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Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

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Day 3 of The Mad Festival was the final day in this glorious mélange of Music, Arts and Dance. While there was a small increase in the crowd, a few familiar faces were notably absent on an early Saturday morning, possibly nursing hangovers. If Day 1 was the day of the big-name acts (Indian Ocean, Raghu Dixit, Swarathma to name a few) and Day 2 the day of alternative, left-of-centre acts (Sulk Station, Bicycle Days, Schizophonic), Day 3 was easily the most versatile in the sheer range of acts lined up.

Confession time, folks – we almost missed Spud in the Box. In our endeavour to eat some authentic Ooty breakfast, we traversed through some narrow lanes, one-ways and parking-spot-less streets only to realize we were quite a distance from the venue. Nevertheless, we did manage to make it in time for the much-touted Spud in the Box. The “folk-rock” genre attributed to them in the schedule was a complete misnomer. S in the B play good ol’ rock and roll with no frills attached. After the heavy EDM/electronica inspired music of Day 2, it was refreshing to see Day 3 start off with a more “traditional” rock band. This young outfit was impressive in songwriting and execution especially on songs like ‘Train of Thought’,’ ‘Jokes Aside’ and ‘Attention Please’. The band mentioned that they’d been practicing hard in rehearsals to which someone in the audience rightly replied “It shows!” Drummer Vivaan Kapoor, stick-twirls and all, is a good showman and manages to maintain a steady groove which gives the other five musicians on stage room to breathe. Their set did sound repetitive toward the end with common lyrical themes that you’d expect from teenagers but don’t let that stop you from checking out this young and talented band in the future.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

