Tag Archives: Woodstock

Nicotine at Woodstock Lounge, Indore

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Unplugged Jam Session at Woodstock Lounge, Indore

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Festival Preview: The GoMAD Festival

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You know how they say that India is the land of festivals? Well, they just might be right. The month of October promises to bring you a mad rush of sights and sounds! Music festivals have lined up, but based on their reception last year, The GoMad  festival is definitely one to look forward to. Inaugurated into existence in 2012, the 3 day music and art extravaganza conjures up images of a Thai full moon party coupled with an ambience reminiscent of Woodstock.

Festival Preview: The GoMAD Festival

The concept, to situate the festival in a different location every 2 years, brings it this time to the magical hills of Ooty where one can expect to be serenaded by Neel and the Lightbulbs or headbang to Inner Sanctum while draped in the beauty of the Nilgiris. The organizers have something similar in mind when they say “We strongly believe that 36 hours of dancing in the moonlight and rocking through the dawn is a spiritual awakening that can break through barriers, move people and bring them together.” The three days, October 25th to 27th seem to promise a detoxification of whatever stress life chooses to throw at you!

Festival Preview: The GoMAD Festival

GoMad has outdone itself in collecting the Who’s Who of the Indian music scene like Parikrama, Agam, Emergence, Parvaaz, Baiju Dharmajan, Inner Sanctum and Bevar Sea among others as well as a much looked forward to grand finale with reputed dancer Shobhna taking over the stage but it doesn’t just end with some bigwig names. The organisers, bent on providing a complete artistic experience have collected a most eclectic group of performers. Genres vary to rock to pop to metal to jazz to prog to plain non-definitive melodies.  One can only imagine the flows and breaks of guitars and drums while standing drenched in the cool comfort of Fernhill Palace Grounds, Ooty.

Festival Preview: The GoMAD Festival

But quite apparently GoMad isn’t just about the music. Any time you want a break, you can stroll over to the bazaar or the food court, participate in the drum circles (yes, there will be drum circles), take a look at the various art installations or spend an hour  making music of your own at the ‘Jam Base’. And yet again, this doesn’t come close to completing the list of all that this carnival will offer.

Festival Preview: The GoMAD Festival

Despite hiccups earlier this year which caused the festival to be postponed from May to October, GoMad chooses to bring you with much to look forward to. So, arm yourself with some woollens for a good time and discard some worries to be in a better place for three days in Ooty.

Shreya Bose

Shreya Bose is an English grad who is rethinking her dedication to academia and trying to figure out the secret to personal sanity. Currently, writing seems like the only activity that offers both inspiration and catharsis. When free, she overdoses on Yukio Mishima and Kahlua.

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ZIRO – Mud, music and madness

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It was three days of love, peace and music – not in Woodstock, but Ziro. As the picturesque meadows echoed with sounds of 20 ensembles from around the country, the Northeast swayed to its first indie fest of tunes.

Every time someone talks about a music festival the first thing that comes to one’s mind is indeed Woodstock 1969. Often hailed as the “mother of all music festivals”, it never ceased to acquire a mention whenever there is a reference to a magnificent association between love, peace, harmony and music. But guess what, all of that is about to change and especially for the people who were at the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh from September 14 to 16. From now on every time someone mentions a music festival, it will be the one in Ziro that will secure an immediate mention among the people of Northeast and trust us, rightfully so.

Whether it was the magnificent festival venue nestled amidst lush green meadows of the hamlet between Ziro and Hapoli, the rainy weekend, 20 musical ensembles or having a gala time swaying away to music in muddy fields and sipping on local rice beer, Ziro Festival helped all those who were present at the do to relive moments which many of us have usually savoured in the videos of festivals such as the Woodstock 1969. And we should very well say this that the first edition Ziro Festival will go in the pages of history as one of the pivotal moments that changed the music scene in the Northeast by providing enough exposure to the region for the world to acknowledge it’s splendid grandeur.

The attendees to the three days of “Eat, Drink and Merry” festival (as the tagline of the fest goes) were not confined to the Northeast alone. There were people from all walks of life and with different geographical sensibilities. Though the attendance was paltry (considering all three days), but notwithstanding that it was festival that managed to re-establish people’s faith in the power of music and how it can get people together despite differences. And music took the center stage with the artistes and audiophiles – many among who were visiting the Northeast for the first time.

