Tag Archives: Crosby Fernandes

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

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As I tumbled through the (slightly prolonged) stages of growing up, I went through the all-important “discovering music” phase in my life by mindlessly skirting around, masterfully hurdling or generally avoiding music by bands whose names I thought were “iffy”. The “rule of iffy” really didn’t have any logical basis to it; it just was.

I’ve since grown out of this phase. Thankfully! I can only imagine what state I’d be in today with names like Puscifer, Cattle Decapitation, Explosive Diarrhea or the very descriptive Fartbarf. I now have a backronym-inspired way of looking at band names (as do a lot of people – assumes the sheep in me). Listen to the music, like/dislike said music, justify band name if required.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

Madrobe Walfunction. It doesn’t come across as the best name for a band and neither is it the very best spoonerism in the game. The writer in me harrumphed, unimpressed at the weak attempt. But the writer in me was also about to be unceremoniously silenced. The defunct “rule of iffy” sunk lower in its grave the moment the band struck their first chord. The sound at B Flat that night was probably the best I’ve heard in a long time and I’d say about three-fourths of that was the band’s doing (thanks to a painstaking sound check, we were told later). Every instrument had an equal chunk of the output, with the vocals blanketing them evenly. Just goes to show that the band may be brand new but the players aren’t. They’re all seasoned musicians – Sankarshan Kini (Kailasa, Whirling Kalapas) on guitar, Crosby Fernandes (Para Vayu) on bass, Manoj Thapliyal (he’s worked with scores of composers and has been honing his craft for well over a decade) on drums and lyricist and song-writer Prathamesh Tambe on vocals and acoustic guitar.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

As I glanced through the set list I had (printed versions peppered the bar and the tables) and listened to Prathamesh, all manner of adjectives hurled themselves at me in quick succession. The best sense I could salvage (from a barely legible scribble in my notes) was that his vocals were crisp and he kept it straight cut and strong, save for the occasional vibrato. Me gusta! I haven’t heard a studio version of any of their songs but I’ll bet good money that it’d pale in comparison to watching this band live.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

Their musical style feels fresh while accommodating a bevy of different tones – from light-layered tunes peppered with whimsical slide sections and twangy acoustic guitar solos like on ‘Pendulum’ to meatier pieces like ‘Andy Gone Wild’ that has spectacular delay work, instantly memorable riffs and some bang-on-tune screeching toward the end. ‘Panorama’ was like a panorama of the skills on stage – starting with a distinctly Indian sound that then descended back into familiar territory. My favourite song by far was ‘Apple (for My Diamond Eyed Monkey)’, a nice little bow-tied track towards the end of the setlist. All this and they managed not to decapitate Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’ – their encore.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

When you’re watching a band that’s growing on you, I’d say you spend about 40 per cent of the time trying to decipher the lyrics – hoping that they’re original and not filled with clichéd phrasing. You won’t be disappointed when it comes to this band.

Case in point:

Percy bought a brand new toy

Aggravating Andy chasing salvation by the foil

Dreadful nightmares and obscene dimensions

Percy’s doll urges to get played

He thought the hands might solve the mystery one more time

He took a knife out and stabbed Percy in pain

Stabbed him once again

Stabbing again n again

(From ‘Andy Gone Wild’)

Some parts of the lyric are wonderfully vague or just outright devious – making them ripe for interpretation – while others do feel a bit contrived. But all in all I love the Mad Hatter-esque feel of Prathamesh’s storytelling and it sure did a good job of salving my bad spoonerism – induced wounds.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

I’m a certified banter-lover. That bald statement may sound like a tasty tidbit better suited to a ‘forever-alone’ profile on a dating site, but I promise I’m going somewhere with this. When a front man/woman of a band weaves their way around their set list with well-placed banter, a pertinent one-liner, a self-obsessed monologue or even just a musical grunt in that moment between songs, it validates me going to see a band in the flesh – because I want to see them present and interactive. At the root of it, I suppose I want to know if they’re likable or obnoxious or just plain boring.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

So, five songs into the set list was when I realized that we hadn’t heard a peep from any of the band members. I should have been miffed but I wasn’t  The band used everything from scratchy radio clips from the ‘40s and ambient sounds to birds twittering and the now-immortalized bicycle bell as segues from one song into the other. Usually I’d think this was a tad pretentious because the concept of a concept album and all the eccentricities that go with it can be pulled off by a precious few, leave alone a spanking new Indian band.

