Tag Archives: R.E.M

Sound Awake – Reattempting EDM

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India has always been recognized worldwide as a land of festivals. Love them or hate them, none of us complain when we get that random holiday from work. DNA Networks, with their new project Sound Awake tried to add the Indian flavor to an already established concept – EDM festivals – which have been a major driver of music tourism in Europe and the Americas.

DNA went all the way to secure some of the top international DJs who have a history of performing at the top EDM festivals and brand names with that one famous track separating them from the total unknowns. To their credit, being popular is not the same as being good, and we gave them the respect they deserved and went in with an open mind.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

Sound Awake was hosted by Bangalore on the 4th of August at the Supernova Convention Centre, starting early at 11 AM but going on till the city limits of 11 PM. The venue was spacious, discreet and thus hilariously far for city dwellers. The headliners for the first ever Indian EDM festival were Darude, Taboo, Yves LaRock and Dirty Vegas; of which only two managed to turn up for the event. The media were informed of Taboo and Darude’s absence on arrival.

However, most people forget that music is only half of what makes a good music festival. Just look at Tomorrowland – you can find the top DJs of the world in Ibiza or Rio at most times of the year; what you won’t find is the epic stages and mad crowds that make the experience what it is. This is something DNA picked up on and the entire event was very visually appealing. The four stages each had their own charm, and with the flea market thrown in you could get that relaxing Goa feel of being close to the beach.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

Now let’s take a look at what the four stages had to offer. First up was the MTV Indie stage – quite ordinary looking, this stage went live at 11 AM opening up the musical proceedings by hosting local DJ talent that played to a crowd of less than 100 people, trying their very best to get over the Sunday morning blues. Local heroes DJ Clement and DJ Ivan played on till 2 and were the first bright sets of the day, more on DJ Ivan later.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

The next to open was the Heineken Hed Kandi stage – a crystal ball housing the DJ made this one of my favorite stages. The ball was lit up with some mind blowing visuals as the sun went down and truly got the party started. By this time the crowd had grown to the higher hundreds and the festival vibes were kicking in. The highlights were Igor Project and DJ Dan Van, who was occasionally complimented by two beautiful women from Ministry of Sound playing the Violin and Sax respectively – adding the missing Oomph to some standard commercial mixes. Igor Project was involved with the crowd from right after his set, all the way till the end and played the perfect MC – keeping the party going every time the crowd lost interest. The set list was quite well mixed with the stand out tracks being sing-along mixes of ‘Summertime Sadness’ (only because of the amazing visuals and that one beat drop) and ‘We Are Your Friends’, which had a slightly edgy thump about it missing from most of the other songs.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

Kingfisher Ministry of Sound stage was the third stage to open at the festival – with big names like Santero, Tim Cullen and Shane Kehoe getting the best seats in the house – on top of a massive speaker pile up setting that I wish I could re-create in my living room! Upbeat mixes of ‘Hello’ and ‘We Found Love’ kept with the sing along theme of the festival. Shane Kehoe did briefly take it to the next level with a monster mix of ‘Camorra’ by Nicky Romero with bass drops sent from heaven, immaculate scratch timings and perfect fade outs for the downtempo bits. Expectedly so, the Bangalore crowd had the best reaction to ‘Losing My Religion’ by R.E.M and ‘Get Lucky’, the new Daft Punk super hit. At this stage you could see a theme emerging of rocky sing-along mixes.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

