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The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

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The Festival Chapter III: Moshpit Mayhem (held on the 15th of June, ) promised so much for the metal-starved community of Kolkata. However, the event’s extremely low turnout has seemingly rung the death knell for future metal events of a similar nature in Kolkata.

It had been hoped that the 3rd edition of The Festival would finally put Kolkata on the nation-wide metal map, with its anticipated success leading to more event organizers and international metal acts willing to jump onto Kolkata’s so-called “metal band-wagon” in the future. However a below-par turnout (less than 250 by my count) was a downright rejection of the laudable efforts of event group E365 Media Solutions to showcase some very decent acts, the likes of which Kolkata rarely has the opportunity to witness. The lack of attendees was a major sore point – especially at a venue the size of Nazrul Manch – and towards the initial stages of the show the number of backstage personnel and photographers far outnumbered the actual audience count.

The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

This lack of attendees proved a big a problem for the opening act Nothnegal. Kolkata was the last leg of their Indian tour, and while this melodic death band from the Maldives had hoped to go out with a bang, the lukewarm response from the crowd made them seem almost apologetic to be up on stage. Nothnegal’s setlist featured songs entirely from their debut album Decadence and the first song they played was the album’s opening track ‘Salvation’ – a great song to start the evening’s proceedings. And it probably would have gotten the crowd in a tizzy if there had been enough metalheads in attendance. Other songs from the album that were performed were the very atmospheric ‘Sins of Our Creation’, ‘Singularity’, and their far more heavier tracks ‘R.A.D.A.R.’, ‘Janus’, ‘Claymore’ and ‘Armageddon’. Interspersed within these songs were two stand-out displays of musicianship – the first one a drum-solo that genuinely managed to wow the reticent crowd. The second was an awesome guitar solo by the Nothnegal lead guitarist Hilarl that actually got a few people to stand up on their seats. But these moments were few and far between and, unfortunately, the Kolkata crowd made it a point to sit quietly and politely applaud the efforts of this melodic death metal act. And so, after spending less than an hour on stage, the Maldivians gave way to the French progressive/technical death metal band Hacride.

The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

Despite the indifferent response to Nothnegal, these French metallers were raring to go from minute one. However their gig was interrupted more than once, thereby throwing their entire game plan out of the window and making the evening’s proceedings resemble scenes from Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’. Things did start out rather well though with the band storming on stage and wasting no time in pummeling the audience with a wave of sound and vocal ferocity that has rarely been witnessed in The City of Joy. Egged on by a group of 20 to 30 vocal headbangers, who had magically jumpstarted into life, Hacride proceeded to lay down a full frontal assault on the dumbstruck Kolkata crowd with their performances of ‘Introversion’ and ‘Strive Ever To More’, songs from their latest album Back to Where You’ve Never Been. Vocalist Luis Roux in particular was a monster on stage and it didn’t really seem to matter to him that the audience was so miniscule, he growled his heart and screamed his lungs out. Likewise, drummer Florent Marcadet, guitarist Adrian Grousset and bassist Benoist Danneville played like beasts possessed and it took little time for their energy to transfer to the small headbanging cluster standing in front of the stage.

The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

 

However just as things were getting really heated up, a young volunteer got up on stage and stopped Hacride’s performance midway during their third song in order to make a fervent plea for help from a group of molesters who had also injured her and her friend just outside the venue’s premises. After much hullabaloo Hacride picked up from where they started – but the interruptions were far from over. This time it was the turn of the Kolkata Police to play party pooper. During their fourth song ‘To Walk Among Them’, the guardians of the city decided it was time for them to show some muscle, and threatened to stop the show if the volume levels were not decreased. After another short delay, Hacride continued from where they had left off, but it was clear that these interruptions had disrupted their momentum. And so after just a short setlist of 5 songs the French band pulled the plug on their gig and bid adieu to the Kolkata crowd, much to the disappointment of the headbanging faithful. Hacride’s was a performance that had the potential to deliver the kind of brutality that Kolkata has seldom been witness to, so it was a shame that things fizzled out. Their gig was akin to attending a sumptuous wedding feast but leaving after just having the appetizers.