Madrobe Walfunction at The BFlat Bar

“We wanted it to be seamless, you know – just an entire performance that wasn’t interrupted by introductions to each song,” said Prathamesh during our post-gig chat.

To sum it all up, I’d have to agree with the heavily tattooed, slightly tipsy Englishman standing beside me who put it succinctly (four stars and all!) to say the least – “ I’ve seen a lo’ of Indian bands perform and these guys are just brillian’! Just ****ing brillian’!”

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Para Vayu’s album launch – Soul Alive at Blue Frog, Mumbai

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Another Tuesday night at the Blue Frog in the city of Mumbai, with yet another album launch, this time by Para Vayu called Soul Alive. Para Vayu’s sound ranges from psychedelic and classic rock, to jazz, funk and even Hindustani classical. With an experimental band with flamboyant taste, the evening was clearly set for a promising gig.

Para Vayu’s lineup comprises Ravi Iyer on guitar, Soumitra Bhat on lead vocals and Crosby Fernandes on bass along with accompanying musicians Lindsay D’Mello on the drums, Rhys D’Souza on the saxophone and Crehyl Pereira on keyboards. The gig started off at a rather slow pace and somehow didn’t catch on with the audience initially. The crowd was niche, with a select few who were swaying to the tunes of Para Vayu. Despite being an album launch gig, there was no introduction to any of the songs, which people would certainly be clueless about since these weren’t covers.

The upsurge towards something magnificent was certainly lacking that night. The only musician on stage gaining any attention was Rhys, with his marvelous saxophone solos that managed to seize the crowd to some extent.

Ravi Iyer, a guitar guru for almost twenty one years now, seemed as though he wasn’t entirely in the groove, and I could probably say the same about the lead vocalist Soumitra. Despite undoubtedly singing well, the lyrics were, for some reason, rather indecipherable and you’d probably have to strain your ears to pick up a word or two.

For a band launching their very first album, the performance was, putting it crudely, quite dreary. The stage presence of all the band members seemed almost as if they were saying, “Yes, we’re launching an album of our own, so what?” Frankly, Crehyl was in the backdrop. The audience almost forgot that there was a keyboardist on stage, who was holding on to a few chords here. There was no band interaction with the audience whatsoever, except for when Soumitra threw a few copies of the album into the crowd.

They started off with a song called, ‘Save My World’ which was rather monotonous towards the end, then moved onto ‘Broken Brother’, ‘Fallen Angels’ and ‘Last Goodbye’ of which none really managed to hold our attention. I munched on some fries and coke, discussing the acoustics and the sound system at The Blue Frog, which was quite praiseworthy.

What did generate some curiosity though was a girl called Shumisha Shankar dressed in an Indian outfit adorned with heavy makeup and jewelry, who danced on stage as Para Vayu played an instrumental called ‘This Is Us’. Her performance was rather appealing, and if nothing else, at least kept our eyes on stage. But yet again the pace was lacking, and in fact there was hardly any place for her to really dance, with all the instruments, cables and monitors, though Soumitra promptly moved off stage to make some space.

Next came another few songs and the one that gained the maximum hits was ‘Fall Right’ , which finally grabbed our attention. This was one of their better tracks, and definitely my favorite of the night. The next track was called ‘Affected’ and was followed by an instrumental piece for which they didn’t have a name. Soumitra announced that there would be a competition as to who would be able to name their instrumental track, and I must say, it was quite catchy. Ravi finally spoke during this time, and interacted for once with the audience!

