Tag Archives: Sidd Coutto

Redbull Tour Bus #offtheroof at Richardson & Cruddas, Mumbai

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Donn Bhat feat. Toymob and Viceversa at Blue Frog, Mumbai

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Black Gives Way To Blues

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It must not be easy being a blues instrumentalist in India. But then Warren Mendonsa, the brains (and fingers) behind Blackstratblues (BSB), has not exactly trodden the beaten path. As a bright young spark on the Indian rock landscape, his band Zero (with Sidd Coutto, Bobby Talwar and Rajiv Talwar) released two albums and an EP between 1998 and 2005 and was a big part of the resurgence of the “scene” in that same period. A two-year hiatus to New Zealand followed during which time Warren put together some solo instrumental material that eventually got released as a free-to-download digital album Nights in Shining Karma (2007).

Black Gives Way To Blues

Named after the Mumbai-born guitarist’s favourite weapon of choice, Blackstratblues have released a couple of albums since then and continue to be a big part of the local live music scene. With Jai Row Kavi on drums, Adi Mistry on bass and Bevan Fonseca on keyboards, this instrumental-only band played at Pune’s High Spirits Café on a muggy Saturday in May to a packed house. The gig started on time and I walked in, surprised at how many people were already there to watch. The High Spirits is a small place, with high tables interspersed in an open-air verandah facing a smallish stage with a bar at the back, and it was nice to see hordes of young people of both genders enjoying themselves and the music. Pune has been experiencing some pre-monsoon showers and ‘Bombay Rain’, with a solid bassline complementing the sweet blues melody, felt really right to set the mood for me.

Black Gives Way To Blues

Clearly, Warren attracts a loyal fanbase, and with good reason. The eponymous black Stratocaster is wielded as an instrument of delicate subtlety rather than out-and-out-shredding, and the audience reacts rather well to this approach. Warren is the consummate bluesman, content to chop and lick his way melodically into the listener’s heart rather than adopt the arpeggios-at-the speed-of-light approach popularized by so many guitar virtuosos since the ‘90s. If you’re looking for a wannabe Vai or Malmsteen, sorry- you’ve come to the wrong gig. But if Eric Johnson or Dickey Betts is more of your style, then maybe you’ll enjoy Blackstratblues. I sure did.

Black Gives Way To Blues

The set was short, around 90 minutes end to end, and there wasn’t too much time-wasting or attempts at crowd-pleasing (often the same thing!)  in between. Original followed original in quick succession and, though the tempo of each song varied, I began to drift a bit and used the opportunity to focus on each of the individual performers. What struck me first was that the band seemed to be composed of thorough professionals who seem to enjoy playing together. I noted with surprise that the usually supremely-composed Jai Row Kavi (Indus Creed, Tough on Tobacco) seemed to struggle through a few songs, triggering a suspicion that perhaps blues is just not his genre…or maybe he was just having an off day. Warren and bassist Adi Mistry share an easy musical camaraderie that shows in their jamming but the levels on the bass were set up a little too high for my liking, giving it an overall boomy sound.

Black Gives Way To Blues

 

The keyboard player was used mostly for fills and intros, though he came into his own on one or two of the band’s originals where Warren was content to just play chords and riffs, a rare sight! Fun factoid: in a 2012 interview to Rolling Stone, Mendonsa revealed that the “black” Strat after whom the band is named was originally gold in colour: it was painted black in Auckland after a band member taunted him about it! In any case, the black guitar made way for a sunburst Strat later in the show, with a much fatter bluesy tone.  It struck me that Warren prefers this tone, more associated with a Gibson Les Paul/Marshall amp combination than the traditional ‘thin’ Strat tone. His pedal train may have something to do with that though, to be honest, I didn’t get a close look at it and the information on the official BSB webpage seems to be obsolete.

