Tag Archives: Roadhouse Blues

Topiwalleh by Swarathma


Swarathma is a talented group of musicians, just thinking about whom brings an explosion of colors in one’s head – not just because of the colourful dresses they don, not even because of the showmanship, the on-stage gimmickry or the props. These colours are of traditional art assimilated in an arrangement of largely western instruments, and the flamboyance with which the band rebukes the dishonest, mocks the ludicrous, and alleviates suffering through their honest rendition of songs that describe the world as they see it.

Their second album, Topiwalleh, is an experience where every word – spoken or sung, every pulse, beat, and measure, is a rush of colours of contrasting human emotions. Your senses are exposed to the entire spectrum in less than 55 minutes, if you listen closely. The melody is almost never melancholic, although when it’s dark, it’s ominous.

This album brought with it not just great music, but a lot of creativity in the album promotions too! Right from the colourful topis, the vibrant album cover, to running interesting contests on Facebook, and the launch followed by a ‘Restless Tour’ that took them to many cities over a period of one month, the band has done a fabulous job of promoting their new album.

Swarathma has six members: Vasu Dixit (vocals, rhythm guitar), Pavan Kumar KJ (percussion, backing vocals), Montry Manuel (drums), Varun Murali (lead guitar), Sanjeev Nayak (violin) and Jishnu Dasgupta (bass guitar, backing vocals), and for the sound that is more refined, all six members unequivocally acknowledge Loy Mendonsa (from the Shankar-Ehsan-Loy trio) who has co-produced this album.

One might as well call the band Swarathma 2.0, because of two noticeable things– one, a paradigm shift in the ‘sound’ of a recorded album, and two, a concept album with many societal messages being delivered within a span of 10 tracks. For the message to be heard and the outreach to be as vast as the problems addressed and solutions needed, their language of choice is Hindi, although they have sung in Kannada on two of the tracks.

Topiwalleh’ has an effervescent, Rastafarian reggae rhythm, a violin that can admiringly be called the second vocalist for the track, a laid-back 40-second guitar solo and the superb backing vocals. The lyrics take a dig at everything that’s wrong in the current political circles. There are many tongue-in-cheek references and no-holds-barred statements that the artists have taken the liberty to make on this track.

‘Koorane’, my favorite track from the album, starts with the sounds that we relate to crying of wolves on a full-moon night. Varun Murali finds a fit to display the rock in his guitar, which is alarmingly close to ‘Roadhouse Blues’ by The Doors. The song seems to draw a metaphor – the mention of a rare animal Koorane being hunted by the hunters (human or otherwise). Think capitalism, consumerism, how the society is fascinated by television and advertisements, while disrobing itself of tradition and a sense of judgment, hypnotized by the domineering supremacy of advertising duplicity.

‘Rishton Ka Raasta’ is pleasing, and contemplative, with an intention that’s driven straight to the heart by the expressive violin (the tone sounding almost like it’s a Saarangi) that opens this song which is about broken relations and the willingness to mend fences. For me, it delivers the most powerful message in the entire album.

‘Ghum’ is characterized by a sense of despair, urgency, and hopelessness, made apparent within the first 90 seconds of the song. The mood remains largely that, only you’d have to find an interview where the band mentions what this song is about. This is their voice against child sexual abuse, and is the gloomiest of all tracks on the album.

‘Naane Dari’ starts with a superb guitar solo but everything else plays second fiddle to the violin and to the terrific lyrics. ‘Naane Daari’ (I am my own way) talks about hope and leaving the past behind.

‘Aaj Ki Taaza Fikar’ may confuse you with the way it begins, if you ever used to trip on ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ OST (think ‘Jaane Kyun’) – and perhaps thank Loy Mendonsa? The highlight of this track is the juicy potpourri of all the overused or hyped snippets on the television (‘Sannate ko cheerti hui sansani’ and the like). It lands a sucker-punch on the sensationalism as created by the media.

‘Mukhote’ has got a fragrant, violin-drenched overture. This is a song about the two-facedness in human relations, the drumming stands out and is most imaginative among all tracks on the album.

‘Duur Kinara’, featuring Shubha Mudgal, has everything that is being and has been talked about already. Shubha’s vivacious vocals work perfectly with Vasu’s high-pitched recital of the Kannada lines on this track about separation from loved ones and the desire to unite, and about tales of a far-away land.