Day One

The first day kicked off at around 3.30 pm and went on late till late in the night. Frisky Pints and undoubtedly Bombay Bassment (among the others) were the bands to look out for on the first day’s schedule. It was a busy day not only for the organizers but also for the festival-goers as all of them was busy getting prepared for the next two days to follow. Setting up of tents, doing a recce of the venue, tasting the available delicious culinary offerings and savouring the scenic beauty of the festival venue took up most of the time. But all that didn’t take anything away from these bands that offered a fantastic platter of songs that shook Ziro on the first day and set the tone for the next two days. Bombay Basement with their eclectic blend of tempo-driven hip-hop, funk and reggae gave a fantastic ending to the first day. However, people continued to flood the stage arena long after the music was called off for the night, which gave an impression that people simply wanted more. Those staying at tents at a plateau around some 200 meters from the stage continued jamming with djembes and guitars which they had brought along with them and it continued till the wee hours of the night. The serene environment of the hamlet echoed with music and we all waited for the sun to rise and mark the beginning of yet another fantastic day of music.

Day Two

Echo of acoustic music from djembes and guitars woke us up in our tents the next morning. Early birds were already on a musical high when we came out of our tents to find out what is going on. After seeing a few of our fellow festival-goers pounding percussions and strumming guitars, we joined in and that set the mood to enjoy performances by the professionals who were lined up for the day. Our impromptu jamming was on a all time high when a soothing cover of Alanis Morissette’s song grabbed out attention. We knew it was time for the first act of the day – Alisha Bhatt. A singer-cum-songwriter, recently Alisha has been in the news for her soulful urban folksy performances something one can relate with the likes of Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco among others. After a performance in front of a 50 or so people, she left the stage for Aftertaste, a five member alternative rock ensemble from Mumbai.

Here it is imperative to mention that the rains never stopped pouring  for more than a few hours in all the three days, but that didn’t hinder anyone’s enthusiasm to watch these acts out which were not only independent in their approach towards music but also unique in their appearance on stage. More importantly, till this festival, we had only heard about many of these acts but never had the chance to witness them live. But, they were experienced festival performers who knew when and how to get the crowd going and it was very much evident right from the time they stepped on to the stage. Aftertaste, as a band, was a pleasure to watch. And right from the word go, these musicians manifested how to articulate a performance, even when one is performing in a venue for the first time in front of a crowd which probably they have never entertained for. Their professionalism was apparent when some technical difficulties struck guitarist Michael Lee’s setup and Keegan Pereira, vocalist of the band, broke into a spontaneous song with some random yet meaningful lyrics and candidly confessed to us that it was a gimmick to buy some time for his fellow bandmate to fix the problem. They were well received by the crowd and had to oblige to encores. As the day bid adieu and evening set in, it was time for some metal. The only representative of metal in the entire line up of the three-day fest was Lucid Recess (LR), the three member alternative metal guys from Assam. Those who have known LR and their music would know that they are pretty neat in their live performances, but guess it was a bad day at work for the trio at Ziro. LR was followed by some much-needed girl power. And no brownie point for guessing as it was the only all-girl ensemble in the line up – The Vinyl Records (TVR).

TVR got a great slot to perform at the festival as they got to perform in the evening on day two. As many of us would know they are good at what they do, but in Ziro their performance didn’t have the zing that could make the crowd tap their feet. The highlight of day two was indeed Peter Cat Recording Co. (PCRC) and organizers Menwhopause. We got to know from sources that prior to the festival PCRC were desperately hunting for opportunities to perform in the Northeast and their wishes were granted when they were given a slot in the lineup. They did a fantastic job. Those who haven’t heard these alternative musicians, we would like to tell them that the ensemble is an unique blend of genres that evokes certain emotions – probably something like as if Sid Barrett’s technical and psychedelic imagery is having a romantic date with that of The Doors’s introspective lyricism and lively showmanship. But, the band which stole the show on day two was Menwhopause. The organizers were also blessed by the rain Gods and the audience could savior their music blessing them for coming up with the festival that will be in the coming years one of the most sought after festival in indie musical the map of India (provided it’s organized again).

