Tag Archives: Slither
Summer Storm Festival 2012 headlined by Opeth at Palace Grounds, Bangalore
The fact that the Metal scene is exploding in India is pretty well known. Over the past half a decade, an unprecedented number of international metal bands have played at various music festivals in the country. Back in 2010, a hitherto unknown entity called Overture India got Lamb of God down, much to the Indian metal crowd’s joy. After a year’s hiatus, they announced that Opeth would be headlining the second edition of Summer Storm on 5th February, 2012 (which isn’t exactly summer, but we wouldn’t hold that against the organizers). Foreign bands Suidakra from Germany and Nothnegal from Maldives, as well as local metal bands Theorized and Eccentric Pendulum from Bangalore, were added to the lineup before the festival.
Palace Grounds in Bangalore has turned into a Mecca of sorts for the Metal fans in India, since most of the big Metal festivals are held there. On the day of the concert, all roads leading to Palace Grounds were thronged by kids in black t-shirts from all over the country, as well as neighbouring countries. The venue had all the usual food and metal merchandise stalls, although booze was nowhere in sight! However, it was heartening to see that adequate supply of water was maintained throughout the concert, since at most gigs fans get desperate to find water near the end of the gig.
The gig started on time around 4 p.m., with thrash band Theorized opening the proceedings. They had released an impressive debut EP, False Hope of Tyranny, a couple of years back although their setlist for the gig consisted of only two songs from it – ‘Dark Incarnation’ and ‘Raise The Dead’, while the rest of the set consisted of new originals. Theorized has improved by leaps and bounds, in terms of tightness on stage, crowd engagement and interaction, in comparison to the only time I saw them live 2-3 years back in Mumbai. The band plays new age thrash with tons of groove, which a section of metal fans appreciate well.
Progressive metallers Eccentric Pendulum were next up on the stage. Now this band is really progressive, unlike the plethora of metalcore bands that use djent to masquerade as progressive metal. Searing thrashy riffs accentuated by cleverly crafted guitar solos and intelligent progression typifies their music. However, their sound during the gig lacked the “fullness” since a guitarist was missing from their lineup. They played mainly from their debut full-length Winding The Optics and managed to get the crowd into a frenzy when they played the impressive ‘Mathematicians of Ambient Waters.’ Both, Theorized and Eccentric Pendulum, had their merchandise for sale at the gig, which included t-shirts and CDs.
The Indian bands finished playing by 6 p.m. after which the first international, and pretty unknown band, Nothnegal came up on stage accompanied by appropriately dark ambient synths. It was very mysterious that despite hailing from the tiny atoll called Maldives, Nothnegal had somehow managed to rope in drummer Kevin Talley (ex-Dying Fetus and ex-Chimaira) and keyboardist Marco Sneck (ex-Kalmah) who were part of bigger and much better bands. But what perplexed me the most was how a band with members from good bands managed to be so mediocre. To be honest, the first part of their set was above average, although the guitar soloing ability of the frontman is questionable. This was the part of the set where they had harsh vocals, metalcore-ish chug-chugging riffs ably supported by the impeccable keys of Mr. Sneck and tight drums of Mr. Talley. It was during the last two or three songs that the band threw a huge curveball by introducing a different singer with clean vocals. That was when they dipped below the waves of mediocrity and I headed to grab some of the Kaati rolls.
The Celtic metallers from Germany, SuidAkrA, took to the stage next. They are Celtic not by the sole virtue of having a bagpiper in their midst, but they do incorporate Celtic tunes and themes in their songs, and their evidently Celtic costume. They started off with the incredibly catchy ‘Pendragon’s Fall’, which was probably the first time many people, who had missed Eluveitie, heard a Celtic metal tune. They went on to play songs culled from almost all their albums, like ‘Wartunes’, ‘Dowth2059′ and ‘The IXth Legion’. However, they had to cut short ‘Stone of the Seven Suns’ because the mandolin was out of tune. SuidAkrA’s set was characterized by the highly infectious, energetic and upbeat Celtic tunes, which got the crowd suitably primed for Opeth. However, their set was marred by a mishap when a barricade collapsed on a poor guy’s foot who had to be carried off from the spot and SuidAkrA even stopped between two songs to enquire about him.
