Tag Archives: Comfortably Numb

Anathema, Bevar Sea, Heretic, Family Cheese, Clown with a Frown at IIT-M’s Saarang 2013

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At 5 PM on the 12th of January, finding my way through the forested IIT Madras campus during their fest Saarang to attend the rock show, it occurred to me that the one phrase I should definitely not use is ‘rumble in the jungle’. When I reached the venue, the fest was in full swing with stalls hawking bags to deodorant to scooters, making people debase themselves for trinkets. In the midst of this melee could be heard a dull sound emanating from the Open Air Theatre (nobody calls it that – it’s always the OAT) that most people chose to ignore. I headed there.

Clown with a Frown were already on stage – gleaned only upon entrance. They’ve been on a roll recently, winning, inter alia, Strawberry Fields (the NLSIU rock show), a slot at NH7 Weekender’s Bangalore edition, and now at Saarang. I caught only the end of their set, but was nonetheless impressed at their improving dynamic with each passing gig. There’s an infectious delight to their music, and it’s clear that there’s an unbridled energy and sense of fun while they’re playing, even when to a paltry crowd. Neither necessarily means their music is any good, but it’s not bad, and they have the trumpet-y thing going that yields the priceless ‘more brass on my monitors, please.’

Next, the first of the billed bands, were The Family Cheese. They had an interesting sound, but technical issues – ‘plagued’ is the word for it – never really let them get started. They had the musical chops, but also a tendency towards self-indulgence, though it’d be unfair pass judgment based on this staccato set. One thing must be noted – they were playing to a measly crowd who couldn’t make up their minds whether to applaud or boo, but the biggest cheer was for their last song: ‘Comfortably Numb’. Engineering students, I tell you. They spent the downtime between the Family Cheese and the next band cheering a sexually-charged advertisement on the stage screen. Engineering students, indeed.

Around when The Family Cheese finished, the sun had started to shrink away and I looked behind me to see a sight that warms the black, filthy, withered cockles of any band – a legion of black t-shirted masses, perched at the sides of the amphitheatre, roosting together in an impromptu The Birds-themed flash mob. The students had left their halls for the OAT.       

Heretic rode this black tide with elan, rousing the crowd with their nu-metal (I don’t mean that as a slight) inflected high-energy hard rock. The singer was particularly adept at varying between growling and smooth vocals, and they’re definitely one to catch live. Reliably, the partisan crowd displayed their highest regards when the band cut into an interlude of ‘Urvashi’ from Kadhalan.

Bevar Sea was my highlight of the night. Their viscous riffage sounds fantastic when unleashed on a large stage, and it brought a giddy grin to my face when the crowd sang along to ‘Abhistu’. Also, the number of people in Bevar Sea t-shirts far outnumbered any other band, including the headliners. Their set, curtailed by time constraints and consisting of just three songs, reminded me of a quip: Did you hear about the one-hour King Crimson gig? Yeah, they played half a song. As vocalist Ganesh put it, they are bevarsea, and so are you.

After they cleared out, the headlining act (predictably) took the stage. Anathema has been around for over twenty years, and I quote their Wikipedia page: “Beginning as pioneers of the death/doom sub-genre, their later albums have been associated with genres such as alternative rock, progressive rock, art rock, new prog, and post-rock.” Tellingly, there is a flag saying additional citations needed for verification.

When Anathema started up (with ‘Untouchable I’ and ‘Untouchable II’), my jaw dropped. This band was full of love and no blackness! They were crammed to their gills with inner nobility of character. They spouted Tamil and flashed the V-sign instead of the Devil’s Horns, and not in the British sense of ‘up yours’. You could practically feel Vince Cavanagh, their lead singer, reaching out to comfortingly embrace you.To sum up, if Anathema were a Captain Planet element, they’d be Heart.

Still, the crowd was into it. I’d ventured up to the cheap seats and was watching the now-sizable crowd bounce in unison when something spectacularly hypnotic was wrought from the depths of this fiery love – a mosh pit of group hugs. It looked like the oscillating mouth of a sea anemone. But everyone was just jumping up and down and having an oh-so-good time.

I headed back to front and centre, still reckoning this band with suspicion. I don’t think it’s solely a question of proximity, but when up close, it was really quite moving. Their older tracks were just better, and when Cavanagh emotes while singing, it felt like he was speaking to me, and simultaneously to every other person there. This was either the single most emotional performance I had the privilege of attending, or the stupidest thing I’d ever seen. Probably both.

Curiously, the mood of the crowd turned. They’d already befuddled the band with an incessant chant of ‘Haska lakala laka laka laka OOH AAH OOH AAH’ (a common motivational mantra heard during cricket matches at Chepauk stadium) – one that started as a voice of appreciation, but soon veered into boorish impoliteness, breaking out even between songs, and then morphed into a downright rude chant of ‘We want Meh-Tuhl’.

The band, to its credit, ignored it and chugged on, which was a practical application of their entire state of existence. They sang of numbed emotion (‘The Storm Before the Calm’) and showing the way (‘The Beginning and the End’), and by the end of it, hitting the home stretch with ‘Empty’, ‘One Last Goodbye’ and‘Fragile Dreams’, the crowd had been won over once more, proving decisively the power of love and letting the credits roll while the band were freeze-framed in victory.