Black Gives Way To Blues

A gig composed entirely of blues instrumentals can get a bit heavy for the audience and it was nice that the band interspersed a couple of covers to liven up the mix. The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Mood’, played in a very original manner replete with fat chops, was refreshing. ‘Jessica’, an Allman Brothers Band staple, and more popularly known as the Top Gear theme, was played faithful to the original pretty much. As a purist, I appreciated that! I thought the gig ended early but later learned that a couple of songs had to be cut from the original setlist, so am assuming they were forced to vacate the stage by 11 p.m. as is customary- oh when will this country wise up?

Black Gives Way To Blues

All in all an evening well-spent. The crowd composed of diehard fans who seemed familiar with the music- it would be a stretch to say they “sang along” since there wasn’t much singing to do- which is always a nice feeling for an Indian band. There didn’t seem to be any sound glitches or co-ordination issues. Maybe the setlist could also incorporate some acoustic stuff going forward.  As someone who is not intimately familiar with the band’s work, I still came away impressed. 10/10 will watch again!

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Pepsi MTV Indies at Mehboob Studios, Mumbai

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Celebrating Amit Saigal’s B’day at Blue Frog, Mumbai

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An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

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“Remember, these people are not your friends. They will buy you drugs, make you meet girls…but they are not your friends. And remember, it’s all happening.” –Almost Famous

My first attempt to cover a music festival made me feel like William Miller from the movie Almost Famous, though I realized soon that the comparison was too glorified. This wasn’t going to be a window into the dark secrets of the bands but just a platform that would put forward an experience at Escape. I had been to the Escape Festival two years ago and I remember the experience fondly. It was the perfect ambience, well organized and the music was selectively good. I was looking forward to going back to rediscover what it feels to be in the arms of music for three whole days.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Like all events, this one was no exception with regard to the lack of organization. It probably went a step ahead. The venue did greet us with a spectacular scenic vision and a remarkable stage but almost everyone complained of waiting endlessly for a room – even the artists. We were tired, hungry and without a roof for hours and it was only after several outbursts from artists, visitors and media alike that things seemed to be sorted. Almost everyone complained about the lack of organization and vacant stares from the people responsible. But when the music started, everyone just shut up.

Let me throw some light on what the festival was about – there were over 17 bands performing amidst a brilliant sound and stage, aptly named Soul Garden,  there were film screenings, artists displaying their work and a second elaborate stage called the Magic Forest  for electronic music and an impressive list of artists.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The evening of the 24th started with Delhi Roots (apparently with no one from Delhi in it), whose genre is defined as Latin Reggae. A last minute addition to the list of performers, I particularly enjoyed Sergio, the bassist’s performance. It was the first appearance of Shirish Malhotra on the Saxophone (and then on the flute), in the festival. Vocalist/Guitarist Antone was a huge support to Sergio not just with music but also stage presence.  For me, the band didn’t do much musically, though they did lift up the crowd’s spirit.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Next up was Atul Ahuja with a host of accompanists. The accompanists included Shirish Malhotra (Saxophone), Anirban Ghosh (Bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (Drums) and Stefan Kaye (Keyboards), who apart from a few unintended mistakes made Atul look good. This was the perhaps the only act to do all covers on stage, and popular ones at that. Stefan’s stage antics amused the crowd and the artists alike.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

And then the band that I had been waiting for came and stole the show! Thermal and a Quarter kept the crowd going with their popular songs and did some songs from their new album. Bruce was and is a treat to watch. The relatively quiet duo- Rajeev Rajagopal (Drums) and Leslie Charles (Bass and backing vocals) – helped the band belt out some of the best songs of the evening. Not only is their legacy of over 15 years as a band commendable but the fact that they dish out something new also is.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The evening ended with Faridkot who started on an impressive note with great sound but ended as a band that sounded monotonous. The band that calls itself “confused pop” had an eclectic mix of blues, soulful harmonies, slick guitar riffs and powerful vocals, but unfortunately after a point it sounded like they were playing the same songs. I did enjoy the harmonic melodies of IP Singh and Sonam though! The first day was hectic and it had nothing to do with the stage acts, just the management, but I was glad it ended well.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

