Tag Archives: Bourbon Street

The KORG M50

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KORG have really outdone themselves with this one! I think the M50 is a semi-professional artists dream! At the price, nothing can beat the power and functionality of the M50. KORG have always been coming up with products with stage artists and performance artists in mind, and it is in this context that one must evaluate their instruments.

Jumping right in, the M50 is a cut down version of the already legendary M3. With features like Open Sampling, KARMA 2.0, the RADIAS expansion option and the aftertouch being removed, the M3 is identical to the M50! And this is saying something, since the M3 itself borrows its waveROM from their then flagship workstation, the KORG OASYS. This means that you get the powerful EDS synth engine at a throw away price! The list of cuts might look large, but it’s really not that bad. KORG took everything essential from the M3, and removed all the fluff. This really gives semi-professionals a huge amount of power with their music, without complicating the machine with too much. Let’s take a quick look at what this beast is capable of.

The first thing that catches your eye with the M50 is the huge blue touch-screen. KORG is the only manufacturer that gives you pleasure of navigating menus with the touch of a finger. This allows the top of the workstation to be very uncluttered. This is by itself a very, very big deal. Just how easy it is to move around makes a big difference to how you work with your music. I personally find this feature very satisfying. The next thing you would probably notice is the orange back-lit joy-stick. The XY joy-stick allows 3 assignable parameters to be controlled, while many manufactures still retain the ancient two wheel combination, allowing only two parameter controls, a pitch bend and an assignable mod-wheel. I personally prefer love this joy-stick! I think it’s a matter of taste, and what you’re used to. Coupled with the joy-stick are two assignable buttons which let you do what you want while fiddling around with the joy-stick.

Other obvious controllers are the four assignable knobs on the main panel. They are assigned to some very useful parameters like Filter cut-off and resonance, and EG intensity and release. These knobs are freely assignable so that you can tweak any parameter within the workstation. The menus can get deep, and yet, they are very logical. Once you understand how they are laid out, you’ll be doing things that you didn’t know could be done, in seconds!

The M50 also has dedicated chord buttons right on top where you can store four commonly used chords and just press a button to trigger an intricate 8-note jazz-voicing, with each note playing at different levels of hardness/softness! This along with the drum track function allows you to jam along for hours and hours! The M50 also has two dedicated arpeggiators, so if you are into electronica or dance music, this is perfect. Or if you just want to mess around with the arpeggiator, it’s just as fun. ‘On The Run’ from Dark Side of the Moon is one very legendary application of an arpeggiator. I’ve programmed my M50 to replicate that, and it does it so well, I have no words to express how awesome it is – you just have to listen to it!

Getting a little more technical, the M50 boasts a jaw-dropping 256MB of sample data! This might seem like a joke, but in the keyboard world, what this translates to is quite amazing. With 1032 multi-samples and a whole bunch of stereo multi-samples, KORG has really changed what one expects at this price range in the semi-pro market. Each ‘tone’ on this workstation, (Programs, as KORG calls them) can consist of two independent oscillator sections. Each oscillator can lay its hands on four multi-samples, and these multi-samples are velocity split! All this translates to each Program giving you up to eight different sounds set-up across the keyboard and being played depending on how hard you press the keys! This allows you set-up a complicated song that might require you to sound mellow during the intro and sound insane when you rock out towards the end of the song! Each oscillator can access up to four filters (two filters each with four modes and four routings), two amps, five LFOs, and five EGs, all available simultaneously. All this gives you so much power, that it makes you want to cry with joy!

But wait! You thought THAT made you powerful? Ha! That’s what you come to expect if you haven’t dealt with KORG products before. There’s more – KORG has a mode called COMBI mode. Basically what Combi mode allows you to do is to combine upto 16 different Programs, and have them interact with each other in ways that will have you shaking with eargasms! Combi lets you multiply the power of the Program by 16. So just to summarise, let’s see what that lets you do: If you have the technical ability to play at different softness/hardness, you can trigger up to 127 different sounds just on how hard you play! And I haven’t even mentioned that in Combi mode you split up sounds across the keyboard, so that the lower part sounds like the intro bell from ‘High Hopes’ and the top part sounds like the piano parts! I even programmed my own Combi to sound like all the keyboards (about 4-5 keyboards) from the intro of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’! You could probably pull off a very, very authentic sounding Pink Floyd/Dream Theater/YES cover with the right degree of know-how to navigate and program this beast. And that is saying something, considering how legendary those sounds can be.

