The venue was festooned with bright orange and red ribbons, and there were colourful totem poles greeting you right after the entrance. With beer a-flowing and three giant stages- Kingfisher Premium Kingsland Stage, Common Colors World Stage and Nocturnal Cell, The Great Indian Octoberfest opened with great promise. Day 1, being a weekday saw a lot thinner crowd than youd expect at a Bangalore gig. The weekend saw most of the festivities but Day 1 did have some good music in store.
Rocazaurus, a fledgling band from Kochi, got the proceedings underway at the Common Colors World Stage with some straight up rock, embellished with Carnatic guitar solos (singer/guitarist Fredy John is a student of the great Baiju Dharmajan of Motherjane fame). They were dressed in bright orange dhotis paired with black band tees – something new!
Theorized, the local Tech/Thrash band took to the stage next playing some new songs from their upcoming album. Though now a four-piece band, with the departure of their guitarist, Sandeep, they seemed to have the same amount of energy, with the vocalist Madhav now taking over rhythm guitar duties as well.
Thrash/Death metallers Inner Sanctum from Bangalore took to the Common Colors World stage at around 6:30 pm for a 50 minute set, and didnt disappoint, at all. Right from the Intro, where Basu made an entry and till they signed off with Guardian, they played some of the most brutal and aggressive metal one could ask for. The setlist included songs from their EP Provenance, and a few of their newly written material. Having completed a very successful tour in Europe, Inner Sanctum has surely matured since. Chintan was fantastic on the guitar, launching into some well-crafted solos, great melody and heavy riffs. Abhinavs drumming too demands respect, his double bass pedals sure took a beating that night! Basu was his usual self. Gut wrenching growls, and a stage presence so infectious that it had a security person next to the stage bobbing his head. Suraj and Abhishek held fort and were spotless. All said and done, another successful Inner Sanctum gig.
Next up on stage was Exist Immortal. We hadnt heard of them until we saw them on the line-up for TGIOF. A bit of research showed that the West-Londoners were actually doing quite well in the British metal scenes. They like to term their genre as Experimental/Tech/Metal/Rock. The setlist was comprised of songs from their album Dream Sequence as well a few of the newer own compositions. Having come off a successful European tour themselves, the band started on a high with A Timeless Voyage and went into Grabbity Gravity. De La Fuentes vocals had some good range, right from clean to growls which cut through the air. With great energy on stage, the guitarist Valencia, almost had Angus Young-esque movements on stage as he kept pacing forward and backward with an irrepressible smile throughout the whole gig.
Great technical riffing and some melodic solos stood apart. Sadly though, the Brit lads had some technical difficulties; the setlist didnt even run 40 minutes and the last song The Silence was just begging to be done amidst the chaos. De La Fuente was grateful to the metalheads who were present and jumped down to do a high-five with each of them and thanked them for being there. This wrapped up the Common Colors World Stage for the night, with bands last seen heading towards the beer counters.
Meanwhile at the Kingfisher Premium Kingsland Stage, after a not so impressive set by Core 304, All The Fat Children had started proceedings with some foot-tapping numbers and impressive beat-boxing. Dumb Dumb had a rather infectious tone to it and stuck in our heads for quite some time even after they ended their enjoyable set.
It was a pity that Dubai based Point of View had only a few onlookers for the brilliant set that they played. Like true professionals, they did what they do best played some good music and ensured that the people present were treated to a healthy dose of their music!
Swarathma was the breath of fresh air on Day 1 of The Great Indian Octoberfest and as always, they knew exactly how to enliven the audience. Vasu Dixit and Jishnu Dasgupta delighted the crowd with their funny banter as they moved from one song to another. In addition to the regular staple of Yeshu Allah aur Krishna, Topiwalleh, Ee Bhoomi Swarathma treated the audience to a wonderful rendition of a song they dont include often in their setlist Sur Mera. Whats amazing about Swarathma is not just their music, stage presence or charisma but how they manage to work their magic every single time and the spontaneity and variety they bring into their performance that makes it seem like youre watching them for the first time ever, even if youve watched them play the same songs a hundred times before!
Meanwhile at the Nocturnal Cell Stage, local DJ duo Arjun Nair & Stallion entertained an energetic crowd throughout the night.