‘Yeshu Allah aur Krishna’ is where the arrangement goes back to reggae for most part, the violin speaks as if reinforcing the spoken words, and the vocals are dramatic and appealing. The song speaks about religious evangelists and communalism, but unless you are a in a mood to complain about the issue really, you might just end up dancing along with this one as well.

On a splendid album, where nine songs talk about one powerful subject each, ‘Khul Ja Re’ is one song that apathetically speaks of optimism with adolescent lyrics and ordinary singing. For being a keepsake from the band’s past, ‘Khul Ja Re’ is forgivable.

All said and done, social issues and worldly worries notwithstanding, Topiwalleh is a fun album. The sheer energy that makes the audience sway during their live shows is not missing on this record. Though the lyrics may seem juvenile here and there, the maturity that’s apparent for most part of the album compensates for it. The lead guitar has got to find a voice by bringing in more tones and risk-taking. As far as the percussion and violin are concerned, I would not want to change a thing. For the vocals though, my only sour point remains the habit of throwing the last note (for instance – at 1:29 mark in ‘Koorane’).

Swarathma has already started working on their third album and until that is out, buying a digital copy of Topiwalleh and listening to it is only the second best choice. The best choice is to land up at a Swarathma gig, and treat your senses to the musical mixture of colors, sights and sounds.

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Gaurrav Tiwari

Drummer at DIARCHY, and HR Manager at Genpact


The News live at Kyra Theatre, Bangalore


What better way to end a long weekend than by watching a band that you like play a ninety minute set? Sunday evening saw The News perform at Kyra to a sizeable audience. A large part of the crowd consisted of the band members’ friends who were ready to root for them through the evening. The News is Gitarthi on Lead Vocals, Ankit on acoustic guitar and vocals, Nitin on bass, Raghav on the keyboard and Prasanna on drums.

Taking to the stage before 9:30 p.m., Ankit performed an introductory Mahaganapathim of sorts in the form of ‘Will not Rain’ to inaugurate their show. The rest of the band came up on stage and they kicked off the show with a song called ‘I Knew Love’. Gitarthi, with her powerful vocals, started off very well; although, the band seemed a bit nervous, causing a couple of hitches during the song.

The News live at Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

Just when it seemed as though it would be a mellow evening, they started ‘Sunrise’ with a crisp, Carnatic influenced riff. The rest of the instruments kicked in with a good thump. The song later broke into a jam of sorts with each person taking a solo. The bass in particular was extremely groovy throughout. It was great to see the chemistry that the band shared on a completely off-time rhythm signature.

With the crowd pumped up, Chaitanya, their session guitarist, joined them for the song, ‘Together’. The song was a ballad of sorts, with Chaitanya playing a few licks over the rhythm. It was a pleasant shift from the energy that preceded the song.

The News live at Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

The power-packed ‘Shell’ was up next, which was one of my two favourite songs from the evening – featuring stunning bass and drum work, with the guitar and keys doing a marvelous job in the melody section. Kudos to them! ‘Shell’ was followed by ‘Ode to the Sun’ that was again a calm song, with the drums kicking in halfway through. The drummer lacked intensity -an element that would have made the song a complete package. Nevertheless, they recovered and quickly shifted to the last song of the first half of their set.

Summertime’ was a single that they had released a few months ago. With its catchy and quick bluesy riff, the crowd was waiting to hear the song live. What transpired was a little disappointing; the song was played at least two times faster than the studio version, the drumming sounded a bit sloppy and the keys weren’t audible. Although Ankit played a marvelous jazz run during his solo, I’d still recommend the studio version.

The News live at Kyra Theatre, Bangalore

The band returned from their break with ‘Park Inn’, which was a complete change from the kind of songs they had played earlier. There was great chemistry between the members of the band and Raghav did a very good job on the keys. ‘Small Talk’ was up next, with the band performing an outro-turned-intro and starting the song. The bass was very loud which helped accentuate every note that was struck. It’s the kind of song that you’d want to listen to while driving a convertible on a highway.

A conversation ensued between the band members and after much discussion and “Are you sure?”, they decided to perform a cover since the crowd seemed a bit lost. ‘Roadhouse Blues’ was the song they chose and let me just put it this way; it was like an avatar of The Doors that you’d never want to listen to. After a few moments of unpleasantness, the band played a song called ‘Let it Shine’. Chaitanya returned to play another solo that was spot on. He didn’t overplay or underplay, rather, did a fairly good job out of it. Prasanna kept the groove going with a subtle beat and the song was very tight.

