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The Indian Music Conference Fiasco : Facts and Friction

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The concept of Indian Music Conference was appealing to everyone in the music community – bringing together musicians and fans from across the country to discuss and improve the growing music scene in the country together. Conferences, guitar clinics and performances were to flock the grounds of Goa at different venues between the 17th and 20th of November. The performances included DJs from across the world, rock and metal acts including Cynic, Hacride, Leaves Eyes, Cyanide Serenity and the country’s finest bands.

IMC Canned!

While fans waited on the beaches for Saturday to approach to watch Cynic and Hacride play alongside their friends on a big stage, little did they know that only half of Cynic were going to land in Goa the following day. Cynic’s visa processes were incomplete. “When Robin and I did make it to Goa, we agreed to do a stripped down, spacey improvisation instead of our performance with Cynic. We prepared some really cool sounding ideas but the entire festival part of IMC got cancelled,” said Tymon Kruidenier, guitarist of Cynic.

Pink Noise and Skinny Alley who did make it in their full avatars to Goa also did not play due to inadequate sound systems. Jayashree Singh, the vocalist said they received unprofessional answers from the production team and the sound guys. We spoke to Chandan Raina who worked on IMC during its conceptualization. He recalls Gagan responding to the Leaves Eyes tech rider saying “Agar volume half pe hee bajaani hai toh itni sound kyun? Kam sound laao – sasti padegi.”

Just a week later, the organizers of IMC start a new event on Facebook for ‘Indian Music Conference 2011’ without releasing any kind of statement or apology regarding IMC 2010. After a number of fans bombarding the event page with sarcastic and nasty comments, Gagan Myne finally posted an apology but there was no clear explanation as to why the rock and metal acts of the festival were cancelled.

While the artists and fans were told that there was trouble with the authorities about permits, Gagan had commented saying that the Goan government and locals did not cooperate leading to the cancellation. To which Yuri Rubeiro, an event manager at Goa’s famous club Titos responded saying “Why would they? Not a single artist from Goa was a part of it. None of the DJs or bands from Goa were invited which led to the boycotting of IMC by the locals. An event requires a large portion of its crowd to be from the local area. An organizer cannot rely on a large number of people flying in regardless of how big the show is.”

Sankalp Narayanan, bassist of Theorized said there was not a single ad in the newspaper he picked up. There were a few hoardings and posters here and there. The publicity was definitely not up to mark. When asked on the same, Yuri said, “My clubs ran full on the same day as the events of IMC. So I don’t really know what kind of publicity ran for those. I even did a DJ from Bombay and it still got a packed crowd.”

The artists speak 

We spoke to a few artists who played or attended IMC 2010 and they all had bitter-sweet things to say about the festival. There was no compromise made on arranging the finest travel and accommodation for bands from across the country. There were some complaints from bands whose members were booked on different flights and some bands whose flights were cancelled. One of Bangalore’s most popular bands (who would prefer not to be named) said they were not even informed by the organizers that their flight was cancelled. They luckily double checked with the airline the previous night.

The transport from the airport to the hotel was delayed for most bands. A lucky few who knew the organizers prior to the event were picked up on time. There were no complaints about the accommodation. The bands were put up in luxurious hotels where the service was great.

Apart from inadequate sound, Archana Sudarshan from Artistes Unlimited said there was no one place where people could get information. There was a help desk located at Resort Rio where most of the bands were put up and the seminars and guitar clinics were happening. But the other venues were clueless as to what was happening where and since the venues were apart from each other, getting around the festival was quite a hassle.

Many of the clubs were unaware of the artists who were to play at their venue. The organizers themselves had never been to the clubs. “They have sent artists to clubs they haven’t visited themselves and after the gigs they asked the artists how the club is, so I was a bit disappointed there. So I spoke to the other DJ’s that played that night and together we rescheduled the IMC schedule for that night and rocked the show,” said DJ Mike Bosch from Spain.

Even though the festival had taken a clearly bad turn, nobody complained. “We got to hang out with a lot of musicians who we had never met before. We felt bad for the organizers, for the young girls who had to handle everybody’s questions. Everyone was just trying to make the best of the bad days. I felt proud of my community,” said Jayashree Singh.