Arijit Singh, headliner for the night, started his set at the Kingsland Stage with the starting lines of ‘Tum Hi Ho’, from the movie Aashiqui 2. This made everyone present at the venue literally stampede their way to the stage. We think this just goes to show how much we love Bollywood music, inspite of the indie rock movement that is well underway in India. Arijit easily got the biggest crowd of the day and continued with a medley of famous songs, mostly from Emraan Hashmi movies. He quickly followed this up with the more mellow ‘Illahi’ and ‘Kabira’ from the movie, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. He interacted with the crowd as well, proving that playback singers can be fun to watch live too, and can be great performers in addition to being great singers.
On Day 2 of TGIOF , the line-up ranged from exciting (Shanker Tucker, Avial) to interesting (Hoobastank, Skrat) to downright who? (HammerThong). After the inevitable delay, Chennai based 3-piece Skrat was the first band on the Kingsland stage, just after Hoobastanks soundcheck. Unluckily for them, they were greeted by a sudden downpour which had the small crowd scurrying around to find shelter. Skrat braved the rain and played a short and noisy (in a good way) set with singer Sriram even attempting a tongue-in-cheek jugalbandi.
A chunk of the crowd went for beer refills while the rest stayed back on the plush lawns of the Kingsland stage. Those that stayed back were jolted with the opening bars of a hollow We Will Rock You. A duo on stage, not advertised on the line-up previously, calling themselves HammerThong appeared. To put it mildly, they werent very good.
One Nite Stand, regular performers at Hard Rock, was up next and they sounded quite flat. The crowds focus had clearly shifted to the gazillion other little events that were happening around the stages – Slacklining, dance-offs, obstacle courses and of course the F & B.
Luckily, the sun was shining brighter on the Common Colors World Stage. Beat Gurus went first with their djembes. The party music around the games section was still blaring away as they took to stage and nobody seemed to have realized when they had started. They played two long tracks and the crowd was already tapping their feet halfway through the first one titled Highway to Madagascar. If youve never seen Beat Gurus perform live, theyre always decked up in their characteristic colourful tribal costumes, and they play with an energy thats hard to rival. Their songs have some flute melodies infused into them but the percussion is at the heart and root of all musical brilliance. In an era of electronic synthesizers and autotunes, Beat Gurus serve as a thankful reminder that traditional beats and rhythms can make you sway just as well, and possibly, with even more fervor. As their second track, Indian Rhythm played, people took to tapping their feet. This only made the band reciprocate with some of the feistiest drumming youve ever seen.
The second band on the world stage was Slapdash Tavern from Delhi. They played a really tight blues set, starting with ‘Superstition‘ and an excellent rendition of the blues classic ‘Hoochie Coochie Man‘. The guitarist showed snippets of his talent throughout the set, but the harmonica stole the spotlight in this one. This was followed by a couple of originals which were very bluesy but also pacier and more riff oriented. Slapdash Jam got the non-blues fans to notice them too. The rhythm section stole the spotlight in the originals. The vocals could have done better to match the intensity of the instruments. But a couple of really tasteful bass and guitar solos more than compensated for it.
Aabha Hanjura, the winner of Indian Idol, failed to stir as much of a favourable sentiment. While she clearly has an undeniably great tone and wonderful vocal control, her key and notes seemed too unsynchronized with the rest of the band. Even classics like Khun Faya Khun failed to impress despite Aabhas pitch perfect aalaps and breath control, due to the mismatch within the band. But the band wasnt to blame entirely. The sound on the vocal monitors was giving trouble and the band tried to get this fixed, all through their set, but to no avail.
Shanker Tucker and his band stepped on stage to a roar of applause. The Common Colors World Stage witnessed a range of demographics, each band having its core regional audience. Shanker Tucker, though, seemed to draw an amalgam of various demographics throughout India and beyond. You could see that his music transcends regional barriers. Mugdha Hasabnis joined him on vocals, Puneet Gabriel on guitars, Amit Mishra on Tabla and Jake Charkey on electric cello and bass. Their set started with an alaap on the clarinet leading into Saawan. They had a very organic sound which was very simple and melodious to hear. Their rendition of Munbe Va was faster than the Shruthi Box version. The ambient keyboard sounds were replaced by a strummy guitar part which made the song a little more groovy and catchy. Oas ki Boond was a message against the Delhi rape incident and a tribute to women. It was slow and filled with emotion.
