Tag Archives: Chuck Berry

Blend No. 3220 at Cafe 1730, Pune


On the Holi/Women’s day weekend, I decided to catch up with a couple of old friends at Koregaon Park and watch Blend No.3220 live at Café 1730 Beans & Booze last Friday. It happened to be an important gig for this newish blues band, which was welcoming its new lead guitarist Pratyush Pillai and bidding farewell to its faithful bassist Sajib Biswas. Named after a blend of Old Monk rum, Blend no 3220 plays blues rock with provocative lyrics, repetitive chords and the idea of reaching out to people rather than chasing commercial success.

Quite appropriately, Blend’s first song ‘Mean Trouble Woman’ was about members of the band who have come and gone. Losing band members can be hard, especially if you’ve been jamming for some time and realize you’re good at it. Earlier this year, Sandro Sadhukhan left Blend No 3220 to fulfill other music dreams. The backbone of the band was his partnership with lead singer, Arnob Chouduri. Tonight’s tragedy was Sajib Biswas, their bassist, returning to his homeland – Bangladesh.

Attrition forced the band to look out for fresh talent and through Biswas’ contacts they were able to procure the Best Guitarist of MTV Rock On fame – Pratyush Pillai. This shy 25-year-old is not only technically precise but also immensely humble after his desi-fusion band, Khilaugh finished second at MTV’s rock music reality show. Nicknamed Shredman because of his metal/hard rock influence, Pratyush is evidently still learning to complement Blend’s passionate Bengali blues soul. As a recent addition, he has been practicing with the band for just a week and you can tell that the blend is not as perfect as it should be. When Arnob went “Pradyush, baby you know how you make those dirty sounds on the guitar,” he seemed to think it was probably part of the lyrics and there was no response from Shredman.

The well-dressed drummer, Sumair Zubairy, sported a black studded jacket and proudly held his Mohawk high, as local blues legend David Mancy took over for a guest performance. Somehow his demeanour and showmanship made him slightly unapproachable and I only attempted a handshake at the end of the show, as I was told he’s the reason the band doesn’t require an agent or a recording label.

Continuing with their soft rock intro, the band played ‘Somebody Else, a warning to any lover in a mediocre relationship. Next up was ‘Highway’. Introduced as “deep and pervasive”, this one was about getting high – “one of the greatest feelings in the world”. Some audience members smiled and whistled in recognition while others left in search of the metaphoric highway.

Then came the soulful ‘I’m coming to get you’ which was based on Arnob’s experiences while working at a forensics lab. “I felt like a rat hiding in your house,” he commented when asked about the back story. Forth on the list was the explicit ‘Down Rite Dirty, talking about things that are otherwise taboo. ‘Crying Still’ was about a 45-year-old insomniac who was so frustrated with life that he took his shotgun and killed his entire family. Lucky number six was ‘Beeswax’ a standard folk song from Mississippi – a typically fun-to-perform 1800s song. The thing about blues is that it’s familiar. Even if you’ve never heard these particular songs before, you can relate to them. Especially if you’ve listened to enough old rock music, everything begins sounding like home.

The European themed Cafe 1730, I’m told, is more of an after party place. It’s just above Kivas and earns its patronage from the fact that it’s open till 4 a.m. It has nude paintings on the ceiling above the 40-inch screen and Bose speakers worth 2 lakhs. They didn’t have a sound engineer that evening, just someone to help set up the equipment and then the band members were left to “do their thing”. No one in the audience would have guessed that the piano was never meant to be incorporated into the gig. The way Arnob used the instrument after the intermission, felt as if he was familiar with it and had planned it that way. But I talked to him later and found that it was done on the fly.

Throughout the random jam-based set list, Arnob handled the harmonica with ease earning him the nickname “Blowman”. “Other people tune their instruments, I blow”, he joked. It’s this type of explicit references that got the crowd going and encouraged the band to perform old favourites. Arnob is a passionate writer but prefers to have sloppy jam sessions on stage rather than covering other musicians. This time, though, they did three covers and a few blues standards just to keep things going. Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ gave the night a much needed upbeat familiarity, which was missing from Blend’s own compositions.

