TAAQ, Parvaaz, Neo Fatal, Nakul Shenoy, Maya Jadoo, India vs Australia - all at The Man U Pub in Bangalore! What do you do when you have all that going down in one night? Find the guy least interested in it all and give him a glimmer of hope and an empty Thursday night.
I have been to the Man U pub before, for all of 30 seconds: hoping for a dull and wooden, pie filled, draught pouring, classic English pub. It was none of the above soI left immediately and spent the evening with excellent (albeit veg) pizzas around the corner.
So the draw for tonight, was exclusively Thermal and a Quarter, who as of late, I had been growing weary of as well. Not a lot to go on, but sometimes you do things just because your first instinct is not to. That being said I still only left my house when I read a tweet saying sound checks were well underway. I had Lotus Flower playing over the headphones and I anticipated a fairly quiet and ordinary evening.
The pub was as expected: obnoxious monolith of glass and steel with glowing blue interiors and way too much shine. I fumbled through the ticket bit and had to very literally #drawtheline before I walked in, to two rappers going through their sound check. Potential.
As the crowd started to trickle in, organisers pricked up, lights came on and an MC took the mic. Introductions, most importantly to the smiling, blind Mr Paul who is behind Snehadeep. Mr MC attempts the standard practices to lighten the mood to no avail and the crowd sits bemused, awaiting the actual show. Then, the first, and by far the most unexpected performer: a grown man who makes shadow animals with his hands. Old Hindi music crackles on the speakers and out of nowhere the crowd doubles as @mayajadoo contorts his hands into people singing and dancing and a rabbit who was finally either raised by a cow or eaten by a tiger: maybe both. It has roots in an Indian story I seem to be unfamiliar with but it is nonetheless, entertaining. Then he breaks into the crowd-pleaser: a stellar rendition of ’Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ (a song recently violated by our generation), complete with transforming landmarks, the four lion thing and a waving flag - short, but impressive, he meekly disappears afterwards. He did however resurface later in the form of a confused response to my tweet about his talent.
MC man makes a quick appearance for the thanks and introduces the guy I’d earlier been amused with: high waist pants and a jacket a tad too big. Turns out he is, in fact, a mentalist (read cold reader if you’re skeptical). @nakulshenoy pulls off a rather admirable bit involving a random audience member and a copy of Animal Farm (if you haven’t, I recommend you read it). Then moves to the would-be show-stopper with a giant Rorschach ink blot projected onto the wall behind him. Unfortunately, this goes pretty wrong and he mixes up angels at a water fountain, giant moths and Salman Khan. Nobody seems quite sure what to make of it all but a quick, witty tweet from him after the fail joins the rotating tweet projection wall and he leaves on fairly neutral note. I’d see him again if I had the chance.
Then, the rappers were up. Now I have a bit of a tussle with rap music, because I love where it comes from and the natural, nearly instinctual bounce you can get from it, but I damn near abhor the bling and pimp-juice filled nonsense that has done its rounds in the recent past. Luckily, they build their beats beautifully, have great rhythm and I can’t understand a word they’re saying. Overall, I’m enjoying the music and the crowd seems to as well. I bounce along, take some photographs and head to the bar for a refill. I did meet one of them after, because in the midst of all the mumbling I hadn’t caught their name and I’d been led to believe you can’t really write a review without it. It’s Neo Fatal – new, dead, you get it.
I think rapping as an Indian tends to come off as take a genre you like, and simply make your version of it. All the emotion and history of the form itself is lost and there’s a missing soul-type ingredient that makes a world of difference. Find a musical form that says what you want to say, don’t write your song into a box that wasn’t yours. The refill seems to be helping. They pull off an all round decent set, even throw in a cover of Eminem.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the Mallus are back. And how! They slam out ‘Jupiter Café’ with a gorgeous, organic groove and like you never forget how to swim or ride a bike, Rzhude, yes Rzhude, slips right back into bass heaven. I have nothing against Prakash, and I think he’s an excellent bassist, so I’m willing to chalk this up to nostalgia with a little bit of that intangible goodness that comes from being part of the history of a song. They yell at people a bit to vote and hit one of my favourites:
Tell me Mr Have-Not, barefoot in the park: how do you smile so much?