From the looks of it, the second day had a lot to offer at Escape. Against the backdrop of the peaceful lake, where I could find people jumping in and boating, there were movie screenings. No one seemed to have a clue about them and I found a lot of people coming up to me and asking the clichéd question “So, What’s The Scene?”  It was unfortunate that people missed out on the movies and music only out of lack of information passed on to them. I am not a huge fan of electronic music but I was pleasantly surprised by the music served at the Magic Forest because I expected straight up electronic, but it was experimental.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Fuzz Culture stood out but I think that had more to do with my preference than strictly about electronic music. The act consists of  Arsh Sharma (guitarist/vocalist of The  Circus)  and Sri Mahajan (Drummer Parikrama). People were looking forward to Vachan Chinnappa and Waga Waga (Aeroplane Records, UK) but a brutal stop was put by the cops during Vachan’s act. So the acts that did perform were Frame/Frame, Loopbaba. Fuzz Culture, Tarqeeb, Ez Riser and Buffa Pirate (who performed the next day morning to no audience instead of their scheduled Saturday night performance).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Soul Garden started with what was called the “Square Root Sessions”, which featured upcoming bands. Out of the three bands which performed, Pilgrim Tree HousePrateek Kuhad Collective and Gravy Train, Prateek was my pick. The evening sun was about to set so the acoustic works of Pilgrim Tree House and strums of Prateek’s guitar were a perfect mood setter. Just when I thought the strumming of Prateek’s guitar was becoming monotonous, Vir Singh Brar’s Jambi (a musical instrument that I hadn’t heard before) set the music apart. I didn’t quite enjoy the Hindi compositions for the mere fact that they didn’t offer anything new.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

While I understand the popularity of Gravy Train coming from their act and interactions on stage, I would hope they concentrate on music as much. Akshay Johar’s bass stood out for me in the band. Gravy Train features Tanya Nambiar (Vocals), Akshay Johar (Bass), Karan Malhotra (Guitar) and Bhairav Gupta (Drums).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The amateurs set the mood and now it was the turn of the popular bands to carry the shiny beacon which pretty much flickered till the end. Sanchal Malhar of Indigo Children fame and Toshar Singh Nongbet of India’s Got Talent fame kept the crowd going. It was good to see the crowd enjoying Toshar’s opera style!

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Bertie Da Silva and Amyt Datta were the opening act to Skinny Alley’s tribute. They had the fellow musicians up in applause and the crowd enjoying every moment of their performance.  The evening belonged to Skinny Alley who paid a tribute to the great Gyan Singh. More than a performance that has to be subjected to scrutiny as a musician, it was an emotional drive. It was good to see Bruce (from Thermal and a Quarter) joining in the tribute that lasted for quite some time and kept the crowd going. Jayshree’s vocals didn’t seem to fade till the last song and the applause from other musicians was endearing. More than musically enriching the second day for me was an emotional roller coaster (of the good kind).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

And then came the third day and I was reminded why I had come to Escape and stuck around the chaos. The Magic Forest offered a treat to the interested souls as the artists played well into the wee hours of the morning. The featured acts were Shantam, Vial, Dirty Saffi (who unfortunately did not play), KT, Tadayan, White Wizzard, Arjuna, Al Psummetrix, Technical Hitch and Post Modern Pundit. From the description and the buzz created, I wanted to listen to Post Modern Pundit and Dirty Saffi, but I was hooked on to Blackstratblues who were playing around the same time. Amongst the bands performing in the Square Root Sessions, The Cham Chams didn’t perform. No Thoroughfare and Raunak Maiti started the evening and Run! It’s the kid set the pace.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Unfortunately, I missed No Thoroughfare’s performance as I was drawn to watching a movie (which was brilliant). Raunak Maiti had Prateek Kuhad joining him for a few songs as all his songs were acoustic compositions. I did not enjoy his compositions on the keyboard as they sounded incomplete. It seemed the two artists from Mumbai had quite a support though in the audience. Dhruv Bhola (Backing Vocals/Guitar) and Shantanu Pandit (Vocals) from Run! It’s the kid helped gradually shift the music from acoustic to Folk/Reggae sounds. The Ukulele added the much needed zest. Most of the bands featured in the early part of the two days were acoustic or Reggae.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Beneath the star studded sky, breezy intoxicated air and the tremendous sound and stage, Blackstratblues began to mesmerize. Warren Mendonsa wielded his weapon and dedicated songs to the sunny evening, the rainy days and Zeppelin (his dog). Jai Row Kavi (Drums) joined Warren and made the shift to blues pretty effortlessly. This was one of the moments when I was reminded why this festival was worth coming to!

