Two Gigs

Bangalore’s weather blessing is a thing of the past although it’s still a lot better than most of our other big cities. No, what really gets me kicked about this place is the number of Indie music gigs that happen every week. Even so, last Saturday was a particularly long concert day. I’m sure there was a lot else happening but I attended two gigs that day. The first was the single-day Emerge fest which had Alt-J headlining. This event had been on for some time but it gathered crazy momentum and buzz once the organizers announced Alt-J would be part of it. As part of the promos, they even released this fantastic rendition featuring no musical instrument other than the mouth of ‘Fitzpleasure’ by a capella band Voctronica.

All set? The gates were to be thrown open at 3:30 pm. At 4:20 we were still waiting at the same gates or at least we all assumed these were the ones that the organizers referred to. But no hard feelings, we are a patient people. We happily wended our way in a few minutes later. Naturally, the delay threw the schedule out of gear. And that resulted in curtailed sets by Daniel Waples who made a fascinating exhibition of the hang-drum followed (and accompanied for some part) by beatboxer ThePetebox and Bangalore’s very own Parvaaz. Very unfortunate because these, in my never-humble opinion, were better performances than what followed. But you needed to to break through the hype and hoopla around Rudimental and Alt-J to be able to see that. I normally enjoy DJ sets whenever I come by any which is rare because I don’t seek them out specifically – I end up listening only because they’re part of something else that I set out for. But this time I just didn’t get into Rudimental’s set. Maybe it was to do with it not fitting in at this gig. I thought it was lousy programming to have a DJ set mixed in with the rest. But the crowd seemed to have a whale of a time. I understand that you wouldn’t want to slash the headlining act’s schedule but I wish that Rudimental’s performance too had been cut short democratically and we could’ve had a bit more of the earlier bands. I like Alt-J’s music and enjoy both their albums. On stage they’re a nice tight lot but I don’t think that they are an arena band at all. They seem more suited to smaller venues. On the whole, I thought Parvaaz’s was the act of that festival – the band seemed to revel on the large stage and their big sound worked so much better there than in the usual club settings that they play.

I left quite some time before the end of the ‘fest’ not only because I had had enough but I was far more excited for the Thermal And A Quarter and Wayne Krantz/Cliff Almond/Anthony Jackson concert over at what’s becoming my favourite venue, CounterCulture. Quite cleverly the CC people had organized buses to cart people over from the Emerge festival but I didn’t want to wait for that. CC’s was a good move because I saw a number of people from Emerge – artists as well as members of the audience – land up at CounterCulture. Long time purveyors of Indian Indie music, Thermal And A Quarter have recently released a new album which seems (early impression) a snarky look at the ‘scene’ and is quite aptly titled ‘The Scene’. As soon as they started, I suddenly felt more at ease. That tight, strange sense of discomfort- no, not trouble with the bowel – during the earlier concert (and I can explain it only as the result of not having quite enjoyed the later part of that show) disappeared. I felt at home here. TAAQ laid down their usual neat, sharp performance and it was an added delight to have Wayne Krantz join them part of the way. And then the trio took over. I’d till then not seen Krantz, Almond, Jackson play live before although I had heard a couple of Krantz’s albums (the excellent ‘Long To Be Loose’ and ‘2 Drink Minimum’). But it had been such a long time since I had heard even those albums that I had almost forgotten what an incredibly gifted musician he is, equally at ease with rock and the jazz idiom. Add the manic drumming of Almond and fabulously groovy bass lines of Jackson and the house was rockin’. It was a night whose last few hours went extremely well.

Tiredness be damned, I was buzzing for a long time after I reached home. Since I couldn’t/wouldn’t sleep, I rewound through the day and evening past and a few thoughts wormed their way in.

For a first time fest, Emerge did quite alright. The only major glitch that I saw was the ridiculous delay in starting (and in my personal opinion, the programming stupidity that I’ve already mentioned). Others might add the inadequate number of food and beverage stalls. For a while, it looked like unseasonal rain would ruin it but it turned out ok. Sadly the Gurgaon gig the next day got washed out. I hope we see more of Emerge and the like, with constant improvement of course.

Normally, the foreigner (mostly white) ‘crowd’ at the gigs that I have seen here in India is very well behaved and quite cool. But I saw a lot of stupid, offensive bums in that lot at Emerge. Strange. I hope it’s just an aberration.

As usual, we Indians tend to pass over our Indie bands in favour of bands from other nations. We are more likely to pay 2000 bucks to watch an international act – even a relatively obscure one – than go for a free gig featuring Indian Indie. Something Krantz said that comes to mind – ‘Respect the music, not so much the musician’. Money and people are not much to be seen here in the ‘scene’. It’s easy to understand where TAAQ is coming from on the new album. That said, Bangalore is a lot better than most. Lots of shows happening, not too many free gigs (thankfully) but people still land up (not for everything though but it’s still not bad) AND pay. And yeah, have a good time.

You know what’s sadder than the hipster? The wannabe hipster. Yeah, the one that lands up to be seen, clueless about what’s going on, desperately copying the next one’s moves, wearing a look of plastic rapture while suppressing the ever-threatening subconscious thought “da f#@k? why’m I ‘ere?”

I wish venues here had better sound. Now I love CC and it’s one of the better sounding setups around but I find the sound in the indoor part of the venue, which is where the stage usually is, a little too harsh and I’m not alone in feeling that. You go too far back outside, it gets a bit muffled. So I choose to often park myself around the threshold. I stand there nodding away rather like a benign bespectacled (sometimes) Narasimha. Maybe for this Saturday’s metal mayhem to be unleashed by Bhayanak Maut, I will don a lion’s mane wig 😛