While the organizers of IMC blame the failure entirely on Goa, ironically it is Goa that saved them from facing a riot. The artists were upset about the cancellation of their performances but on the other hand, they were on holiday in Goa for 5 days! If it was any other city, the response would surely have been different. When asked if they would play at IMC again, all the artists responded positively but they did have a few suggestions to make.

“I’m looking forward to the IMC 2011 to get connected to more people in the music industry. In order to make it better, the organisation should check out the clubs BEFORE they put artists on their stage or DJ boot. Also shuttles and time schedules could be better organised,” said DJ Mike Bosch.

“They bit off a whole lot more than they could chew. Take baby steps – cut down on number of venues, artists, days. I’m sure they’ve learnt their lesson. They should change their production team, get a professional crew and pick a location where infrastructure is in place,” said Jayashree Singh.

Fans disappointed

The artists were given travel and accommodation but the trip costed a whole lot more for the fans. Apart from spending on the ticket, travel and accommodation, music lovers took leave from their jobs causing them to spend over 8000 rupees on the whole ordeal. The organizers had separate tickets that included the entry into the clubs. This ticket was sold at 2000 rupees. “All the club shows were free, anyone could have entered, so we ended up paying 750 extra for no cause,” says Anand Kamath, one of the attendees who got a refund for his ticket.

Adarsh R clearly sums up the pleas of every disappointed fan – “Can I have my Rs.1250 back?”

The refund mess

After the canning of IMC, many fans returned disappointed and broke. The IMC pages were flooded with fans cribbing about refunds, many going to the lengths of using Fs and Bs. One fan, Varun Sharma from Bangalore sent a bunch of emails to IMC and Kyazoonga claiming refunds but was only juggled between the two and to this date is still waiting for his refund. On the other hand, Anand Kamath, also from Mumbai made about 200 badgering calls before Gagan Myne refunded his and his friends’ tickets.

While many fans are still waiting for their refunds and are tired of making calls and sending emails, I contacted Kyazoonga to find out who exactly is in charge of the refunds and why there is so much confusion. “As soon as some of the events of IMC were cancelled, we were instructed by IMC to direct people to them regarding refunds. We have been receiving emails from people and have been directing them back to IMC. We are not in charge of refunds for the IMC tickets,” said Neetu Bhatia from Kyazoonga.

Amateurs or simply unethical?

The reactions to the disorganization of IMC have been plenty. Many people spammed the event page with nasty comments and sarcastic remarks. No statement of cancellation or apology was released by the organizers until more than two weeks after. Nobody is saying that Spotlight Events organized IMC badly out of spite. But a certain level of respect that must be maintained towards the growing music scene and musicians in India was not met.

No damage control was done on part of IMC to accommodate the International bands like Hacride, Leaves Eyes and Cyanide Serenity. Thanks to an initiative by B69, Hacride and Cyanide Serenity got to play a show in Mumbai. And as for the bands that did get to play at IMC on inadequate sound, what is the point of providing a musician with the best travel and accommodation if you are going to compromise on sound?

Things went wrong and what’s done is done. But the responsibility of an event doesn’t end with it. Not only did they fail to apologize on time but many fans asking for refunds were treated with disrespect on the event page. People’s questions were not answered but deleted. The response from the organizers of negative criticism was defensive.

We spoke to Gagan Myne and told him that if he answers our questions, it also gives them a chance to come clean and win back the audience they lost. He agreed and we sent him the questionnaire on the 27th of January. Two weeks later, when we still hadn’t received his answers, we asked him if we should write the article without his answers to which he said “As you feel because you are the boss and have a very keen interest in IMC and it makes me proud when people talk about it.”

Yes, we are talking about it. For some of us, it came as a blow to the Indian music scene. What does the disorganization of IMC say about the music scene in India? What kind of picture was painted for the international bands that came down and didn’t get to play? What does that picture make of the people who are working hard to improve the scene?

It’s the 1st of March and we’re still waiting for the answers to our questionnaire.

Rumour is that the Cradle of Filth event is also being organized by Spotlight. But more on that later!

Aditi Surendra

Aditi Surendra is a producer for an internet radio station and a part time DJ. Her interests include writing, Karaoke, dancing and solving puzzles.