The grand finale at the main Pepsi DNA Live stage was delayed a bit, but with LaRock opening it was definitely worth the wait. The crowd had reached its peak with close to 10,000 people as it slowly moved across the venue from other stages. The level of anticipation grew and the crowd was rewarded with an overall decent set list full of EDM classics and  the occasional nonsense. Classic mixes of ‘S.O.S’ by Rihanna and ‘Allien’ by Pryda were bang on cue and did the night justice, but I was equally disappointed to hear ‘Kolavari Di’ being snuck into the set. Shapeshifters had a  very forgettable track list which would have been better suited to the first half of the day – yes it was original and immersive but they simply could not keep up with the crowd’s energy levels. ‘Lola’s Theme’ was an obvious exception, but that was the least expected from this veteran duo. Their music was mostly pure downtempo beats which gave the crowd the perfect opportunity to refill those beer glasses.  Dirty Vegas, who have a Grammy to their name, more than made up for it with their spectacular live act – involving Steve Smith singing the words to most of their mixes, most notably ‘Need Somebody To Love’ and their evergreen original ‘Days Go By’ where the crowd was equally involved. Definitely something I would like to see again!

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

In-between all this magic were some generic commercial tracks that littered the night, the likes of Swedish House Mafia‘s ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Save The World (Tonight)’ to name some. But I did hear my new favorite song  as well – a brilliant mix of ‘Sweet Dreams’ (Avicci mix),  Daft Punk’s  ‘Harder,Better,Faster,Stronger’ and David Guetta‘s ‘Without You’ with a drop before every chorus. You could never tell which song would follow after the drop and the alchemy was quite unique.

Let’s go back to the cliché of ‘Bangalore likes Rock’ which was a standout theme at this festival. This was the first time I witnessed a near mosh-pit at an EDM gig when Nirvana‘s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and Pink Floyd‘s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ were played back to back. Hopefully we can get out of this mindset and have artists stop feeding fuel this stereotype.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

LaRock had to come back on stage to fill for the absence of Darude and Taboo, and this time he managed to outdo his previous set. The first real scratchy – edgy mix that was played all day, Benny Benassi‘s ‘Satisfaction’ would have been most people’s highlight of the entire festival if only he didn’t close with his signature mix of ‘Rise Up’. Both tracks are fairly popular, but sounded significantly different from the iPod version many of us carry around. One of those times you really appreciate artists who try to stay fresh and relevant.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

LaRock left the stage to a rapturous applause and chants of One More. Igor Project then came on to let the crowd know of the after party at the Hed Kandi stage – DJ Ivan was doing another set just for us!

I’m not sure how to interpret this, but DJ Ivan doing a repeat set drew the biggest reaction from the crowd all festival. As he took his seat in the crystal sphere the lasers started beaming and Bangalore’s favorite DJ took a bow to his beloved audience. One by one the Ministry of Sound DJs came up to the stage to say their farewells, while Igor Project was omnipresent with his smoke gun, spraying the crowd with every bass drop – a sign for the unaware to reach for the skies.

Sound Awake - Reattempting EDM

My new highlight for the night, something that managed to outdo Yves LaRock playing ‘Rise Up’ – was DJ Ivan busting out Above&Beyond‘s ‘Sun & Moon’ to a large gathering of Bangalore’s ‘real’ EDM fans – as they all put their hands up in unison and sang the words with their eyes closed, a sort of prayer to show thanks for the night.

Overall, DNA Networks’ new venture into the Electronic space can be deemed a success. Yes it needs bigger names from the industry to come down, maybe a later start time, less Rock mixes and a closer to home venue, but as DJ Ivan himself said to the crowd, This is something big and it only gets better from here. We wholeheartedly agree and look forward to the next installment!

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Akash Kaul

Akash is an Investment Banker by day, and a video game junkie by night. He enjoys reading, writing sappy love songs and discovering new music. Follow him @defysky

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Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

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Fire on Dawson

Outlaw’d 2012, the annual fest of the National Institute of Juridical Sciences saw German rock band Fire on Dawson headlining the second day of the three-day-festival on the 7th of February, 2012. No stranger to our shores, this was the band’s second tour in India after having performed at Mood Indigo and IIM Bangalore in 2011. Fire on Dawson has Ankur Batra on vocals and occasional acoustic guitars, Markus Sticker on guitars, Martin Sonnbag on bass and Max Seigmund on drums.

