Thursday, March 22, 2007

String Sick is now Liberty Lane

My friends from the Feb07 Sunday Jam, String Sick, now have a new name and a new lineup.

Bangalore rock bands are nothing if not dynamic ;)

New Name: Liberty Lane
New Lineup:

Zoheb - Vocals/Guitars
Derick - Vocals
Abin - Guitars
Mark - Guitars
Imdad - Bass
Rakesh - Drums and vocals
Wasim is unfortunately no longer with the group ;(

They have set up a website with some demo songs. Check it out, some of the songs are quiet nice:-

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Maiden Concert

Finally I gave in to the hype and loosened the necessary shekels to attend the great Iron Maiden Bangalore 2007 concert. Although I had my hot-off-the-press “Number of the beast” and “Powerslave” tapes as a teenager (no CD’s in those days), I grew bored with them after a couple of listens. Come to man’s estate, it was one of those groups from a misspent youth which I never felt the need to revisit.

Anyway – the hype: tons of equipment, first international standard rock concert, ‘Maiden’ fans going crazy on Orkut, first ‘real’ international heavy metal act in Bangalore (Hey! What about the Deep Purple concerts? What about the Uriah Heep concert?), people coming in from all parts of India and even Nepal and Sri Lanka to see it….as I said, I caved in.

Sea of Black ‘Maiden’ T-shirts at the venue. Efficient organization- huge 30K+ crowd handled without hiccups. Green tarp nailed over the entire ground. Nice touch, it was possible to sit anywhere without getting the bums dusty, and a lot of people were doing just that, waiting for the interminable opening acts to disappear.

Missed the first act: FTN, the campus rock idols 07 winners. But they sounded good while I was trundling T-bird into the parking lot. Parikrama from Delhi followed, with some own comps vaguely reminiscent of AC/DC. Then their violinist fired up, and they played some nice fusion own comps, that sounded really different. Very impressive.

Lauren Harris, daughter of the Iron Maiden bassist, came on next. Her backing band played some nice tight heavy metal. Nothing exceptional, but competent. But her vocals lacked bite, and the act was a damp squib. People got bored and talked about the weather.

Finally Iron Maiden came on. Crowd went crazy. They started with three numbers from their new album “A matter of life and death”, including out of the shadows. They had some nice artwork at the back of the stage, which kept changing with each song. But soon enough, they launched into all the old songs from my dusty ‘Maiden cassette tapes: Number of the beast, Fear of the dark, Run to the hills…. All played with a lot of verve and venom. It brought back nostalgic memories – listening to heavy metal secretly (turned way down to fool my dad) while preparing for the DC Machines paper in 1st year BE. It was funny to see all the young kids going crazy to the same songs that made me jump when I was a kid. A smaller kid, I mean. Now I am a big kid.

For the last act, they bought on a hilarious looking tank with a giant puppet of their mascot. Flashing search lights and read light glowing from the barrel. Very funny. So this was the international quality stage act they had all been going on about. I thought it meant an imposing sound and light system, but the sound system was the same old battered loaned-from-Reynolds-on-Residency-Road speakers that all rock shows use. The sound was truly disappointing – tinny at times, especially at the back in the Rs 900 seats, with buzzing from the lighting circuitry, and unclear bass. Lighting was also about average. If this was the first international quality rock concert in Bangalore, it was pitiable. I think people have forgotten the Rolling Stones concert from two years ago. They had brought along all of their equipment, including massive 50 ft high speaker banks, as well as lights, searchlight towers and everything, all attended to by an army of roadies. It was the most dazzling sound and light show I have ever witnessed. In comparison, this was pathetic.

The high point of the evening was when the barrier finally broke down and us 900 wallas broke into the 1500 section. The sound was a bit better over there. Also, a homorist scaled up the lighting tower and did some stunts until he was chased down by an officious security guard. That was fun.

Anyway, it was a nice evening of nostalgia. So.... paisa vasool.

void CodeIWouldLoveToWrite_1(void);

(C) Poltu

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dara J – Senegalese Hip-Hop

Daara J: (From left) N'Dongo D, Faada Freddy and Lord Aladji Man. Photo courtesy Wrasse Records

There was a concert at Alliance Française tonight by a Senegalese Hip-hop group. Now, Hip-hop is not a genre of music I am particularly fond of, and avoid like the plague. But I was intrigued by the truckloads of equipment being set up in the auditorium during my French class, and decided to check it out after class.

I'm glad I did. The evening turned out to be a revelation!

The group in question was Daara J. They are: N’Dango D, Aladji Man and Faada Freddy. They have been flown over from Senegal, which is a French speaking country, by Alliance Française as a part of the Francophone celebrations.

They sang interesting melodies, incorporating African chanting, Reggae and other forms, in addition, of course, to Rap. Their singing was raw and powerful, and melodious as well. Not the usual monotonous hip-hop stuff. Their backing track was created by a French – Mauritanian - Danish DJ, which incorporated a heavy base and drumming strongly influenced by African drums. This was really not the standard hip-hop stuff. With slight changes to the backing track, the songs could well have passed off as Reggae, Soul, or even African hard funk.

