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The Dawn bares major line-up change, brings back Francis Reyes, Carlos Balcells

The Dawn's 2016 line-up reunites frontman Jett Pangan (center) and drummer JB Leonor (second from left) with two former longtime members, guitarist Francis Reyes (leftmost) and bassist Carlos Balcells (second from right). Also in photo is guitarist Rommel 'Sancho' Sanchez (rightmost). (Photo by Alco Guerrero)

In a surprise announcement on his Facebook page, rock singer Jett Pangan revealed on Monday a major line-up change for The Dawn, the band he has been fronting for the last 30 years.

Gone is bass player and former Eraserhead Buddy Zabala and back in the fold are two ex-Dawn musicians, bass player Carlos “Caloy” Balcells and guitarist Francis Reyes. Original drummer JB Leonor and guitarist Rommel “Sancho” Sanchez, who joined in 2014, both remain with the band.

Before making the “big reveal,” Pangan waxed poetic and recalled his original vision for The Dawn.

“When The Dawn started out, I was the kid who held idealistic fantasies of what a band should be. One of those thoughts was that we were gonna be like U2 or Aerosmith where band members will barely or never change, that—come hell or high water—the same guys will eventually ride into the sunset,” he posted.

“[Thirty] years later, we know better. Reality doesn’t always support our dreams and desires. This band has seen more than its fair share of members walking in and out of the door, and for varying reasons.”

Although the band’s ill-fated founding guitarist Teddy Diaz remains revered in Pinoy rock circles, not a few consider the quartet of Pangan, Leonor, Reyes and Balcells as The Dawn’s classic line-up. This incarnation of The Dawn has been together the longest and has recorded the most albums that yielded the hits “Alam Ko, Alam Nyo,” “Sali-Salita,” “Talaga Naman,” “Tulad ng Dati,” and “Iisang Bangka Tayo.”

“Tulad ng Dati” would later be used by indie filmmaker Mike Sandejas as the title of his feature film debut about The Dawn that won Best Film in the 2006 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The movie touched on Teddy’s role in the shaping of The Dawn and included a dramatization of his murder in 1988.

“Except for the tragic passing of our founder Teddy Diaz, I’ve come to understand that losing a band mate isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the challenge of loss and replacement in this little kingdom of ours only helped build strength and character. And a whole lot of great music,” Pangan further posted.

In a subsequent interview with InterAksyon, Reyes recalled how Pangan brought him and Balcells back to the band.

“Jett asked me to do a ‘special project’ and I simply said yes. When he finally said it was The Dawn, it was a pleasant surprise. [Later] he added Carlos will be able to make time too. We haven’t discussed an album or anything like that; just the scheduled gigs,” he shared.

Balcells, formerly of Cicada, joined the band in 1986 before they recorded their very first album.

He left in 2003 to pursue a political career and tend to the family business in his native Talisay. Reyes, originally from After Image and the third guitarist of the band after Diaz and Japanese Atsushi Matsuura, joined in 1990 and was with them until his own departure around 2008.

“No, I didn’t really think about returning during the early days when we parted ways. I did, however, after being away for a couple years, begin to appreciate the music all over again. I mean, I was a fan before I became a member of the band so it was good to see and hear things again from a distance. If they asked me to rejoin two years ago, I would have said yes even back then. so it’s good to be home,” Reyes admitted.

The band's new line-up during their first rehearsal. (Photos by Alco Guerrero)

As for Zabala, who was with the band since 2005 and is reportedly working with Hilera, Pangan did not state the reasons for his departure but had only kind words to say about his contributions.

“We thank Buddy Zabala for clocking in a mighty 10 years as our bassist. It was one heck of a ride, with all the ups and downs and rock ‘n roll I could imagine. He’s a creative force in the industry and we’re happy to have had our share of his gift,” he posted.

“I don’t know what happened with Buddy, I respect whatever happened, and I love the guy,” Reyes added.

Although no official gigs or return to the studio with all-new material has been announced yet, both Pangan and Reyes are happily looking forward to what the future holds for The Dawn, especially now that they’re a five-man, two-guitarist unit.

“Meanwhile, the rock goes on. You know there’s something divine in the works when everyone says ‘Yes’ again,” Pangan conceded.

“Yeah, we’re pretty happy to be playing again and I know Sancho and I will have a blast exploring guitar stuff. We always talk about guitars and effects and all that, so finally, we’ll see what we can do together,” Reyes enthused.