‘Time is on Your Side’ was up next. This was my other favourite from the evening. With perfect vocal harmony by Gitarthi and Ankit, they should have ideally concluded the evening with this song. The band wrapped up with Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘You Know, You Know’. Their performance was very tight, with Chaitanya on lead guitar again. The band took to the off-time signature like an alcoholic to his brandy! However, Nithin’s attempt at aping Dave Matthews’ signature scat proved to be disastrous. Ankit finished with a solo outro in the form of ‘Sunrise II’ which ended the weekend with an “awesome” branded on it. It was a splendid way to sign off.

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Aditya Vishwanathan

Aditya Vishwanathan is a creative photographer from Bangalore. After being actively involved with multiple bands in the music circuit, he now documents gigs in and around town. In his free time, he loves to play with kids while listening to an old Michael Jackson album.


Live Banned at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore


There is a lot of rock and heavy metal music being played in and out of town, but that is mostly directed towards the hardcore followers of those genres. Live Banned on the other hand, as spoken of by the founders, was formed with the sole purpose of entertaining the masses who are not really restricted with the choice of genres. Expectedly so, the band at its recent gig at The BFlat Bar (23rd December 2011) brought rock closer to the crowd in its most palatable form. They mashed up popular tunes from regional cinema with famous metal riffs, funk overtures, disco influences, and a carefree attitude. And by the time the performance ended, they had encore requests coming from a packed house!

I arrived at the venue at 8:30 p.m. when the sound check was still on. Having never seen the band members sans their outlandish attire, I didn’t quite recognize them at first. But soon, they emerged in a new avatar – the men in regular attire transformed into exhibitionists of a ridiculous sense of dressing for some, and the performers of an entertaining repertoire for many.

The BFlat bar is known to be a venue that hosts a lot of gigs, such a venue not having a PA system of its own to support a gig that just reaches about 3000 watts in sound output, was a surprise for me, if not a shocker. I don’t intend to register any discomfort with this – the hired sound guy and the equipment left us with nothing to complain about.

Live Banned has Amrit on vocals, Dhruv on the lead guitar, Sid on the keys and occasional rhythm guitar, Raveesh on the bass and Dheeru on the drums. The band members, especially Dhruv and Amrit were encouraging participation from the audience, and their enthusiasm was well received and reciprocated. Throughout the evening, there were funny one-liners, small jokes, and hilarious comments in addition to the songs that kept the listeners entertained and involved.

‘Ringamukka Kats’ was the first song for the evening. This mash-up starts with a prudently rehearsed guitar solo, and a carefully refrained but punchy intro that lasts close to three minutes. The pieces sounded familiar, but I am still not able to recall the exact names of the original sources if any. Thereafter, the song took a curious dive into the Tamil hit ‘Nakka Mukka’, the orchestration remained very alternative-rock, highlighted with borrowed riffs from Wolfmother’s ‘Joker and the Thief’. Then there was ‘Appudi Podu’ and what sounded like ‘Dhinka Chika’ thrown in, and this mix immediately got people into the mood.

‘German Rollhouse’ was the next one for the evening. It started with a punk influence, with the infamous Malayalam song ‘Silsila hai Silsila’, then quickly caught Rammstein’s ‘Du Hast’, carrying the same groove forward, without slipping into metal, as the temptation may be. The mix then displayed a slow balladry, almost like a lullaby, but the band quickly woke the listeners up with an abrupt transition to ‘Roadhouse Blues’, and the vocalist delivered the “Roll baby Roll” part with witty vibratos, finishing it with “Kaati Roll”, leaving me chuckling at the cheeky creativity.

The next song ‘Iku Chika’ was the band’s funky take on Ilayaraja’s ‘Unakkum Enakkum Anandham’ (the song which took on international limelight when it was allegedly lifted by The Black Eyed Peas). This mix was made complete with the funky chord-work at the start, followed by an ambient guitar solo, which transitioned to have metal characteristics, making it a little dark but still groovy. I totally savored this song, especially the vibrant alaaps that the vocalist put in, and the way it ended with the popular Mission Impossible tune.