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Tough on Tobacco was again high on reggae and quite predictably, Sidd kept the crowd going. A band that starts to describe itself “as a 6-piece progressive disco dance metal bhojpuri act from Outer Mongolia” is indeed a humor tinged pop-reggae band. I was particularly intrigued by the photo of the band on the schedule brochure and their music seemed to explain it! The band features Sidd Coutto (vocals/guitar), Gaurav Gupta (guitar/vocals), Pozy Dhar (guitar), Neil Gomes (violin/sax/flute/vocals) , Johan Pais (bass) and Jai Row Kavi (drums/vocals).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The evening ended with Ska Vengers, another act that was sought after in the fest. The eight-piece band made the crowd stand up and dance to their tunes. Vir Singh Brar got on the stage to join them, this time acknowledging the band by dancing. It was the first time I was listening to them and they came across as a modern twist (the twist being interspersing various genres of music) to Jamaican music. Shirish played with the first band in the 3-day festival and then played with the last as well. There isn’t any musical significance to this but it sure is a fun fact! The lineup includes Samara C. (vocals), Delhi Sultanate (vocals), Stefan Kaye (organ/percussion), Raghav Dang (guitar), Tony Guinard (bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (drums), Rie Ona (alto saxophone) and Shirish Malhotra (tenor saxophone). The electronica stage was thumping simultaneously, which made me feel torn between the two stages. However people who were clear about their agenda must have enjoyed to the fullest!

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

My first impression of Escape (from two years ago) was that everyone finds his space – a space that is personal and oblivious to fun as defined by others. This time I found an invasion of my space mostly by the mismanagement and lack of information. Escape for me was never about getting high on anything other than music and the ambience, and I found myself meeting people who thought otherwise. But the effort of bringing so many creative minds under one roof is indeed commendable; if only the fest had been managed well, it would have left a lasting impression on my mind.

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Tough on Tobacco’s Big Big Joke album launch at The Blue Frog, Mumbai

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On the 15th of May, somewhere in Mumbai a bunch of doctors successfully performed a rare heart operation, construction work came to halt, and Mahesh Bhatt noticed that Sanjay Dutt had been crying. Away from all of this, within the stylistic confines of The Blue Frog, a hundred or so people grooved as if in a trance. Mumbai based band, Tough on Tobacco had transported its audience from the usual laptrap of the city, into the world of funk, reggae, rock and eccentricity.

The band was launching their second album Big Big Joke with a gig at the Frog that night and they started off their set with ‘College of Life’. The catchy intro on rhythm proved to be the perfect crowd puller and by the time the band moved on to their next song ‘Come On Down’, the crowd really had come down. The only setback was the backing vox which could hardly be heard through the mix. The reggae, funk styled song had most of the house on their feet.

The band then moved on to ‘Rock N Roll Party’. The chirpy upbeat tempo alternating with a headbang-worthy beat proved to be a rare treat for the audience. The crowd jumped and nodded their heads to the unabashed rhythm of this energy avalanche and appreciated it with a generous amount of hooting. This was followed by the song ‘Dog’ that saw Jai Row Kavi go crazy on his drum-set and ‘Door’ with Gaurav Gupta on vocals for the intro.

“This is a song about you”, said Sidd Coutto before beginning with the band’s next song, ‘Wonder’. The song was magic combined with the effect of the blue gobo-filtered lights and caught the audience spellbound. It was the perfect build-up required to play ‘Happy’ which seemed to completely consume the audience in a sort of musical hug. The first half was given the perfect end with the song ‘Alone’, which was a crowd favourite.

