Tag Archives: Buddy Guy
Day 1 of The GoMad Festival 2013 at FernHills Palace, Ooty
While not filled to the brim with mystery as last time, the lineup at this edition of The GoMad Festival was interesting and so was the approach the organizers had decided to take. This time bands had one-hour slots with half-hour soundchecks between performances! As the morning chill dissipated slightly on Day 1 with the arrival of the tardy and patchy sun, the festival kicked off with the rather interesting band from Chennai.
The F16s were a perfect pick-me-up for people who made it to their set at the Blubaloo stage at 11 a.m. While we werent surprised that they claim to gain influence from bands like The Black Keys, The Arctic Monkeys, Jet and The Strokes they do manage to make it interesting. Nuke was played early on in the set and while it is one of their lesser catchy tunes, it served well as a prelude to the sort of sound we were to hear and boy, were we impressed. They went through their set with ease and minimal banter and the smattering of a crowd was visibly enjoying. My Shallow Lover is a real body jerker, by which we mean it makes you twitch in time with its cutesy rhythm and slightly incomprehensible lyrics a requirement in this sort of musical corner, we think. Light bulbs is a really interesting song as well and all in all we were the better for staying throughout the bands set that morning. They were our dark horse for the day. What a great start!
In our elephantine memory, Girish and the Chronicles has never disappointed and if they ever manage to in the future, itll be a dark day indeed. They were the first band on the Calaloo stage and they set the bar real high. The weather and everything synced to create a wonderful atmosphere that the band thrived in playing originals and covers with very apparent ease. Girish did jokingly comment that he was reluctant to play his own originals because they were too hard to sing. Led Zep and AC/DC covered to perfection on a beautiful Friday morning at a hill station – you couldnt ask for much more.
The Down Troddence, Bangalore/Kerala based Groove metal band, the first metal band of the festival of the six lined up in total, took the Blubaloo stage next. The festival , which had just one metal act (Kryptos) last year, had decided to cater better to metalheads by adding more metal bands to the roster. We believe that listening to some great metal in the morning is the best way to wake up and stay awake, and TDT delivered in spades. With tracks like KFC and Muck Fun Mohan (go back and read that again), they set the foundation for what was to be an amazing day. One song that stood out in particular was Naagavalli, a track named after Malayalam actress Shobanas titular character from the thriller Manichitratazhu. Incidentally, Shobana and her dance troupe would be the last act we would see at the Festival. TDT ended their set with crowd favorite ‘Shiva’ and we hastily made our way through the woods to catch DeSat who up next at the Calaloo.
Though it was still quite early in the day for heavy music, DeSat, Bangalore-based Prog metal group, did not seem to show that in the least bit, brimming with energy from the first track Run Too, an arabesque tune with generous helpings of heavy guitar riffs. Another track that stood out was Power, which had Srikiran doing some amazing work behind the drums. Their set also included a well-executed cover of Lamb of Gods ‘Laid to Rest’.
Meanwhile, Blubaloo was occupied by Sean Roldan and Friends. They are yet another act emerging out of Chennai that has a folksy Tamil soul with generous dollops of western instrumentalization layered on top. The music’s infectious, likeable and something that can easily be a crowd puller. Their set though, was fairly early, and at the outset didn’t have much of a crowd to really build the kind of madness that one has come to expect from them. The jazzy, funky, basswork of Mani fits in brilliantly with Praveen’s percussive section and provided a solid rhythm section for improvisation on the slide as well as Sean aka Raghavendra’s impressive vocals. An attempt to infuse some rap into proceedings began interestingly but ended up crowding the sound and messing the vibe up. Mayakura Poovasam, probably their most popular song was by far the pick of the setlist with an encore being performed once the crowd had built up. Other picks for this writer included ‘Inbai Velai’ and ‘Mandira’, which had a nice old Tamil film song vibe to it. All in all, it was an interesting setlist that could have used a little more energy from the performers as well as the audience.
There were more amazing riffs to be unleashed at the Calaloo as Blind Image, a Chennai-based Groove metal band, was up after DeSat. They got right into it with Paroxysm, a track which shows off frontman Noble Lukes ability to growl almost endlessly. They were very tight and were performing as one unit, which did not come as a surprise really. Glitch in the System, a socio-political number, saw Noble using the delay on his vocals to great effect, aided by Siva on bass wielding a Spector bass. Our usual metalhead refrain of Needs more double bass and guitar solos didnt apply because we just didnt feel that way with Blind Image. They felt just right. For the next track, ‘More Than Human’, Noble showed us that he could actually sing clean vocals quite well. As you may gather from the title this track was about Transhumanism (the first time we are ever using this word), quite a deep subject, and had some great lyrics as well.