Next was the rollercoaster ‘Girlie Boys’. This is a cleverly crafted mix of pop, hip-hop, and metal, with a Bollywood finale. Starting with funky guitar and drum work, supported by the keyboardist with a tone that may remind you of the 80s pop, the mix took-off with Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t get you out of my head’, and an ongoing riff from No Doubt’s ‘Hella Good’. Carrying the riff forward, the song transitioned to Black Eyed Peas’ ‘My Humps’. Then after a teaser from System of a Down’s ‘Chopsuey’, where “Father! Father!” got spoofed to “Appa! Appa!” the song landed on ‘Milk Shake’ by Kelis. Sailing on the sound set by the keyboards here, the song came back to ‘Chopsuey’, and the vocalist finished a baritone rendition of Luke 23:46 part right up to “angels deserve to die.” Then the groove hastily moved to Britney Spears’ ‘Baby one more time’ and Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody’. Quickly, the tune followed up with what sounded like ‘Est affectus, et defectus’ part from Enigma’s ‘Modern Crusaders’, and the song concluded with a power-chords version of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s ‘Katey nahin kat-tey’

Next up was ‘Dope Mix’, which is a quick fix kind of a mix, featuring Dead or Alive’s ‘You spin me Round (Like a record)’, Don’s ‘Aaj ki Raat’, and Yves Larock’s ‘Rise Up’. It may have got a bit monotonous for me, except that I enjoyed the very ambient guitar solo.

‘Fast Food’ is first of the two originals that the band has composed. It started with the sound of the synth building up the mood, and a slow lead guitar, and an alaap. The lyrics were however funny but sarcastic. The song mocks the culture of putting up a fast as a form of protest. Soon after the entry into the song, I enjoyed the work on the keyboards which was partially reminiscent of the background score of Psycho. The time signatures that the drummer glazed this one with were enjoyable, and also the jazzy work on the bell of the crash ride. Since this is an original, I would have enjoyed more creativity on lead guitars, for the tones if nothing more. Amrit displayed his range on vocals, and when the song ended almost three octaves higher for the vocalist, the audience only realized after a few seconds that the song was over. More cheerful applause!

‘Europe ko Jai se Pyar Ho Gaya’ was up next. It started with the famous tune from Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’, and cleverly incorporated a piece from ‘Baazigar, O! Baazigar’. Then riding on a metallic orchestration, it incorporated one whole verse, the chorus, and the bridge from ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein’. Thereafter, as if approaching of the finale of an opera, with great work at the synthesizer, and perfect guitar solo, the song drove through ‘Raja ko Rani se pyaar ho gaya’, and tapped a bit of Iron Maiden, and concluded with ‘Jai Ho’.

Next was a metal version of ‘Barbie Girl’, and I immediately liked the choice of tone for the keys and the dexterous work thereof. The drummer and the bass guitarist were at their best on this speedy track. The lead guitarist got a mouthful of singing to do on this one, so a minor glitch here and there may just be excused. But I would have really preferred the volume on the backing vocals to be a little milder.

‘If you come today’ as made famous by Dr. Rajkumar, got the Live Banned treatment. ‘Tick Tick Tick’ married Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’, improvised guitar solos, and absurd but hilarious singing.

‘Auto Tune’ is the second original by the band, and despite the lyrics being not very clear, I understood it to be a commentary on the ludicrous behavior by the auto-drivers. The orchestration was dark, keys and the guitars working in great harmony, and the drummer highlighted his supreme comfort with experimental time-signatures, and thunderous rolls.

‘Mission Atyachar’ and ‘Rage in Ranipetti’ were the last two songs for the evening. ‘Mission Atyachar’ is where ‘Emotional Atyachar’ encountered ‘DK Bose’, ‘Mission Impossible’ married ‘Sheela’, ‘Eye of the tiger’ met ‘Munni’, and even applied a bit of “Zandu Balm”. ‘Rage in Ranipetti’ mashed RATM’s ‘Wake Up’ with A.R Rahman’s ‘Pettai Rap’ from the movie Kadhalan.

