Monday, December 11, 2006

Rock Day at Bengalooro Habba

Saturday the 9th was Rock Day at Bengalooru Habba, at the Palace Grounds. The BH guys attempt at being cool and rocking…but hey…a full day of the towns best rock groups, with a great sound system and comfy seating, all for free, with cheap beer thrown in…. I would be nuts to complain.

It was supposed to start at 12 Noon. I got there sweating at 1 PM. Discovered it wouldn’t start upto 2:30 PM. The place was deserted except for the organizers. No problem. Grabbed a cool draught beer at the Royal Challenger stall (at 20 bucks it was cheaper than the coke!), barged into the VVIP section with the nice red sofas and sun shades, plonked down, put my feet up on the seat in front, sipped beer and watched the rock groups setting up the equipment and tuning-up with an indulgent smile.

The first group, Ceasar’s Palace started at around 3 PM, after fooling around with the tuning-up for hours (“a bit more guitar on my monitor please”, and all that jazz). Nice wintry sunshine, everyone in a Sunday mood, everyone slightly high on cheap beer, groups fooling around with drums and guitars and not in a hurry to start playing as only a handful of spectators had assembled by then.

Caesar’s Palace eventually got rocking, and put up an energetic show. Sorry, don’t remember their songs. Wasn’t planning on this review, and didn’t take notes. They have a strong lead guitarist, strong in more ways than one – managed to break his strings and held up the show while he went searching for another guitar. They also have a charismatic bearded lead singer. They put up a decent show but didn’t set the place on fire.

The rocking mood was firmly in place and I wrote me a small haiku:-
20 bucks beer.
Loud rock music
Sweet winter sunshine
Heaven.
CP were followed by Galeej Gurus. This was one group I wasn’t looking forward to. I had seen them a year ago at ITPL Mall, performing teaser shows for a Bryan Adams concert. I remembered a cheerful plump guy on lead guitar with a habit of sticking out his tongue in surprise while playing, as if to say “Oops! Wrong chord! ”. They had been pretty raw and shaky at that time. I was surprised to see they had improved enormously. Plump guy was still there, still sticking his tongue out, but playing much more effectively. A stern looking second lead had been added to the team, who really played a good strong riff. The two leads had a nice little trick whereby they would get together once in a while in a huddle and play a synchronized riff, and then break away again, physically and musically. Very nice! The drummer was much stronger than I remembered as well…either he has been practicing hard or it is a new one. They also seem to have added a very enthu lead singer who put up a good show- jumping about the place and standing on the monitor and waggling his bums at the audience. Overall, a really good show!
There was also a pretty firangi lady (French?), slim and attractive, wearing loose dungarees that kept slipping and showing a generous portion of her pert bums, with chains around the waist, who put up a nice little side show, hopping all over the place, and even managing to get on the stage, taking photographs of all the groups from all kinds of weird angles. Love to get her number. Seemed to be a real rocking babe.
GG were followed by Bangalore’s “best band” (according to the press), Thermal & a Quarter (TAAQ). Headed by the ever-impressive Bruce Lee Mani, they put up a great show, as always.
By now it was getting dusk, and the crowd was building up. TAAQ were followed by an Indian-Folk Rock group called the Rahul Dixit Project, wearing colorful lungis, bandanas et-al, with a flutist, Hawaiian guitarist, tabla player et al. Interesting music, but not quite to my taste. I was sort of expecting an intricate interplay of Indian ragas on flute and rock-jazz riffs on the guitar, something like Shakti, but it didn’t quite come-off like that. But not bad.
By now, the place was properly full, and it was dark. The languid announcer was properly drunk and kept saying all kinds of silly things. Sivamani put in an appearance. Inspected his huge setup on stage and didn’t like it. Ordered it to be turned around and brought to the edge of the stage so that people could admire him better while playing. So the organizers scurried around dismantling and reassembling the gargantuan setup. Then he held up the show doing sound checks on the setup, coyly hidden behind a screen for whatever reason. Then he went around striking poses for the armature photographers. Quite acting the star.
RDP was followed in quick succession by a bunch of Rock and Jazz-Rock groups: Amit Heri Project, Gerardo Machado Network, Yantra: all competent without being spectacular. The organizers were hurrying them on and off the stage, as the crowd was getting restive for Sivamani.
Palace ground was really full by now, but most of the new comers looked strangely out of place in a rock concert – they looked as if they had strayed in from a kanada/ tamil/ whatever Film Music Nite. I suppose they had come for Sivamani. They seemed absolutely baffled by the music.
I had been waiting, waiting, waiting since the afternoon for one band – The Ministry of Blues (MOB), in my book, the best band in Bangalore, if not in India. I had fallen in love with these guys when I attended their performance at the Rewind Centre in Koramangala, playing hard driving blues. It was almost time for Sivamani, and the crowd was getting really restive and had virtually booed out the last group. BUT…the organizers decided to give MOB a shot – just 10 minutes, precisely.
The boys strode on to the stage with their gear: Philipe Haydon (lead and vocals), Rauf (keyboard), Vinoo (bass), Kesavan (drums). No sound checks, no nothing. No “Err… s’cuse me, cud u pls increase the guitar on the left monitor a bit?” They just plugged in and WHAM!