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

The band took to the stage at precisely 8:00 p.m. on a not-so-chilly Kolkata evening. They broke into the intro to the set with a groovy bass line that sounded almost like a tribal war-call! Marcus then kicked in with a heavy, groovy riff as the band segued into their first song, a yet-to-be named track off their upcoming album set for release in mid-2012. The drummer did some intricate double-bass tricks on this track – a completely headbangable number!

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

Next up was another track off their upcoming album. It was a rather small instrumental track that started off with a jumpy groove, the tension slowly building up by way of the drums and bass. The band then gave away CDs of their debut album which were picked up by two lucky fans; one of them even managed to get his copy autographed at the end of the show!

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

What followed was another soothing number with some crunchy guitar riffs; in fact, it felt like an intro to their next song ‘Stuck in Infinity’. Ankur was armed with an acoustic guitar this time, starting off with another mellow number that sounded a lot like Porcupine Tree. It was quite nice but I personally didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous ones. This was followed by a little background on the band, about how it was formed, what their philosophies are and so on.

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

Up next was a song about dreams titled ‘Red’. The song was pretty good with a sublime/comforting rhythm and a beautiful interlude breaking into the verse. While it was one of the better songs of the evening, the vocalist seemed to have some issues – although he was singing alright, something just didn’t click in many of the tracks. Next, they started off with another song from their upcoming album – an instrumental track with a psychedelic, delay-based tone and lots of bluesy chords. In the midst of all this, there was a stop-break when the drummer was keeping count with his sticks; he accidentally hit his own fingers midway but recovered beautifully, with the whole band landing together bang on time, covering up the glitch like pros! Another new song followed – apparently it was the first time they were performing it live. Next was a headbangable number titled ‘Spanish’ and sure enough it had the crowd headbanging in no time!

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

Up next was ‘Losing Time’; the vocalist sounded pretty good on this track; it was another one of their jumpy tracks and he did a wonderful job of actively getting the crowd involved. However, by this time their song structure sounded predictable and repetitive. The next track was titled ‘Hit me’, with the guitarist using a weird crunchy tone, bending the guitar neck, hitting the body, doing a lot of different things – this one was their most dramatic tracks.

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

Then came the encore, with the crowd enthusiastically reacting to “Do you need one more??” from the vocalist. Their setlist ended with ‘Lakeeren’, a Hindi track tracing the vocalist’s roots back to India. This track reminded me of R.E.M back in the old days.

Fire on Dawson at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

With a ceremonial bow at the end of the show, the band was done for the evening. While the gig was overall a good experience, I didn’t enjoy it too much – just enough.”

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Joy Chakraborty

Debdutto 'Joy' Chakraborty is the skinniest music fanatic, plays some guitar, jumps around trees, and likes to stay in the shadows. He is also studying B.Tech as a side project.

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Ken Stringfellow, Tough on Tobacco and Punk Ass Orifus at Blue Frog, Mumbai

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January is a month of pleasant weather for the Mumbaikars. One could not hope for better weather on a day when a musical evening like this was following! The 18th of January was a special day for Mumbai – an event featuring Ken Stringfellow, a maestro in his own right, was slated for the evening in Mumbai’s Blue Frog. American guitarist Ken has been associated with biggies like R.E.M., Neil Young, Snow Patrol and Big Star for several years of his career. We could bet that an opening set from him was sure to be a true reflection of his portfolio.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was more – we have all heard Sidd Coutto’s Tough on Tobacco before, but we were wondering how they would sound when Ken’s strings would be strumming along. Stunned? Yes, so were we, when we heard that Tough on Tobacco was slated to join in on Ken’s later performances. It was sure going to be fun!

