I’d had a beautiful Saturday leading up to the Soulmate gig and I suspect it was because I’d had an evening at my current favorite venue for an all-time favorite band to look forward to. I wasn’t planning on making it for Boomarang but decided that it wouldn’t hurt to watch a band I hadn’t seen live yet. As I walked into the joint, there was already a sizable chunk of people screeching and grooving to the unmistakable sounds of bluesy rock; I’d just had my first taste of Boomarang.
Boomarang is a four-piece ensemble from Aizwal that has blues, folk, rock and electronic influences as well. Their bio is quite interesting, with performances at familiar places like the Hard Rock Café and performances alongside international and Indian bands alike. What I like about the band is the close-to-seamless transitions between genres.
A track that stood out for me was ‘Camouflage’ (quite similar to work by a band whose name begins with a ‘prod’ and ends with an ‘igy’); it’s choppy guitar and interesting blend of electronica had me from the get go. They did a few interesting covers as well – ‘Crossroads’, a blues anthem that is violated by covers at the drop of a hat (I think I hear someone trying an acoustic version of it this very minute as I lounge in my balcony at 2 a.m.), was a pleasurable listen. All in all, Boomarang was the perfect high-energy lead up to Soulmate.
When the band walked on stage at long last, the crowd was itching for them to start. With a special mention for their “brothers and sisters” from the north east, Rudy set the ball rolling with ‘Shillong’. Their take on a Khasi song ‘Sier Lapalang’ (they played an abridged version – cue sad smiley face) was exquisite. That’s their artistic prowess; making what is essentially a lament, a dirge, sound exquisite. I don’t know if it was a help or a hindrance, but at one point the song sounded like the Indian national anthem while at another it sounded like Pink Floyd’s ‘Coming Back to Life’.
Their set by had a few familiars from their older album. Tipriti powered through the vocals on ‘Do You‘, her mouth curling perfectly around the vengeful lyrics. They played a new song called ‘But to Have You‘ that got me with its (dare I say it) cutesy lyrics. A sample (forgive me if they’re slightly off):
The sun warms my feet in the morning,
the blanket covers them at night
But when you aren’t with me,
something just isn’t right.
Tipriti pulled out all the stops on this one. Her guttural vocals had the song resounding in my ears long after they stopped playing. Rudy took over to sing ‘Gangster of Love’ and we were lulled into ease by his voice after being thrown through a riot of emotions by Tipriti’s. Rudy continued his run, this time with slide, on the classic ‘Call it Stormy Monday (But Tuesdays are just as bad)’ by T-Bone Walker.
The band ran through most of their set (‘I just wanna make love to you’, ‘Don’t you come round my house again’, ‘Back in time’) without much ado. But just as Tipriti was singing the most emotional song of the set, a tall, ridiculously drunk, pony-tailed man weaved his way to the front, beer in hand. The audience had an additional show to watch thereafter – Soulmate vs Drunken ponytail dude. He proceeded to rip ornamental butterflies off Tipriti’s microphone stand while screeching”play”, blatantly ignoring his friends who were trying to get the situation under control.
What’s amazing is that the band didn’t miss one beat. They played through the commotion; Tipriti sang through the ruckus until he jostled the mike into her face. The song had tears streaming down her face, and as she opened her eyes and pointed angrily at the douche, she looked as close to a wrath-filled goddess as any mortal ever could! He didn’t seem too cowed by it though and a short while later, after his antics had people watching him more than the band, a few beefy audience members ‘removed’ him from scene. But the show was brought to an unceremonious halt only one song (‘Not Those Funkin’ Blues Again’) later.
What this gig reinforced is that Soulmate has a commanding presence in the Indian music scene for a very good reason. They’ve stayed as popular as they are because they’re a tight live band; their dual vocal punch – Rudy’s comforting, Tipriti’s feisty – is refreshing; and most of all, they’re extreme professionals. After first-hand experience from the gig at The BFlat Bar, I don’t doubt it one bit.