Over at the Blubaloo, Clown with a Frown were all set to be a whirlwind of energy. Their energetic vocalist can pack a punch with her voice and her onstage presence. They made a slumbering audience rise and march to the frontlines unasked and it was all thanks to Abby who was pushy enough to be cute and didnt overdo it. CWAF played it old school. They played their hearts out and the audience automatically gravitated towards the front. They had a four-piece brass section playing with them and that only served to enhance their already sharp, tight sound. OCs Cool Machine, Escape and Dirty Paradise warmed the crowd up plenty and just when another original, Dreams, was getting interesting, the sound cut out. The band continued playing and earned several esteem points because they didnt miss a beat. The vocalist even got the crowd to sing along! ‘Groove Machine’ is by far their most entertaining song; the chorus hits the nail on the head and the well-timed break before the catchy bassline really shows practiced timing and a genuine interest in being entertaining. They ended with a couple of covers Gnarls Barkleys Crazy and James Browns I Feel Good.
Blues Conscience were over at Calaloo. Dressed in dapper matching suits with top-hats to boot, the Chennai-based band were the first blues band to grace Calaloo on Day 1. Their set was a mixture of blues standards and originals, mostly taken from their debut album Down and Dirty (and were mostly about sex). They played a cover of Hoochie Coochie Man with some improvd lyrics about drummer Neil Smith thrown in for good measure. Morning After, a song about well…the morning after, was next. Vocalist Anek claimed that people usually had sex after watching a BC gig, though empirical data from this writer suggests otherwise. Their OCs revisited standard blues tropes but they did so with some panache and verve. Creams ‘Strange Brew‘ segued into a Buddy Guy song before they performed the not-so-subtle Big Bamboo which was about what youd usually see in your emails spam folder. The song was choc-a-block with bad euphemisms but provided the crowd a chance to giggle at the groan-worthy anatomical references. Anek even walked amongst the audience making impromptu verse about a few male members (no pun here) shortcomings. Innuendo!
Parvaaz is a band that is quickly becoming the talk of town. Their brand of Kashmiri/Urdu psychedelia has found several followers and for good reason. At the Blubaloo right after CWAF, Parvaaz began with a longish sound check (as did several other acts to be honest). Vocalist Khalid’s power was apparent right at the outset with Marika. A constant throughout Parvaaz’s set was Fidel’s understated, steady and solid bass playing that fit in tightly with Sachin’s kick drum. Crowd favourite Itne Arse ke Baad followed with quite a few people singing along. The sound mixing was horrible though (to be fair, the mixing was off the mark for most of the acts), and Sachin’s delicate touches on the otherwise excellent Long Song were barely audible. Parvaaz’s shortish set list ended with a song off of their upcoming album. All in all, Parvaaz have been evolving with every gig we’ve seen, and the rhythm section is particularly strong. While the textures added by Kashif’s bluesy guitar playing and other ambient guitar sounds are interesting, a strong sound system, probably aided by a sound dude at the console who understands the intricacies of Parvaaz’s sound may just do the trick in the future.
A neat little coincidence – Blues Conscience had an ad-libbed verse in Big Bamboo (yes, that song) about a lady in black in the crowd. She happened to be the gorgeous Tanya Nambiar who was the vocalist of Delhi-based alt rockers – Gravy Train, the next band on stage. Ironically they began their set with a song called I Dont Want to Be Here. GT played a couple of covers as well – a sultry version of The Police hit Roxanne as well as a misfired rendition of Lenny Kravitzs Are You Gonna Go My Way during which the guitars were totally off. Money Man – an original, lead to some self-effacing humour and Delhi jokes from the bassist Akshay. One noticeable aspect of the band was that their live act seemed manufactured which also, in our opinion, contributed to the lack of tightness of their sound. They played a few more lackluster originals to close out their set. Fizzle.
All the good bands are from Chennai, man! – overheard at MAD. One wouldnt disagree after Grey Shacks powerful performance. This 4-piece from Chennai turned it up all the way to 11 in their noisy set at Blubaloo. Drawing from influences such as AC/DC and Jet, Grey Shack believe in pure, unadulterated rock. Driven by Vikram Vivekanands riffs, GS bought the house down with great arena-rock originals such as She Bites, the Hunter S Thompson inspired Gonzo and also Beautiful Man, which had a neat little reggae bridge. Beyond the halfway mark, their songs did get repetitive with similar sounding chord structures and vocal lines. Their set infused some energy, which the audience carried forward till the nights end. I hope no whammy bars and wah-wah pedals were harmed during this gig.