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Days 1 and 2 of The Deccan Rock Festival at Mountain Heights, Hyderabad

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It was a warm, dry afternoon. Feasting on the extreme local cuisine was the first priority that day. Hyderabadi Biryani, at Four Seasons was a delight and best served with soda. With yummies in our tummies, we arrived well ahead of the crowd. The location was Mountain Heights which is primarily a tourist attraction with huge naturally occurring boulders covering the landscape. Quite an apt place for “Deccan Rock,” one would think.

Day One of the festival was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. but no one was allowed to enter the venue before 4:30 p.m. and the show went on to start only by 4:45 p.m.  Usually, rock/metal shows do start late but when you are promised performances by 10 bands in a day and the show starts when the evening is setting in, one would wonder how much time each band would finally get. The crowd which had gathered wasn’t big and till about 4 p.m., there was probably only around 30-35 attendees who had gathered to get their passes and many of them were familiar faces spotted regularly at metal gigs in Bangalore.

It was interesting to see so many sponsors for this festival including a TV partner in Maa Music.  Although the ground at the venue wasn’t as large as the one at Palace Grounds, being enveloped on one side by trees and rocky hills gave it a scenic setting (in the words of Barney Ribeiro of Nervecell we’d call it “a tranquility in this place”). The stage wasn’t as big as you would expect it be for an open air concert, but it surely was a visual treat to see big chunks of rocks serving as the backdrop and a hut nearby used as the green room gave it a rather rustic feel.

A quick word about the stalls – besides the regular stalls for eateries and beer, there was a merchandise stall by Moshpit: The Gore Store with death metal and black metal T-shirts, hoodies, badges and keychains. There was another stall with merchandise from Funeral in Heaven, Sybreed, Violent Eve, Escher’s Knot and Motor Militia.

The first band to start Day One’s proceedings was Hyderabad’s Shock Therapy who opened with their first song ‘Sparrows‘. They had played this song nearly a month ago at the Signs of Chaos fest in Bangalore and in no way could one have expected their vocalist to impersonate one of the popular cartoon characters Tweety in this song. The impersonation this time wasn’t as funny as the last time but what didn’t fail to tickle our funny bones was when a cameraman from Maa Music came up on the stage and started moving his camera in front of the guitars to give a zoom-in-zoom-out effect one would usually behold in South Indian music videos! Shock Therapy was on the groovier side of Slam death metal in their set at Signs of Chaos but they seemed more in the brutal riffing vein this time at the Deccan Rock. It was interesting to see them dedicate a song to Abandoned Agony which had some tight and intense riffing in it. A thumbs up to Shock Therapy for giving a good start to the fest.

Shades of Retribution got us confused with their sound – in the beginning, they seemed like a modern thrash metal band but in between their set they seemed to have a metalcore sound. The vocalist has a very raspy voice and they also have one of the band members play ethnic Assamese instruments which may have sounded great in the recordings didn’t blend quite well with the music when played live.

There is never a dull moment when Escher’s Knot takes to the stage, we just stood there mesmerized by the band – the energy is always on a high! They played the their usual set and jammed with Violent Eve’s guitarist to cover some tracks by Meshuggah . It was during their set that the first moshpit started and a wall, although a weak one, was formed.

Evergreen is a very tight, alternative hard rock outfit, but on that day they sounded quite ordinary. They kept dedicating songs to Motor Militia and Violent Eve who kept cheering which was so repetitive that it got quite funny after a while! They ended their stint with Louie Armstrong’s number ‘What a Wonderful World’ (Remember the show was against global warming!)

The first international band for the day was Antim Grahan from Nepal and boy, did they blow our minds away! Though mostly a melodic black metal act, they had brutal groovy riffs infused in some of their songs which just added another dimension to the band’s music and got everyone into a headbanging frenzy. Keyboards were also included in their music and were meant to add to the riffs rather than stand out on their own. Together with the guitars they created some great melodic segments. The sound was perfect; the vocals and all the instruments were perfectly audible. The lights were mellowed down during their set which added to the feel and the atmosphere. All in all, Antim Grahan was definitely the band of the day. It was interesting to know that they have been around since the first half of the previous decade and already have five albums in their discography.