They slowly wound it up by singing a track called ‘Flying’ and the last being ‘Seven Eleven’ which has been written by Ravi Iyer about the terror attacks; a song with meaning and a sense towards society and their downfall due to terrorism. The song sounded very subtle and distinct, which was the quite pleasing.

So at the end of the day, in my opinion, only two songs pass muster, with the rest sounding a little bit monotonous. The most disappointing aspect about the album launch and the evening was that there was no album being sold at the Blue Frog counter! The question is why would a band have an album launch without selling their CDs at the venue? By the end of it all, a rather disappointed crowd could be seen walking out of the doors of Blue Frog, empty-handed.

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Norah Jones Tribute At Blue Frog, Mumbai

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Axe-tortion at The Blue Frog, Mumbai

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I landed up at the Blue Frog last night anticipating some pure guitar wizardry from some of the best musicians on the rock scene. Tonight was yet another edition of Chandresh Kudwa’s long-running and popular guitar-centric initiative called Axe-tortion, where he, along with two other guitarists played individual sets before finally jamming together. On my way there, I made it a point to listen to a few staple favorites by Joe Satriani and Andy Timmons, just to get into the mood.

After the customary ‘ingest-as-much-alcohol-outside-before-entering-an-expensive-place’ was out of the way, a couple of friends and I entered my favorite venue. The first act was already up and featured the new shredder on the local scene, Lokesh Bakshi on stage. He was flanked by Arjun Dhanraj of NerveRek on rhythm guitars, Dusty Ryan on bass, and rocksteady drummer Hamza on well, the drums. The song they were playing had dual solos, double bass, and was certainly very loud. Not to forget Dusty’s Steve Harris pose which would make one wonder if we were indeed at an Iron Maiden tribute gig!

The next song they jumped into had a nice drum intro that moved into a 6/8 groove with Ryan and Lokesh doing a Sheehan/Gilbert trading of licks. It ended with a furious 2/4 beat which would probably have got a mini mosh pit going at a venue like B69. Nothing of the sort happened here, but whatever we saw so far led us to forebode the upcoming ‘jam’ towards the end of the gig. Special mention here for Lokesh’s fingers, that seem to fly faster than Thor’s hammer, and that he extracted a nice cackling tone out of the Fender Strat that he was using.

Paresh Kamath, who was up next, is one talented and good looking dude, which my girlfriend never fails to point out to me. Well I have to agree, with the talented part at least. His guitar shot out a giant fat warm tone, with a minimum layering of effects. Hamza was still on drums and nobody minded his casual switch to an almost progressive funk style. Joining them on stage was the veteran and super attack fingers Crosby Fernandes on bass, although for some reason the bass guitar was sounding a little too wet for my taste.

I was busy marveling at Paresh’s Satch influences and his legato runs when I realized that he was using a Gibson Les Paul. It suddenly struck me that the last jam was going to be an all-out guitar war featuring the Strat, Les Paul and Ibanez!

They next jumped into a song called ‘Nitty Gritty’, which had a very funk staccato intro. Crosby’s bass playing was now shining through and he was a treat to listen to as he seemed to effortlessly complement Hamza’s grooves. Paresh has a great melodic sense in his style of playing. I also loved the way he holds back on shredding all over and makes the high pitch bends the big moments in his solos. He also showed off some very imaginative loop licks in his awesome display of tone and feel.

Chandresh Kudwa is like a freak of nature. I mean what else do you call someone who plays the Ukulele and Guitar, ambidextrously and simultaneously? I guess we could call him a genius too, and although the word is thrown around a lot, it does makes a lot of sense here.