After the success of their single You Say, Black Letters, an energetic post punk/alternative band from Kerala has generated a lot of attention and curiosity. The sun had already set a few minutes ago, and the early dusk was rife with anticipation. The band seemed to already have garnered a large following, and these fans were cheering right from the start of the short set. Black Letters music is distinctly new American, with vocals delivered in flawless style, true to their chosen genre. The sound, however, was below par, but they managed to do a tight and entertaining set. Watch out for their album launch, which they claim is around the corner.
Of all the acts on Day 1, the most incongruous was probably 1001 Ways. Helmed by an a kindly looking gentleman named Tobias Huber with impressively tweaked facial hair and an almost incomprehensible accent, we didnt know what to expect when he came onstage at the Blubaloo. Sean Roldan and Friends and were playing with him and that tempered things for the positive slightly but all that went away quickly. To expect technical proficiency from this bad or lyrical prowess for that matter is folly. You could tell from Tobiass beatific smile that this band was more about the message – spreading peace, love and (non-musical) harmony than the music. To be fair, it did make for an eclectic mix of the tabla, the drumset and the layering of the violin over it, not to mention some very interesting plaintive violin solos. The song ‘Gandhi’ boasts a backing track of the Mahatmas voice and had some nice elements of world music as did the other songs but the simplistic lyrics, unimpressive singing and seemingly roughshod effect overall fell short of pleasing as much as the rest of the performances in the day. Especially when the raucous sounds of what appeared to be unadulterated fun found its way over from Live Banneds set at the Calaloo.
Live Banned has quickly become one of the more entertaining acts on the scene and for good reason – especially at a music festival with a large-ish, fairly ‘happy’ crowd. Taking over the reins on the Calaloo stage at a fairly prime slot, Live Banned had the crowd grooving in no time. Their mix of infectious poprockmetalbollywood, terribly funny lyrics and abysmally brilliant costumes (complete this time with Pandava style ‘kiritas’) is a fairly well-oiled machine and didn’t fail to elicit a smile and a guffaw or two (to say the least). Their set was especially energetic, with an emphasis on their ‘social issue’ themed originals. Large swathes of the crowd were jumping up and down throughout their set and first-time listeners lapped their act up with glee. Highlights of the set were their originals Auto Tune and Hey Mama as well as the usual multi-genre mashup to close out proceedings. While there tends be a bit of sameness once you’ve seen Live Banned a couple of times, they justified their slot and billing this time around.
The last act on the Calaloo stage on day 1 was Amayama, a Spanish quartet showcasing some Spanish and North African folk music. The crowd was at the pinnacle of excitement at the end of a long day of nice music. Amayamas set should have been scheduled earlier during the day when the audience were in a better frame of mind to appreciate the nuances of an outlandish music genre. As things transpired, they played a beautiful set to a fast thinning audience.
Closing out the proceedings on Day 1 at the Blubaloo and having the job of following a truly mad set by Live Banned, Sabelo Mthembu was the polar opposite of the dance-mosh madness that everyone had just witnessed. Hailing from South Africa, singer-songwriter Sabelo performed his Afro-Soul compositions as the day drew to a close. Singing in Zulu as well as English, Sabelo has this incredible calming texture in his voice. He, along with his backing band, performed originals like – Lay Me Under and Darling Why. The songwriting was simple and pure without any unwanted embellishments. One could see the influence of Gospel music in the lyrics as well as the instrumentation. They covered the Tom Petty classic, Free Fallin and got the appreciative audience to sing along as the dwindling crowd slowly made their way back to the their tents in the Ooty cold (oh lord, it was cold!), retrospecting Day 1 and shivering from the cold and anticipation of Day 2.
Tales from the Mahindra Blues Festival
A two day saga of one of the most compelling gigs anyone could have watched through the last weekend, when Anand Mahindra announced that he wanted to recreate the feel of the Montreal Jazz festival in India, brought a spark to music lovers, thus leading it to becoming one of the biggest festivals Mumbai has ever seen. The event, held at the infamous retro looking Mehboob Studios in Bandra was specifically designed to create a blues like atmosphere, with 3 venues, rather stages to choose from, out of which one was strictly for the ‘not so free’ flowing booze. Among the artists who were invited this year were Shemekia Copeland, a Grammy nominee, defined as one of the finest blues singers, (potentially the queen of the blues) and daughter of legendary Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland. Then came Matt Schofield, a British bluesman widely regarded as one of the most distinctive and innovative guitarists to have emerged in this generation, and rated amongst the top ten blues guitarists of all time (Guitar and Bass Magazine) putting him right up there with icons like Eric Clapton. Next on the list was Jonny Lang, a Grammy award winner who topped the Billboard New Artist chart when he was 15! And finally of course, the one and only, Mr. Buddy Guy! Need I say more?