Ken Stringfellow, Tough on Tobacco and Punk Ass Orifus at Blue Frog, Mumbai

Ken Stringfellow commenced the event at Blue Frog with a crowd of listeners cheering for him. His first sounds were quite conservative, just as it suited the mood. There was pin-drop silence at the venue, and just a minimalist guitar could be heard with Ken’s suave voice. As the chords fluctuated, Ken’s voice responded likewise. Most of the songs that he performed were his own, but he threw in a cover by The Long Winters. How he mingled with the audience was a delight in itself. His jocular mood and remarks, which were occasionally offbeat too, were befitting the kind of ambiance he had created.

By the time Ken wrapped up with his set, one could sense a commotion in the audience. It appeared as if Ken’s set had charged everyone. The hands had begun to sway, and the smiles were widening. A surprise had been shot at the audience! Four young men dressed in formals had taken over the stage. They called themselves Punk Ass Orifus and before the onlookers could recover from the abrupt entry, the ‘men in black’ had set in action! Sidd Coutto took care of the rhythm guitar and vocals. Gaurav Gupta donned the role of the lead guitarist. Johan Pais managed the bass guitar, and Zorran Mendonsa stood behind the drums.

They played a short set, but it was enough to pour life into the audiences. What they played could easily qualify as Punk, Hard Rock, or Reggae. Their energy was never down for a second and they kept the audience engaged throughout. ‘The World will carry on’, ‘Bad Feeling’ and ‘Matter’ are some of the prominent tracks that they played.

Ken Stringfellow, Tough on Tobacco and Punk Ass Orifus at Blue Frog, Mumbai

After a short while, Bobby Talwar of Zero fame reached the stage, and much to our amazement took on the Djembe, instead of his customary bass guitar. It was difficult to believe that his hands were not accustomed to the Djembe, for he played it surprisingly well! The audience grooved along with him – these sudden surprises proved quite effective. However, they were far from over!

Warren Mendonsa was yet to join! He came to the stage to deliver the final song, and chose to play his Black Strat to ‘Mayan Song’, in his distinguished style. His solo performance on this song was a treat to the senses. The evening had shaped up really well! Sidd Coutto appeared once again, and had some fun moments with his kit. He cracked some light-hearted jokes and we caught a glimpse of his jokester side! Perhaps that is what won him the loud screams of “We love you Sidd Coutto!” from the lovely ladies in the crowd.

Ken Stringfellow, Tough on Tobacco and Punk Ass Orifus at Blue Frog, Mumbai

And then there was a pause… For the first time, one could feel some inaction on the stage, but that was tolerable. The evening had been good and quite active by far. After about 10 minutes, the groomed men of Punk Ass Orifus were nowhere to be seen. They were replaced by Tough on Tobacco, who had switched to the informal attire. Jai Row Kavi took to the drums, and Pozy Dhar managed the guitar. What do you know? Some more fun was lined up for Mumbai!

They opened their share with their signature song ‘Happy’. Tough on Tobacco chose most of the songs from its new album, and borrowed some songs from the first album too. Many more tracks were served to the delight of the listeners. The bigger a canvas is, the freer a painter’s strokes are. That is just what was happening at Blue Frog. Song after song, their canvas was expanding, and the genres kept adding up. By the end of several spontaneous performances, Tough on Tobacco had played a wide range of genres, and with an ease that left the listeners in awe. ’Yellow Tops’ and ‘Washing Powder Nirma’ were some spectacular songs that Tough on Tobacco made up.

Ken Stringfellow, Tough on Tobacco and Punk Ass Orifus at Blue Frog, Mumbai

The evening had been fantastic! The audience had enjoyed it to the fullest. What was promised at the beginning, however, was yet to be seen. Ken Stringfellow and Tough on Tobacco were yet to jam together. Right then, Ken returned to the stage, and jammed to the lovely blues song ‘Crack Whores’ along with the band. The evening was now complete.

It was a wonderful moment that Mumbai witnessed on the evening of 18th of January. To those who could not make it this time, I’d say that sometimes wonders happen twice! Make sure you don’t miss out on the next one!

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