Phum Viphurit and my 19-year-old self

That unforgettable day, Thailand’s resident lover boy returned, sang, and connected to us

It was around the end of my senior year in high school and the start of my freshman year in college when I first heard about Phum Viphurit, all thanks to Lover Boy, which is no doubt a staple song in a typical indie pop playlist back in 2018. I never really got into being a fan of his, who would be so updated with his live online performances and anticipating the release of a new single or album. I was just a casual listener, who enjoyed listening and dancing to Hello, Anxiety.

It was all short and sweet. The set was a little over 30 minutes. I wish he played more songs. It felt like a daydream. (Photo by Lem Atienza)

When the opportunity came to see his first show at Ayala Glorietta last April 21, I didn’t know what to expect. I even crammed to listen to Phum’s setlist for his recent The Greng Jai Piece tours. Even as a casual fan, I wouldn’t want to feel left out where his latest releases were concerned. I hadn’t had the chance to see Phum when he performed at 2019 Summer Noise and 2022 G Music Fest, so I was eagerly curious and excited this time.

The activity center didn’t feel cramped, with seats still available, particularly for those who got tickets. There were cheers and adoration from fans waiting to see Phum live once again. The short setlist: Lady Papaya, Strangers in a Dream, Love and Letting Go, Wings, Softly Spoken, Hello, Anxiety, Lover Boy, Long Gone, and Welcome Change. Phum’s performance felt like an intimate and chill gig you’d go to at local bars.

Phum performed with ease. His songs are what you sing and dance to when you want to chill and ponder past relationships, or someone your heart used to beat for. Amid the sea of phones directed at Phum and his talented band, I felt surrounded by people who loved singing and dancing to Phum’s music.

His songs are what you sing and dance to when you want to chill and ponder past relationships, or someone your heart used to beat for

All I can remember of that day in April is that I was in the moment—a moment of feeling carefree and away from my anxieties and fears. I didn’t plan to see him live until a friend offered me to join him for his first show back in Manila. But there I was, phone out and recording, glancing at Phum as he and his band took the night away. I wish I were confident enough to go up front, near the stage, and closer to him. I stayed in my seat, a couple of feet away from the stage, and minded my own business. I wish I could have sung all his songs as he performed them.

But then 19-year-old me wouldn’t have imagined I’d be seeing Phum live, to hear Lover Boy and reminisce about my first few weeks in college listening to music I loved to get by and survive my freshman year. It was the period when I would discover more music of artists I was not familiar with at all. Phum was one of them. Not to make “indie” my personality or genre, but to me, he truly embodies the music that indie lovers jam to. And we can’t deny that no matter how sad the lyrics can be, Phum creates music we can dance to and chill to. That was why that day he lit up the Glorietta Activity Center, with non-listeners and mallgoers stopping by to check him out.

Photo by Lem Atienza

It was all short and sweet. The set was a little over 30 minutes. I wish he played more songs. It felt like a daydream. Although I’m not the biggest Phum fan in the world, I adore his artistry—the way he writes his songs and sings.

On the way home, I had dinner with my friend, then took the MRT. It wasn’t as empty as I had hoped, but it wasn’t packed either. I listened to Phum’s songs on Spotify as I rode the train home. Softly Spoken reminded me of someone my heart was longing for. I used to write lyrics on my notes app to express my feeling for a crush or a past lover. “I wrote this riff for you, it’s true,” Phum sings. Phum writes from his experience and so do I. The song made me think about love, loss, and healing. I knew my 19-year-old self had a long way to go, heartaches to endure, and experiences to go through.

Welcome Change, his closing song, was truly sweet. During the pandemic, I was so afraid of change. “I want to be nice to you. I want to be kind to you. I want to be good to you. I want to be good,” Phum sings. I was at a low point in my life after a messy break-up, I thought I wouldn’t be the same person I was, my 19-year-old self back in 2018. But hey, you welcome change with open arms. You never know what you’ll get to experience: that I would be in my early 20s, eager to take life for what it was, what it is, and what it’ll be.

Photo by Lem Atienza

Ralph Regis

He is a writer-filmmaker who graduated with Film degree from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and a former feature editor and staffer for the school publication, the Benildean Press Corps, where he had written film reviews and features. Motivated to transcend his experiences into his storytelling, creating stories became an opportunity for creative expression and a better understanding of life, places, and people.

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