Opeth took a while to come onstage, which they did around 8 p.m. to a backdrop of the album art from their latest album ‘Heritage’ and ambient strains of ‘Through Pain to Heaven’ (a Popul Vuh track). They straightaway launched into playing two songs from Heritage, ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ and ‘I Feel The Dark’, back-to-back. The incredible proggy-ness of The Devil’s Orchard was too much to even properly nod your head to! The diminutive Martin Mendez has to be one of the best bassists in Metal at the moment. The groovy low notes he plucks from his bass are nothing short of exquisite!
Mikael introduced the next song as one from Martin Mendez’s first album with the band, before he started with the hypnotizing fingerpicking intro to ‘Face of Melinda’ from Still Life. Next, they played ‘Slither’ from Heritage again, as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. With trademark self-deprecation Mikael introduced the next song as the only album he played bass in and not too well at that. The soothing cadence of ‘Credence’ from My Arms, Your Hearse and the one that followed it, ‘To Rid The Disease’ from Damnation, was made more mesmerizing by the haunting atmosphere and keywork provided by the “new kid on the block” Joakim Svalkerg.
As is the case with almost all Opeth concerts, Mikael, the standup comedian that he is, reserved his most biting ribbing for Mendez, calling him “chickenshit” for sporting a moustache like us Indians but hiding it in his beard. At this point, Joakim was facing some problem with his keyboard and Mikael fumbled with the order of the setlist too, provoking him to ask the audience to shout “F**k you, Mikael”, something he had been asking the audience to do all evening! After playing ‘Folklore’, from Heritage, he obliged the expectant crowd by revealing they were moving on to the heavier part of the set.
They chose ‘Heir Apparent’ from Watershed to start the Death Metal proceedings. I felt truly blessed when they next played one of my most favorite Opeth tracks ‘The Baying of the Hounds’ from Ghost Reveries, a song they don’t play live very frequently. The endearing part of this song is that it has all the Opeth ingredients in equal parts – the brutal part suddenly switching to mellower portions accompanied by heavenly ambience! Every great band has a crowd-sing-along track, and for Opeth, it is ‘The Drapery Falls’ from Blackwater Park, which they played much to the crowd’s frenzied joy. Coming back for encore, Mikael played the starting lick of ‘Deliverance’ joking all the while that Slash had stolen it from him! It was a fitting finale with its long drawn out, frantic headbang-inducing outro.
Many were apprehensive before the gig, about Mikael Akerfeldt’s ability to growl anymore and whether the set would be dominated by songs from Heritage, which had got mixed reactions from the Opeth faithful. All those fears were put to rest over the course of the evening, as Opeth probably played one of the best sets ever, with songs from all the albums, except the first two.
Overall, Summerstorm 2012 lived up to almost everyone’s expectations. The sound was decent for most parts, although it could have been better during SuidAkrA’s spell. The organizers were diligent enough to ensure that everything progressed smoothly. My only grouse is that there could have been a good mix of Indian bands from across the country much like the first edition of the Summer Storm Festival, and Nothnegal could have been avoided altogether!
Summer is miles and miles away, but Summer Storm is here to stay.
The Beatroute – Live at Pizza By The Bay
They say the routes of music lie in the beats of sound, and thats what the emerging Bombay based band,The Beatroute adheres to. The Beatroute, that comprises of ex Vayu drummer Gopal Dutta, Vignesh on guitar, Biswajeet on bass, Eeshan on keyboards, and Greg on lead vocals, recently played a gig at Pizza by the Bay, previously known as Not Just Jazz by the Bay. This new and upcoming band performed a wide array of songs ranging from their originals, to covers of U2, Coldplay and the sensational Michael Jackson.