They burned like a white hot gush of lava from the very first chord, opening with a dazzling cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, played at twice the normal pace: all the Hendrix riffs played to perfection on Haydon’s guitar, but at twice the normal speed.

The crowd was stunned into an awed silence. The show was blown apart. The last chord of Voodoo Chile slashed through the moonlit night and there was an abrupt silence. The crowd, for the first time that day, got on its feet and screamed its approval. Even the Film-Nite bunch. Without a pause, MOB launched into a Gary Moor number, followed without a break by another hard blues number. Haydon came to the edge of the stage and did all the Hendrix tricks: playing with his teeth, behind his back and between his legs. Public went wild. The last song ended abruptly in mid chord, and before the crowd could react, MOB had packed up and stalked off the stage. The crowd was bewildered. What happened? Then they got their wits back. “More!!” they screamed. The languid announcer was back on stage. Do you want more MOB or Sivamani? Crowd in a quandary. So Sivamani was announced. But MOB had already stolen the show.
Sivamani walked on to the stage in a curious garment – something like harem pants and a turban. He brought with him a troupe traditional dhoti clad temple musicians from kerala, with long dholaks played with curved sticks, a huge arcing horn, and cymbals.
This looked like it might be interesting!
It wasn’t. After the MOB, what followed was bathos: the juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous. Frankly, I never “got” what Siva boss was trying to achieve. He had this huge percussion set, with every imaginable form of percussion instrument. He walked around in circles in this setup, playing what sounded to my lay ears like fairly basic rhythms – generally the sickening dhum-da-da-dhum rhythm used by wedding bands all over India – you know the one I mean. And these temple drummers faithfully copied whatever he did, tapping it out on their drums, while their horn kept wailing short irritating cries. Siva boss played this simple rhythm on every instrument – bongos, snare drums, electronic drums, tablas, kettle drums….and the temple troupe kept pace. The rock crowd was as mystified as me, but the Film-Nite crowd went wild every time the dhum-da-da-dhum was played. There is a certain, very large, section of the Indian populace, which goes into a delirium and starts jumping up and down and clapping whenever dhum-da-da-dhum is played, and the Film-Nite gang obviously belonged to it. Rockers DO NOT belong to this group.
This painful scene went on for about an hour, after which Siva boss mercifully called it a day. Was it some form of acoustic comedy? If it was, it was a pretty bad joke. I had come for this because Sivamani was supposed to be this famous percussionist whose photos come in the papers once a month, playing for the president and what not. Now I am not sure what exactly he is famous for. Anyway, it was a free show, so I laughed it off and went home after that. If I had paid money for this show, I would have been seriously annoyed.
A pop group called Bandish was supposed to follow, but I didn’t stay for it. This is apparently another of those new groups that play Hindi pop-rock, and I avoid it like the plague. That probably sounds snobbish, but I don’t care about being politically correct, esp. on my own blog. I like Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey as much as the next man, but these groups are the pits. If they insist on singing in Hindi, they should at least brush up their Hindi diction and write decent lyrics. Their anglicized Hindi and trite translated-from-English lyrics makes my stomach churn.
Anyway, MOB’s ten minutes made the whole day worthwhile. That, and the cheap beer!

1 comment:

Philipe Haydon said...

Thank you for your kind comments on our performance. It makes us all the more enthused to carry on doing what this band MOB is all about-Entertainment! period.
We almost didnt get to play that evening and when we went on we realized that the crowd was rather subdued, we couldnt figure out why.
"Just two songs" said the organizers we managed to wrangle three!
Glad you liked the music,three songs is very little time to get an audience going!
Thank you for coming.Finaly we believe that a rock show is only as good as its audience asuming basic competence from the bands performing!
Philipe Haydon