Sidd Coutto finally took a break from his robo-hipster influenced stage antics and got down to talking about their new album. ToT’s second album was being launched after a hiatus of four years, he said. The projection screens started to drop down as the band announced “Watch this video about the making of the album and the album art.”

What ensued was an absolute cracker. The people in the audience were beside themselves with laughter as they saw Jai(aunty) pointing disgustedly with an “eeee” at her daughter(Johan Pais) as she(he) spitted food out. The video captured this being repeated around four times in order to capture the perfect shot.  Jai(aunty), was clearly the crowd’s favourite for the night with a stride and pitch that was very much stereotypically lady-like and actions that were not at all. The video was a piece of marketing wizardry with five humorous lads/band mates/family members trying to tickle every bone in your body.

Then video ended, the screen was lifted up and ToT dived straight into the first song from their new album, ‘Do What You Gotta Do.’ It’s not really new material since the band has been playing songs from its second album before official release since 2010. The song, ‘Yahweh’, came next and like its predecessor saw many in the audience singing along with the chorus. The third song from Big Big Joke was ‘Follow Your Dreams’. Sidd Coutto is perhaps one of the few front men out there who don’t look down upon their audience from above stage. Whether he is singing about following your dreams or singing about how happy it has made him to do so, the lyrics can be seen reflected on his face as emotions. Raw and real, just as he is. It’s probably this very quality that enables Coutto to engage a viewer and truly be able to move them.

Songs ‘Ordinary’, with Gaurav on the lead vocals and ‘Big Big Joke’, the title track, were played in quick succession. The soft mellow tunes were like a sweet balm, add to this Pozy Dhar’s sweeping solos, and you have a very happy audience. Rock ballad ‘Love Love Love’ followed by ‘Blow Yourself Away’ were the highlights of the night in terms of Coutto’s dramatics. The band members were grinning playfully at each other and making comical faces. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves on stage.  Midway through ‘Blow Yourself Away’, Coutto introduced the band in his typical sing-song manner.

The set, as usual, was ended with a hot favourite ‘Smoke Some Ganja’ with a guest appearance by Tracy Pais, wife of Johan Pais. Coutto called her on stage to celebrate her birthday. Jai Row Kavi is handed a mic and Tracy and him work out a funny on-the-spot Marathi improvisation laced with nonsensical exclamations and animated voices that has the audience rolling on the floor, laughing. Then the song reached its climax and the audience and band members went crazy in unison jumping and dancing to the upbeat second half of ‘Smoke Some Ganja’. The song ended too soon and the band was already packing up as Sidd thanked the audience and briefly explained where one can get access to the download codes.

Among the audience that seemed to be coping with what looked like withdrawal symptoms after having consumed some very addictive tunes, one could see many celebrities from the Indian independent music scene. There was Vishal Dadlani, Karsh Kale, Gino Banks, Vinayak Pol, Warren Mendonsa , Bobby Talwar, Rohit  Pereira, Akshay Rajpurohit to name a few. As the show concluded, they all had one thing in common as did everyone else in Blue Frog.  Smiles of contentment.

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Drashti Thakkar

Drashti Thakkar is a Mumbai based writer, a freelance drummer and loves working with lights for live gigs. Her idea of an epiphany is anything that gets through while reading the IPC. Her idea of a good time is a ride on the bike. No, She don't drive.

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Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

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“I’m going to be in a rock band”

“I’m going to be a star performer”

“I’m going to hear requests for Summer of ’69 all my life”

“I want to break free”

“God knows I want to break free”

If any of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, this handy, easy to read, easy to digest and easy to poop out guide will have you on the road to being an Indie Music Superstar in no time. In NO time. At all.

The Indie Musician 12 Step Program:

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

It costs money to make money. In this case, it costs money to earn pretty much nothing. But your passion for music will see you through. Right?

Wrong.

You need a certain amount of money to invest in yourself, for equipment, training, pedicures and such. It is best if you are young, have parents with money, have a fairly convincing puppy dog face or are born into a music-loving family.

Another common but unpopular way to make money is to get a job. This could be anything from being a bus boy at a hotel to being the President of a major Gymkhana.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

It is very important to have an instrument. Research has shown that almost 100% of music is made using some sort of musical instrument. Your vocal chords count as an instrument, if only for the purpose of this argument.