Motor Militia was okay and had nothing extraordinary about them. What they did have though was 3-4 guitarists who made the stage seem a lot smaller during their set.

Violent Eve was the second good band of the day – they sounded great and their music ranged from death to metal core. Of all the bands their set lasted a little longer. A round of moshes followed when they played which mostly consisted of kids between the age of 14-16, beer in hand. Wonder who sold them that!

Sybreed turned out to be a serious let down. Maybe Violent Eve should have been chosen as the headliners. They played some techno stuff from the console which was definitely not suitable for a live show. We left after the first song.

Day 2 had ten of the remaining bands performing including the big names, thrashers from Dubai, Nervecell and the premier Polish Death metal band Decapitated along with Cyanide Serenity (UK), Inner Guilt (Lebanon), Funeral in Heaven (Sri Lanka), Devoid (India), III Sovereign (India) and Abandoned Agony (India). Though ten was the promised number, Sledge and Artillerie were two bands that didn’t play that evening.

After an extended tanning session under the sun waiting for the bands to finish their sound check, we were let in with a handful of other early birds, when our wrist watches were about to tick close to 5 p.m. Three hours past the entry time mentioned on the ticket. No surprises there.

The venue was setup with numerous stalls for tshirts and other merchandise along with food and beverage counters. Though it was not a big enough ground for a concert, it was sufficient to accomodate a few thousands.The stage was set against backdrop of rocks that were abundant in the venue. The setup on stage seemed simple with good lighting and a modest PA. Three drum kits were placed around the backend of the stage. This was a clever move as it helped the bands to successively take stage without wasting much time on drumkit setups. Sprawling the stage were the video camera crew from MAA TV armed with their equipment, whose over-the-top antics to get the best shots kept us amused.

After a few sips of God’s gift a.k.a good old beer and a quick tour of all the stalls, we were all set for the first act of the evening. Abandoned Agony was the first band to rip the air waves. This is a band that’s no stranger to the extreme metal scene. The trio delivered one song after another with precision. In the literal sense of stand and deliver, they went through a set of some serious death metal. The shredding action from Hitesh was the highlight of their performance. Their tracks are framed around complex structures and can get pretty technical at times. And like most bands who the dare to venture that far, sadly they received only a lukewarm response from the crowd.

No proxy for Artillerie.

III Sovereign is a band that any old timer Indian metal follower would instantly recognize. With respectable old death metal influences, they appealed to death metal listeners who would prefer aged music over the newer tones. The effort to bring in energy on stage was commendable. Vocalist Devraj traversed the entire width of the stage. Reuben, the drummer added charm with rhythmic head banging and slick drumming. Although the stage act was great, their music couldn’t reach out to the audience save for a few people who really seemed to be enjoying the music.

Devoid was next. I was rather keen to see them live since I had heard quite a lot about this Mumbai based Thrash metal act and I wasn’t disappointed. The crowd was pleased with track list which included many favorites like ‘Beer Song’, ‘Battle Cry‘ and other tracks from their album. Vocalist and Rhythm Guitarist, Arun makes for a terrific frontman. Bassist Frank brought out his inner animal on stage. The crowd dove into a pit and started head banging and cheering to every track. Fast riffs and mind numbing drums fills are ingredients for the perfect recipe to get your crowd into frenzy and that’s just what happened. I could not help but notice influences of Miland Petrozza in the front man’s vocal style. Good thrash metal was served and we liked it.

No proxy was given for Sledge either.

Sri Lankan melodic Black metal outfit Funeral in Heaven was the surprise of the lot. Their sound is a amalgamation of black metal with traditional percussion instruments which included the versatile Tabla. The percussion as a tasteful layer topped over the underlying rhythmic parts. This is the sound of what they like to call “Sri Lankan Ritualistic Black Metal”. There were instances of very noticeable sound problems during the set. Their set list covered some impressive original compositions. That being said there was also some scope for improvement in levels setup at the concert stage console which could have really helped in enjoying the band better as some instruments were hardly heard.

