure what it is now since I haven’t been there for some time. I think it’s presently a recording studio if I’m not mistaken whereas before, it was a shop then a holding area, an office, then a gallery. For the countless times that I’ve been there, I don’t think I’ve ever tried their food. But their beer is super cold though. Signed and unsigned bands perform in Saguijo; a number of gig productions started their nights there. It’s still one of the OG gig areas to catch your favorite local acts.

2. 12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub

El Pueblo Real de Manila ADB Ave. corner Julia Vargas Ave., Ortigas Center. | FB: /12MonkeysPH

Ebe Dancel in 12 Monkeys

It was originally situated inside a mall when it opened but even though 12 Monkeys relocated from Makati to Ortigas, it still continued to give a good home for musicians and their followers. This bar is partly owned by musicians, DJs, and the big boss of JB Music that’s why you can expect a really crisp sound from your favorite bands and performers. They also have a good menu; try Chito’s Street Corner Picha Pie. One of the owners of 12 Monkeys is Parokya ni Edgar’s Chito Miranda and this pizza pays homage to their hit song Picha Pie and the tasty and inexpensive street style pizza. Top rock and pop bands perform here but one production to look forward to would be One Night Stand, which is held every first Tuesday evening of the month that features artists performing musical theater cabaret.

3. Route 196

196-A Katipunan Ave., Project 4 Quezon City | FB: /Route196Rocks

Corporate Low-fi at Route 196

Probably one of the farthest bars that I’ve ever been to for a Southerner like me would be Route 196. But it would have to be one of my favorite destinations if I want to watch a really good rock band play. I think they already changed their menu but I remember eating fried chicken skin and tinapa pizza there. Route 196 was one of the spots that my friends and I would have drunken nights, those nights wherein I wouldn’t remember how I got home safe and sound. This gig spot that’s co-owned by two of the Worms Jugs Jugueta and Kelvin Yu, had accommodated memorable nights, one of which would be a benefit show wherein Eraserheads’ Ely Buendia, Buddy Zabala, and Raimund Marasigan performed together.

4. 19 East

Km. 19 E Service Rd, Sucat, Muntinlupa | FB: /19east

Kamikazee in 19East

This venue is closer to my turf but still one of the difficult gig areas to go to. Even though 19 East is not the most commuter-friendly bar and restau around, it’s the best in terms of the vibe and sound system. It’s a favorite amongst pop acts like Freestyle, Side-A, MYMP, Nina, Paolo Santos, Jinky Vidal, and rock bands like Urbandub, Razorback, Hale, Sandwich, Imago, to name a few. The venue gets packed fast especially if the night features a popular band so if you’re coming from the North, you have to be there early for better parking and seats. 19 East also has a good alfresco area where you can hangout with your friends.

5. 70’s Bistro

#46 Anonas St., Project 2, Quezon City | FB: /The70sBistroBar

The Oktaves at 70’s Bistro

I rarely went to 70’s Bistro because of its inaccessibility to me a.k.a. it’s too far, but the occasional times that I would decide to go were always for special nights. The place is iconic. It’s one of those venues that you visit partly for nostalgia. Come to think of it, most of my visits at 70’s were very memorable. I was there when the band P.O.T. made its last reunion with original members. That night was special. I was also there when Cynthia Alexander held her last gig before migrating to the US. It’s undeniably one of the favorite gig places by musicians.

Too bad that kids today won’t get to experience the grittiness of Mayric’s and Club Dredd, the dark and smoke-laden 6Underground and Peligro, and the unassuming vibe of Freedom Bar and Kampo. But gone with old and in with the new. Here are some fresh places to visit as recommended by OPM musicians:

Benj Manalo (Benj & the Collective):

"I like performing at Don’t Tell because we get to do what we want; the type of party like the 90’s hip hop and Rn’B scene where everyone can dance while the band is playing, not sittings down, and everybody gets to socialize with one another. We get to mix up our performances with club DJs and our band."

Don’t Tell Bar is located at the 2nd Floor of 27 Scout Rallos, Quezon City. FB: DONTTELLPH


Nathan Azarcon (Rivermaya):

"Pinaka-okay is Historia. Ganda lugar, soundsystem, lamig ng beer, at sarap ng food."

Historia Boutique Bar & Restaurant is located at Sgt. Esguerra Avenue, South Triangle, Quezon City. FB: /Historia.Bar.Restaurant​


Junji Lerma (Four Corners):

"Over the last two years, I have had the privilege to be a regular artist at some very good venues in Poblacion, Makati. First up is Alamat. When it opened, I had special nights entrusted to me where I’d have guitar duo gigs with Kakoy Legaspi or sax and guitar duets on occasion. The place is famous for bringing Filipino culture to the forefront. Their great food, craft beverages, interior design and very good staff all flow together to celebrate Filipino Ingenuity. A fine place to bring your friends and family for a taste of something familiar with a dash of intercontinental flair.

Next is The Apartment, located on the 5th Floor of the Vines Bldg., just across Alamat. They have been successfully hosting Friday Jazz Night shows over the last two years where my band, Four Corners, has been a part of their artist pool. The place has got a very cozy, hip vibe thanks to the cool layout, the swinging music and the good-looking set who frequent the place. I’ll be playing here with Four Corners on Nov. 29 and Dec. 20, 2019.

These venues let us play our music—we are able to stretch out and experiment on forms. They have very warm staff and management that treat their artists as friends and guests. And the people who come are open and appreciative of music."

Alamat Filipino Pub & Deli is located at 2/F 5666 Don Pedro st., Poblacion, Makati. It also has a branch located at 2/F 240 Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Paranaque. FB: /AlamatFilipinoPub


Monty Macalino (Mayonnaise):

"So far, walang mashadong bagong bar na natugtugan, pero relatively new sa eksena yung Main Street in Kapitolyo. Masarap yung food tapos maliit lang sha, very intimate, perfect for acoustic to semi acoustic (with drums) na show."

Main Street Restaurant is located at 10 East Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig. FB: /


Aia de Leon (Aia de Leon and 5 Strong):

"My band and I recently played for one of OC records productions called Buwanang Dalaw and it was held at The Apartment in Poblacion. Apart from the awesome crowd that were there during that night, I loved the chill atmosphere of the place. It's a homey place you can celebrate special occasions at, yet feels like the excitement of going to a club. A really nice mix."

The Apartment is located at 5/F Vines Bldg., 5663 Don Pedro St., Poblacion, Makati. FB: /ZHostelph


Jazz Nicolas (The Itchyworms):

"123 Block yung place nila Mikey (Amistoso) and Mitch (Singson) ng Ciudad. It’s a gym and cafe by day, and gig place by night (well, not every night). The Itchyworms played there nung anniversary ng Ciudad. It’s different from other venues. It’s sort of like a secret place. Pag nakita mo yung front door, you won’t think na may ganun na place inside. Very good vibes.

123 Block is located at 123 Pioneer Street, Mandaluyong. FB: /Onetwothreeblock





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