On the 5th of February, the gates opened up to the first day of the festival, the buzzing smiles and people waiting for their favourite bands to kick in. Luke Kenny’s Mojo Juke Box, a rather amateur sounding blues band with Luke Kenny on vocals, began playing their set. An hour later, at 8.00 p.m. sharp, Shemekia Copeland with her enthralling voice (which carried right till the end of the hall without even a mic!), was absolutely spectacular, and she dedicated almost all her songs to all the ladies in the house. Sorry boys! Looks like she loved the women better. Nonetheless, she managed to engage the crowd and made them sway to her tunes. Post Shemekia was the last act of day one, Jonny Lang. A rather young handsome looking lad with a Bryan Adams feel to him, he shredded his guitar like never before! However by this time, people had started leaving the venue, fervently waiting for their blues icon Buddy Guy to play the next day.
Sunday, the 6th of February, saw large crowds pouring in. Celebrities like Dolly Thakore, Kunal Kapoor, Gaurav Kapur, and not to forget our very own Anand Mahindra were all spotted walking around in the confines of the studio. What surprised us all was that every music set began on time and ended right when it was supposed to. Of course Buddy Guy wouldn’t conform to that rule! Come 5 o’ clock, the Kolkata based Saturday Night Blues Band started playing covers like ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, and ‘Red House’, resulting in a brilliant, rather splendid show by this skilled band, which was formed in October of 1999.
Following them was the very famous blues band from Shillong called Soulmate, with Rudy Wallang on the guitars, and Tipriti Kharbangar (Tips) on lead vocals. Their showmanship was immaculate, and the weird robotic dance moves and expressions by Tips never ceased to make people fall in love with them! They played their originals including the song which has always been a hit amongst Soulmate fans, called âI amâ, and another one called ‘Blues is my Soulmate’ (how apt could that be?) which were sung to perfection that evening, with this band going all out on an international stage and sharing their passion for the blues just like the rest of them.
Subsequent to Soulmate, Matt Schofield kicked in with some mind-boggling riffs, his band comprising three members including himself, a keyboardist cum bassist, and a drummer. After the set completed, a fifteen minute break kept the people lining up outside stage 3’s entrance, and a few humming the blues like me who couldn’t wait any longer to see the ‘74 years young’ legend, Buddy Guy! And finally amidst a packed hall as Luke Kenny announced his name, you could sense the place vibrate, almost like thunder! It took him a good ten minutes to get up on stage. And there he was! The legend himself, with his guitar strumming to the likes of bands like Cream, and the infamous John Lee Hooker.
Buddy Guy is well known for his antics with his guitar, and that indeed is what he did, twisting and turning the instrument at different angles, playing it behind him, walking into the audience, and throwing away his many plectrums into the crowd. Yes, it was the ‘go crazy, feel the blues mood’. Once he started, there was no stopping him; it was pure magic on stage, as if it were set ablaze! His walk into the audience cost a lot of people a lifetime of memories, which they would probably share with generations to come. For me though, the part was where he in between a song would go ‘oh shucks!’ really did it for me! Another rather engaging act was when he sustained a note for over a minute, and his helper came up on stage with his cup, as he took a sip and started off a riff which blew everyone’s mind. His charisma on stage had transcended into this magical night, which was beyond compare to all of us. And later that evening it felt as if a galaxy of legendary blues superstars had come down to earth and played together. A final impromptu round with Shemekia Copeland, Jonny Lang, and Matt Schofield, ended with Mr. Guy’s guitar string breaking, as he yet again flung it across into the audience, marking the end of a whirlwind experience of a never before seen festival dedicated just to the blues. We take our hats off and bow down to those who respect this genre of music. All I know is yes, indeed it left me with this song in my head ‘You’re damn right I’ve got the Blues!’
The Luke Kenny Mojo Jukebox at The Blue Frog
I love the Blues. I’ve been very recently, completely immersing my self in regular doses of Buddy Guy, SRV, Hendrix and Phil Sayce. So to say I was looking forward to watching the musicians in The Luke Kenny Mojo Jukebox really is an understatement.
Having already had a long day, I was eager to get to my favorite live music venue, The Blue Frog and sit back and soak in some long bends and cold brews. I managed to convince my famous Mallu friend Sujit to accompany me and so we caught a slow train from Malad station, party packs in our bags.