The onboard sequencer is a little outdated, and feels ancient once you work with DAWs. But again, in the context of a gigging workstation, and a light and easy machine, the sequencer is quite adequate for basic sequencing. The sequencer has a lot of interesting features like the RPPR, which allows you to trigger pre-recorded loops with just one single key-press. So for those people who like to play with loops, Abelton Live users and DJ-type stuff, this is pretty cool. Here again, it can get as deep as your creativity takes you.

Moving to the sound processing, the M50 boasts an amazing DSP engine! You can have up to eight-effects chained together to get that perfect sound. 8-effects is a lot more than the competition offers on their flagship workstations. The effects section is filled with all the right kinds of effects that one might need and all the effects parameters can be controlled using the knobs or the foot-controllers. All this technical talk just tells you how deep one can go into editing each sound. With effects sections, LFO’s and DMod etc., your ability to express yourself becomes much easier.

About the sounds, well they are just as amazing as the specs. The pads are lush and beautiful. They move and evolve in spectacular ways. The brass sounds are simply phenomenal! You have everything from brass slides to drops, so you can play those big-band numbers with ease. The presets for acoustic guitars, the pianos and flutes aren’t as nice as say, the presets on the ‘Motif of the Fantom‘, but that is an unfair comparison. The M50 pianos/E.P.s are known to be a little thin. But again, you have to understand that unless you’re an audiophile, you will hardly notice that these sounds aren’t as good as the competition. I’m only talking about the presets though, so if you’re ready do some tweaking, they do sound quite nice. So for semi-pros, it’s just amazing. And even in studio, unless you’re a pro and you have access to better equipment, this does an amazing job. The power of the KORGs lie in their synth, sounds which I think, blow the competitors out of the water, even on their flagship workstations! The synth sounds are simply magnificent! Leads and Pads are the most common uses of synth sounds, and they are unbelievable. All the synth presets are so good, that you hardly have to edit them. I rarely have to edit presets, but when I do, I know that I have everything I could possibly want to get that perfect sound.

Overall, I have only two complaints about this machine. One, that there is no after-touch and two, no MIDI-Thru. These are pretty standard requirements for gigging musicians. I don’t know how KORG over-looked them. If they had put these two features in, even with a slight hike in price, I think the M50 could have been the staple on-stage keyboard for everybody. BUT, they didn’t and it’s not. That’s alright though, I’m just being picky.

Even after all of this, there many, many things about the M50 that I haven’t even touched! But I blame that on KORG. They packed it with such a plethora of features that it’s hard to talk about all of them.  I think I’ve done justice to the bare-bones functionality of the M50 though. This is such an amazing piece of hardware that it takes ages to describe what it does! Overall I feel that KORG have really hit the nail on the head with this one. It caters to the gigging musicians who want pro sounds on stage without having to invest in heavy workstations that have such a lot of fluff that it makes them bulky and hard to carry around. But it works equally well in the studio with its in-depth editing control.

The M50 is part of my current rig on stage with Bourbon Street. I’ve expanded it with all the possible controllers: Sustain Pedal, Foot-Switch and a Pedal. This lets me push my M50 to the limit. It has done wonders for me off-stage as well. I take it to all my recordings. I’ve even used it in a single that I co-produced. It’s that good!

Writing this review has got me missing my M50. I think I’ll go jam for a while!

Bharath Kumar

Bharath Kumar, besides being a full-time geek, is a keyboard player and music producer. He runs his own studio, Minim Sound Labs www.minimsoundlabs.com, and is an active volunteer in various charities.

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Bourbon Street at Legends of Rock, Bangalore

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Sunday the 7th of August was a cloudy, drizzly evening that had me trudging up the road leading to Legends of Rock, Koramangala. I entered to find the place packed and was told that I might have to stand to listen to the band playing. Legends of Rock seemed like THE place to unwind after a week of hard work at the office; it was also the place to be to share space with a smoking hot band, rather literally considering its cramped and smoke-filled interiors.