We managed to catch only the last two songs by all-girl rock band Afflatus and we regretted it the instant the first of those two songs had been wrapped. Featuring a short-haired spunky vocalist stalking across the stage like a lioness, the band boasts a very tight sound. The sound itself is a post punk, mostly rock inspired affair but what probably did us in was the vocalist and her powerful pipes. With a faint hint of funk-y riffs overset by accented lyrics, for us, Afflatus was the dark horse of the festival.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Live Banned can lay claim to being India’s first live mash-up act. Seamlessly drawing from heavy metal classics, 90s Bollywood numbers, bubblegum pop, South Indian cinema and pretty much everything else in between, they are a tour de force in entertainment. Playing at the enviable early-afternoon slot to a boisterous and upbeat crowd and dressed in their trademark garishness, they rocked the capacity crowd present at the Blubaloo stage. Kicking things off with the not-sure-whether-to-headbang-or-tapanguchi ‘Ringamukka Kats’ that moved from the Swat Kats theme to ‘Appadi Podu’ and other such South Indian kitsch hits, they touched the nostalgia chord with the Generation Y folk present. Behind all the tomfoolery on stage, Live Banned comprises essentially excellent musicians in their own right as evinced by their debut single ‘The Auto-Tune’, a glorious humdinger about apathetic auto-drivers and their antics. Their set closed with the energetic RATM-and-Prabhu-Deva (yes, you read right) influenced ‘Rage in Ranipettai’ which had the 1000 odd crowd bouncing up and down during the final chorus. Live Banned were cruelly denied their encore due to time restraints but this was easily the best-received act of the fest up to that point. To paraphrase from Auto-Tune, “Live Banned makes us…so….haaaa”.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Peter Cat Recording Co. feature among our favourites. Their gypsy-ish influenced cabaret styling strikes a chord that few other bands can hit today. While there are enough and more bands to go around who can play decent metal, decent alternative and amazing blues, there are few who can sing in the macabre tone that PCRC employs. At The Mad festival, the band played to a sedate audience. Images of Hindi movies from the seventies flashed across the screen behind the band serving as a sort of anachronistic addition while the band crawled through the setlist on the cold, rainy morning. ‘Happiness’ with its slow yet delicious chord progression was our best pick from the set. The song fit the “mood”, and a few people near the barricade fell into a synchronous swaying, which was slightly hypnotic. However, ‘The Clown on the 22nd Floor’  is our usual choice when it comes to PCRC; it’s one of those songs that’s just a pleasure to listen to – the melancholy verses chained to the upbeat chorus also makes it one of the most popular songs by the band. Pariquel’  was also a crowd pleaser. The tone of the song is deceiving, and if you listen closely you’d hear a world of pain in the lyrics. “My girl, she won’t confess, but she’ll be your lover and maybe your guest. Her eyes shine, they’ll drape you blind, cut you in pieces, and rape your insides.” Suryakanth whipped out a megaphone during the latter half of the set and there are a few amusements in life that will equal a man planted on stage singing into a megaphone with such force that will make you take a few steps back! The band ended to the usual requests for an encore, which we found surprising since the audience had been politely detached through most of the set.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Within this music-rollercoaster ride, where music poured from many parts of India and the world, let us pass the western progressions and desi patterns, beyond metal-aggression, rock-n-roll domination, or acoustic-submission. Let’s take a break. Let’s talk about temple bells, ghungrus and flutes, tungnas, sarangis and madals, about freedom, happiness, and home. Let’s talk about Kutumba. Kutumba is an instrumental-folk music group from Kathmandu, and they humbly accept the massive mission they are out to accomplish – preserve Nepalese culture and art by spreading the love and happiness through music. And when on a Sunday afternoon in the hills of South India, you sit down and watch them play, you don’t feel too far away from the eastern mountains. It’s not just the texture that’s put together with the playing of exotic (and cherished) instruments, it’s so much about the melodies they create, and emotions they express. They played many traditional tunes and also their own compositions. There were songs about liberty, voice of the youth, restlessly happy hearts, even about infidelity, and for most part there were no lyrics. The band introduced the song and the music delivered the message. The tungna may start an upbeat song and when you nod your head or sway your body or even tap your feet, the sarangi may suddenly join and play a melancholy tune and the mood changes from celebration to reminiscence, the madal beat recreates a sense of urgency, simultaneously the flute brings composure, and it slowly builds all over again leading to the second bout of ecstatic dancing. And this is just a sample of what the hour long experience was. The band connected well with the crowd, and when they asked for us to join either with clapping, or singing and dancing along, we obeyed as if we were hypnotized. By the time they concluded and bid farewell, the feeling of Resham Firiri (a fluttering heart, such as silk in the wind) was too hard to hold back, and we continued “… sometimes singing, sometimes dancing, resham firiri…”

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Asima on the Calaloo stage, was up next. Putting together an ensemble that primarily had  5 vocalists, almost “Carnatic Acapella” accompanied by various instruments, this act from Kerala was definitely different from the rest of the lineup. Starting off with an invocation to Lord Ganesh, that began in a 5/4 rhythm and moved to a regular 4/4 rhythm, Asima didn’t really jump out and grab the audience’s attention. Their manager then proceeded to introduce the act and their style of music, followed by which they proceeded to present their interpretation of Kumar Gandharva’s interpretation of a Kabir panthi. The kanjira in this piece shone through quite nicely on the mix with some lovely, unique harmonies. Their next piece ‘Swagatham’ was on the Mishra Chapu tala (alternately, 7/4). Asima sounded a little flatter on this one and didn’t really impress. The second part of their set did impress though. Launching into a traditional Kerala folk song with gusto, the presence of the guitars was finally felt, the overall sound was much more dynamic and several rhythm changes were pulled off nicely. The pick of the setlist was their rendition of Swati Thirunal’s thillana in Raga Dhanashree. While not quite as heavy and energetic as Agam’s rendition on the previous afternoon, Asima’s version had its moments, with the 5 voices coming through in a clear, crisp manner that highlighted both the lead and the backing vocals. The rhythm changes were also handled with aplomb. All in all, Asima showcased a different brand of music at The Mad festival, one that several audience members, even those unfamiliar with Carnatic and Kerala folk music appreciated.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