The audience consisted of friends and fans from the music community. Much to my amusement, someone with a Lamb of God t-shirt sat in a corner nodding away to the blues. At our table, a friend nursed his Vodka as a garrulous flirt charmed a pretty girl. I guess one could blame the sad turn out on the fact that most Pune people were at  Blackstratblues / Warren Mendonsa’s gig at High Spirits and given a chance this band would have been there as well. Arnob dreams that one day it’ll be possible to gather a few music enthusiasts and roam the city from one gig to another with just a guitar for company. This gig, however, ended with a tribute to Sandro Sadhukhan, their ex-vocalist and guitarist. Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On you Crazy Diamond’ , with a little bit of ‘Wish you were here’ thrown in for effect, was a perfect fit for the end of the evening.

It’s not surprising that most of the audience stayed back to chill with the band over crappy cocktails (stay away for the ginger wine and never waste your money on ‘Chocolate Dream’) and wholesome dinner (Bolognese Spaghetti was a hit!) I got to talk to the band in the everlong intermission (why bother about time when things aren’t shutting down at 10.30?) and they shared their experience with the music scene. Newcomer Pratyush seemed to feel that Indian musicians can’t afford to make their passion a full-time occupation. He is the proud owner of a Gibson Les Paul Studio Edition (Ebony) thanks to MTV Rock On. “Even though we didn’t win, the show helped me pursue music as a hobby”, he says “Indian bands don’t get to perform like this unless they’re well connected.”

Personally, I hope Pratyush can dedicate more time to Blend no 3220. Especially because I’ve seen Biswas, Arnob and Sandro jam together and I know how tight their music is. In impromptu music that depends, almost solely, on the partnership between the vocalist and guitarist, you can’t afford to have anyone who is too passionate about his or her musical instrument. Here’s hoping that Pratyush will break out of his metal/rock mould that was created around his MTV Rock On fame and blend into the current blues rock scene.

Blend’s frontrunner, Arnob had a different opinion about the band’s future. “It’s not that difficult to market a band. We get mall and restaurant gigs quite easily but they expect us to be human jukeboxes and play commercial hits.” said Arnob. “We might record a live album”, he adds “But we’re against commercializing our music because that spoils a musician’s way of thinking.”

This was Sajib Biswas’ final performance as Blend No 3220’s bass player. “His forte was ‘thinking music’. He loved to experiment and learn from everyone around him,” said Arnob, who was sad to see another familiar face disappear. But they’ve wasted no time in finding a replacement. Another MTV Rock On participant, Keshav Iyengar, will be joining Blend’s line up. Along with all their fans, I’m looking forward to see how this new chapter of Blend No 3220 turns out. From the looks of it Blues abhi baaki hai!

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Parnika Reys Gamat

Parnika believes every song is a living person in an alternate universe she'd like to visit someday. You'll hardly ever see her without her headphones. Her other interests include travel, photography and poetry.


Girish and The Chronicles at The Kyra Theatre, Bangalore





It was a lazy Saturday evening with uncharacteristically empty roads in Bangalore, thanks to an extended holiday week. I had decided to attend the performance of a band that would be playing classic and ’80s rock. A quick check on Facebook about the band’s profile and some of their originals got me quite excited for the performance.

The gig was scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. and I was there by 8, not wanting to miss any part of the show. I got the chance to interact with the band’s manager, Ujjwal just before the show started and managed to get some interesting bits of information about the music scene in the North East.

The band came on stage a bit later than the scheduled start. After a brief jam and introduction session, they started off with The Eagles’ ‘New Kid in Town’. There was a small cheer from a section of the crowd as the familiar intro to the song started. Girish’s mellow vocals, although not a faithful reproduction of Glenn Frey’s, perfectly captured the melancholy of the fleeting nature of fame that The Eagles showcased in this song.

Next up was ‘Proud Mary’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival, another gem from the stable of classic rock. The band’s version of this song had a slight hard rock edge, understandably so, considering their influences and genre. Suraz set the stage ablaze with the brief but amazing solo; Girish carried off the raspy vocals in the style of John Fogerty quite well, just enough to retain the charm of the original in the signature “Rollin’…” chorus.

The band quickly shifted gears to the all-time Rock n’ Roll classic, ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry. The high-energy song had the people on their feet soon enough and Suraz did complete justice to the legend’s solo.

Our expectations were already sky-high after three back to back perfectly executed classic rock songs but nothing had prepared us for the next one. Nagen and Yogesh started a sonic assault on the audience and soon Suraz and Girish joined in with a rocking riff and a high-pitched scream. The real rock-lovers in the audience were blown away. It was ‘Rock n’ Roll’ by Led Zeppelin! The performance was electrifying and raw, true to the style of Led Zeppelin. Bonzo would have been proud of the drumming. It would have been difficult to say if it was Plant or Girish on the stage if your eyes were closed. Suraz was impeccable. Not many bands dare play Led Zeppelin live but the quartet present in front of us matched the other legendary quartet in every aspect. The drum roll at the end of this song was icing on the cake.