The first song, called ‘G-uke’ was a killer and pretty popular, which goes to show the following this unique project already enjoys. ‘Floating feelings of a rare kind’ followed which pulled the crowd to the front. Good bands always manage to do that. A Samba sounding song called ‘The White Door’ followed, with some tasteful whammy bar playing by Chandresh (Also a great way to show off your giant flashy looking Ben 10 watch!). ‘All I do is this’ had an excellent heavy riff although the song was a little bit boring. The band was still the same with Crosby and Hamza pulling their weight interspeeding great phrasing and tightness! Chandresh’s tone was as usual perfect. Bright yet smooth and his legato shredding never sounded better.

Chandresh then invited the other two ESHs – Paresh and Lokesh back on for the last jam. They attempted one of my favorite songs of all time ‘Little Wing’ which was kind of a let down, with too much flash on a feel song especially when the best known versions are by Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Then came the surprise for the night. The band launched into ‘The Trooper’ with a giant crushing 3-part harmony intro by the guitarists. This had to have been Lokesh’s suggestion going by his incredible shredding and the way he managed to transfix his face with this delirious expression, evidence of how much fun he was having. And if that wasn’t surprise enough, the last song they launched into was by Metallica; A thundering version of ‘Enter Sandman’ wreaked havoc on stage with each guitar player trading solos all over the place. At one point Chandresh and Lokesh were playing lap guitars and it was a really funny moment to watch Paresh smoke out a cool cat lick in reply to the twin tornadoes of notes.

A special mention for Hamza and Crosby. Hamza was tireless and hardly ever faulty in his playing and Crosby was like Batman at this gig. He didn’t have any super powers but he still kicked butt. The entire experience was thoroughly enjoyable and I would highly recommend anyone to go watch them the next time they are playing. Axe-tortion is a well conceptualized property that will eventually end up featuring every type of guitar player out there. I cant wait for the next edition.

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Vasuda Sharma Farewell Tour at The Blue Frog, Mumbai

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As I made my way to the Blue Frog on Sunday evening, I was clearly still recovering from the effects of the power-packed previous night at B69. It was the second leg of Vasuda Sharma’s farewell tour that I was headed for and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, given that I’d never watched Vasuda live in concert before, and that her initial claim to fame was being a part of the group Aasma, a product of Channel V’s ‘Pop Stars’ project. However, her more recent foray as an independent artist, combined with the stellar lineup of guest artists and supporting band for the night, had certainly roused my curiosity.

Admittedly, I’ve had my reservations in the past about the Indipop genre and the whole ‘Popstars’ concept in general, but I decided not to let any of that cloud my perception of today’s event. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the gig did in fact begin punctually at 9:30, precisely as I was informed.

Vasuda looked great as she took the stage along with her supporting band for the evening, and was greeted warmly by the crowd. There was already a fairly decent turnout, and I was quite sure that it would increase as the night went on. Accompanying her was Vinayak Pol on drums, Denzil Mathias and Alex Rintu on guitar, Crosby Fernandes on bass, and Nigel Rajaratnam on keyboards.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries with the audience, Vasuda kicked off the set with two very well composed originals, followed by a cover of Maroon 5’s ‘This Love‘. Her voice had a pleasant tone and she clearly possessed superb vocal control.

The first of the guest artists was Parsheen Irani, who came up on stage to join Vasuda for an upbeat cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel‘. This was followed by a cover of ‘Never Really Loved You Anyway’, originally by The Corrs, along with Geetanjali More and violinist Yogesh.

The crowd was now well and truly in the groove, and were clearly enjoying themselves. Vasuda’s fellow Aasma singer Neeti Mohan then joined her to do a cover of The Dixie Chicks’ ‘Ready To Run‘, getting the country feel spot on with the inclusion of the violin and with Nigel playing the flute.

Sangeet Haldipur, also of Aasma fame, was the next guest artist, and showed some incredible piano skills on a soulful solo that was accompanied only by Vasuda and Nigel’s mellow backing vocals. The songs so far had been interspersed with each of the artists sharing a moment and saying a few kind words about Vasuda, contributing significantly to the feel-good vibe in the place.