We entered just as the band was starting up. I quickly spied around and saw several usual suspects around the bar and quite a sizeable crowd. Denzil Mathais was on alone showing off his super sounding custom hollowbody guitar, wailing out some warm fuzz which suspiciously sounded like Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. Vinayak Pol and Chirayu Wedekar on drums and bass joined him to start off the song with a bang which turned out to be ‘Roll over Beethoven’. Luke walked out next to a warm welcome and danced the song out. It was a bit funny to see the whole band with scarves on; guess it was some kinda style statement that I don’t get.
After a couple of songs and a Willie Nixon cover, Luke eloquently invited his first guest out, Mahesh Naidu on blues harp, while giving us a serious face and a small history on the next song. The first few notes out of the harp assured me that we were finally getting down to business and doing a real blues number. Muddy Waters’ ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ tumbled out and had the crowd grooving immediately. The harp solo was off time for some reason, but the guitar solo really made up with long sweet bends and super vibrato by Denzil. Mahesh just didn’t find his groove as he spat out some odd sounding notes during the next song on the steel flute. I don’t remember what song it was but it didn’t go well, Luke’s dancing didn’t help much.
Next up was Shilpa Rao and I was really hoping the bar would now shift upwards from the ground. She looked a little nervous to begin with but when she started singing she displayed undeniable power there. ‘Nature boy’ was the first song I think, but the impressive singing came only in the next song which was an original. ‘Romeo was in love with me’ is a cool ditty although the solo interludes were basically just Denzil bailing them out. Nice work by the band.
The next song had Luke back on vocals for a nice cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’ although it still didn’t qualify as blues. I saw a couple of women jiving in front and they stole my attention. Luke decided to not care about pitching anymore in this song.
The funk version of Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ was marred by a little sloppy bass playing by the young Chirayu Wedekar and completely off key vocals. The ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ line that Denzil injected a couple of times really didn’t work. Nice tone in the guitar solo though. ‘Baby you can drive my Car’ was dismal. Tight drumming but ironically the only song about driving that night just crashed and died.
Next up was Vasuda Sharma and her Loop station. Nifty device and she managed really well creating a whole section of percussion and backing vocals in all her songs which got the crowd clapping along. Although she had pitch perfect vocals, they were a bit uninspiring. All songs had the loop station build up but she apparently decided that passing off covers of folk and country songs as the blues were good enough as long as she sang some blues notes at the end. I must mention that Neil Gomes who joined her later on ‘These boots were made for walking’ has improved a lot on the violin. The Sax playing was not upto the same mark though. The version of ‘Roadhouse Blues’ really made me sad. They ended with a shoo-be-do version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ but I guess I was alone in my opinion because the end of her set brought on loud applause from everyone else. My friend Sujit remarked how she reminded him of singers in Goan restaurants with minus one tracks.
The next set saw Trumpet player Paul Rodrigues on a killer version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. Great wah tone on the guitar, nice vibrato on the long trumpet notes. Tight song. Luke’s next offering was an original that made me wonder if I was fooled into thinking this was a blues gig. It was more of a soft rock song where he sang about how he always confides in his feelings.
I was really not looking forward to Sunidhi Chauhan. I mean anytime you hear a Hindi playback singer attempting blues is bound to make you gag. But boy did she prove me wrong! She looked HOT and she sang with amazing power, soul and feel. ‘Cry me a river’ was a lovely jazz blues number with a nice time signature change inserted a couple of times. It finally seemed like the gig was warming up. Then she blew the roof of the place with Dhruv Ghanekar joining the band onstage for the best performance of the evening. Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of my heart’ was a great version that displayed some lusty and on purpose off time vocals and super guitar work by Dhruv.
Dhruv then stepped upto the mic to sing a Gary Moore classic, ‘Still got the blues’. I had never heard him sing before but that’s just as well as his singing was nothing to write home about, sounded like he had a bit of a cold maybe. The guitar tone had a nice delay wailing after his solos. Listening to him was a treat until he suddenly started shredding all over the place.
Luke was back after Dhruv exited the stage with a chunky riffed original called ‘Hard Loving Woman’. Very Deep Purple sounding and the band was tight. Great drumming by Vinayak. The last song of the night was Should I stay or should I go,’ a cover of The Clash’s punk anthem. The song had decent vocals and a killer solo courtesy of Dhruv who joined the band again for the last song of the night. Highlight of the song was the conversation between Denzil and Dhruv’s guitar. Denzil managed to more than hold his own displaying for the first time that blues band leader mentality, easily conducting the band as they jammed the song out.
All in all it was a disappointing night of music only because I felt we were served small portions of what was promised as the main course. The musicians on stage were all great and Luke’s band is pretty entertaining. I had earlier asked Rishu Singh whether Luke was a good singer and he mentioned that he has his good and bad nights. I hope this was a bad one.