Day Three

The last Day of the festival was once again kicked off by yet another soloist from Delhi – Dayglocrazie. The guy with an acoustic guitar is a subtle musician that might remind many of the likes of Jack Johnson and Ben Harper among others. But, here is the catch – unlike any of the above mentioned musicians Dayglocrazie’s music had a hint of regional elements. To be precise his compositions smelled of baul music of West Bengal cleverly weaved with western music sensibilities to give it an urban avatar. In fact the opening two acts – Dayglocrazie and Tritha Electric (which followed him next) – offered some Bengali flavour to the audience in the middle of Arunachal Pradesh in the fest. If Dayglocrazie sounded like baul music, Tritha sprinkled rebellious poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Bengali poet, blending it with a bass guitar and a well toned drum. In fact looking at the line up of day three it seems the seven bands were paired in accordance of the genre of music they play. For instance after the first two Bengali-inspired poetic acts, it was time for some alternative punk. The Dirty Strikes and Street Stories unleashed their punk-inspired power and at times covered contemporary pop like that of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ to attract the rain-soaked crowd. But if we are to choose one between the two, our vote will go with that of Street Stories. Mainly because of their exquisite stage presentation and some crazy (we mean literally) guitar playing.

The next two similar sounding bands to occupy the stage one after another were Digital Suicide (DS) from Guwahati and Sky Rabbit (previously known as Medusa) from Mumbai. Music enthusiast in the Northeast are well acquainted with DS’ post grunge sound. Though it took them quite a while to get their preferred sound out of the speakers and it did irritate the audience who were anxious to savior some of their lucid riffs and distorted bass slap. But once they got going the crowd swayed away to their music forgetting the initial technical hiccups. Sky Rabbit was a soothing surprise as we have heard them when they were a metal ensemble named Medusa. Their sound and compositions echoed of a peculiar British neo-rock tinge which was appreciated by the crowd.

The Finale

But, it was celebrated veteran pop/rock musician Lou Majaw and his friends that took the third day of the festival to a crescendo. We all know Majaw and his music. Being in the Northeast he is no surprise as we get to see him every time there is a rock concert of some magnitude. The veteran clad in his trademark shorts and multi-coloured socks yet again gave a reason soothing enough for the crowd to go berserk and scream for encores compelling the artiste and his associates to render one song after another long after they formally bid adieu to the crowd. But, the love for music in the Northeast was evident when the crowd refuse to left the concert venue even after the organizers called it a night, So much so that they were left with no other option but continue playing music – so what if it was CD recordings. From Pink Floyd’s overplayed ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ to Jon Bon Jovi’s previously unheard remix version of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ there was everything that shaped many of our tastes in rock.

Well, there was no Jimi Hendrix, Canned Heat, Joe Cocker or Sly and the Family Stone for the crowd to savior. But will it be too much to say that the lineup definitely had the potential to become one of these great acts and hence Ziro Festival was nothing short of what they call a perfect field day for musicians and music lovers. We sincerely hope the organizers give it a serious thought to organize the festival next year so that those who could make it to the festival and were on a “wait and watch” mode will get a chance to relish some serious independent music that too in Apatani style. Till then keep your fingers crossed!

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Debarun Borthakur

Debarun Borthakur has been a journalist for the last 7 years in many national as well as regional news dailies. His forte is music and loves to be honest with his words. He has been strumming the guitar for a decade now and swears by authentic Delta blues and Seattle's grunge.

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Freedom Jam

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Music for the sake of music. If this seemed to be the motto of the annually held Freedom Jam, its intention was lost to the growing needs of a city which desired to please everything else but to favour music.

“The Freedom Jam, is a non-stop pulsating musical explosion reverberating by over 40 bands of various hues vying to play over multiple stages to commemorate the freedom of music, now a Mecca for the rock and contemporary music scene in India. The annual Freedom Jam, free music festival is Bangalore’s own Woodstock. With thousands of music lovers and over a hundred musicians from all over gathering to perform at the annual jam celebrating freedom at midnight with music on the eve of the Indian Independence day the festival has now become one of Bangalore’s most awaited events.” (mybangalore.com – 2010)

If those were the words highlighting what Freedom Jam was about, it is unfortunate to say that our ‘Woodstock’ isn’t being held with as much pomp and show and vigour as it used to.

Freedom jam originated in the mid-90s, when a lot of foreign bands started touring India and the TV music channels started hogging the limelight. Indian bands found it difficult to find venues to perform. As an act of survival, performing musicians got together to create situations where they could play. The 50th anniversary celebrations of the nation spurred an initiative by a few musicians and Freedom jam was born in August ’96.