The crowd demanded an encore, and the band obliged with ‘Ringamukka Kats’. This is where the house totally came down to dance, and almost everyone could be seen moving, swaying, head banging. To sum it all up, Amrit gave an impressively energetic performance with his vocal range, and also his on-stage persona, the outlandish attire, and funny dance moves. Dheeru, with his effected drum sounds, and occasional and clever use of double bass, gave a solid groove, decorated with strange timed sequences, and virtuous software support. Dhruv seems very comfortable with his guitar, even with those leads on what looked like reaching 18th/19th/20th fret. In my opinion, he could get more adventurous with the selection of tones, and those chord progressions which is for the band to determine anyhow when they improvise in their unique style. Raveesh with his bass line is the spine of the sound that the band creates. The measures where he was silent seemed like a lull that needed to end quickly. Sid has a captivating talent with the keyboards (I have always appreciated ambidextrous keyboardists), the tones were psychedelic and the effect, if I were to listen to the keys in isolation, may have just slipped me into a state of trance.

The chemistry between the band members gave the impression that the band has been practicing together for years, while they have not even been together for eight months. Live Banned is great to listen to and fun to watch, especially on a festive evening when you could care a little less about the diminishing boundaries of various genres. The band calls its genre “Awesome”, and that may just give you an insight of how confident this group is with what they are presenting. From my end, it is two thumbs up for them. On the path that they have chosen, they are sure to go far beyond most common sounds, and accomplish their mission of entertaining the common man.

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Gaurrav Tiwari

Drummer at DIARCHY, and HR Manager at Genpact


ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore


We were late. 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday just can’t be viewed as a strict time to start anything, so we rocked up well into Allegro Fudge’s set. They were really in the heat of it and quite an audience had already assembled.

You really can’t underestimate the power of The Beatles, and after ‘Colours Fly’, Allegro Fudge truly erupted with ‘Hey Jude’ – was it ‘Gay Dude’, or did we mishear? They filled up the 40 feet ceiling of Toit’s central area: sound guys got stuff down tight! Sahaas was in his element more than I’ve ever seen him before, heavily involved with an adoring audience. The rest of the evening was no different, the crowd today was really happy to be there, loved everything, and waited patiently for more. Allegro had a new bassist as well: she hasn’t confirmed joining them full time, so I guess we hang tight and wait for the big news. A bass change could be fairly significant in the long run as we’ve already seen with TAAQ quite recently.

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

Toit of course, has the best pizza in a 100 km. radius (they’re slipping a touch, but still), and a stage that has been dying to be played on. It’s set about halfway up a three storey open plan which sets itself up for a very relaxed jam atmosphere. The frontman though, has to end up targeting five to six different audience locations. It is heaps of fun to watch, and I imagine it’s an absolute joy to play. What they’ve entirely ignored: any lighting whatsoever! The announcer keeps calling the event “unplugged”. It’s anything but for a music school they’ve sure got some basic terminology mixed up. Semantics aside, we do need more mini-festival type situations. Sunday arvo jam time!

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

Toit is also quite scattered over the three floors and they’ve done what I’ve always hoped someone would do: covered each separate area in speakers so there’s sound from everywhere instead of just from the stage. Gives people a chance to spread themselves out and just chill on an overcast Sunday. They even separated sets with some Sufjan Stevens – new music, in a Bangalore pub, you’d have to be there to believe it!

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

I’d never heard Illuminati before, so the incredible rock-voice threw me entirely off guard. The man packs a punch. ‘Joker and The Thief’ was close enough to them kicking the door in, breathing fireballs and blowing the windows out. Sadly, they lost track with Porcupine Tree where neither the vocalist nor the drummer seemed comfortable at all. Their own stuff was where they settled back in though. Funk groove, nonchalant vocal line and a guitar midriff that was just tough as nails. I think they may have you believe they also have something to say. The band hiatus finally showed through with ‘Roadhouse Blues’, which ended up being entirely off, but well, entertaining nonetheless and everybody was happy to sing along to an old favourite. They peaked at ‘TNT’, where all their dangly bits come together for the perfect storm of no-nonsense rocking like our forefathers intended. They even threw in a super slow bounce version of ‘Killin’ In The Name Of’, and a rock version of  ‘Come Together’ (Beatles again!). If they’re really on a comeback I’d watch them again, but they need to buckle down and work at it.

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

Side rant: There’s still a tendency in India to call things “own comps” rather than run with it as a natural part of a show. It’s a small thing, but it recognizes the idea that Indian bands writing their own stuff is still out of the ordinary. We’re past college festivals; we’re all grown up now and can handle new, original music from local bands.

