It’s not often that you get to see a bass guitarist steal the band’s thunder (had to slip in a vague Harley reference there), but the Bangalore leg of the Harley Rock Riders gig at the revamped Kyra bore witness to this. The line-up at the concert included the Delhi-based Half Step Down, local favorites Thermal and a Quarter and a host of Harleys making up the supporting cast. Swarathma’s Jishnu was on stage in an unfamiliar emcee role and had traded his usual garb for a Harley Davidson jacket!
Half Step Down, led by vocalist Dhaval Mudgal (who happens to be Shubha Mudgal’s son) was the first band on stage and boy, did they kill it! Working in a few tidy covers into their set, HSD were full o’ flair and their reggae-influenced-rock instantly struck a chord with the audience. Guitarist Alvaro Lopez expertly handled the breaking of not one but two strings during HSD’s cover of ‘Hush’ and managed to play out a reasonable solo without missing a beat. Bassist Carl Abraham shone through the HSD originals like ‘Working Hour’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’. His finger-picking technique and sense of groove were impeccable and HSD maintained a fun and energetic vibe throughout their set. As a testament to their reggae roots they performed a tight cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’. HSD’s debut self-titled album has a few stand-out tracks but one song that doesn’t feature on the album titled ‘Mojo’ is only played live, for a reason! The song, possibly the best one of the gig, HAS to be heard live. HSD rounded their set off with a cover of Jet’s ‘Are you Gonna Be My Girl’ and one of their own compositions as the crowd appreciatively clapped for these capital fellows. (Although I could swear I heard a stray “play Coldplay” shout-out from the crowd!)
Thermal and a Quarter took to the stage and opened their set with their unreleased track ‘Simply Be’. I’ve never been disappointed at a TAAQ show and this was no exception as Bruce Lee Mani and Co, and I’m quoting HSD’s facebook page here, were a masterclass on stage. ‘Galacktiqua’, an angry song about loud billboards and neon signs and possibly the band’s loudest song was next on their setlist. A person in the audience even contrived to break his glass just as Bruce sang the lyric “Don’t lose your grip on that wine glass.”
TAAQ proceeded to do a rather surprising, Paul Anka-ish cover of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’ which they followed up with their dedication to Christ College (faux Mallu accent and all) ‘Holy Jose’. One can argue that even the previous song was a sly dedication to their Christ college roots. TAAQ then played the instrumental track ‘Hoedown’, a traditional American folk track made most famous by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It is this sort of eclectism that makes Thermal such an admired and respected band within the local music scene. The crowd, which consisted largely of Harley owners (and some large Harley owners) wasn’t familiar with TAAQ’s oeuvre and unfortunately never really warmed up to the terrific music on display. (this time I DID hear a “play Coldplay” shout-out from the crowd.)
The show ended with a soulful cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and their most popular composition ‘Paper Puli’. Prakash was virtuoso on the bass as he effortlessly kept up with Bruce’s fancy guitar chops, even managing to overshadow him on one of his solos. Rajeev on the drums was tight as ever as TAAQ pulled off yet another impeccable show. During a trivia Q & A session during the interval, I even managed to win a pair of Sennheiser earphones! Honestly, I have only good things to say about this concert as it was the right mix of fun, high energy and really good music. Here’s hoping that Harley fans who love the trademark low-rumbling double potato sound of their bikes took a liking to the awesome sound of Indian Rock Music.