I set to trace down what led to the dimming down of the event, or why there isn’t as much talk about it, like there used to be in the past.

I spoke to Siddhartha Patnaik, member of the band BAJA, arguably the first band of desi rockers, who played mostly their own songs and rock versions of Indian standards like ‘Vande Mataram‘, ‘Surangani’, Bhojpuri folk ditties etc. They started Gigs Live Action, which officially initiated Freedom Jam and the monthly Sunday Jams.

“People these days don’t want to visit a rock show that has bands playing original compositions. They’d much rather watch a band that plays covers and then walk away to overpriced beers in expensive pubs than listen to bands that have something to offer,” he says.

Owing to diminished response and crowd to Freedom Jam, which was once touted as India’s Woodstock, he said it was due to the failing sponsorship of the event among other factors.

“The brand that used to sponsor our show finds it more lucrative to sponsor a Bollywood related event than a rock show which draws a lesser crowd. Even the bands that once used to perform on our stage find that playing for corporate gigs is more favourable to them. For that matter, it’s hard to produce an album or stage a show without having to appease a particular company or venue,” he says.

Having gained perspective from one of the organizers, I managed to speak to his co-organizer Gopal Navale, of Guruskool, regarding Freedom Jam. Here’s a peek into the conversation that ensued.

Sharath: You’ve come a long way from performing with Esperanto in 1996 to having your instruments seized by the cops in your farm during the Freedom Jam of 2004. What does Freedom Jam mean to you?

Gopal: To create and perform original music without any overt commercial bias.

Sharath: What could you attribute Freedom Jam’s dying popularity with Musicians in Bangalore?

Gopal: I do not really know as after having a rather long stint at nurturing the movement from 1996 to 2008, I have taken a sabbatical to pursue my own music and career and have not been part of the team organising the recent Jams. The torch is being carried by co- conspirator Siddartha Patnaik. I can hazard a few guesses. Ever since the 2008 recession, sponsorship has been hard to come by, and the wannabe rockers do miss the great sound and great venues we could provide earlier. When Guruskool was organising the Jams, there was a concentrated attempt to enlarge the audience . We had monthly newsletters, posters, extensive press coverage, net publicity through online communities and our own websites all of which snowballed into making the Freedom Jam and its monthly avatar, the Sunday Jam, the most awaited dates in a music junkie’s calendar. Now with no sponsorship, rather than selling its soul, the Jam is now back to basics and reinventing itself, but the flame is still burning.

Sharath: What do you think needs to be done to bring back the spirit of Free music?

Gopal: Catalyze an audience. What is the point of cooking up some great music if there’s no one clamouring to lap it up? Where would John Paul & Co. be without those screaming teenage girls who discovered the magical effect their music had?

Sharath: What does the future hold for Freedom Jam?

Gopal: The contours of the mindscape of man are in a flux, the digital world has taken up a lot of the free time available to non indispensable pursuits. So perhaps the Freedom Jams of the future may need to take place somewhere in cyberspace.

It’s depressing to think that the free concert which saw musicians eager to fund costs by their own hard work, won’t happen with as much intensity as it did before. When the men behind the scenes in organizing the event have lost faith in the new breed of musicians who prefer being enslaved by the greedy needs of a capitalistic society.

Summing up, I’d place the times of Freedom Jam belonging to the era where free music, like free speech still held its place amongst a democracy. In the days of Anna Hazare stopping still to move the Government to paying heed to the cry of disgruntled people, the new generation needs to realize that there was a movement, and still can be one, to recognize musicians with passion and not bowing down to the demands of commercial bodies.

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Sharath Krishnaswami

Sharath is a freelance journalist. When he's not working, he's either painting on walls, trekking, or writing short stories.

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Tuning, Practice and Precision: The Turning Point in the 80s

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Photo Credits: Chethan Ram

“With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conqueror who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.”

The Guitarist Tunes Up’ by Frances Conford (1886-1960)

I’ve always loved this poem. Today though, it reminds me of some of the changes that have happened over the years.