Despite the fact that they are new to the world of live performances, their music seemed to stir our attention. With a professional like Gopal in the band who has had years of experience and other band members full of enthusiasm and zeal, they kickstarted the show with Wolf Mothers ‘Joker and the Thief’, which was very well done. In their second song which was a cover of U2s ‘Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me’, we saw a very focused Eeshan almost magically produce a techno sound through the motion-sensing interface on his keyboard, as if he was talking to it with his fingers!
Then came one of their originals called ‘Nine to five’, about the working class people in the city. The song was a tad shaky here and there and a little monotonous, but a good attempt at an original nonetheless. Next up was another U2 song, ‘Where the streets have no name’ followed by another original called ‘Glow’, which again seemed to lack the punch and vigor of ‘Nine to five’.
Next up, The Beatroute went into a wonderfully done medley of Chris Isaaks ‘Wicked Game’ and Maroon 5s ‘She Will Be Loved’. Subsequently, they played another cover of ‘Smooth Criminal’ by Michael Jackson, which was completely off beat and too fast a version of that song to be sung. It sounded like a cacophony of sound, with a mix of different instruments and bad timing. Next up, they broke out into another one of their originals called, ‘This Is Bound To Happen’, which had an electronica feel to it, making it a good listen.
Then came Eeshans solo performance on the keyboard, with an assortment of ‘Chariots Of Fire’, ‘The Godfather Theme’ and ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’. Immediately after which, out of the blue, I heard Greg screaming out happy birthday to someone, with Eeshan hastily filling in a 2 minute happy birthday tune on his keyboard.
Later on, Gopal Dutta played a 15 minute drum solo, which was astounding, highlighting his prowess as one of the most technically skilled musicians in the band. The best cover the band played was ‘Sunday Morning’ by Maroon 5; it proved that they have an umpteen amount of potential in them, considering that theyve only been playing live for a few months. ‘Clocks’ was one song where they couldnt get their timing right however, and towards the end of this Coldplay number, everyone in the band seemed to be a little perplexed.
Amidst this ambience of good music and dim lights, a man came up to the microphone and proposed to a woman, on stage, while Greg retreated into the background. Apparently, this wasnt a prank, but the real deal. In so many years of having attended gigs, this certainly was a first!
After this unusual saga, the band played a rather flat version of Porcupine Trees ‘Lazarus’ and a soothing version of Billy Joels ‘Piano Man’ which made everyone in the house sing along and come together for that moment. They proceeded to play an impressive rendition of ‘Drive’ by Incubus, followed by ‘Slither’ by Velvet Revolver that had a good solo by Vignesh. All in all, a band heavily inspired by Coldplay and U2, The Beatroute will probably go a long way.
The Big Junction Jam Festival- Day 1
Something that I have learnt over the years about Indian musical events, especially those that have live music, is that they never seem to start off at the scheduled hour. I walked in at 10:30 sharp, on that lazy Saturday morning, into the Big Junction Jam Festival arena in Palace Grounds and was greeted by Swarathma, at work on their sound check. A quick round of introduction with Karan Karthik (from The Live Gig) revealed that their sound check started an hour back. Well, it continued for the next hour or so, while I lazily roamed around the place.
After what seemed like an eternity (but was really a couple of hours), Bangalore based Old School Rebels got on the stage & kicked off the festival. Playing an extremely short set (which almost every band, that followed them, did over the course of the fest) of four tracks, they played two of their originals, covering Audioslaves ‘Revelations’ & Velvet Revolvers ‘Slither’. Maybe it was the lack of a sizeable audience, the set never made quite an impression by the time it ended.