Avial was the last band on stage for the night. After a painfully long soundcheck, they opened their set with a lyrically and musically boisterous Kali. Seconds into their set, the crowd was already going berserk. And why wouldnt they? When a band speaks to people solely through their music, and manages to win their hearts despite the fact that their lyrics are not understood by everyone, you can tell that their performance would be nothing short of iconic. Especially endearing was the rigour with which the crowd cheered and sang along with their imperfect accents and incorrect pronunciations, especially to the clear favourite song of the evening Chekele. The performance ended both literally and figuratively, on a high note. Thanks to Avial, nobody was going home that day without feeling contentment. As groups of slightly tipsy, but still effervescent people left the Common Colors World Stage for the day, you could tell that they were anything but tired and if they were high, it wasnt just the beer!
Headliners Hoobastank went on stage well before what was thought to be their slot. Numbers in the crowd grew as Hoobastank performed hits such as This is Gonna Hurt, Inside of You and Same Direction. They even got a small moshpit going during the outro of Crawling in the Dark. Singer Doug Robb spoke of how hed almost lost his voice thanks to a bout of pneumonia that he was on medication for a while before he could sing again. It was a shame to see chants for The Reason (admittedly their most famous song) throughout their set although when it did arrive, the crowd lapped up every moment of it. It was exactly the cigarette-lighter-in-the-air, shouting-out-the-chorus, group hug sort of moment that everyone hoped it would be. Hoobastank played their part too by milking the song to just the right amount. They played Out of Control as their encore as some fans restarted The Reason chants while the others danced. A few even passed out on the lawns.
Bizarrely enough Indus Creed followed the headliners on stage. The doyens of Indian rock performed mellifluous renditions of their songs (channeling The Hindu newspaper here, folks). Uday Benegals voice and guitar tone still hits the sweet spot. If you like The Money off the Evolve album, you must absolutely hear it played live as it sounds massive. Fireflies is one of those songs that nobody can possibly dislike and they played it to perfection. Heck, they even gave out free t-shirts. Indus Creed was sharp, tight and easily the highlight of the day.
A satisfying end to the festival experience. There probably were logistical issues that caused unforeseen changes to the schedule. TGIOF 13 was always billed as a massive party rather than a concert. While the logistical issues were a bit of a letdown, the party seemed like a success. Hey, nothing like a good ole fashioned dance-off eh?
The last day of Octoberfest had throngs of folks flocking the venue, quite understandably. Some of those people had all but had their fill, and some others sought to compensate for their absence on the previous days by making the most out of this day. The skies were already starting to shower with light drizzles, giving the bright venue an enchanted look. The welcoming smell of petrichor filled the air, leaving one happy in those moments, to just be breathing.
After a brief sound check, local band Bulletproof took to the Common Colors World Stage. The genre the band likes to go with is experimental, infusing elements of classic, alternative and hard rock. A five-piece band, they started off with an own composition, End of Time. The sound was distinct, good rhythm structures, the band in sync and you could notice that there were slight nerves. By now a certain amount of crowd had trickled in with beers, thanks to the drizzle outside. Taking this opportunity, the band zoomed right into a classic number, Black Night by Deep Purple. Some grooved to it, others raised their beers, and the rest sung along. The cover was good, and allowed the band to show that they knew what they were doing. The band then played two more of their own compositions titled Wont look back, and On the Edge. The guitars and bass sounded clean and the music overall had hints of alternate and hard rock the band loves. The drummer caught our attention with some well-timed signatures. Turns out the band was formed merely 10 days back, and this was their first gig!