Musical instruments fall roughly into these categories:

Impresses Girls: Guitar, drums, vocals
Impresses parents: Violin, Cello, Harp
Impresses no one: Triangle, Casio

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

Depending on what instrument you have chosen to play, life can either become very difficult at this stage or better still, unbearable.

You’ve all seen the look on a lead guitarist’s face as he plays a blistering solo. No, he’s not trying to be cool. The tips of his fingers are burning and he can’t wait to get off stage and soak himself in a solution of Epsom salt and water and whisky and water, only one extraneously.

Thanks to the internet, our good friends Google and YouTube, you can learn everything you need to about anything you want to with just a few clicks of your mouse and 168 hours of buffering. When you’re done looking at porn, try searching for instructional videos and guides for whichever instrument you’ve chosen.

Now practice till you sound good. It’s as simple as that.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

If you are to become a somewhat successful artiste, newspapers and magazines will write articles on you. These are often accompanied by photographs, which means you have got to make a conscious effort to look interesting.

Some experts say it’s best if you be yourself, but if that were true, everybody would be performing in whatever they wear at home when they’re alone, with family or close friends.

Fans enjoy looking at pictures of hot women, so it’s best if you are one.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

You’re a musician. You have a life. You have a story to tell. Use the power of music to talk about anything you feel like. Anybody and everybody can play ‘Hotel California‘ after learning it from the Internet. But you could write your own ‘Hotel Shiv Sagar‘ that nobody else plays. Ever.

Music is art. If even one person likes a song you wrote, you’re artistically validated. This is where mothers and girlfriends play an important role. Your friends cannot be trusted, they most likely, and often for good reason, think you’re a dork.

If you’ve reached a creative block or want to write a song that will be a surefire hit, research shows that “being inspired by” or “copywriting” Korean and Arabic songs is a good way to get started. (Pro Tip: Before you steal a song, check who the original writer is and if he has enough money to sue you. Use Google.)

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

 

 

You need to form a band or collaborate with other musicians. You need to have a band name or change your first name to something like “The artist formerly known as Chartered Accountant”. Something catchy and interesting is good.

If you form a band, remember that it’s like being in an office group, except everyone’s dressed badly and nobody is making money. But this is only in the initial stages, eventually you guys are all great friends.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

There is no better way to get the audience on your side than by playing songs they already know.

Helpful Suggestions for Hindi bands:

Hum honge kamiyaab, Saare jahan se accha, Dum maro dum, Bhaag DK  Bose, Sheila ki Jawani.

Helpful Suggestions for English bands:

Happy birthday, Hotel California, Summer of ’69 and Roadhouse Blues are essential for an English band.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

Everyone knows that a band or an act will only sound good if they have practiced and practiced and poured their hearts and souls into their music. OR they’re just extremely talented.

It is almost always necessary to have rehearsal time. This could be anything from 5:00 – 6:00 am to 5 minute spurts at any point through the day. A former boss of mine was a classic rock enthusiast who would burst into high pitched screams whenever something upset her. We kept a guitar in the conference room, but really, only a full drum kit could have drowned out her voice. She’s now the lead singer in a Queen cover band called ‘Prince Philip’.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

People love seeing live music. This is where all your hard work comes together. This is where you’ll get two free drinks.

Go up on stage, at a club, a college competition, a festival such as Glastonbury or Lollapalooza and perform your heart out.

Remember to have your original songs and famous covers well-rehearsed, have your look in place, and your coupons for free drinks before you perform.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

If you want to drive your songs into people’s heads, you need some sort of song storing car and a ramp leading into their ears. You might want to check parking fees before you head through the entrance.

If you don’t have a recorded song, how will people listen to it? That’s right; let a music director be inspired by it. But if you want the credit, you have to record.

Technology has put the power of a recording studio into things as little as a mobile phone. You don’t need Abbey Road studios or Timbaland producing your track. (Chris Cornell especially didn’t).