I somehow found a seat just in front of the bar and settled down to enjoy an evening of music with Bourbon Street. I was looking forward to hear them play, having sampled their music online, but was a little apprehensive: recording music in a controlled environment is quite different from how you carry yourself in front of an audience.

The band consists of Jerome Mascarenhas (Vocals/Harmonica), Chester Pereira (lead guitars), Fidel D’Souza (bass), Bharath Kumar (Keyboards), Sudhakar Prabhu (Drums) and Ian Castelino (Djembe). The band is often joined by Carnatic violinist Dr. Sangeetha, who performs with the band for the fusion set.

Bourbon Street opened their gig with a rendition of John Scofield’s ‘A go-go’, an instrumental which lent a jazzy feel to the evening. I was glad they didn’t start off with something heavy, having come across artists who’re too eager to please by playing stuff that upsets the mood of the place. This pleasant number was soon followed by Roy Buchanan’s ‘Roy’s Bluz’. Chester doubled up by lending vocals to this song.

Starting off with jazz, Bourbon Street slipped into the comforting sounds of the blues. Chester’s waspy vocals were accompanied by their vocalist Jerome performing harmonica duties. I found myself cheerfully tapping my feet to the music, and I wasn’t alone. The place was suddenly transported back in time and there was no looking back: the audience was hooked.

‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ followed next, with Jerome taking charge of the vocals. Bold and empowering, this song was a little heavier than the previous two songs. By this time we’d understood that this band was going to surprise us with every new number.

Just when we thought the event was going to be a one-sided affair with the band doing all the hard work, Jerome asked the crowd if they were sober enough to follow their music. Dave Brubeck’s ‘Unsquare Dance’ followed, with the audience clapping in tandem with the beat. It proved to be quite a challenge keeping up with a tune on a 7/4 and quite a few members of the audience falling out of rhythm before long. But was great fun to be part of the magic of the band.

Bourbon Street’s version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon’ followed next, as the crowd grooved to the snappy funky solos that each member of the band churned out with an ease that made it seem like they were in their element.

After playing a flurry of covers during the first set, the second set opened with an original composition ‘Opulence’. Opulence is a progressive instrumental track written by Chester, making use of an odd meter sequence from 7/8 , 6/8 to 5/8 + 4/8. This number was also shortlisted at the Yamaha Asian Beats 2011 contest. This number took a myriad of turns, one blending seamlessly into another, taking me through a mesmerizing trip. ‘Opulence‘ certainly brought out the best in each of the band members.

The song that followed took us all by surprise. What started off with funky guitar and harmonica riffs ended up being Dr. Rajkumar’s ‘If you come today (tick tick tick)’. Now it takes courage to belt out a Kannada film number at a bar called Legends of Rock, but Bourbon Street pulled it off and got the crowd shouting out for more. An excited Ashish, (of LOR) took stage and commended the band for flawlessly syncing their genre with a Kannada number. My verdict- Incredibly ingenious!

‘Got my Mojo Working’ was the next track, and boy did they get the crowd’s mojo working! Much heavier than the numbers played before, the rhythm and drums in perfect sync, this Muddy Waters cover got the audience singing/screaming/shouting out what they could of the chorus with Jerome. They also moved on to cover Doobie Brothers’ ‘Long train runnin’ which kept up the crescendo that was built up through the show.

Bourbon Street wrapped the evening with Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’. A familiar number to most on the floor, it was the perfect way to end a show that was sure to leave a lasting impression on everyone who was there that night.

I was lucky enough to get some time with the band once their gig ended, thanks to Jerome’s invitation to have a chat with the band. The first question I had was whether they were comfortable playing at a small venue like LOR, with the band members seemingly jostling for space on the tiny stage. “We performed here the first time LOR reopened for live music after the whole ban thing.” said drummer Sudhakar, who’d been obscured from view for the most part of the evening. “We like the place and are comfortable with playing here since the crowd is very responsive as they’re seated quite close to the stage.”