By now I’ve forgotten all else, I’m lost in the music and wistfulness. Bam! Out of left field, a very Thermal cover of ‘Wonderwall’ : all groovy and bouncy. The audience begins to crowd the stage and it even has the rappers dancing along. Photographers tend to be given some space though, so I get to press up against the speaker with my phone for some messy photos. I have realised however, that phone cameras aren’t the best to catch drummers with – all tucked away and being awesome. Rajeev is still the absolute best drummer to my more than faulty recollection. But when it’s your whole body doing the remembering, you tend to just trust, and roll with it. Bruce, possibly uncomfortable in his skinny pants, was moving like an English punk rocker and muscle memory proved faithful as they comfortably rolled through some real early material. Then:
Got a good reason, for taking the easy way out.
Another brilliant cover, TAAQ ishtyle. I hope this was strategically placed for a Manchester United bar, after all, the Beatles were from Liverpool! They rock it like champions and by now we’ve ordered eats and are making quite the evening of it all. Then, as if to give me the perfect thing to think about at this juncture in my open field of a life- Simply Be. Easily the best Thermal gig I’ve been to, it well and truly made my evening. And the chicken wings did okay too.
If you don’t get to where you’re going, don’t you worry about it.
By now Twestival is doing pretty well for itself: tweets are rolling in, and every tweet makes 10 bucks for Snehadeep, so that’s damned good as well. Mr MC man makes it back on stage and UB makes a quick dive for some pre-IPL publicity with some RCB giveaways. Random team trivia questions and even a tweet-off gets pulled off really well and he’s getting the crowd into the action like a pro. Slowly though, the match starts setting in on the people not glued to televisions already. After a glorious start, our idiots are building the potential for a screw up.
The final band is set up and takes stage: Parvaaz. Describe yourself as ’blues psychedelic rock’ and you instantly have the attention of my inner music snob. The lead singer seems to play his part well, moving like a mix of Morrison and Paulo Nutini. They burst into their crashing, distortion-heavy opener and he breaks into a loud, energetic, feedback-riddled, but very off key scream. Things fall apart quickly and they need to redo some sound checks and connections. Meanwhile, on screen wickets are falling and hopes are even leaning toward the Turbanotor. Atmosphere is tense as both sources of entertainment are a little out of whack.
Parvaaz restarts their crashing, distortion and yelling, forcing their way back into their vibe, but Raina has stolen their mojo and begun smashing some much needed boundaries. People horde up against the TVs as the action heats up and losing their audience, the band is finding it harder to find themselves. Lead singer grabs an acoustic and starts a slick number making me think of Dave Matthews. They seem to all work around it from there and really get things going. Their big draw is ‘Aazadi’ - a powerful track working well with the big comeback for the cricket. ’Aazadi’ redeems them from their opening jitters and the match draws even closer to a tight finish. They seem to be soundtracking some exciting cricket like a trailer for an action adventure epic! Screams get louder for both the band and the match. Attention is well divided.
And then it all kicks into high gear. A bass-line reminiscent of ’Black Strobe’ builds truly tense atmosphere and one of the night’s few sixes puts the remaining runs at single digits. The vocalist is now completely in his twisted, disheveled rhythm, focused solely on the mic; he screams for redemption as the the guitarists whips out his first proper blues inspired solo. All their initial energy is drained but they’re powering into their swan song. Brett Lee is bleeding, then patched and on as determined a mission for recovery.
#PontingFace is fast making more of an appearance as chants of Ponting-Go-Home start: final four overs of the match. Strange instruments start to take stage. They’re building the final atmosphere. Bass and drums. Four runs to go.
In all the commotion, Rzhude sits focused at the next table from me: back to the screens, giving the band some well deserved attention. Most everyone else keeps spinning back and forth. Waiters huddle together. Chatter slows. Tables are empty with everyone standing. Goose bumps and stray sips of beer. Every ball is too long, every second delaying the end.
And all at once, the night erupts: a four is hammered, the band breaks the slow atmosphere for an all out jumpy finish, the audience goes wild! High fives and hugs, drinks downed and smiles restored.India wins and the band is doing exceedingly well despite the rocky beginnings.
With the crowd back on the floor, the blues backbone makes a reappearance and happy people are well loving the night. The band slow grooves toward the inevitable 11 o’clock and I start picturing a bed back home and some solid sleep, which as it turns out, I don’t get till 4 a.m.