People on the top floor seemed more at ease and on their own trip: the band kept them entertained when conversation slipped. All in all: “This is just, such a cool Sunday evening!”

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

With Matthew stuck in traffic or otherwise delayed, Naveen picked up bass and toyed around for a solid ten-minute bass solo with acoustic backing. Everybody was really just out to have a good time and Mr. Thomas really can’t disappoint. Galeej Gurus setup the way I’d hoped, tall chairs along the front and an added acoustic guitar – a little more personal, connected to the audience and living up to the “unplugged” idea. Matthew took longer than expected though and an hour and a half, a ‘Redemption Song’ and ‘The Boxer’ later, you’d be forgiven to believe a late evening family sing-along was in full swing.

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

And bam! The bassist was in and the whole band kicked in for real. They were doing great acoustic kickbacks of their songs, giving the “unplugged” name some juice. They have been my favourite Indian band for years now, so there’s nothing but school-girl like adoration from me. They continually make me want to be a bonafide rocker myself. Nathan oozes cool, even sitting down, and incidentally makes the best burgers in Bangalore (he owns Hole In The Wall, Koramangala). Listen to them lots, and go eat there, I command you!

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

Acoustic Guitar Man turns out to be a fantastic addition. A superb set of backing pipes and he tears through solos as well. If he’s permanent, they’re setting up to really do some damage. And if there’s anything that would prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s them doing ‘Use Somebody’ in the middle of the set with the entire, and I mean entire, packed-to-the-friggin’-rafters, crowd singing along. We got through an entire first verse courtesy audience happy-singing.

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

And Thermal and a Quarter. I think they’re an interesting case study. It’s very complex music, they’ve been doing it for quite a while now, and Prakash is only adding more twists: changing old feel-goods into epics, even bordering on self-indulgence but lovable no less. In a city where the single English music radio station puts out the most inane crap the world has to offer with a mere smattering of some golden pop a year too late, it’s truly refreshing to have a pub-full scream for smooth sax jazz over Thermal signature anti-gravity blues. The best drummer I know, of course he can play away physics.

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

Thermal is on quite a metamorphosis, this is the point where you catch all the gigs you can – it’s all building to something and you don’t want to be missing out. A saxophone really suits them and it looks like they’ll be able to have a lot of fun with it, so I hope they can add Sax Man on more often. Or maybe a horn section. Any brass would do it.

ILM Unplugged at TOIT, Bangalore

The cops turned up at this point. The neighbours weren’t fans of any of it and Toit does bump uglies with residential Indiranagar, so I can’t imagine this is going to go away easily. There were troubles with an open space – noise spread. Mr. Complaining Neighbour, just wait till the metro starts.

“There’s a saying Milo – If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”

Tell me you know what flick that’s from.

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Ashim D'Silva

Ashim D'Silva is a grinner. He's a lover. And a sinner. He plays his music in the sun. He daylights as a web designer, bicycles everywhere, and bought his first real shirt last year. You should bring him a sandwich. With bacon, and avocado.


The Luke Kenny Mojo Jukebox at The Blue Frog





I love the Blues. I’ve been very recently, completely immersing my self in regular doses of Buddy Guy, SRV, Hendrix and Phil Sayce. So to say I was looking forward to watching the musicians in The Luke Kenny Mojo Jukebox really is an understatement.

Having already had a long day, I was eager to get to my favorite live music venue, The Blue Frog and sit back and soak in some long bends and cold brews. I managed to convince my famous Mallu friend Sujit to accompany me and so we caught a slow train from Malad station, party packs in our bags.

We entered just as the band was starting up. I quickly spied around and saw several usual suspects around the bar and quite a sizeable crowd. Denzil Mathais was on alone showing off his super sounding custom hollowbody guitar, wailing out some warm fuzz which suspiciously sounded like Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. Vinayak Pol and Chirayu Wedekar on drums and bass joined him to start off the song with a bang which turned out to be ‘Roll over Beethoven’. Luke walked out next to a warm welcome and danced the song out. It was a bit funny to see the whole band with scarves on; guess it was some kinda style statement that I don’t get.