When I started playing the guitar in Calcutta in the 60s, I knew of just one seller of the instrument in the city, a shop called Reynolds (I don’t know if they’re related to the one in Bangalore). ‘Box’ guitars cost Rs.75 and were made of plywood, with necks probably made of the ends of discarded tea chests. You were guaranteed that the necks would warp. The only solution was to loosen the strings each time you were through with playing it. Tuning and detuning the guitar thus became an integral part of the act of playing itself. You would detune it in various ways, experimenting with different detuned combinations, until you’d had enough and were ready to put the instrument to sleep. Tuning up was also a ritual in itself – first thing in the morning, of course (at 16, if you love the guitar, you’re not just in love; you’re obsessed. You pick up your guitar before your toothbrush). You tune up one string at a time, play that string alone, listen to its timbre and nuances, experiment with it, often running up from the lowest notes to the highest ones imbedded in the non-cutaway body. Then on to the next string. Of course we used mechanical devices – I used to be the proud owner of a pitch pipe. But the process was entirely aural.

A natural fall-out of this was that bands tuned their instruments on stage. Without today’s electronic tuners, there was no way you could tune a solidbody electric until it was plugged into an amp (off-stage amps don’t exist in India even today, O Tempora! O Mores!). Most of us walked onstage with loosened strings and started from scratch in front of the audience. Anyone who’s seen the movie Woodstock will remember Richie Havens tuning his guitar on stage. He’d just changed strings and hadn’t had time to tune up off-stage. But it wasn’t considered odd; to us, in fact, it was part of his performance.

I remember going to a concert by the Bangalore band Human Bondage in the early 70s. More than the vastly superior musicianship, what struck me was that before the curtain went up there was just this one, single note from an already-tuned guitar. Then the stage opened and the first song started right away. All of us were amazed. Of course, the fact that they were playing, “f**kin FENDERS, man! A Mustang into a Silverface!” made a difference; but I swore I would never tune my guitar onstage again.

So much changed with the advent of the plug-in tuner in the 80s. Today, I know guitarists who’ve been playing for over 40 years, who can’t tune up anymore without it (all of us who’ve been playing that long have probably lost it, anyway). But tuning is now a silent activity. Nobody hears it, not even the player. What used to be most important part of preparing your instrument before playing is now done visually.

Have we lost an important part of the process of communication between instrument and player? I think so. Most musicians today see communication as happening only between player and audience. There is no communing with one’s instrument. In its stead, there is ‘practice’.

I think the 80s was also when the concept of a ‘practice regimen’ among rock guitarists came into existence fully. While some musicians may have dabbled in it earlier, nothing is known for instance about the guitar practising schedules of Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield or any of the luminaries of the 60s. I don’t think they had any. No interviewer asked them about it. It wasn’t considered important. (The only noteworthy story about practice from that era is the unconfirmed one where the vicar of the parish of Ewhurst in Surrey, UK, on a visit to one of his parishioners’ homes, sees a guitar on the wall and asks the owner to play for the church. When the owner agrees, the vicar suggests that he practice for a few months first. It is only years later that he realises that the man who came to his tiny church to play hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’ with amazing grace, was named Eric.)

Although I don’t place myself in that hallowed group, in my teens and much of my 20s I obsessed over the guitar, playing for 6-8 hours a day (wrecked my studies and dropped out of college, too). But you ‘played’. You never ‘practised’. There were no distant goals; you merely immersed yourself in the delight of playing the instrument, in the now-ness of the experience and that is what Conford describes so beautifully.

Years ago, I made my only attempt at learning from a teacher. I quit after 2 lessons because he wanted me to practice the exercises he gave me, while I was only willing to play them if they were part of a song or at least a musical-sounding snippet. I met him later and he asked me if I was practicing. I said I wasn’t, but I was playing a lot at home. So he says, “That’s what I meant by practice.” I don’t think he got the idea.

Playing, individually or as a band, outside of performances is essential of course; but intensive, repetitive practice produces chronic competence. It’s a bit like adding a Compressor to your talent – you will never do badly; but you’ll rarely rise above yourself either. A certain amount of the serendipity that can and ought to occur while playing – onstage or off it – can be lost, because much too much is rehearsed and preplanned. Magical moments become fewer.

You may not agree with me; but do go back to Conford’s description of the relationship between the player and the instrument. Do you see digital dexterity as an objective of the foreplay? Producing forth a cleanly arpeggiated Ab Augmented or D# Demented was not the point – that would be a natural by-product of the intense relationship.