Local Bangalore based jazz-fusion jam act Bourbon Street were up next, with Fidel from Old School Rebels on the bass again. Bourbon Street is fronted by Jerome Mascarenhas, who was missing from the action this time around. In his place was a thin lad named Ganesh, whom I hadnt seen play with them before. I was told this wasnt his first gig with them, which was evident from the way he was on the stage. Playing originals as well as covering old songs like Bobby Hebbs ‘Sunny’, & Phishs ‘Free’, their set was cut short as well, and was plagued by sound glitches, the booming bass & the inaudible-at-times lead guitars. One noticeable cover was that of ‘Nature Boy’, a poem, originally performed by Nat King Cole.
The all-Infy band Joos followed Bourbon Street for their set. Playing an original ‘Float’ with three covers that included Elviss ‘Heartbreak Hotel’; this was a decent set, although the vocals were a bit of a disappointment!
Black Sun, a 3 piece blues-rock act from Bangalore came in next. Not having heard of the band earlier, I had absolute zero expectations from them, and was pleasantly surprised to see three young lads climb the stage. Playing a real tight but short set, that included a self-composition oddly titled ‘Old Monk’, they were probably the only act of the day that asked for a couple of minutes for an extra song, and the organizers obliged. Closing off with a neat cover of Hendrixs ‘Voodoo Child’, they were well received by the limited audience that had gathered by now.
By the time I had got my share of chicken wings (Plan B had a counter in there!) and a couple of beers to wash them down, Mad Orange Fireworks had set up and were halfway into their first song. With Michael Dias fronting the band, it was difficult to miss the TAAQ/Bengaluru Rock flavor this bands music has. Also, the fact that the first gig these guys played together was just couple of months back wasnt really evident, with original compositions taking preference over covers for the majority. Their tremendous energy throughout their set wasnt lost on the audience either.
Towards the end of the afternoon, a decent number had turned up and The Indian Blues and Khalihan got to perform before the event was interrupted by rain. The Indian Blues seemed to make an impression with the presence of a sarod and a santoor on stage; however Khalihan failed to create much of an impact.
When I had read the schedule for the festival, one thing that caught my eye was Live Banned, the only act mentioned sans the genre of music they played. Imagine the shock when they got on stage. Forget the black metal bands with corpse paint or GWAR with whatever they wear; these guys had the most insanely funny outfits I have seen a desi band sport. Still no hints on what theyd play though. I did not see what was coming my way. A Tamil movie song is what the guy next to me says. Okay. Wait! Baazigars ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen’? Crossed with Maidens ‘Fear Of The Dark’? Was I drunk or was that the Swat Cats theme? The Terminator? The most entertaining act of the day till then, Live Banned had everyone up on their feet and close to the stage in no time. Hope this act lasts, entertaining audiences in the days to come, and I hope their gags on stage do not repeat either.
Mumbai based raga rock act Paradigm Shift were a surprise entry among the headliners, and their beautiful set left no doubts that they deserved the spot. Their seamless blend of Indian classical music & rock n roll was vibrant enough to draw us closer to the stage and pay attention to them. With a violinist in the fold, the sound was very different from what we had expected of them. Vocalist Kaushik who, we later learnt had no formal training in classical music, has very soothing sufi-esque vocals. The track ‘Dhuan’ was the highlight of their set, probably the most polished song of them all. They paid a tribute to A.R Rahman covering the title track of the movie Roja.
The only progressive yet melodic hard-rock act of the day, Evergreen from Kochi took stage as the Sun went down. The traces of metal in Evergreens music, if not abundant, are evident. Fresh from the release of their latest video (City Blocks), their set was probably the longest of the day. Playing regulars like ‘From Here To Clarity’ and ‘Vengeance’, their DT/Rush influenced song writing, if not as prolific as either, was a breath of fresh, though heavier air from the rest of acts. Though the audience reception wasnt very warm, they were the perfect openers for the rest of the headlining acts that followed.