The rains caused a slight delay in commencing the proceedings on the Kingfisher Premium Kingsland Stage but when Brodha V/Machas With Attitude (MWA) finally kick started it, the wait seemed to be worth it. If youre unfamiliar with MWA, they mix rap and classical melodies to create a listening experience you dont get every day. Their first song, Aathma Rama was about devotion towards God. If anyone was skeptical of their unlikely choice of musical styles before, all their doubts were dispelled right after that first song. After what seemed like the customary prayer song that gives things auspicious beginnings, MWA played On My Own. It was at this point that the crowd really started to engage with the band. The youngest member in the audience was barely a year old and her serious thumb-in-mouth face soon gave way to a warm smile that warmed the heart amidst the rain. The band then proceeded to render their own version of Aigiri Nandini a song of praise to the Indian goddess, an epitome of strength and wisdom. Brodha V did not fail to note before the song that in light of the atrocities against women we hear about every day, the song was thoughtfully dedicated to all the ladies. One could not help but appreciate the sincerity in intent, and flawlessness in rendition. The band closed the show with two songs that would have done any South Indian proud When We Party and Afterparty. The crowd was on their feet this time, and it was clear that the bar was set pretty high for the day.
Meanwhile performing on the World Stage was a young and funky band called Clown With A Frown, winners of The Strawberry Fields (NLSIU) last year. Trust us, there was no frowning after listening to these 9 individuals on stage. With an amalgamation of Funk/Jazz and Pop rock, the band makes you groove, jive and have a sip of scotch, or beer in this case. Pitch perfect vocals by Abby, great jazz tunes by the trumpeters/trombonist (horn section), strong basslines, crisp guitars and good drumming and percussions. They started off with great tempo with an own composition called Cupid Voodoo and moved on to Caesar and Another Way. They thrilled the audience with showmanship when the entire band froze on stage, and got right into the song after a brief 10 second pause. Showing great energy on stage and thoroughly enjoying themselves, they sang a reggae inspired number called Dirty Paradise, followed by Third time lucky and Groove Machine. The band then ended with a cover of the timeless soul song I Feel Good by James Brown. Putting their own spin on it, the band ended on a high, with wide smiles and a great response from the audience. Its great to see such young talent, and surely theres only one way for them from here. Up.
The next band to take the Kingfisher Premium Kingsland Stage was Lagori A star-studded collective of absolute professionals. Their commitment to make the audience have a good time was evident from the start where they refused to begin until the crowd gave in and collaborated with them. A faithful group shouted, We flew all the way from up north to see you! and were promised free beer by Tejas the frontman. Their set began with Ni Re Sa a powerful song that is optimistic and sings of hope. This was followed by Darbari an old-timey piece made wonderfully contemporary with a catchy riff and a great solo. The solo was a bit shaky because of some mid-song adjustments to the pedal, but Shalini Mohans bass was so strong that the crowd hardly noticed anything. Through their performances of Duniya re and Pardesi, the crowd participated by singing along and tapping their feet energetically. However, what really got them riled up was the bands self-titled piece, Lagori, where mid-way through the song, they threw bags of balls at the crowd and encouraged them to throw it back at them! Even a stranger to the Indian music scene will tell you that professionalism has always graced every performance Lagori has ever given. However, its things like these that truly set them a class apart and leave them in an unparalleled league of their own.
While Clown With A Frown were finishing up on the Common Colors World Stage, we noticed a choir lining up backstage. They were the Choral Riff and were playing along with Slain, one of Indias finest Progressive metal bands. The collaboration started roughly around two years back, and has since, been an attraction for audiences. Clad in black gowns, the choir arranged themselves in two rows and Slain went into the intro for Judgement Call. With the keyboards and the choir in sync, it almost felt like an atmospheric band beginning their set. The band was great, as usual. Bryden is one of the finest guitarists around, and shows you why with some brilliant solos and melodic parts. Good keyboards, great rhythm guitars and powerful drumming define this band. Ranjith holds the band together, and is an apt frontman with a good range of vocals. What followed were Prodigal, and the powerful progressive number Your Majesty. By now the choir had rid themselves of their black gowns and were grooving along and clapping to Firesea and Search for life. The band ended with Star and Superhero which saw some really good basslines and excellent rhythm structures. With songs mostly from their album Here and Beyond, Slain did have a good gig, but we wouldnt say it was their best.