Another change that has happened is, I believe, a product of the 80s’ shred guitar trend. Shred guitar was not only about playing at extremely high speeds; its corollary was maniacally mechanical precision. Any note that is off the key or even marginally off the beat is considered wrong today. Friends who cut their teeth on 80s music often fail to understand why older musicians leave in notes that were clearly off the scale or the beat in newer work. “Why didn’t they go back and change it? After all, it was a studio recording!” Ah well. There used to be a higher god than correctness – stream of consciousness, for instance.

You can find fine examples of variable time and chord changes in almost any of John Lee Hooker’s work. The legendary Bluesman Robert Johnson’s recordings of the 1930s demonstrate a totally different definition of tonality from ours today. Check out his ‘Crossroads Blues’ on YouTube.

As one learns more and more about music, the definitions of right and wrong notes tend to get increasingly blurred. Who then, is the final arbiter of the bum note? Just as each of us has her/his own, unique style comprising choice of notes and manner of playing them, we also have completely individual ways in which we make ‘mistakes’. Aren’t we the sum total of all that? The point isn’t that one should or shouldn’t make mistakes or leave them in, in recordings. The point is that there is a choice, provided you accept that mistakes are natural. Unlike the factory-processed leather we usually come across, hand-tooled leather will always have a few marks left by the implements used. As Eric Blackstead said of the flaws in the Woodstock recordings he produced: “Consider them like scars in fine leather; proof of authenticity…”

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Vinoo Matthew

Vinoo has been playing music for longer than anyone ought to, and has played rock, jazz, blues, fusion and music that no one listens to. He plays/has played bass with the Rex Rozario Quintet, Aftermath, River, Gerard Machado Network, Ministry of Blues, Cantonment Jazz Terminus, Chronic Blues Band, Bangalore Jazz & Abstract Music Club, etc. ad nauseum. He also plays lead guitar with the underground group, the Sarjapur Blues Band, proving Frank Zappa’s statement: "All bass players are failed lead guitarists."

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Fireflies 2011 at Fireflies Intercultural Centre, Bangalore

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The Fireflies All-night Festival of Music 2011 was a well promoted event, and the crowd that thronged at the venue was testament to this fact. The lucky ones (us included) managed to park their cars a meager one kilometer away from the hill where the amphitheater was located, and plodded through the small village to the ticket counter that was rather well lit by a 0.5 watt bulb. Stamped and shoved, we found ourselves in a stand of trees that interspersed people passed out everywhere. The night was young, and people had already seemed to have crossed the limits, turned back, and crossed the limits again. We clambered for space at the top edge of the amphitheater and just about managed to view the proceedings on stage, courtesy the juice-leaking trees which had set root in the most non-optimal places thereby giving us a not so vivid picture of the bands from this distance.

We had borne the brunt of the tightly packed audience in the amphitheater, and had resolved to see this through the night. The Bicycle Days were in the middle of their set, but way off course as far their performance was concerned. The most noticeable aspect about their music at this show was their genuine attempt at belting out a different sound. Kudos to them for that, but the final execution of it all was disappointing. The vocals were off key and barely audible, the bass was overpowering everything else, and the samples used to render the psychedelic twist to their sound oscillated between perfect to downright annoying. The ambience-creation was excellent, but this was undone by what seemed like quacking ducks. The drumming was very tight and helped keep the band’s music rooted in a place where the average listener could connect with the band’s sound. In the end, it was refreshing to hear a different sound like theirs and one feels that they still have a way to go before making their music likeable, even to non discerning listeners.

While the next band that set up was Spinifex (Dr. Mysore Manjunath and the brass section from the Netherlands), the crowd shuffled around and we managed to get a little more comfortable as far seating and consumables were concerned. Spinifex’s performance was a technical orgy. Dr. Mysore Manjunath’s ability to make the crowd roar every time he started shredding the violin was phenomenal and unstaunched. The thrill he was experiencing on stage was infectious, he seemed to be feeding off of the audience’s energy, and the end result was wave after wave of crescendos and flamboyant solos on the violin, mrundangam, drums, and lastly, the brass quartet. The ensemble of trumpet, reeds, tenor Sax and tin Flute seemed highly out of place amidst the Indian ragas, yet these guys proved to be masters of their craft when they belted out number after number in a host of Indian classical pieces alongside the Mysore Brothers.