It was the perfect time for the pace to pick up, and with charismatic guitarist Ravi Iyer joining in for a cover of the Joan Jett classic ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll‘, it certainly did. The next song, a rendition of Janis Joplin’s ‘Summertime‘, saw Vasuda demonstrate some exceptional vocals and an extended solo by Ravi Iyer, showing all of his skill and versatility, with Zain Calcuttawala stepping in to play the drums.

Keeping up the tempo was popular RJ and The Works’ vocalist Mihir Joshi. Dressed in a black suit, Mihir belted out an energetic cover of James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’, and with the very talented Rhys D’Souza on saxophone, the entire ensemble sounded perfect. Rhys stayed on for the next song, an impressive rock n’ roll original by Vasuda called ‘All Night Long’, with the dynamic Jaspreet Singh on vocals.

The two originals that followed were for me definitely the highlight of the evening, with Sheldon D’Silva joining in on bass. The long instrumental interludes allowed each of the musicians a moment in the limelight, with some wonderful solos including an organ mode keyboard solo from Nigel, a guitar solo by Alex, and a show boarding extended bass solo by Sheldon, who completely blew the audience away with his brilliant creativity.

Vasuda paid tribute to Alanis Morisette with a dark rendition of ‘Uninvited‘, following which she was joined by the last member of Aasma, Jimmy Felix. The two of them sung a cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘In These Arms’, as Jimmy improvised on the chorus to say goodbye to Vasuda in his own unique way.

All four members of Aasma now got together on stage to sing their hit single ‘Tumse Hi Pyaar‘ and did a fine job of it. (I for one, was quite glad that it wasn’t the awful ‘Chandu ke Chacha’ that they’d decided on performing on The Blue Frog stage!). And finally, Vasuda invited all the guest artists on stage, as they went on to sing the INXS classic, ‘Life Is A Highway’, quite perfect for the occasion.

All in all a fine show, and there are a few points here that I’d really like to emphasize. The sound was absolutely brilliant. With an ever-changing lineup of musicians and instruments, never once was the sound imbalanced, and The Blue Frog certainly lived up to its reputation in this aspect. The organization was spot on. Again, with an ever-changing lineup including intermittent exchanges and tributes between artists, I’d imagine it to be a logistical nightmare. Kudos to the organizers and to Vasuda’s managers, Dream Makers Entertainment.

Finally, the music. The aspect of this gig that I was most impressed with was the quality of music, covers and originals alike. It’s probably not always easy playing a song or a set with a group of musicians that isn’t a regular band, but watching this lineup, you’d never know that. Kudos to Vasuda and the rest of the band for holding the show together over those two hours and I wish her all the best!

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Interview with Ravi Iyer of Para Vayu

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Para Vayu, a new form that evolved from the rock band Vayu, around since 1997, has been founded by Ravi Iyer. After the release of Vayu’s album titled Wings of a Dream in June 2009, Ravi Iyer and bassist Crosby Fernandes reformed Vayu to Para Vayu, thus exploring a wide range in various genres of music. Para Vayu’s music spans over a wide range of genres including classic rock, alternative, progressive, blues, funk and jazz rock. WTS got talking with the founding member, Ravi Iyer, about the band’s journey so far, their music, and more…

WTS: Why did you feel the need to rename the band to Para Vayu when Vayu had already gained popularity? Wasn’t the name your identity?

Ravi: The question was not simply one of renaming Vayu to Para Vayu. Para Vayu has got a completely different sound, new musicians and a very different attitude towards its music. Vayu and Para Vayu were both formed by me and that explains the retention of ‘Vayu’ in the title. The ‘Para’ part is something that communicates the idea of being beyond, above, abstract, mystical. So now, Para Vayu is our identity.

WTS: You guys are into almost every conceivable genre, but if you had to identify with just one genre which one would it be?