To turn things up another notch the legendary Agam occupied the Kingfisher Premium Kingsland stage next, and wasted no time after the soundcheck to start things off with Brahmas Dance, as if to inaugurate the set by paying their respects to the God of all beginnings. Their second song, The Seventh Ocean was their first live rendition of the song. It starts out with a great riff and switches mid-way to another. Listening to this one was like being on a rollercoaster, complete with all the turns and twists and the temporary melodic lull that one should not get used to too quickly. As they progressed to play Dhanashree Thillana, you could tell that nothing could go wrong with Agam. They left nothing out of their live performance not even the sound of the chenda that fills the background giving the song a good sense of tempo and rhythm. Particularly fantastic was a little match between Harishs vocal acrobatics and Praveens follow-up response with excellent guitar playing. The to-and-fro went on for a while, and then the song resumed to end on a particularly ecstatic high note. The crowd refused to budge from the ground despite the rain falling down somewhat harshly.
At this point, the audience was shouting out eagerly for the band to play Swans of Saraswati and they obliged. The long-ish intro didnt stop some of the more enthusiastic listeners from humming along and tapping their fingers to the appropriate thaalam. Agams next track, The Boat Song hurled the senses away to the land of Kerala, into the backwaters. Praveens guitar slides and Harishs soulful voice singing the traditional chorus the Malayali equivalent of Heave Ho! Thithitara thithi thay, made the song an instant crowd favourite as they joined to sing along with the chorus. However, what truly grasped the listener in awe was Agams performance of Rudra an obeisance to Lord Shiva the Destroyer. The piercing riff matched the mood of the evening, with some brilliant lighting adding to the reverence brewing in every listeners mind. Agams set seemed like a homage to powerful Indian Gods, while the band themselves had a demi-god like presence upon the stage that night, and the rainfall fell upon us as if it were performing a menacing Tandav. To break the crowd from the trance-like state they were in, Harish urged them to participate as they geared up to perform their last song for the night Malhar Jam. As he spoke the words to a Ghazal, the crowd came back with the Wah wahs at his beckoning. Then the Thirana began, as the venue was all-smiles an effect not uncommon after one immerses oneself within the gravitating pull of ragas. The live version of this song featured a beautiful percussion solo with the sounds of the drums, the chenda, the kanjira, and the darbuka following each other in succession.
Meanwhile on the Common Colors World Stage, Girish And The Chronicles (GNTC) started off their set with Golden Crown and Girishs high pitched notes pulled in a curious audience who rushed towards the arena and straight to the barricade. Some of the fans, already present, knew they were in for a treat. Girishs vocals and Surazs guitars take you right back to the hair-bands era of the 80s. Great rhythm, crunching riffs and a brilliant solo put the crowd in a frenzy and the metal horns were up in a jiffy. They dove right into their second number, I Wanna Get That Loving Again with the same zest and tempo they ended the previous one. Girishs pitch perfect vocals and notes shocked the crowd and took them by surprise.
This was followed by Hey You and their hit single Angel. The atmosphere by now was the best we had seen over the past three days. The Chase was the next number after which Girish quipped that hell give us a cover. What ensued, was mayhem. GNTC did a cover of Led Zeppelins Black Dog. With our eyes shut, we could have sworn Plant and Page were on stage. Yes, it was that perfect. GNTC made the crowd do a sing-along and ended the song with a rush! Lastly, they played a cover of another song, A fun song, Girish said, as they launched into the intro of Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N Roses. At this point it was difficult to tell Slash and Suraz apart, the long locks included. GNTC was definitely the highlight of the night, and we think we speak for the audience as well, some of whom ran backstage to congratulate Girish on a stellar show. GNTC surely made the night for many, and scored plenty of fans as well. A must watch for old school and classic rock and roll lovers.
By the time Agam was done on the Kingfisher Premium Kingsland stage, the crowd expectantly waited for The Raghu Dixit Project maestros wielding an eclectic blend of both classical Indian and Western instruments, creating tunes that celebrate and romanticize Indian folk music. Usually, sound checks are rote listening to the audience, but with this band, even that ends up being a riot. Some great on-stage banter among the band members (Reduce monitors on Bryden some more a bit more actually, if you can reduce Bryden, thatd be great!) and general zany playfulness was endearing. Raghu Dixit started the set with the title song from their new album Jag Changa which means The world is beautiful. The tune was characteristic of the bands catchy, upbeat mood, and served as a chirpy reminder that despite all the negativity and gloom, theres still a lot of room for hope, love, and beauty on this planet.