The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

By now though the crowd seemed to have finally woken up from their slumber, and this was evident from their enthusiastic greeting of The Festival’s final act, Dubai’s Point Of View. POV got straight down to business and wowed the crowd with a whole range of tracks from their debut album Revolutionize the Revolutionary, which included ‘Chainsaw’, ‘Third Eye’, ‘Set Me Free’, ‘Unreal’ and the title track of the aforementioned album. Besides handling his vocal duties with aplomb, Nikhil Uzgare also tried hard connecting with the erstwhile passive crowd in between songs with some light-hearted banter, his attempts attaining a modicum of success. POV as a unit were extremely tight, and while they were definitely not metal, yet their brand of 90s influenced hard rock was a sure-fire hit with the Kolkata crowd. Rohit Joseph and Royden Mascarenhas in particular shone throughout with their impressive guitar work. POV’s drummer, homeboy Chirodeep Lahiri also played his heart out, and some of the biggest cheers of the evening were reserved especially for him.

The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

Despite all the fun they were having, POV knew that Kolkata was dying for Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal to make his much anticipated appearance on stage. The moment finally did arrive – and as guitarist Mascarenhas played the theme tune of the film Pink Panther, Bumblefoot made his much-awaited entrance and he was greeted by loud cheers from the same people who didn’t bother to even clap for The Festival’s opening artistes barely two hours ago. The atmosphere within the venue had all but transformed by now and the party had finally started! And although the numbers inside were still far from impressive, the crowd did not let go of the opportunity to show Bumblefoot who the true star of the evening was. Totally drenched in their love and energy, Bumblefoot made sure that the crowd experienced an evening they would not easily forget. Apart from accompanying POV on a few of their album songs, Bumblefoot made it a point to perform a few Guns ‘n Roses ditties, including ‘Used To Love Her’ from the GNR Lies album. In fact, he not only played but sang as well – and quite impressively too! The rendition of ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ was the standout moment of the evening, where apart from Bumblefoot and the two POV guitarists, Krosswindz’very own Vikramjit ‘Tuki’ Banerjee also joined them on stage and their four-pronged guitar jam was both a visual and aural treat. The crowd was going wild by now and it was only apt to end the evening’s proceedings with the classic GNR tune and crowd favorite, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ – the audience could not ask for anything more and for the next 6 minutes there was much jumping and headbanging and lusty screaming in the house. It was the perfect paisa vasool moment for the crowd, many of whom had been vociferous in their complaints of the so-called high ticket prices (the passes were for Rs. 500 and Rs. 900 only.)

The Festival III ft. Nothnegal, Hacride, Bumblefoot, Point of View at Nazrul Manch, Kolkata

And so the curtains came down on The Festival: Chapter III – and a glorious end it was despite its extremely tepid start. However despite the event’s firecracker of an ending, a bunch of questions do come to mind. For instance, has The Festival’s poor turnout discouraged the organizers to the point of bringing this event to an end for good? Are they still willing to risk attempts to bring down international rock and metal performers to The City of Joy? And would any event team in the country now be willing to risk hosting a metal gig in Kolkata after such a poor attendance? These and many more such questions need to be asked although at this moment their answers can only be speculated upon. Whatever these answers may be, E365’s brave effort to bring Kolkata onto the nationwide metal map did not go in vain – at least in the hearts of the 200 odd attendees that evening. Getting to view Nothnegal, Hacride, POV and the maestro Bumblefoot live was something they will not forget in the years to come. And hopefully E365 will be able to take heart and build upon this mini disaster so that future events such as these can happen with more success.

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Bumblefoot, Hacride, Point of View, Nothnegal at The Festival, Kolkata

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Rajdeep Chandra

Rajdeep Chandra is a photographer and bassist who likes to keep his girlfriends jealous.

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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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