Again, harness the power of the Internet, our modern deity. There are plenty of online recording options available as well. Your most important tool is the space between your ears. You can record your music to sound any way you want. All it takes is some practice (Pro Tip: by some I mean LOTS) or get a professional sound engineer or producer to come on board and help you record your tracks.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

Music has become an audio visual experience. You need to jump on that bandwagon or be left behind. Video killed the radio star 30 years ago.

Cameras and video editing software are fairly affordable. Find a talented director or photographer friend and shoot anything.

Concept is King, so if you have a good idea, people will watch it.

Again, a good rule of thumb is that if there is a beautiful woman in your video, it will be watched.

Indie Music for Dummies (by Dummies, of Dummies)

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to see it, who will like its Facebook page?

If nobody hears your music, you’re not going to become famous. Put your videos, music, biography, blogs, photographs, recipes on the internet and actively promote your pages, be it Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation or southindiansuperstar.com.

Offer incentives to people to become fans. Provide your fans with value added services. Popular ones are free SMS and 3G data plans, but that might just be for cellphone companies.

Constantly push your product in as many ways as possible. Stay on the internet for up to 23 hours a day, following what people are saying and looking for an opportunity to market. For example, if someone posts, “I had a bad day at work today”, immediately post your song ‘No Boss No Loss’ on their wall. If someone posts “I want Raveena Tandon so bad I could kill myself”, you post the video of your song ‘Suicidal Tandoncies’ on their wall.

That’s it then. Twelve easy steps to becoming an Indie Music superstar as famous as Rajendra Dongre. You’re welcome.

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Day 2 of Indigo & Blues – International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

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It really is a shame that a combination of traffic, miscommunication and uncharacteristic tardiness on my part had me walk into the venue just as Adil and Vasundhara were wrapping up their set. I would’ve loved to watch them live but had to instead rely on rapturous one-line reviews from people around. But I wasn’t too perturbed as there were some more world class acts to follow – The Saturday Night Blues Band from Kolkata, Blackstratblues from Mumbai and, of course, the headliners Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel all the way from the US of A. The stage was well set up, the sound was perfect, and the weather couldn’t have been more pleasant if it tried, and I took my seat to drown myself in the blues.

Day 2 of Indigo & Blues - International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

The Saturday Night Blues Band started off loud and very proud with ‘Blues is my Business’, and apparently (as the lyrics go), “Business is good!” and it sure sounded like it! Singer Arunima Dasgupta’s voice was powerful, intense and in control. The band had a very tight old school blues sound. The Saturday Night Blues Band consists of Jayanta Dasgupta on Guitars/Vocals, Arunima Dasgupta on Vocals, Stuart Munrao on bass, Rohan Ganguli on the guitar and Avinash Chordia on Drums.

They played a mix of slow blues and danceable numbers like ‘6345789′ by Wilson Pickett and the great SRV’s ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. Their rendition of ‘Look Don’t Touch’ by Hubert Sumlin had an amazing Boogie Woogie rhythm and this was a song where they showed great stage presence and connected with the audience. Jayanta Dasgupta’s solos were quite incredible on every song. Ganguli, though somewhat silent at the start and playing only the rhythm parts, blazed his fret board every time he graced us with a solo. They ended their set with ‘What Good Can Drinking Do’ and ironically the audience raised their glasses to bid them goodbye!

Day 2 of Indigo & Blues - International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

As I looked around the venue, I had one major problem with the way it was organized – the strange seat segregation. There were three passes- Silver, Gold and Platinum. The Platinum – the costliest one (with free booze) – was right in the front and was only some 20 feet from the stage. It was the only section that stretched across the breadth of the lawn venue. The rest of the sections (Silver and Gold) had a chunk cut out from the left side to accommodate the monstrous sound console section. Moreover I felt that dividing the venue into three sections when the strength of the audience wasn’t more than 500 was an unnecessary waste of space.

India’s favourite trio Blackstratblues took to the stage next. The band has been revolutionary in the way they have popularized their brand of blues-based instrumental music to college audiences in the country. Originally the brainchild of guitarist/composer Warren Mendonsa, he was joined on stage by his live band consisting of Sidd Coutto on drums and Johann Pais on bass.