On asking Jerome, where Bourbon Street stood among blues bands in Bangalore, he replied with a smile, “In this city, there are bands that play the blues, there are bands that play jazz, bands that play fusion and then there’s Bourbon Street which plays a bit of jazz, a bit of blues, Carnatic fusion and a lot more. It’s a mix of genres packed into one show.”

On being asked as to why they chose to play cover versions for most of the evening, Sudhakar said, “None of the covers sound like the original. In fact we lend in our own touch to every cover that we perform, so you’d never find two shows sounding the same”. A soft spoken Chester added that they’d like to expose the public to a broader spectrum of music primarily from the older days. The artistes of that period, he said, performed with such passion that it puts many of the contemporary artistes to shame.

The gig went well apart from uncomfortable seating and an annoying light that kept shining into the audience’s eyes. I wrapped up my conversation with the band thanking them for the chat, making a mental note to catch them live again next time.

Sharath Krishnaswami

Sharath is a freelance journalist. When he's not working, he's either painting on walls, trekking, or writing short stories.

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The Big Junction Jam Festival- Day 1

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Something that I have learnt over the years about Indian musical events, especially those that have live music, is that they never seem to start off at the scheduled hour. I walked in at 10:30 sharp, on that lazy Saturday morning, into the Big Junction Jam Festival arena in Palace Grounds and was greeted by Swarathma, at work on their sound check. A quick round of introduction with Karan Karthik (from The Live Gig) revealed that their sound check started an hour back. Well, it continued for the next hour or so, while I lazily roamed around the place.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was really a couple of hours), Bangalore based Old School Rebels got on the stage & kicked off the festival. Playing an extremely short set (which almost every band, that followed them, did over the course of the fest) of four tracks, they played two of their originals, covering Audioslave’s ‘Revelations’ & Velvet Revolver’s ‘Slither’. Maybe it was the lack of a sizeable audience, the set never made quite an impression by the time it ended.

Local Bangalore based jazz-fusion jam act Bourbon Street were up next, with Fidel from Old School Rebels on the bass again. Bourbon Street is fronted by Jerome Mascarenhas, who was missing from the action this time around. In his place was a thin lad named Ganesh, whom I hadn’t seen play with them before. I was told this wasn’t his first gig with them, which was evident from the way he was on the stage. Playing originals as well as covering old songs like Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, & Phish’s ‘Free’, their set was cut short as well, and was plagued by sound glitches, the booming bass & the inaudible-at-times lead guitars. One noticeable cover was that of ‘Nature Boy’, a poem, originally performed by Nat King Cole.

The all-Infy band Joos followed Bourbon Street for their set. Playing an original ‘Float’ with three covers that included Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’; this was a decent set, although the vocals were a bit of a disappointment!

Black Sun, a 3 piece blues-rock act from Bangalore came in next. Not having heard of the band earlier, I had absolute zero expectations from them, and was pleasantly surprised to see three young lads climb the stage. Playing a real tight but short set, that included a self-composition oddly titled ‘Old Monk’, they were probably the only act of the day that asked for a couple of minutes for an extra song, and the organizers obliged. Closing off with a neat cover of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’, they were well received by the limited audience that had gathered by now.

By the time I had got my share of chicken wings (Plan B had a counter in there!) and a couple of beers to wash them down, Mad Orange Fireworks had set up and were halfway into their first song. With Michael Dias fronting the band, it was difficult to miss the TAAQ/Bengaluru Rock flavor this band’s music has. Also, the fact that the first gig these guys played together was just couple of months back wasn’t really evident, with original compositions taking preference over covers for the majority. Their tremendous energy throughout their set wasn’t lost on the audience either.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a decent number had turned up and The Indian Blues and Khalihan got to perform before the event was interrupted by rain. The Indian Blues seemed to make an impression with the presence of a sarod and a santoor on stage; however Khalihan failed to create much of an impact.