By the time Slain had got on the Calaloo Stage on the third day, at 5 p.m., the sky had grown cloudy and chilly winds had started blowing. On this day, the progressive rock band from Bangalore chose to play with a 10-piece Concordia Choir. The band had undergone a few lineup changes recently and was playing with a new vocalist, Ranjit Abraham formerly of Parousia. Slain’s music is immensely melodic with songs praising the Almighty Lord. Bryden Lewis, the lead guitarist, is especially brilliant with his solos – his fingers fly over the fretboard faster than the eye can see. The choir gave a certain fullness to Slain’s music and added a new dimension to it. The gig staples like ‘Your Majesty’  were made more interesting because of the choir’s presence. However, the sound levels for the choir were a bit low in the mix and, hence, it took some effort to discern the singing. Overall, Slain put on a mighty energetic performance and audience was seen enjoying it really well, some of them were even crowd surfing.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

With an unexpected bit of scorching, late afternoon sun beating down at the venue, the Sanjay Divecha Project took to the stage. There’s a snowball’s chance in hell of Sanjay Divecha disappointing any sort of audience (20 people at an impromptu busking or 200 people at a festival) – the man is a genius – though we were wary when we heard that the line-up was brand new and it was the first time they were playing together onstage. But we’ve got to mention in particular that the sound was really good. All the instruments were suspended in this perfect balance throughout; if you cut the set into chunks and listened to it only in these segments, you could immediately spot the consistency. As pretentious as that sounds, it’s got truth to it! The only downside was that there was a mismatch when Sanjay and Chandana Bala sang together that was hard to miss. Starting off with an invocation – the band’s crisp sound had the audience in its sway. Sanjay accompanied Chandana in the shloka. The embellishments made to the invocation did that much more to convince the audience that several musicians who had played onstage during the rest of the festival were being actively outclassed – as unfair as it is to make comparisons. The first song ‘The Meeting’  had a catchy melody that was set over by swaras instead of words. While starting out peppy, we were more taken by the interlude – a delicate score on the acoustic where Sanjay played off a litany of interesting percussive sounds from Sanket Nayak that later singled down into just the Cajon. We were particularly taken by the percussion – Sanket had the tabla, a high-hat, a Djembe and the Cajon among other smaller instruments under his command. The band played some material from Sanjay’s album Full Circle and also included some new tracks. By far the track with the most feeling was ‘Le Gayo Jiya’, which is a familiar track off the album. The entire performance had a very appreciative audience lolling around on the grassy lawn, immersing themselves in the music, even so far as to forget about the scorching heat.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, OotyMad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

A large crowd had gathered at the Blubaloo stage in anticipation of Thermal and a Quarter and when Bruce greeted everyone with a “Hello, you Mad people” there was a veritable uproar from front row glued to the barricades. TAAQ kicked things off with “the second song about autos” in the same day and a crowd favourite, ‘Meter Mele (one and a half)’ was an instant success. I’ve always wondered how the band can bring so much soul into a song about auto drivers and their proclivity towards asking for fares so high that it’s almost damnable. Any song we’d written ourselves on the subject matter would’ve been considerably more violent. Techies in the crowd squirmed and grinned uncomfortably as Bruce poked fun at how much his hometown (Bangalore) had changed thanks to the influx of Information Technology and everybody squirmed (or hooted) when he mentioned that the next song ‘Mighty Strange’ was about the terabytes of free music we download that find an undisturbed abode in our hard drives. The percussion on the beginning of this song is a cornucopia of sounds that stands out despite playing a relatively small part. The upbeat bass section and the light melody can camouflage the piquant lyrics if you aren’t listening close enough. It’s a technique (consciously or unconsciously) employed by the band that adds layers to all their songs. If you think you know everything about a TAAQ song, think again. The rest of the set went predictably well. We weren’t too moved by their cover of ‘In Bloom’ but a live performance of that song merits less focus on the technique than the feel of a Nirvana song played live.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

