If Mow’s is the wunderkind of local bars, then Tim Ng and Roy Macasaet are its proud parents — in awe at how quickly their child has gone down in cult history as a haven for every kind of artist and a sanctuary for insomniacs who want cheap beer. But the question of whether or not Tim and Roy themselves will be remembered the same way as their two-year-old establishment isn’t even an issue that comes to mind. To Mow’s regulars, they’re not just the behind-the-scenes guys whose place you have to respect, but brothers in conversation and alcohol who want you to have as much fun as they do. They’re inseparable from they very space that they’ve carved out.
As the Mow’s story enters its third year of intimate moments, drunken shenanigans, and legendary gigs, you can trust that Tim and Roy aren’t going to be going anywhere soon. After all, somebody has to remember what happened the night before.
Congratulations on the second anniversary of Mow’s! How did that night go?
Roy Macasaet: Our second anniversary show was pretty successful! That was probably the most people we’ve ever had, if I’m not mistaken. I was pretty busy giving out drinks to people so I didn’t really get to watch most of the sets (though I did make it a point to watch a song or two).
Tim Ng: It was crazy fun. I remember getting there at around 8 just to help get the bar ready and there were a lot of people lining up at the entrance. It was so weird, considering the crowds at music gigs usually show up an hour after the actual start of the gig. A lot of people had fun, got drunk, made bad decisions, etc. There was a moment when I was standing at the back of the bar because there were so many people inside. It felt surreal to me that the small bar we started two years ago had turned into this.
What have you learned in the two years since Mow’s first started?
RM: I started working at Mow’s as the day-to-day operations guy when I was 21 so I can say that there was a lot of growing up both personally and professionally. I was basically thrown from being a lazy Literature student to someone who had to take care of an establishment. I’ve learned how to direct our small staff although I wouldn’t say I’m the typical leader type.
TN: When we started, we didn’t know anything about the music scene. Most of our speakers back then, I got from my house. We had originally intended it to be a small jazz-slash-comedy bar. We were running on show bands for a while before Salad Days, a production from UP, came into the picture and the bands started coming in. The bar got bigger, the equipment got way better, and Roy got fatter too. (laughs) We’ve grown a lot in the past two years. I’ve got no musical talent whatsoever (unless you count Rock Band, or Guitar Hero, or the recorder) so it’s fun to be exposed to a lot of creativity in music and other performing arts.
How would you describe the culture that’s formed among your regular customers?
TN: A lot of them care about the bar. I cannot stress that enough. It didn’t matter what scene they came from. We have regulars from college gigs, the hardcore scene, spoken word, and even the stand up comedy scene, and they’ve all shown a lot of love for the bar. Every improvement we’ve made so far came from the suggestions of our regulars.
RM: We’ve always had a very laid-back culture at Mow’s and the community that formed kind of connects with that. I know bands like it at Mow’s because of how intimate gigs get; there isn’t a stage dividing audience and performer, which is a pretty special thing. A lot of the regulars always say Mow’s is their home, and we appreciate it a lot. A negative of that is that we don’t feel as “official” as other bars like saGuijo or Route. But we’re totally comfortable being the perennial second best kasi mas consistent ‘yung demand sa’min. Howard Luistro (of Oh, Flamingo/Sour Cheeks/Bird Dens) and I always joke about how it’s better to hold a wedding at Route/SaGuijo but you can fall in love and have those small romantic moments at Mow’s, and I’m more comfortable with that.
What is it about Mow’s that makes it so popular as a gig venue?
TN: I would say the cheap beer and the regulars. The regulars just made Mow’s. They kind of built the history and reputation of the bar.
RM: We struck a sweet balance of community, accessibility, and how cheap our beer is! Also, I’ve found that performers are more comfortable trying stuff out at Mow’s, whether it’s having an entire string section play, or having the audience paint or grab an instrument and play along on stage. There really is something special about how audience and performer connect at Mow’s. It makes me happy.
How did you guys first meet and end up working together?
RM: Tim and I met through a mutual friend when I was putting up gigs with my college friends at a bar along Marcos Highway. I first met Tim as the guy who would always buy a bottle of vodka or something. I once drank half of his bottle at a gig because I was hosting and was pretty nervous. Haven’t apologized to him for that until now.
TN: I ended up bringing him to a friend’s house after because he drank my bottle of Bacardi and passed out. He was living in Angono at the time and he wanted to move out but he needed a job first. I offered him a job at our family’s company. He worked there for a while until I called him one day about opening a bar.
What’s it like working with each other?
TN: Fun. The work’s divided naman. He handles the sound, the social media accounts, and the bookings of the bar. I handle the financial and operational parts.
RM: Tim has more of a macro sense when it comes to business. I supply him with information and the pulse of the venue and we make decisions together off of that. Sometimes Tim just surprises me with a pretty expensive purchase like a new air conditioning unit or renovating a part of Mow’s, which is a nice bonus from time to time.
What’s the craziest or most memorable experience you’ve had at Mow’s?
RM: I was a total newbie at operating the sound system and it was the first time a proper loud band played at Mow’s (it was Imelda), and I was panicking like crazy because I wasn’t used to the meters flying off the mixer. Things got better when someone shouted, “May nasusunog!” and I saw one of our main speakers started blowing off smoke… We also had Italian black metal band Hierophant play the following week. I don’t know how I survived those two weeks.
TN: It was the holidays and there were no gigs. Our mixer was being repaired at the time and you could only play music through the speakers with an auxiliary cable. We decided right there and then (this was basically how the bar started too) to just throw a party for our regulars and just give out free booze. The highlight was the Bato Bato Pik championship. It was an idea drunk me had put down in my notes a few days before so we just went with it. I was expecting it to go okay, like a few guys watching two dudes play beer pong at a college party. It turned out way differently. The whole crowd was so into it. It felt like a fight club but fists weren’t the weapons, but rock, paper, and scissors. When one of the regulars won the finals in six games, the whole bar blew up. “We Are the Champions” by Queen played throughout the bar as the winner was carried off.
Roy woke up the next day in the garage at the back of the bar and one of my friends passed out in the KFC parking lot across the street.
Are there any other events you’d like start having, or you’d like to have more of?
RM: We’re cooking something up with our friends from Comedy Manila whom we’ve been working very closely with. I really want shows with just DJs playing so I don’t have to stress over whether an amp or a cable will break or not.
TN: Another Bato Bato Pik championship wouldn’t hurt too.
What can we expect from Mow’s as you guys start your third year of operation?
RM: We’re just happy right now. It feels like we played an RPG and now we’re Level 99 with great weapons and armor, and we’re just trying to slay bosses and collect achievements.
TN: We’re looking to make a few changes with the equipment and the interior of the bar. Whatever happens, though, people can still expect to have a great time at Mow’s.
Mow’s is located at Kowloon House Basement, 20 Matalino St., Quezon City.