When I had read the schedule for the festival, one thing that caught my eye was Live Banned, the only act mentioned sans the genre of music they played. Imagine the shock when they got on stage. Forget the black metal bands with corpse paint or GWAR with whatever they wear; these guys had the most insanely funny outfits I have seen a desi band sport. Still no hints on what they’d play though. I did not see what was coming my way. A Tamil movie song is what the guy next to me says. Okay. Wait! Baazigar’s ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen’? Crossed with Maiden’s ‘Fear Of The Dark’? Was I drunk or was that the Swat Cats theme? The Terminator? The most entertaining act of the day till then, Live Banned had everyone up on their feet and close to the stage in no time. Hope this act lasts, entertaining audiences in the days to come, and I hope their gags on stage do not repeat either.

Mumbai based raga rock act Paradigm Shift were a surprise entry among the headliners, and their beautiful set left no doubts that they deserved the spot. Their seamless blend of Indian classical music & rock n’ roll was vibrant enough to draw us closer to the stage and pay attention to them. With a violinist in the fold, the sound was very different from what we had expected of them. Vocalist Kaushik who, we later learnt had no formal training in classical music, has very soothing sufi-esque vocals. The track ‘Dhuan’ was the highlight of their set, probably the most polished song of them all. They paid a tribute to A.R Rahman covering the title track of the movie Roja.

The only progressive yet melodic hard-rock act of the day, Evergreen from Kochi took stage as the Sun went down. The traces of metal in Evergreen’s music, if not abundant, are evident. Fresh from the release of their latest video (City Blocks), their set was probably the longest of the day. Playing regulars like ‘From Here To Clarity’ and ‘Vengeance’, their DT/Rush influenced song writing, if not as prolific as either, was a breath of fresh, though heavier air from the rest of acts. Though the audience reception wasn’t very warm, they were the perfect openers for the rest of the headlining acts that followed.

Carnatic rock aficionados ‘Agam’ came on at the far end of the first day of the Big Junction Jam, right into slots reserved for headlining acts. After a short and uneventful sound check (as opposed to the longer ones audiences had to endure prior to the bona fide professionals grabbing the stage), Agam’s Harish Sivaramakrishnan introduced their first song ‘Brahma’s dance’; he sure had to make time for a hat tipping to the organizers and the crowd which was a nice little touch. Despite its down-tempo beginning, ‘Brahma’s Dance’ had the band off to a strong start. It took the first few bars of the song for Harish to settle into his vocals, a minor flub we heartily ignored. A strong point toward the middle of the song is an amber-toned shot glass of Harish’s special brand of rock Carnatic vocal that’s come to be the quintessential Agam flavour. A rising crescendo with an abrupt end had the crowd sighing with relief at the arrival of one of the few refined bands of the day! ‘Raag Dhanashree’ was up next and began strong on the tabla and electric guitar; the violin nosed its way in after Harish’s mike, toning it down just enough to meld with the song rather than overshadow it. And lo and behold, there was a sudden crowd in the front – stark contrast to the motley crew that had populated the area so far – mostly photographers, who ambled around looking like stragglers at an after party.

A flurry of well-rounded musical scales in the interim and the band was already halfway through the four-song set! ‘Lakshya Padhyai’ or ‘Path of Aspirations’, the next song, had a notable jazzy bass guitar face off – so short, you could miss it – that is a highlight of the song for this jazz lover. Beautifully light violin notes lead into the bridge and on into the end of the song. ‘Raaga’ was up next with the first Hindi lyrics of the set and a heavier sound justifying their ‘rock’ tag. With its short staccato stabs of guitar playing, the song was the first to get the crowd going in what seems like forever! It even brought Harish down to his knees – making photographers scramble to capture it! ‘Malhar jam’, usually the best kind of crowd-pleaser, was up next, but the band was cut off by the organisers. Harish made a valiant attempt at a last song but he was shot down.

Parvaaz, Bangalore-based psychedelic/blues outfit was up next. Having seen them win the Unmaad gig in IIM-B earlier this year, and then play at Fireflies as well, and the level of commitment they have shown at each and every gig, the only grudge I have against them, if I were to nitpick, is the lyrical content, which just doesn’t seem to match up with the music they play. Either that, or I don’t get it at all. Probably the latter. The show was running late as it is and musical sharks Swarathma and the percussion masters Beat Gurus waited patiently in the wings, waiting to do justice to the stage.