After a couple of songs and a Willie Nixon cover, Luke eloquently invited his first guest out, Mahesh Naidu on blues harp, while giving us a serious face and a small history on the next song. The first few notes out of the harp assured me that we were finally getting down to business and doing a real blues number. Muddy Waters’ ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ tumbled out and had the crowd grooving immediately. The harp solo was off time for some reason, but the guitar solo really made up with long sweet bends and super vibrato by Denzil. Mahesh just didn’t find his groove as he spat out some odd sounding notes during the next song on the steel flute. I don’t remember what song it was but it didn’t go well, Luke’s dancing didn’t help much.

Next up was Shilpa Rao and I was really hoping the bar would now shift upwards from the ground. She looked a little nervous to begin with but when she started singing she displayed undeniable power there. ‘Nature boy’ was the first song I think, but the impressive singing came only in the next song which was an original. ‘Romeo was in love with me’ is a cool ditty although the solo interludes were basically just Denzil bailing them out. Nice work by the band.

The next song had Luke back on vocals for a nice cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’ although it still didn’t qualify as blues. I saw a couple of women jiving in front and they stole my attention. Luke decided to not care about pitching anymore in this song.

The funk version of Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ was marred by a little sloppy bass playing by the young Chirayu Wedekar and completely off key vocals. The ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ line that Denzil injected a couple of times really didn’t work. Nice tone in the guitar solo though. ‘Baby you can drive my Car’ was dismal. Tight drumming but ironically the only song about driving that night just crashed and died.

Next up was Vasuda Sharma and her Loop station. Nifty device and she managed really well creating a whole section of percussion and backing vocals in all her songs which got the crowd clapping along. Although she had pitch perfect vocals, they were a bit uninspiring. All songs had the loop station build up but she apparently decided that passing off covers of folk and country songs as the blues were good enough as long as she sang some blues notes at the end. I must mention that Neil Gomes who joined her later on ‘These boots were made for walking’ has improved a lot on the violin. The Sax playing was not upto the same mark though. The version of ‘Roadhouse Blues’ really made me sad. They ended with a shoo-be-do version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ but I guess I was alone in my opinion because the end of her set brought on loud applause from everyone else. My friend Sujit remarked how she reminded him of singers in Goan restaurants with minus one tracks.

The next set saw Trumpet player Paul Rodrigues on a killer version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. Great wah tone on the guitar, nice vibrato on the long trumpet notes. Tight song. Luke’s next offering was an original that made me wonder if I was fooled into thinking this was a blues gig. It was more of a soft rock song where he sang about how he always confides in his feelings.

I was really not looking forward to Sunidhi Chauhan. I mean anytime you hear a Hindi playback singer attempting blues is bound to make you gag. But boy did she prove me wrong! She looked HOT and she sang with amazing power, soul and feel. ‘Cry me a river’ was a lovely jazz blues number with a nice time signature change inserted a couple of times. It finally seemed like the gig was warming up. Then she blew the roof of the place with Dhruv Ghanekar joining the band onstage for the best performance of the evening. Janis Joplin’s ‘Piece of my heart’ was a great version that displayed some lusty and on purpose off time vocals and super guitar work by Dhruv.

Dhruv then stepped upto the mic to sing a Gary Moore classic, ‘Still got the blues’. I had never heard him sing before but that’s just as well as his singing was nothing to write home about, sounded like he had a bit of a cold maybe. The guitar tone had a nice delay wailing after his solos. Listening to him was a treat until he suddenly started shredding all over the place.

Luke was back after Dhruv exited the stage with a chunky riffed original called ‘Hard Loving Woman’. Very Deep Purple sounding and the band was tight. Great drumming by Vinayak. The last song of the night was Should I stay or should I go,’ a cover of The Clash’s punk anthem. The song had decent vocals and a killer solo courtesy of Dhruv who joined the band again for the last song of the night. Highlight of the song was the conversation between Denzil and Dhruv’s guitar. Denzil managed to more than hold his own displaying for the first time that blues band leader mentality, easily conducting the band as they jammed the song out.

All in all it was a disappointing night of music only because I felt we were served small portions of what was promised as the main course. The musicians on stage were all great and Luke’s band is pretty entertaining. I had earlier asked Rishu Singh whether Luke was a good singer and he mentioned that he has his good and bad nights. I hope this was a bad one.


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Howard Pereira

Howard is a guitarist with Mumbai based bands, Dischordian and Overhung. His other interests include drinking, comic books and occasional writing.