God’s Robots came onto the Callaloo stage and the first thing that hits you is that, visually, they’re an interesting band. A wisp of a lady accompanied by eclectic bearded gent – you wonder, whatever could they have in common to make music together? Music, mind you, that was the result of steady 6-month collaboration overseas between the Mumbai-based Shridevi Keshavan (Tamaara) and Janaka Atugoda who was in San Francisco at the time. The dedication impresses you. The duo walked on stage (accompanied by a percussionist) and set the mood immediately with Janaka playing some fast-paced synth pop and Tamaara layering snatches of haunting vocals over it. It seemed an unlikely sound from the duo but the crowd appreciated it nonetheless. There’s a heavy bass intrusion every now and then – this could seriously have gone either way – but we think they pulled it off without anything seeming untoward. Our favourite of the set was ‘Falling’; on the album the song is languid and mired in a lethargic sort of feel but live, onstage, with Tamaara singing with feeling and grooving along to the sitar imbued beat, there was nothing like it! As a live act, people tend to underestimate the difficulty an electronic duo has in recreating the sound on an album but God’s Robots doesn’t hold to it and changed things around in their favour. Kudos to them!

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Indialucia, the final musical act on the Blubaloo stage, promised an interesting setlist. With some members hailing from Poland, they described themselves as a Flamenco act that also incorporates traditional Indian music in their repertoire. The very meager crowd was due to Dele Sosimi and the Afrobeat orchestra having taken off on the Calaloo stage to a rousing reception. Indialucia flattered to deceive. The overall sound was not as impressive as one would have hoped for, although there were several flashes of brilliance from every member of the band. The confluence of flamenco and Indian music was not immediately apparent, the band clearly sounding largely separate with a not very apparent confluence. The presence of a Flamenco dancer in the middle of the set did liven things up a little, but by and large, the set by Indialucia was a little off the mark and uninspiring.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Dele Sosimi is the person who played keys and also directed music for the originator of the Afrobeat genre (Fela Kuti). At the Mad festival, Dele’s was one of the closing acts. His Afrobeat ensemble performed as a nine-piece outfit, fully loaded with bass, guitar, drums, congas, a three-piece brass section (trombone, tenor sax, and trumpet), a female dancer cum backing vocalist, and Dele on keys and vocals. Their music is a mix of traditional Nigerian music and bubbly jazz and funk. While Dele took the center-stage playing keyboards, his chanting-vocals created appealing hooks. Very soon, this unpretentious performer began commanding authority with his baritone singing and crowd-connect. The songs were no rush affair. Every song was allowed to build, sometimes starting with a funky guitar or a groovy bass swing, other times with the riffs coming from the brass section, the African beats and psychedelic keys just glazing it all. And then there were those eccentric dance moves which Dele solicited – the kind that require circular or front-back movement of the pelvic area, but which the crowd was hesitant to oblige to. “You keep it reserved for behind closed doors”, he joked. It looked entertaining on a guy with Dele’s build though. To sum it up, we went there as irregular listeners of the Afrobeat genre, expecting congas and standard dundun patterns, but the brass with funk and jazz, the dance moves, the trippy hooks and the overall psychedelic scoring bowled us over. Next thing we did – buy the CD and get it autographed by the main man. Dele Sosimi, we will remember you. 

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Back at the Blubaloo stage, Isha Sharvani and her expansive troupe closed out the festival with their hypnotic dance routines. With colourful costumes and exquisite choreography, the troupe fittingly brought the 3-day extravaganza to an end.

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

 

Mad Finale to The Mad Festival, Ooty

Elsewhere at the venue, people in high-spirits danced to the impromptu djembe jams that spouted in the thicket of trees between the two stages. One heard “CSK CSK” chants only for the predictable “RCB RCB” riposte a few minutes later. Cigarettes were bummed off strangers, blurry cell-phone camera images were recorded and contact details were exchanged as the festival faded into the night. Many of us bumped into some of the artists who had gamely chosen to stay and witness the rest of the acts. The warm communal vibe that everyone experienced was unlike anything we had experienced at a Indian music festival and we wished it wouldn’t end so soon. Alas, all good things do come to an end and we grudgingly headed back to the campsite trying very hard to overcome the effects of the alcohol to make mental notes about the festival and what a festival it was!