Carnatic rock aficionados Agam came on at the far end of the first day of the Big Junction Jam, right into slots reserved for headlining acts. After a short and uneventful sound check (as opposed to the longer ones audiences had to endure prior to the bona fide professionals grabbing the stage), Agams Harish Sivaramakrishnan introduced their first song Brahma’s dance; he sure had to make time for a hat tipping to the organizers and the crowd which was a nice little touch. Despite its down-tempo beginning, Brahmas Dance had the band off to a strong start. It took the first few bars of the song for Harish to settle into his vocals, a minor flub we heartily ignored. A strong point toward the middle of the song is an amber-toned shot glass of Harishs special brand of rock Carnatic vocal thats come to be the quintessential Agam flavour. A rising crescendo with an abrupt end had the crowd sighing with relief at the arrival of one of the few refined bands of the day! Raag Dhanashree was up next and began strong on the tabla and electric guitar; the violin nosed its way in after Harishs mike, toning it down just enough to meld with the song rather than overshadow it. And lo and behold, there was a sudden crowd in the front stark contrast to the motley crew that had populated the area so far mostly photographers, who ambled around looking like stragglers at an after party.
A flurry of well-rounded musical scales in the interim and the band was already halfway through the four-song set! Lakshya Padhyai or Path of Aspirations, the next song, had a notable jazzy bass guitar face off – so short, you could miss it that is a highlight of the song for this jazz lover. Beautifully light violin notes lead into the bridge and on into the end of the song. Raaga was up next with the first Hindi lyrics of the set and a heavier sound justifying their rock tag. With its short staccato stabs of guitar playing, the song was the first to get the crowd going in what seems like forever! It even brought Harish down to his knees making photographers scramble to capture it! Malhar jam, usually the best kind of crowd-pleaser, was up next, but the band was cut off by the organisers. Harish made a valiant attempt at a last song but he was shot down.
Parvaaz, Bangalore-based psychedelic/blues outfit was up next. Having seen them win the Unmaad gig in IIM-B earlier this year, and then play at Fireflies as well, and the level of commitment they have shown at each and every gig, the only grudge I have against them, if I were to nitpick, is the lyrical content, which just doesnt seem to match up with the music they play. Either that, or I dont get it at all. Probably the latter. The show was running late as it is and musical sharks Swarathma and the percussion masters Beat Gurus waited patiently in the wings, waiting to do justice to the stage.
Enter Beat Gurus & the crowd that had pretty much settled down for a short break was back, up against the stage barricades in a minute. This decade old percussion-only group is a familiar name amongst namma Bengaluru music aficionados. The octet got on stage, a quick sound check was followed by a quick exit and a quick return in colorful kurtas. Well, the quick part about their stage act showed up in the length of their set as well. Two songs were all they got time to play. The seasoned performers they are, the audience was clapping along in no time cheering them on. Almost everyone, including the band, wanted this to last a bit longer, but time was running out and the biggest act of the day was gearing up to close the night.
Swarathma, arguably the biggest folk rock act India has seen in recent times, finally took the stage at quarter past ten. After a second and thankfully shorter sound-check, they started off the proceedings with ‘E Bhoomi’. Crowd favorites like ‘Yeshu, Allah aur Krishna’ shortly followed up. Swarathma are a treat to watch live, despite the relentless touring they seem to be on nowadays. Be it Vasu Dixits humor on the stage, his word-play with Jishnu, or Varun Muralis flawless guitar playing, they have something for everyone in the audience, be it the musician or the ones who are in for the fun. Vasu was off the stage in the middle of the song and before you knew it he was dancing on the thela right in the middle of the crowd, urging everyone who had waited patiently for them to be a part of the act. It was nearing eleven already and even Swarathma ended up with just a four song set at the end of the day. I rue the fact that their sound-check in the morning lasted long enough to eat up into the length of their own set, not counting the bands that didnt get a chance to play at all.
Despite the good music, the food and the beer, the number of people who attended was lower than expected. We finally left the venue, a little disappointed, but secretly hoping that the scene would improve on the second day of the festival.