Enter Beat Gurus & the crowd that had pretty much settled down for a short break was back, up against the stage barricades in a minute. This decade old percussion-only group is a familiar name amongst namma Bengaluru music aficionados. The octet got on stage, a quick sound check was followed by a quick exit and a quick return in colorful kurtas. Well, the quick part about their stage act showed up in the length of their set as well. Two songs were all they got time to play. The seasoned performers they are, the audience was clapping along in no time cheering them on. Almost everyone, including the band, wanted this to last a bit longer, but time was running out and the biggest act of the day was gearing up to close the night.

Swarathma, arguably the biggest folk rock act India has seen in recent times, finally took the stage at quarter past ten. After a second and thankfully shorter sound-check, they started off the proceedings with ‘E Bhoomi’. Crowd favorites like ‘Yeshu, Allah aur Krishna’ shortly followed up. Swarathma are a treat to watch live, despite the relentless touring they seem to be on nowadays. Be it Vasu Dixit’s humor on the stage, his word-play with Jishnu, or Varun Murali’s flawless guitar playing, they have something for everyone in the audience, be it the musician or the ones who are in for the fun. Vasu was off the stage in the middle of the song and before you knew it he was dancing on the thela right in the middle of the crowd, urging everyone who had waited patiently for them to be a part of the act. It was nearing eleven already and even Swarathma ended up with just a four song set at the end of the day. I rue the fact that their sound-check in the morning lasted long enough to eat up into the length of their own set, not counting the bands that didn’t get a chance to play at all.

Despite the good music, the food and the beer, the number of people who attended was lower than expected. We finally left the venue, a little disappointed, but secretly hoping that the scene would improve on the second day of the festival.

Sharanya Nair

Sharanya is a 'writer' and an 'editor'. You know the type. She loves her music too much to share.

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Interview with Bourbon Street

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Bourbon Street is primarily a jam band with a vision to play and write music unbounded by genre or style. With Jerome Mascarenhas on vocals and harmonica, Bharath Kumar on the keyboards and synthesizer, Fidel D’Souza on the bass guitar and vocals, Chester Pereira on the guitar, Sudhakar Prabhu on drums and percussion and Ian Castelino on the djembe, Bourbon Street encompasses a variety of genres such as jazz, funk, blues, reggae, and good old classic rock. WTS got in touch the band and got them talking about their journey so far, the music they make and more…

WTS: When did you guys start off and how has the Bourbon Street journey been so far?

Fidel: We started off as an embryo (each) and haven’t looked back since!

Chester: We started off as a three piece band – I played the guitar, Fidel on Bass and Sudhakar on the drums. We kept adding members as time went by and we are now 6 (We call Sangeetha as a guest but she plays most concerts with us, so the total number could be considered as 7!)

Ian: I have no clue when Bourbon Street started, I met these jokers one day and they found me suitable enough a joker to join them.

Jerome: I got a call from Fidel one morning. This is an excerpt from the conversation – “Fidel: Dude, can you make it to Bangalore this weekend? Jerome: I AM in Bangalore… for good! Fidel: Cool, grab your harps, dust those rusty vocal chords and head over to a jam.” I entered the jam room and Fidel goes “He’s the guy.” Fidel, Sudhakar, Chester in chorus: Welcome to Bourbon street, our new vocalist! Jerome: Huh?” (this expression continues to this day!)

WTS: How do you approach your songwriting process? Tell us about your lyrics, the themes/concepts, where do you draw influences from?

Fidel: Trey Anastasio (Phish), Donald Fagen (Steely Dan)…

Chester: We have only one song with lyrics. Everything else is instrumental in nature. For me, music is the art of stimulating the listener’s emotions via sound; lyrics are nice to have, but I believe that they aren’t necessary – let your instrument control people’s minds and hearts and imaginations and you are a real musician. I try to incorporate new musical formulae that I learn in writing tunes. Some of them have been ‘accidental’ though – I play some random stuff on my guitar and like it and few days later, we have a new track!

Sudhakar: We all have different backgrounds in music. In most of our originals we try and include these influences at the same time keep the feel fresh and relatable. We do keep in mind that as a band that mostly plays live we are able to bring in a lot of energy into these songs.