Day 2 of Indigo & Blues - International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Blackstratblues are a thrill to watch live, always pushing their music to the limit, playing entire sets without losing the vigorous intensity that makes their performances so special. After a fierce blues-rock intro, they started their proper set with ‘The Happy Billi Song’ from The New Album. This was followed by a couple of new songs, ‘The Universe Has a Strange Sense of Humour’ and an untitled song. All the new songs they performed, named and unnamed, had a distinctly darker sound than the usual Blackstratblues material. The songs involved more layers of rhythm than just plain guitar solos. Here we also saw Warren playing around and jamming with his delay and wah guitar pedals almost as if the pedal board was the fourth musician on stage!

Blues for Gary’ from the band’s debut album Nights in Shining Karma put Warren’s guitar playing in the spotlight, clearly showing his unique mix of playing styles, which involves a typical blues style of soloing but with that pinch of India thrown in and always served with some extra Bombay for good measure. The same goes for ‘Ode to a Sunny Day’ that was the last song of the set, though this song is a lot more folksy. Written by Warren when he was going through a tough time in his life, this is a song that always inspires. It sounds like the narrator is running towards the light at the end of the tunnel, and maybe someday reaching it too. And who is the narrator? It’s the black strat, of course, that conveys all of this without ever speaking a word!

Day 2 of Indigo & Blues - International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Finally, we had Bobby Whitlock, Coco Carmel and their band get on stage. Their band consists of Jeff Plankenhorn on guitar and Austin Robbie Venturini on bass. They started their performance with ‘Anyday’, the first of the many songs from The Derek and Dominoes album that they played. All of the songs from that album have stood the test of time for almost half a century. Whitlock and Carmel’s rendition that night was proof enough that music so powerful and ever-relevant won’t fade away too easily. The song also featured Jeff Plankenhorn’s unconventional style of electric guitar slide playing where he keeps his fretting hand over the fingerboard and plays it like a lap steel guitar. The sound he got out of it was incredible, a Duane Allman-esque sound that is quite new to most Bangalore ears.

This was followed by ‘Keep on Growing’, again from the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album, and ‘Got to Get Better in a Little While’, which wasn’t in the original album but was later released as a bonus track. Most of these songs have unique southern rock harmonies, not powerful in terms of loudness or range, but in intensity and emotion.

Day 2 of Indigo & Blues - International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

Coco Carmel, after having played rhythm guitar accompanying her vocals until then, took up the saxophone for the rest of the gig. The volume was slightly low at the start, and after a few of the audience members complained (and the band and the sound guys finally realized that it wasn’t just drunken shouting), it was soon rectified.

Towards the end of the gig or perhaps the reason for the gig to prematurely end was a visibly uneasy Whitlock. They ended the gig with ‘John the Revelator’ and ‘Layla’. Their rendition of both the songs was quite slowed down. It was a very different take on Layla. It alternated between a slowed down verse and an upbeat chorus with, of course, the iconic main riff. At this point, Whitlock looked quite ill and had to get up from his keyboard numerous times. Immediately after Layla, the gig took an unfortunate twist as Whitlock ran backstage and passed out. He had to be carried to a car and rushed to the hospital. It turned out to be a severe allergic reaction caused by a mix up in medication that was given to him.

Day 2 of Indigo & Blues - International Jazz and Blues Festival at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

The fact that even after getting so ill halfway through the concert, he still gathered all his energy to give an amazing performance shows the immense passion for music that Bobby Whitlock has. Even though the gig was cut short slightly, it was immensely entertaining. On the whole, though I had some issues with the way it was organized, music-wise, Day 2 of the Indigo Blues and Jazz was quite enjoyable. This was just one of the many blues festivals and gigs that have been happening in the city lately. As a blues and jazz fan, I would hope to see this trend continue.

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Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash is a Bangalore based guitarist and is a third of local act Groove Chutney. He loves jazz, street food, Woody Allen movies and often pretends to be a writer.

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