I have held back on writing this piece thus far only to allow emotion to settle down. For when something that you’ve grown to love, cherish, be attached to disappears, what do you do but mourn. For many of us – and not just in Bangalore – CounterCulture was a very special place. We made new friends, hung out with old ones, the musically gifted among us made great music (ok, maybe not always) that the rest of us grooved to and always, always, we had great fun. This was a place for discovery, a launch pad for new bands, a familiar home for established artists. The anger and ennui of expletive laden long Saturday (mostly) drives through the sludge of traffic perhaps only sharpened our appetite for the music to follow.
Except on one occasion, I had never gone to that unique half-warehouse half-lawn setup in the company of another yet I was never alone once I reached there. There was always someone to share a beer and a chat with. It didn’t matter if it was a stranger because that status didn’t last too long. And it wasn’t always about music. I have a very fond memory of Tejas Shankar (Lagori’s lead singer) and I very gently grilling – pun intended – Chef Sam into the wee hours of the following Sunday. This was one of the rare places where the cliched ‘we felt like family’ actually meant that. I have happily eaten from the dabba that Mrs. Mohan would pop open holding within its confines whatever delightfully tasty dish she had cooked up that day and brought along from home. Long conversations with Mr. Mohan about life and this wonderful space that the Mohans and their quite mad son Vishwa and the even more insane Guru Somayaji had grown and nurtured. They will probably never quite get how much inspiration I have taken from them, will Vishwa and Guru. Those two were the very lifeblood of CounterCulture, taking risks, going against the odds only because they believed in the music. It was one of my life’s privileges to have worked on one of the last events, the fifth edition of the Ode To The Blues, that they hosted here.
I had known for quite some time before it actually happened that Vishwa and the Mohans would be exiting the venue. Managing the F&B part of the business along with the music in an already difficult Indian Indie music environment was always tough. It came to a point where they had to choose one and of course, it was music. Simple. But the fact that I already knew about it could not diminish the sadness. When the last gig was announced, most others didn’t have the cushion of that knowledge, if it can be called that. We grieved, oh we grieved.
But as reason returned, one recognized that this is perhaps a good thing. The great thing about Vishwa and Guru is that they are ever forward-looking. For quite some time, they had built up a practice organizing and managing gigs apart from what they did at their venue. So now CounterCulture moves on to focus completely on music without the burden of the F&B business weighing it down. Among other things, Vishwa is working on a fantastic technology platform built around his passion for music. The way I see it, the venue (which will now be called something else by the new owner) was the launch station for something greater, something way better to take off. And CounterCulture in its new lean form will continue to break barriers and to inspire.