What do you get when you take poor publicity, lack of experience and add some shoddy time management to it? You get angry and frustrated bands, no music playing, and an enormous gathering of empty plastic chairs as an audience for an empty stage.
It was meant to be the finale of the Bangalore league of the Indian National Autocross Championship (INAC) and Rock Hammer – a battle of bands “organized to showcase Music Talent among the Indian Youth” was to be followed by the headlining act Parikrama. What we got in the end was a compromised show after hours of waiting, and no Parikrama.
By the time the stage was setup, it was 8 p.m., which meant that it was going to be either the veterans – Parikrama playing or Rock Hammer – young blood showcasing their music to the world. It was then that Parikrama took a decision befitting their stature, that is, to cancel their performance so that the bands that had been waiting since the morning could finally play. It was a gesture well-received by the bands and the few audience members remaining, who had been waiting quite pointlessly until then, and for no fault of theirs. On being asked the reason for their decision, Parikrama’s keyboardist Subir Malik said, “Parikrama has been playing for 21 years now. Given the situation, it is more important that the kids get on stage. It was originally meant to be their show anyway.”
The bands taking part in the competition were Paper Sun, The News, Hungry and Raptura Anima. They were asked to reach the venue at 11 a.m and their performance was supposed to start at 3:30 p.m. The bands had to wait for the entire afternoon until the evening as the lights and sound equipment were being set up. Parikrama began their soundcheck at around 6:00 in the evening, at a time when some people were trickling into the venue, giving us some hope. But after they finished, there was a problem with the power supply which further delayed the start. As the members of Hungry put it, “The band has been hungry since morning!”
At about 8 p.m., the technical glitches were resolved and a surprisingly optimistic management decided to start the show. The participant bands were asked to play 10 minute slots each, so that Parikrama could start soon after and finish before the curfew. This received severe objection from the bands and didnt seem practical as well- the bands had just begun their soundcheck. This was when Parikrama took their decision to let the bands play at least 20 minute sets first and then see how the things pan out.
Paper Sun took to the stage first and then there was music. Finally! Their music was simply pure and fun rock music. The first two songs with their pentatonic funk riffs on one side and the wailing organ on the other were a delight to listen to. Their last song ‘House In Ruins’ shook things up a bit with an imposing Arabian-sounding guitar riff and impressive keyboard and guitar solos. The vocals matched up too and maintained the middle-eastern feel of the song while still retaining the energy of a rock song.
The News played second and did a very energetic set. The first song ‘Sunrise’ had the guitar in an alternate tuning creating some unique chord patterns and an odd-time signature. It was a slightly sober beginning to the second half of their performance, which involved weirder rhythms and time-meter changes, and complex jazzy chords. The last song ‘Shell’ was one of the most colourful performances that night, a celebration of a verse followed by a progressive darkening of the sound as the lyrics went into “Down, Down…”. Without an electric guitar, the keyboard riffs played a vital role in filling up the entire soundscape and did it flawlessly, creating an atmosphere when required and being hard-hitting and badass when the rhythm got upbeat.
Hungry stepped onto the stage with their usual air of excitement and confidence. They started quite normally and went about their set of ‘Hungry Boys’, ‘Boombox House’ and ‘Jungle Song’. But somewhere in the middle of the monkey squeals in Jungle Song, the band went into turbo-mode led by a shirtless Sonal Chittiappa taking complete advantage of the wireless mic as he ran, hopped and jumped all around the almost empty hall and even dived into the audience, while at the same time squeezing every inch of angst and frustration with the day’s proceedings into his voice. It was a spectacle worth watching; like a modern day Indian Morrison, mad and free with the music ever so steadily running with him.
Raptura Anima was the surprise package in the end. Who would have thought the group of “school children” practicing solemnly in a corner would deliver a performance powerful enough to make everyone look up at them in admiration and feel old and boring themselves? Well, that is just what they did! They played an extremely tight rendition of Ozzy Ozbourne’s ‘Crazy Train’ followed by their own compositions. The band members, all aged between 15 and 18, gave us a nostalgic blast from the past reminding everyone of the raw untouched energy of a teenager discovering hard rock for the first time.
Though the last hour and a half of the night, before the cops arrived, was interesting, each band could showcase only a snippet of their talent. Hungry’s on-stage extravaganza won them the first place. It was by no means a great day for anyone in that hall, but we did get to see a wonderful display of affection by a daddy-band for the “kids”. On being asked their stand on the organizers’ mess-up, Parikrama said they wouldn’t think too much about the matter as it was the first time INAC was organizing such an event.
Still, we would hope that incidents like these would remind organizers not to organize their “rock fests” without thinking of two important things that are astonishingly missed out often – the interests of the bands, and that of the audience.