Freedom Jam is an annual gig held every year on August 15th to commemorate Independence Day. The first edition was way back in 1997 at Ravindra Kalakshetra but the location was shifted to The Club soon after. The legendary all-night concerts at The Club popularized this free gig but sadly its popularity diminished after the live music ban. The 2009 edition recorded one of its lowest ever turnouts thanks to it being held in some far flung location in Hebbal(No Bread). After last year’s damp squib, the organizers decided to change the format around by having genre-specific gigs at various locations. A reasonably good move, I thought, because no self respecting metalhead will want to endure 30 mins of Bhavageethe.
Day 1: I am kicked to see that there is a venue ear-marked for ‘experimental, avant-garde and electronica’ music. I trudge in to the venue – Jaaga and find that there are more musicians on stage than in the crowd. (Crowd – 3, Musicians – 6!) At one point, someone from the neighboring building asks the firaang-in-charge to turn the volume down. They oblige! Aargh. The amps don’t go to 11 here. The music itself was uninteresting – six random musicians jamming with absolutely no direction or purpose. I exit, stage left, not before I helped myself to some free salad.
It was Day 2 and I chose to go to Kyra. I walked in and heard Bourbon Street covering Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’. I wouldn’t cover that song again if i were them (Disclaimer: Steely Dan is my favorite band.) They proceeded to cover Phish’s ‘Free‘ and the venerable ‘Tic Tic Tic.’ Blasphemeous. Only Dr Rajkumar can do justice to that song.
Verses were up next and they brought some much needed energy to the proceedings. They have my nomination for ‘Worst Goateed Band’ in Bangalore. Its nice to see that they had brought a Tam-Bram entourage of 50-somethings along. As the band doled out some heavy melodic metal originals, the entourage nodded in approval. A stray fist pump is seen. They know that the local music scene is in good hands. The keyboardist Sagar impressed with his lightning fast keyboard playing and his vocal skills. The band departed amidst much fanfare and the entourage followed. The average age of the crowd was thus reduced by half.
Prism were up next and I took a power-nap during their sound setup. Prism’s set was equally snooze-worthy. They conveniently omitted a solo on their cover of Mr Big’s ‘Take Cover’. Taking Cover, indeed! The organizers were kind enough to have a stopwatch program running on the screen behind the stage to indicate the time remaining for each band. An ugly pop-up appears, with a surly reminder to buy the full version of the software. I piteh da foo’ who dun pay for da full version.
Prog rockers Distortion Culture were on stage next. They informed the crowd that theirs was a wholly original set and then promptly announced a song called ‘Eleventh Hour’. The metalheads immediately sprung to their feet in protest! Oh but no need to furrow the brow, it’s just a coincidence that their own comp shares the name with a LoG song. They played another o.c titled ‘Unforseen Truth’ which was superb. The guitarist Vivek put on a good show although he smiles way too much. Jeez son, where’s ya metal face?
Heavy metal heavyweights Inner Sanctum were on stage next while Distortion Culture were finishing their set. They loaded up two massive Krank(with a K, mind you) amps onto the already impressive sound setup. Precious time was spent on unloading and connecting equipment. Sigh. If only all the bands spent less time practicing arpeggios and more time practicing gear setup! The wait was well worth it though. Sanctum tore the roof down with a heavy-as-hell set. Vocalist Gaurav was all fury on stage as he kicked a JBL monitor down (For those of you keeping score- Gaurav 1 JBL 0). The organizers yielded to the audience’s chants for one more song. One ‘Agent of Chaos‘ later I was deaf in one ear. IS had pwned everyone. I decided to leave for the day and exit, stage right.
Compared to the travesty that was Day 1, Day 2 was satisfying. Freedom Jam still remains an important day in the Bangalore gig calendar and continues to be an excellent platform for lesser known bands to showcase their skills. With some sharper publicity and organization skills, FJ could be bigger and better next year. One small gripe though- the quality of food at Kyra affected vocalist Gaurav Basu to such an extent that he was spotted chewing on the mic wire on numerous occasions. Hopefully next year we’ll have some bread.