Bharath Bevinahally

The writer is a generally fat, slow moving creature, who loves to eat and swears by South Indian filter coffee. He also daylights as a consultant for an IT major.

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The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

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The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival wasn’t promoted as vociferously this year; while we’re wondering why, we’re also thankful that it panned out that way because the number of festival attendees this time during peak hours was just right – it wasn’t claustrophobic and it wasn’t marred by huge patches of empty grass/tables with people desperately trying to look like they’re having a good time.

Counterculture in Whitefield, known for its extremely chilled-out vibe (you can take your dogs with you to a gig), was buzzing with activity a little past ten a.m. on D-day. It was amusing to watch people bustling back and forth toting everything from humongous ladders to newspaper sculptures to kites! Quiet warnings of “watch it!” or “duck” were uttered more than once by friendly bystanders.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

While the food counter wasn’t open that early (the event was to begin at 11 a.m.), people already had the tenacious audacity to walk around with bottles of Millers glued to their fingertips (whiskey was our poison, so we’re not judging)! The venue itself had been done up with kitschy, unusual displays of art made from recycled stuff. The dragonflies, with tea strainers for eyes, bobbing happily above the bands while they played, were particularly amusing as was the centipede-like structure in a far corner. The fest had displays of art by Ari Jayaprakash, literally strung up, and featured a counter with Astral Cat creations.

Members from the Chennai-based hard rock band Totem got onstage to set up a little over an hour after go time. They had the misfortune of playing the earliest set to a crowd that was only just getting lulled into the appreciative mood. There was a short burst of a riff with an electro tinge to it and the ten second vocal that was belted over it was impressive. Anticipation heightened as the band started in earnest but while the sound was fine and the vocals were noticeably good, they didn’t come together as they should have. The bass was particularly impressive with even, deliberate plucking; it overrode all other instruments, not only in technique but also in sheer volume.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

The songs they performed, while filled with angst, didn’t bring anything new to the table. We were three songs in and still waiting for something to sound as good as that ten-second sound check. The vocals were impressive in parts and we even appreciated the on-pitch maniacal laughter that accompanied the song ‘Little Gravity’. The last song was a bass-driven number with elongated notes but the incomprehensible lyrics were a tad disappointing.

After the relatively enthusiastic applause for Totem died down, the band introduced their successors – Mushroom Lake. This band’s set was soothing and the words “ambient sound” were being flung around as people walked back and forth between the outdoor area with the stage setup and the indoor area with the food.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

This band had a settled feel to them, not only because they were seated for the most part, but also because of the sound they produced; there was a definite hint of whale song at certain points. A minimum of five minutes for a song, but what songs! While they were repetitive, there wasn’t any complaining about their finesse. The band was in sync all throughout despite the fact that they weren’t even looking at each other!

All four band members were bent over their instruments, hair shadowing their faces while they strummed, plucked and tapped for all they were worth. ‘6 A.M.’, ‘Acid Rain’ and ‘The Day After’ had the audience lulled into a sense of comfort as any beautiful Saturday morning should.

When Adam and the Fish Eyed Poets sauntered on stage later that the evening, we smirked because we were one of the few in on their secret. Here it is: there is no Adam. The frontman is Chennai-based singer songwriter Kishore Krishna who formed the current lineup of the Poets to promote material from two previously released albums. The four-member band put on a quick fire set with short punchy songs. A consistent post-punk sound with characteristic overdriven guitars sound punctuated with staccato-like riffs and break sections, a heavy chorus with extensive use of the crash, blended with some lyrical wizardry made for a brilliant show.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

We happened to walk in right on ‘Little Monkeys’ and couldn’t help but notice Krishna’s Telecaster with analog stomp boxes. Typically up-tempo and energetic with classy crunchy-fuzz guitar tones and with running bass lines, the songs had Krishna moving from whispers to a rough-voiced lad to full throat screams. Often, even his vocals were drowned out by the music and the lyrics unfortunately were barely discernible. A few songs later, the band pulled a switcheroo with the guitarist and bassist exchanging places on a couple of tracks to end the show. The audience hollered for “one more”, and the boys obliged much to everyone’s delight.