By the time Moonarra was set to play, the crowd was some 4000 strong, in a venue that was meant to accommodate about half that number. Moonarra’s set started off on a note that set the performance bar quite high. The musicianship and technical prowess displayed on guitars, bass, drums and the lap steel guitar were phenomenal and groovy. The music reeked of effortlessness; they made everything they played look so easy. Catchy tunes interspersed with Carnatic and Hindustani runs and sections worked well to provide the appreciative audience with an eclectic mix of sounds with this instrument set up. And just when it seemed that the listeners opened their arms and ears to the band’s sound, the experience was marred brutally by a vocal line that snatched defeat from the jaws of a musical victory. The singer’s attempt at pulling off a baritone pitch failed miserably. She was off key to such an extent that it ruled out all probabilities of categorizing the vocal line as jazz, or fusion, or ‘intentional’. It was bad, period. The singer’s rather unjustified confidence while belting out what appeared to be random notes obliterated any remote possibility of realization that she was off key. Suffice to say, Moonarra disappointed, considering their recently acquired popularity. The flamboyant inclusion of ‘movement specialists’ at the end of their set was salt in the wound, as the dancers were unsynchronized and drew attention away from the music. The show at Fireflies was constantly plagued by an ever increasing number of people, who, due to a lack of space at the venue, thronged behind and beside the stage, (spilling out between the amps even) and needed constant reminders to, well, get off stage. Though we tried hard to omit these from memory, it was like a bad allergy that kept coming back.

After yet another crowd dispersal message, Thermal and A Quarter blew everyone away with a pitch perfect, energy intensive, groove filled, electric performance that no one on that day will ever forget. Armed with a flautist and a saxophone player, TAAQ displayed how their songs represent a unique, catchy flavor that is ‘Bangalorean’ yet so, so, global in its appeal. Their cover of ‘Hey Jude‘ was by far the most exceptional song of the night; they show their ability to control audience response at will, and their greatness as a band was manifested on this amazing night.

Swarathma‘s colorfully dressed band members were visible through the haze and drew a fantastic crowd response while the stage was being set up. They masterfully executed a set of songs with and without a message, with the singer donning the garb of a horse and having an on-stage dialogue with the bassist, who ‘conducts’ the show with a hilarious Hindi accent! This band ensured that their presence on stage was not a one way rendition of music, but engaged with the crowd through dialogue and humor, making the overall experience a laughter-filled eye opener. They don’t bear down on the audience with a message, but elicit ‘wah wahs’ from everyone. This band has a fantastic live act one should be a part of at least once!

Dollu Kunitha, a percussion ensemble, appeared to have been added just for the sake of offering a multi-genre experience. The drummers were out of sync and the Tapaanguchi beats belted out again and again proved to be quite a bore. The fact that they made man-pyramids was unimpressive; gymnastics during live music does not make bad music good. Added to this, the team ventured through the crowd towards the exit and continued to thrill those in a drunken stupor behind the amphitheater while something more relevant to music was happening on the stage.

Something Relevant‘s set up was plagued by ceaseless Tapaanguchi front-stage. The band oozed freshness with the most apparent thing at this point in time: their apparel. Their start overlapped with Dollu Kunitha’s drumming behind the amphitheater, and the polyrhythmic mania created was terrible. One band at a time, please! When a band finishes it’s set up, its only basic courtesy to hear them play, without having to worry about why the organizers refused to (or later, did they?) get the previous band to stop playing! After the initial confusion died down, STR demonstrated some exceptional music. The saxophone proved to be the instrument of the night, taking the count to three bands with a sax this night. Amidst girls going wild over the singer, we were able to hear some funny lyrics being sung out, mixed with some really cool percussion and saxophone parts. Their music is groovy, fun filled and induces happiness and it’s as simple as that. These guys are a breath of fresh air in the music scene.

In the end, the atmosphere at Fireflies was palpable, the musical experience was fantastic, and the revelry was symbolic of Bangalore’s desire and love for live music and other such addictive notions. Quite the life experience, one might say. B’bye Woodstock, hello Fireflies!

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Sidharth Mohan

Sidharth Mohan is the founder of ‘What’s The Scene’ and a biophysicist. A musician in his own right, he started WTS while still a part of a local band in Bangalore. When not working with gloves and a lab coat, he spends his time travelling, swimming and jamming.

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