By now, the band had everyone captivated and no one was going anywhere. Perhaps realizing that there is something as too much awesomeness, the band brought down the tempo a bit with another song by The Eagles, ‘Get Over It’. Suraz started off with an ear-melting solo. As the song progressed, it was clear that this was not a replica band. A distinct Judas Priest influence in the riffs and drums could be detected which made this classic even more enjoyable.

I was told earlier that Sebastian Bach of Skid Row was a fan of Girish’s vocal prowess. After this performance, I could understand why – the band performed the super-hit ballad by Skid Row from the 80s, ‘18 and Life’ which had Bach himself on the vocals. Girish had us mesmerized with his vocal range that’s a hallmark of this ballad. You have to listen to it to realize how difficult it can be to sing. Suraz was again at the top with a solo that captured the nostalgia of power ballads from the 80s era.

As the ballad faded out, we were greeted with what is perhaps the most famous riff in the history of rock music. ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple was next in line. Girish had demonstrated an uncanny ability to sound similar to quite a few legendary vocalists by now and this one was no exception. The bassist had a nice slap tone for the sound and it seemed like Suraz would set the fret board on fire with a well-replicated solo.

I had barely recovered from the crescendo that Girish’s voice reached at the end of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and I could already recognize the badass intro sequence from ‘Highway Star’ (Deep Purple again) drifting into my ears. The quartet was blasting out this classic with the same raw intensity as they had displayed with ‘Rock n’ Roll’ by Zeppelin. The fact that no one felt the absence of the organ solo in this song says a lot about the tight and technically-accurate performance. The night just kept getting better.

Taking pity on the audience who were delirious with the mind-numbing performances put forth, the band switched to one of their originals called ‘Angel’. It is a power ballad with a very 80s feel to it, complete with a powerful build-up and a wailing guitar solo in the middle. Some were holding up candles and waving them as they sang along. It might have been as well a scene from a Def Leppard show with a signature power ballad track.

It was time for some old-school progressive rock as the band started with the high energy intro to ‘Rock Bottom’ by UFO. This was just an indicator of the versatility of the band with respect to the genres that they play. Suraz did an excellent job playing the intricate solos that form the major part of the song. This was perhaps the first time I have ever seen an Indian band perform a song from the lesser known yet legendary bands like UFO.

The band quickly progressed from ‘Rock Bottom’ to ‘Black Night’ by Deep Purple. They were turning out to be quite the Deep Purple followers! The drumming was exceptional, to say the least and was reminiscent of Neil Peart’s style in a few places.

After lulling the audience with a bluesy piece, the band decided to take the energy levels in Kyra to another level by playing two back to back AC/DC super-hits, ‘Back in Black’ and ‘Highway to Hell’. Girish’s vocals seemed a bit tired out by the time he reached the latter but then, playing such a long set with demanding vocals like that of Bon Scott can take a toll on anyone.

The band was now taking requests from the audience – along came the perfectly executed ‘Cryin’ by Aerosmith which got everyone in the audience singing along. It was time for some Led Zeppelin again with ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The band outdid themselves in this piece. It reminded me of Led Zeppelin’s performance of the same song in 1975 at Madison Square Garden. The intro to the song was simple captivating. Girish pulled off a Plant-esque stage persona with the latter’s famously generous use of “baby” in most live renditions of their songs. The highlight of the performance though was the solo by Suraz. It wasn’t a faithful reproduction of the original but that made it even the more enjoyable as we got to see his creativity in full flow.

Another request came in. This time it was ‘The Trooper’ by Iron Maiden. Girish did mention something about the band not having practiced this well enough, but it certainly didn’t seem like it when they started playing. A few people were seen headbanging to this heavy metal classic.

Sweet Child of Mine’ was their last song of the night. The song started out a bit slow compared to the original with the band taking a while to build up the tempo, but once they got into the groove it was paradise city for those who stayed back till the end.

Once the band got off stage, I could finally take my eyes off them and take in the reactions of the people around me. Folks who were in there for some good old Rock n’ Roll had got their money’s worth and the incredulous looks on their faces said it all. With bands like Girish and The Chronicles around, we don’t have to worry about good music dying out.