We caught up with Krishna after his set for a little conversation about his influences and aspirations. The sound they have arrived at can be mostly attributed to the late 50s Stax/Volt Record Label’s music era along with the late 70s post punk movement. He said he prefers using his analog pedals because with the limitations in terms of sound, comes the opportunity to arrive at a distinct original sound. It definitely scores over a multi-light-bleeping-console with so much processing power it could take the focus away from the simple things. Since the material draws so much on the songwriting and lyrical themes, their next album has a very imaginative and dystopian concept album with an alternating first person narrative of a 30-year marital setting between a Dyke and a Schizoid. Heavy!

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

We were just getting comfortable with watching a good act on stage when Adil and Vasundhara walked on. Adil Manuel (guitar) and Vasundhara Vidlur (vocals) head this project that experiments with Latin-jazz, jazz-rock and funk grooves with an extremely intimate RnB and soul-influenced vocal style. Adil and Vasundhara performed songs off their self-titled debut EP that was recorded after they formed the outfit in January of 2009. Most of their tracks on the recording feature as soulful acoustic melodies, so Adil went unplugged for the first few songs of their set. Saurabh on bass and their short-notice replacement drummer provided a funky, low-key groove backdrop to the dominating foreground of Adil’s vast repertoire of nomadic jazz voicing and inversions, harmonically balancing Vasundhara’s soul singing.

Tracks like ‘Just Another Blues’ and ‘Pinocchio Times’ showcased Vasundhara’s dynamics with a powerfully projected voice that could playfully shift from sultry and husky to a strong, big-bodied high note effortlessly. Her impressive stage presence is complemented by Adil’s fluid, McLaughlin-esque solo spots that leave you dazzled for their complexity. You could catch the bass and drums always right in the groove pocket, even over an odd-metered time that Vasundhara simply soared over, powerful and elegant at the same time. Adil had a ball with his ‘Cry Baby’ and went beserk on a solo section. On one Latin beat, Saurabh provided the bass and chord voice with a two-finger tap sequence over the guitar solo.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

They ended their set with a powerful song ‘Blue Bashing’, about a spat between two people that Vasundhara wrote after one such incident with Adil! While neither has been trained formally in music, Adil’s biggest inspiration is the legendary Allan Holdsworth and finally had a chance of meeting his idol recently in Mumbai. He also cites greats like Scott Henderson, John Scofield and Frank Zappa for their techniques that continue to inspire his sound. He says it is critical for a musician to develop a sense of “vocabulary” that speaks for your music. Without developing and improving on a vocabulary, musicians cannot achieve an individual style and would end up sounding like just another guitarist. He went on to say if Indian musicians took the effort to work on their identity and sound more original we would not have to seek fame and riches elsewhere. Adil has been a professional musician for years now, having played in bands like Asphyxia, MRP, Polio, The Rock Opera and more commercially with Bandish, Silk Route and Indian Ocean.

Vasundhara said her vocal techniques initially developed while performing with the Choral collaborative ‘Artists Unlimited’ in Delhi, where she was exposed to Gospel, Soul and RnB sounds. She has since performed with international composers and even voiced characters on-screen. Her strength also lies in the fact that she is comfortable singing in French and has performed for various French Music festivals.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

After a fitful conversation with Adil and Vasundhara, we had spotted this deranged looking guy with a suit in the audience and thought “Man is he at the wrong gig!” Turns out it was Nikhil, the drummer for the band The Jass B’stards, who incidentally was celebrating his birthday. We had seen a video of these B’stards supporting the Indie singer-songwriter Noush Like Sploosh and were mighty curious about them. There’s an aura of what-are-these-guys-about-ness that surrounds and shadows them. A gamut of instruments was brought up on stage, some shakers, some tambourines, a Theremin (which didn’t work) and two fezs. Stefan (keyboards), Tony (Bass) and Nikhil (Drums) belted out their first track ‘Samba Sin Titulo’ or roughly translated from the Polish – ‘Samba without a title’, a wild instrumental jam led with an Electric Piano melody. Nikhil’s up-tempo, double-time style drumming kept the beat super-pacy along with Tony’s consistency on the bass.