The next song, Kodavana Koli Nungitha, was the bands own spin on the Kannadiga Bhaavageethe (mood song) legend C. Ashwaths (Shishunala Sharif) composition. The flute and violin bits were the highlights of this song, and the bands newest member, Adarsh, provided an amazing assist to the landing goal which was the brilliant piece of guitar solo by Bryden Lewis. By far, The Raghu Dixit Project had the most faithful fan following the day had ever seen, as was apparent by a large portion of the gathering singing along, word for word, note to note, to every song. Well leave it to your imagination then to reckon how stoked they were to hear the band move on to play Lokada Kalaji a song loved by all fans. As usual, there were charming antics by the band that included teaching the North Indian People how to mouth the words to the chorus, and the promise of giving away the bands young flautist Parth for free with a purchase of 100 copies of Jag Changa. At the end of the song, everybody and their goat knew how to say Dont worry, be happy (or a variation thereof) in Kannada. That rather high-energy performance was followed by another new track from Jag Changa, Parasiva. As Parths flute blended into the song mid-way, you could almost feel yourself sitting around a village bonfire in a circle, among friends, jamming away into the night. After another popular hit Ninna Poojege Bandhe Mahadeswara, the band followed up with Mysore se aai, a song about a woman who stole a young mans heart with the lure of her eyes and beauty. Even the crew was dancing to that one! The last song of their show was Neene beku a love ballad that usually elicits a sigh or two from the crowd. This time, there was an extended solo and a whacky bassline that complemented it quite well.
As GNTC cleared the World Stage, a very distinguished member of the virtuoso scenes took to the stage. Yes, it was guitar maestro/producer/music director Baiju Dharmajan, former member of Motherjane who took to the stage as humbly as one could can, and played some outstanding notes and arpeggios, all this mind you, using some very intricate Carnatic solos. Demented was the first song, and it stood out, as it should be. Vishnu was doing the vocals for Baiju and was standing by for every other song, as he sang Gods own country. Baiju then took on his instrumental Halo, which, was almost like a Carnatic version of Joe Satrianis Flying in a Blue Dream. The bassist and drummer matched Baijus incredible Carnatic driven style and delivered wonderfully. By the Moonlight was played next with the vocalist taking the helm again, to the disappointment of the crowd. The crowd by now had warmed up to Baijus mesmerizing style of traditional guitaring and found it hard to associate that with vocals. To their delight, Baiju played a brilliant metal/rock instrumental next called Philia, which captivated the audience for a while. Next up was Broken, featuring Vishnu, the vocalist. Sujay and Avirup were on par with the maestro, but the vocals seemed to lack that extra punch and zing. Fields of Sound and the Mahabharata inspired song Karna followed suit. By now, Baiju was on a distant solar system altogether, before he was joined by Bryden (of Slain and Raghu Dixit Project fame) on stage. They did a song called Bliss, an instrumental again, and the jugalbandi didnt just stun us, but the entire crowd as well. Baiju and Bryden were seen teasing each other on the guitars, with respect to different tones, structures, speed and playfulness. Absolutely stunning as it was, the song ended with both of them sharing some warm hugs and thanks. Rest as we know, is history, in Carnatic and musical terms. Baiju impressed us with some mind boggling and scorching guitars.
The rains finally eased, and the venue grew thicker with people flocking in to catch the nights last act Mika Singh. Mika wouldnt be up on stage right away as he was “away getting ready for you”, the pretty backup singer informed the swelling crowd. So we were entertained for some time by the rest of the band. The violinist played us some memorable tunes from Bollywood songs of old followed up by a nice rendition of Ainvayi Ainvayi from the movie Band Baaja Baarat by the backup singers. Mika finally took the stage in front on a crowd that had been kept waiting a little too long and quickly won them over by singing some Bangalore-ized version of his hit numbers.
He also sang a new song from the upcoming movie R Rajkumar, ‘Gandi Baat’. An upbeat number with the classic badmaashi of Mika songs. The night did not end on a good note however as there was an incident involving Mika Singh, an audience member, and a beer can flying through the air. Exciting though.
In retrospect, good organization by Common Colors, fun activities and amazing music washed down with copious amounts of beer, ensured that the edition of The Great Indian Octoberfest was a great experience!
Abhishek Prakash, Swati Nair, Sohan Maheshwar, Prashanth Gunasekaran, Uday Shanker & Priyanka Shetty