Jerome: I’m just the vocalist!

WTS: Do you think folks in Bangalore are hung up with rock and metal or are you of the opinion that other genres are enjoying equal attention as well?

Fidel: Yes we are of that opinion.

Chester: I’d say that school and college kids are hung up on metal and the slightly older crowd are hung up on rock music. But, play anything relatively well and they will appreciate it, if not accept it. While genres like jazz and funk do not get as much attention as rock and metal, I believe it’s mainly because people haven’t been fed much of other types of music. For example, most people that frequent Legends of Rock are hard core classic-rockers. But everytime we’ve played there ( 4 or 5 times in the past one year) we have been well received by the energetic crowd.

Sudhakar: I guess again, its the energy you generate when you perform. No matter what genre it is, if the crowd is entertained, they don’t mind. That’s why we have been able to pull off a Carnatic set in the middle of blues and rock!

Jerome: Totally agree with Chester on this one. It’s largely dependent on how the band is able to capture and retain the listener’s interest.

Ian: To each his own including the clueless like me, but yes, other genres are enjoying attention. Umm,what’s a genre? Is anyone paying attention to me?

WTS: How has the line up changed from the time you started off? How did it affect your music?

Fidel: Its gotten progressively louder at each show.

Chester: We’ve grown from a 3 piece to a 6 (7) piece band. Nobody has quit the band (and nobody has been booted either) since we started.

Sudhakar: Hey, I was fired during recession. You guys hired a drummer half my size! (laughs)

Ian: I suddenly realize I was the last in the line up, so clueless again.

Jerome: At one of our gigs I saw Chester playing the drums, Fidel playing lead, and Sudhakar playing Bass – I freaked out! But I also learned one thing – we sound kickass no matter who plays what! (winks)

WTS: Do you have any favourites among your own songs?

Chester: ‘When She Smiles‘ is my favorite – it was an accidental track. ‘Opulence’ is another one of my favorites as I incorporated four different time signatures and three different Carnatic ragas into it.

Jerome: All our originals don’t feature me, so nah! (laughs) Kidding! Opulence is real neat. Varying time signatures and fusion of Carnatic scales is very nice!

WTS: What according to you is your greatest achievement so far?

Fidel: Playing to a crowd of three!

Jerome: Playing to a crowd of three AND getting them to cheer for us!

Chester: Playing our version of  Dr. Rajkumar’s song ‘If you come today’.

Ian: Being heard over the drums I suppose.

WTS: What are your plans album-wise? 

Fidel: We are album-foolish in my opinion. Our tour started at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain and will reach the outskirts of Mysore on September 19th! (laughs)

Chester: We don’t really have plans of making albums. I guess we’re too lazy for that. We’re more suited to playing live than sitting around and recording in a studio, that’s too much work!

Jerome: Alcohol forms an integral part of our band. The more you drink, the better we sound. Now, unless we hand out booze with the albums, it ain’t gonna work for us.

WTS: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? 

Sudhakar: The biggest issue we have is getting jam time before the show. Since Fidel is from out of town and has to come only during a show, it gets difficult to get a full jam time before a concert. Most of the time we end up hurrying through songs and not really spending time as a band, refining them and structuring them. Then again, we end up jamming on stage. We mostly carry our shows through sign languages and the crowd’s inebriated state!

Jerome: Pretending to be a jazz band! We seem to be doing quite well so far! (laughs) On a serious note, it has got to be getting together for a full fledged practice session. How did we overcome this? Well, we didn’t. We just stopped practicing. To each his own!

WTS: What’s your opinion about the music scene in Bangalore?

Fidel: Yes, there appears to be one.

Chester: Getting into death metal and/or it’s gazillion sub-genres seems to be the in-thing for college kids.

Sudhakar: In general, you have to convince people that different is not always bad.

Ian: Hmmm,food for thought. Loads to improve!

Jerome: Music scene… Hmmm, it seems to be doing slightly better than the Bangalore ice hockey team!