Ravi: Genre is something that listeners file our music away into. For us, we look it as an opportunity to communicate an idea or emotion through a creative synthesis of styles, traditions, ideologies. So, we put in our own influences, we borrow from different genres, keeping the intention and musicality at the centre. Since, most of us come from a history of playing rock, you might say that the music is based on rock with its aggression, emotion and in-your-face attitude, but if you listen to it more closely there is a lot of stuff going on in the songs that is really unique.

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

Ravi: The biggest challenge is to firstly, meet the right musicians and then take the band to the next level with the music and performances. Yes, I think we have finally identified what the band really needs and who the band really needs. The music eventually speaks for itself once the musicians are sorted.

WTS: Which are the songs you perform most frequently?

Ravi: Our focus is always primarily performing our original compositions. We do add in a little bit of the covers that we like rather than what the audience likes. Like I said earlier,the music will always speak for itself – whether you play covers or you play original compositions. Our set list keeps changing eventually.

WTS: How do you approach your songwriting process? Who is the primary songwriter?

Ravi: Most of the songs are written by me and some are written by other lyricists based on the music that is composed. Most of the songs composed and written are to do with self introspection, social messages and sometimes even hypothetical topics.

WTS: How has the response been towards your music so far?

Ravi: We are happy with the response we’ve received for our music because whenever we perform, the audience is always taken by surprise and we have always received compliments saying that our style and sound is quite unique and has loads of surprise elements which surely inspires us to work more on our music.

WTS: How has the music scene in india evolved from the time you guys started out to now?

Ravi: It’s been over 20 years in the music industry and I have seen all possible changes in the music scene in India. There are  a lot of pros and cons with regard to this topic but it applies to every other industry – if we don’t keep up to the changing times we will remain as fossils forever.

WTS: What sets Para Vayu apart from the other bands that are part of the Indian music scene?

Ravi: Well no band is too different from the other. Every band has it’s own identity which it stands for and it’s the inner belief that the band has which will always keep it special in everyone’s minds.

WTS: Do you guys have a brand loyalty in terms of the instruments you play?

Ravi: Yes, in fact I am an official brand ambassador for Paul Reed Smith guitars.

WTS: What’s the ultimate direction for Para Vayu?

Ravi: It’s always good to have the ultimate direction, but unfortunately with circumstances the directon could be misleading. So, like every rock band I guess it would be name, fame, money, and loads of album releases which bring in success. And yes, loads and loads of live performances all over the world!

WTS: So what’s your new album going to be called and when can we expect its release?

Ravi: Our one take live album will be titled as Para Vayu – Soul Alive which should be released soon – that’s if we get an established label to launch and market us!

WTS: Tell us about gigs that are lined up.

Ravi: We’ve really taken off over the past few months! We’ve played at the best places in Mumbai, Pune, and yes, even Bangalore. For August we have a couple of gigs lined up in Pune at Curve (1st) and the Hard Rock Café (12th), and we are playing in Bangalore on the 6th at The Kyra Theatre! This gig in Bangalore is going to be an exclusive Pink Floyd tribute gig. It’s gonna be a really heartfelt tribute because we are all deeply inspired by the creativity of that seminal band, and that is by far the only band that we would agree to do a tribute gig for. If you want to experience Pink Floyd, we really recommend you to be there!

WTS: What are your plans touring/album wise?

Ravi: We just finished recording a Live album at The Blue Frog in Mumbai in June. It was a lot of work and I can tell you after the experience that it’s bloody complicated to conceptualise and produce a live album. However, all went well, and the album is currently in production. We will be realsing a DVD video of the entire gig thanks to some superb professional coverage of the event. We expect to get it out in 4-6 weeks. As far as touring is concerned, the album will definitely get us and our music out to a wider audience and hopefully that will convert into gigs. But we’re not worried about that because we know the music is fresh, the band is tight and the sound is awesome!

WTS: What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?

Ravi: Be focused about the music that you want to play and be more focused about what you expect out of the music you play – monetarily or otherwise.

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