It was more than evident these guys were having way more fun – with their antics and tomfoolery – than the handful of free spirits right below the stage gypsying around to the groove. Stefan scurried off to return with a transistor radio, belting out some static-scratchy Hindi tunes off it. It’s amazing how furiously a drummer can play even with a tweed suit on, so furious and erratic that the other two had to tackle him just to keep his impulses from hurting himself! Stefan kept things wacky with a conductor’s whistle, crying away over some looping convoluted sounds and textures on his Nord keyboard. It was fun all the way with the B’stards, so much that they called on Gauri – another prominent Indie singer songwriter – for a song they haven’t played before. But that’s okay; The Jass B’stards have refined the art of not practicing to an unattainable level. Gauri sang over some improvised lyrics and music, with a bold, broad tom-boyish vocal range, before she darted off stage to an equally improvised ending. Their last track featured some vocals by Stefan, poetry even with small mellow sections in between the main groove sequence that had a sense of terror rising within the music, creating epic tension that crescendoed into a dramatic piano-led outro.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

We met with the band post set, and must confess, had the best interview ever. You cannot get a straight answer from these guys and each question meets with pithy, wry, sarcastic humor bouncing off each other just like on stage. It’s worth mentioning some of the band’s influences include the smell of a damp cat, poorly translated Chinese menus and creaky wooden stairs. Nikhil mentioned that of late, he’s been listening to some good Russian music. That was a marked improvement from the bad Russian music he’d been listening to all this while.

Nikhil – “You should also listen to some fine porn music”

Us – “What’s the best kind?”

Nikhil – “Vintage of course”

Four-piece ensemble Peter Cat Recording Company took to the stage next. My only regret is not being to meet with the band post gig, because these guys have the freshest new sound on the block. Their music has been attempted to be described with tags like Gypsy Jazz with Midnight Moonlit Car Chase music inspired by Frank Sinatra and old Bollywood film music. The music has lyrics that are cynical and sinister which, accompanied by Suryakant’s smoky velvet voice, make it sound like ‘failed circus music’. There was a light drizzle in the air when they took to the stage as the penultimate band. Their music is so ethereal and bizarre, yet has this reassuring old world charm like a black and white film soundtrack on vinyl.

The Big Mushroom Cloud Festival at Counterculture, Bangalore

PCRC started out as material written by Suryakant Sawhney in San Francisco, which he continued when he moved back to India in 2008. He met members of a local metal outfit Lycanthropia with Karan (drums), Rohan (Bass) and Anindya (Guitars, Keyboard) to form PCRC to record their debut album. They performed the opening track of the album ‘Pariquel’, which seems to talk about delusional lovers and prostitutes, a recurrent lyrical theme. ‘Love Demons’ featured an extended surreal sequence, plunging into a heady mélange of sounds with a quasi-harmonium/Russian organ. The audience just had to have another song, the band brought on the popular ‘Clown on the 22nd Floor’ which has this whimsical swingy carnival sound that ends with a Hindi film dialogue playing in the background.

At the end of the festival, we caught up with Abhishek from Logic and Madness who said the intention of this year’s format was to open up the festival to new sounds and new bands. An alternative festival to bring together off beat culture, art and music and form a collective that would manifest in an out-worldliness of influence on contemporary images and sounds.

It was rather unfortunate that we had to inevitably miss out on the performances by Stuck in November, Avilente, The Family Cheese, Schizophonic and The Bicycle Days; we’re sure we’ll catch them some other time!

Sharanya Nair

Sharanya is a 'writer' and an 'editor'. You know the type. She loves her music too much to share.

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