Priyanka Shetty

Priyanka Shetty is the founder of What's The Scene? Follow Priyanka on Twitter @priyanka_shetty

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Freedom Jam (No Bread)

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Freedom Jam is an annual gig held every year on August 15th to commemorate Independence Day. The first edition was way back in 1997 at Ravindra Kalakshetra but the location was shifted to The Club soon after. The legendary all-night concerts at The Club popularized this free gig but sadly its popularity diminished after the live music ban. The 2009 edition recorded one of its lowest ever turnouts thanks to it being held in some far flung location in Hebbal(No Bread). After last year’s damp squib, the organizers decided to change the format around by having genre-specific gigs at various locations. A reasonably good move, I thought, because no self respecting metalhead will want to endure 30 mins of Bhavageethe.

Day 1: I am kicked to see that there is a venue ear-marked for ‘experimental, avant-garde and electronica’ music. I trudge in to the venue – Jaaga and find that there are more musicians on stage than in the crowd. (Crowd – 3, Musicians – 6!) At one point, someone from the neighboring building asks the firaang-in-charge to turn the volume down. They oblige! Aargh. The amps don’t go to 11 here. The music itself was uninteresting – six random musicians jamming with absolutely no direction or purpose. I exit, stage left, not before I helped myself to some free salad.

It was Day 2 and I chose to go to Kyra. I walked in and heard Bourbon Street covering Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’. I wouldn’t cover that song again if i were them (Disclaimer: Steely Dan is my favorite band.) They proceeded to cover Phish’s ‘Free‘ and the venerable ‘Tic Tic Tic.’ Blasphemeous. Only Dr Rajkumar can do justice to that song.

Verses were up next and they brought some much needed energy to the proceedings. They have my nomination for ‘Worst Goateed Band’ in Bangalore. It’s nice to see that they had brought a Tam-Bram entourage of 50-somethings along. As the band doled out some heavy melodic metal originals, the entourage nodded in approval. A stray fist pump is seen. They know that the local music scene is in good hands. The keyboardist Sagar impressed with his lightning fast keyboard playing and his vocal skills. The band departed amidst much fanfare and the entourage followed. The average age of the crowd was thus reduced by half.

Prism were up next and I took a power-nap during their sound setup. Prism’s set was equally snooze-worthy. They conveniently omitted a solo on their cover of Mr Big’s ‘Take Cover’. Taking Cover, indeed! The organizers were kind enough to have a stopwatch program running on the screen behind the stage to indicate the time remaining for each band. An ugly pop-up appears, with a surly reminder to buy the full version of the software. I piteh da foo’ who dun pay for da full version.

Prog rockers Distortion Culture were on stage next. They informed the crowd that theirs was a wholly original set and then promptly announced a song called ‘Eleventh Hour’. The metalheads immediately sprung to their feet in protest!  Oh but no need to furrow the brow, it’s just a coincidence that their own comp shares the name with a LoG song. They played another o.c titled ‘Unforseen Truth’ which was superb. The guitarist Vivek put on a good show although he smiles way too much. Jeez son, where’s ya metal face?

Heavy metal heavyweights Inner Sanctum were on stage next while Distortion Culture were finishing their set. They loaded up two massive Krank(with a K, mind you) amps onto the already impressive sound setup. Precious time was spent on unloading and connecting equipment. Sigh. If only all the bands spent less time practicing arpeggios and more time practicing gear setup! The wait was well worth it though. Sanctum tore the roof down with a heavy-as-hell set. Vocalist Gaurav was all fury on stage as he kicked a JBL monitor down (For those of you keeping score- Gaurav 1 JBL 0). The organizers yielded to the audience’s chants for one more song. One ‘Agent of Chaos‘ later I was deaf in one ear. IS had pwned everyone. I decided to leave for the day and exit, stage right.

Compared to the travesty that was Day 1, Day 2 was satisfying. Freedom Jam still remains an important day in the Bangalore gig calendar and continues to be an excellent platform for lesser known bands to showcase their skills. With some sharper publicity and organization skills, FJ could be bigger and better next year. One small gripe though- the quality of food at Kyra affected vocalist Gaurav Basu to such an extent that he was spotted chewing on the mic wire on numerous occasions. Hopefully next year we’ll have some bread.

Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar

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