Inner Guilt from Lebanon is thrash metal band. We couldn’t find the thrash that was expected but it was a more modern thrash that the crowd seemed to actually enjoy. The mosh pit was alive again and so was sound in the PA which was fixed after the sound assistant made a trip to the stage and back. The band managed to connect with the crowd and put up a good show.

“We don’t care about record sales, all we care is connecting with you by our music” said Matt McKay vocalist of Cyanide Serenity said which lead to an uproar in number in the most pit which finally resulted in one fallen barricade and a few stunned steroid bouncers (dudes who looked like the ones you can find in local gyms) . This video will show you how. Before something important was damaged by the crowd near the stage, reinforcements of the steroid bouncers arrived who pushed everyone back behind the barricades and “bounced” the show back like nothing ever happened. Cyanide Serenity is a metal act from UK with modern sound and metal core influences. This was the band in the fest that the crowd really picked up. Great stage presence by the band members and an in-your-face vocalist , keeping his vocal capabilities apart, exemplified the electric atmosphere and energy that goes into making a metal concert what it really is.

Meanwhile, in the vicinity, Official Tshirts of Nervecell, Sybreed, Motor Militia, Violet Eve, Devoid, Decapitated were available at the stall along with CDs. Nervecell offered fantastic artwork on their shirts. Decapitated shirts arrived in haste and were a terrible disappointment. The shirts were still warm from the ink printed on them. With such quality it’s hard for the print to even survive a few washes and wears.

Nervecell has toured India in the recent past and had received some rave reviews as well. The band was invited as co-headliners for Day 2.They took to the stage without wasting any time. Due to time constraints they had to rush through their set list which included two new tracks from their new album Psychogenocide (Terrific artwork!). Vocalist and Bassist Rajeh mentioned that these tracks received their first live play at the show. It was a very tight performance with a set list that lasted around 45 mintues of some kickass no nonsense death metal with no breaks. The band has a good build of fan base in India, which they are very fond of. Post gig Rajeh and Guitarist Barnaby were seen signing and interacting with fans at their T-shirts kiosk.

It was nearing 10:30 when Decapitated finally took to the stage and they seemed to be in no real hurry. It was well into the night, the heat was beaten and the bouncers were vigilant for the next wave of kids ramming into barricades. The new line up now features Rafal on vocals, much anticipated drummer Krimh and Heinrich filling in with the bass duties. Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka is the only original band member left in the band. After a brief sound check by the Krimh, they kicked off their set with ‘Visual Delusion’ from their last album. It dropped hard on an eagerly expecting crowd, who reacted instantly by banging their heads to the teeth-grinding guitar tone and the face-slapping drum beats. The set list covered tracks from their last album ‘Day 69’, ‘A Poem About An Old Prison Man’ and the latter half of the set had their heavier classics like their signature ‘Spheres of Madness‘, ‘Three-dimensional Defect’ and ‘The Fury‘. A couple of newer tracks including ‘404‘ were played, however Rafal left the crowd guessing if it were from the newer material they had been working before the tour.

Vogg had a setup of two Marshall Cabinets wired as two channels for stereo. Using foot pedals to switch between Left and Right channels, he played around alternating between the channels for few intros and bridges. His more frequented use of loops using foot pedals and prolonged delays showed signs of exploration and experimentation in the sound of the band. From the looks and sounds of it, the new album can be expected to pack quite a surprise to fans especially older fans.

Before the crowd had soaked in all the metal, they were done with the setlist. However, just after they cleared the stage they got back on stage to play their last track ‘The Fury‘ before finally leaving the stage for good. Vogg did his exit by letting a piece of riff that he played last, loop till it faded away to a hum.

On realizing that the show was really over, we walked back to the stalls. After a round of “meet and greet”  with Nervecell, the next thing we had in our minds at 12:00 a.m. was dinner, which of course  will be covered in our next write up on “Hog food like a Hog: A guide to wannabe gourmets”. Or not.

Abhilash Achar

Abhilash Achar may be remembered as the (in)famous guy behind hits such as 'Extraterrestrial Human Being' and 'The guy who spent way too much time on the internet' or from his earlier works such as 'Serving justice in the mosh-pit'. He is currently working on his next big hit, 'Lounge Bedroom Music for a Metalhead' (You are welcome.) Find his musical misadventures at last.fm/user/humanethb

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