Life can be simple.

Varun Rajiv

Varun Rajiv has tinnitus. The first band he adored with all his heart was Boyzone.

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The Family Cheese at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore

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An eclectic mix of almost every genre imaginable, The Family Cheese was an interesting and enjoyable start to the weekend. At Bflat on Friday night, they played Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Blues, Funk, Gangsta’ Rap, Electronica and Brazilian Bossa nova! They even let loose a riveting Pink Floyd cover!

We entered the venue just as the band was setting up. There was some classic jazz on the speakers which instantly induced a positive vibe. As the drums were being set up, Homi started playing the groove of the background track flawlessly. This was a small initial dose of the band’s technical prowess. They soon progressed into a sound check which was a jazzy jam. Each member fed off the others’ energy and it was clear that they were proficient and capable.

The band consists of Apurv Frank Vedantam “Lala” Isaac on Lead guitars and Vocals, Homi Rustamji on Bass and Yohan Marshall on Drums and Vocals. They are all students of the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Chennai. They introduced themselves (and each other) with loads of jokes and teasing. It was obvious that their egos aren’t as immense as their musical training. Also, after every song, Yohan kept repeating the line “We are the Family Cheese and we absolutely love that breakfast!“, which was funny at first but seemed a little strange after a few songs.

They then began their set with an original which gave off slight alternative rock vibes. Lala proved himself to be a competent singer with Yohan effectively backing him up. The solo was a tad too reminiscent of ‘Comfortably Numb‘ and Lala’s delay-heavy guitar tone embellished this similarity. At the end of the song, Yohan quipped sarcastically that the energy in the crowd was too much to take, once again dishing out their brand of humour.

They then started playing a Brazilian bossa nova tune ‘Black Orpheus‘ and we were left speechless for a minute. It did look like things were going to get serious when Yohan pulled out brushes and soft sticks. Their ability to play jazz was really impressive. The phrasings were sublime and really well constructed. Homi played his six string bass wonderfully and perfectly complemented the guitar. The walking bassline seemed to jog in the middle and eventually even ran! Yohan played a very intense drum solo in the middle of the song and blew the crowd’s mind. Along with the intense precision and technicality, one could also hear a lot of konokkal within his phrasings. He is an insanely talented individual and a force to be reckoned with on the drums.

They then played an original titled ‘Stories of the places you’ve never been‘ which was a progressive rock/metal song. Lala shone through on lead guitar. The crowd lapped up his licks and solos. Lala seems to be most at home with progressive rock/metal and played face melting solos and demented arpeggios effortlessly.

The band then went into total ‘mess around’ mode with Yohan leading their whimsical experimentation for the night, on a ‘Sit on your bum groove‘, as Homi described it. The playfulness began with Yohan singing ‘Toothpaste baby’ or ‘Two-piece baby’ over some blues. The band then started a rap song with Yohan rapping in Gujarati about how his mom wouldn’t let him drink daaru or bring chokris into his room! Lala also joined in and they covered Afroman’s ‘Colt 45′ with Yohan using his cymbal hits to censor obscenities. It was clear that they wanted to have as much fun on stage as they possibly could.

They then played an original called ‘UNIR’ which was again a progressive number. This was followed by a heavy cover of the blues classic ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ with Yohan on vocals. They played a decent rendition of the song. It was Lala’s birthday the next day and the band got one of their friends to smear cake on his face during the middle of the song. This was another example of how open and easy-going the band was. They had already impressed the crowd with their technicality and now proceeded to have as much fun as possible.

They then launched into a medley of famous tunes like the Simpsons and Mario theme songs, followed by some very off-time signature jams. Next up, ‘Blue and pissed off’ was an original blues song but played in a very progressive and experimental light. The highlight of the song was Homi’s bass solo. By now Lala was tired of the cake on his face and took a break to clean himself up. Homi and Yohan launched into an electronic drum & bass jam which was a little too experimental and didn’t really go down too well with the crowd.

Lala returned and the band played one of their best known originals ‘The Cheese’ which Yohan proclaimed was “Homi’s song”. Why it was called that was obvious the second the riff started. Homi played tapping riffs with both fingers and created a complex interplay with the guitar on a 9/8 time signature. There were complex interludes and psychedelic portions with myriad effects which felt and sounded like an acid trip.

The band ended their set with a rendition of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. The dual vocals of Yohan and Lala more than did justice to this famous albeit overplayed classic. Lala’s sometimes overly heavy and Gilmour inspired tone and style seemed to finally get some relevance in the solo. He was totally in control and walked out into the crowd and even got a member of the audience to pluck his guitar for him.

Overall, the evening was very entertaining. It was heartening to see talented musicians having so much fun on stage. The Family Cheese is a funny quirky band, technically proficient and easy going. Although their jokes and banter were humorous, it did get a tad excessive towards the end, but considering the vibe of the place and the fact that they had mainly their friends and family present, it can be understood. The band did spark our interest and it would be interesting to see what they can do with a bigger audience and a more structured setlist.

Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash is a Bangalore based guitarist and is a third of local act Groove Chutney. He loves jazz, street food, Woody Allen movies and often pretends to be a writer.

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