The singing was mostly in the Senegalese language and French, with bits of English, and even Hindi! The lyrics too seemed to be deeper than the average hip-hop song, based on the introductions that they gave, about issues like freedom, identity etc. The band's name Dara-J stands for 'School of life', and they referred to this very often. They take it very seriously, and their lyrics reflect this.

Their stage act was very exciting as well, and they managed to get the staid AF audience on its feet and dancing, and involved the crowd in the singing and chanting. A fun evening!
More info on Dara-J:

Daara J: Photo courtesy Wrasse Records

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Usual Suspects -- Demo Songs

A number of people have pointed out to me that the Punk Band I mentioned in my March Sunday Jam review was Usual Suspects.

Chris from Usual Suspects left a nice comment on that post, and invited me to check out a couple of demo's they've put on the net.

Well, I just did, and it was a lot of fun!

The Demo's are available at this URL:-

They have two songs there: Darth Vader (Oi!) and Wendy

Oi! is a typical brash, noisy punk number, with a foot-tapping beat, with Chris going Oi! occasionally. Had a lot of fun listening to it. Wendy is a bit slower and mellower. Very nice!

Do have a listen, it will brighten up your day. Look forward to meeting them at the next SJ.

The Usual Suspects are:-

Chris - Vocals & Guitars
Shahid - Guitars & Vocals
Bernard - Bass
Vivek - Drum

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unwind Diary 2 - Jam by Fahrenheit and Haven

Next Up at Unwind Center, Bangalore:

On 23rd March, Friday. Lost & Found, the Christ College band, and a band from Chennai (not yet confirmed).

Saturday, March 10th
Unwind Centre, Bangalore

Today, there were two excellent sets by Fahrenheit and Haven, the two St. Joseph college bands. The evening started off with Fahrenheit playing a rousing version of the Deep Purple classic Perfect strangers.

Fahrenheit consists of Geeth on the guitars, Vinyl on drums, Jason on bass, Rachel on keyboards, and Akshay on vocals. They have been around a long time, since it started off as a school band before graduating to a college band, although the band members themselves haven't. Graduated, I mean. B.Com. They have played at the Bangalore Habba 2005 and were the winners of Times URock 2006. They call themselves a progressive rock band, which also forays into other genre.

Fahrenheit followed on with a number of other progressive rock/heavy metal/hard rock pieces: an Iron Maiden number, Queen of the Reich from Queensryche, a Def Leppard cover, and they played Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ on request from someone in the crowd.

Rachel was really good on the keyboard, especially on the Deep Purple number. She has undergone extensive training as a classical pianist, and it shows. The lead and base were good. The vocals were a bit off-key and flat, but Akshay made up for that with a good stage presence - he was very popular with the crowd, esp. the babes (Damn! I was hoping to complete this review without mentioning babes even once.)

The truly outstanding performance was from Vinyl, the drummer. The drumming was consistently sharp and attacking – especially on the Queensryche piece, and Vinyl has a great stage presence. He looks as if he really enjoys his job, and had an evil smile on his face as he thrashed the drums with sadistic pleasure. That is what stage-presence is about, after all- it is not enough to thoroughly enjoy what you are doing, you have to look it, and make the audience a part of it as well.

They ended with an own comp “Bike crash at trinity circle” about the time two of the band members had a crash there on their bike. It started with a melodramatic gothic build up, like a heavy metal ballad, portending the impending crash, exploding into a rousing heavy metal strafe bombing- signifying, no doubt, the crash itself.

Fahrenheit were followed by Aditya, who played a couple of songs solo on the acoustic: a Dave Matthews Band cover and an Incubus cover. Really impressive.

Haven took the stage last. Haven call themselves an Alternative Rock band, with influences of Blues, Classic Rock, and Funk. The current line-up is Hemanth on lead, Venkat on bass, Elvis on drums, Neville on vocals. They have been together about seven months, and plan to cut a demo tape soon. They are all in their 2nd/3rd year at St Josephs, and will be graduating and getting jobs soon, but they plan to stick together and continue playing music. They also plan to follow their individual interests: Venkat wants to explore Jazz, Hemanth, the Blues. Haven were the national runners up and south zone winners for this year’s Campus Rock Idols.

Haven started off with Perl Jam’s Animal. Then a really excellent cover of Creed’s My Sacrifice, which sounded like an exact replica of the CD, including (amazingly) the vocals. Vocals are generally the weakest link in Indian rock bands, but Neville does a really good job. They played three own comp’s: This moment, Thunderbolt and Angel tonight, which were well received. On request from the audience, they played the Door’s ‘Love me two times’. This was basically a heavy metal version of the song, with a heavy base riff, grunge style singing, strong drumming and no keyboards. It sounded strange without the distinctive Door’s keyboard….not exactly bad, but…different.

They ended with a nice cover of Coldplay’s Yellow.

Which brings me neatly to the Babe review…. (I had a small bet with Slughead that I could write a review without mentioning babes, but since I’ve already lost…)…there was this alarmingly pretty babe in a lemon yellow T-shirt…very cute. Wish I knew her name. Too bad, she already had a guy ;(

Anyway, the Unwind Center crowd is always a good mix of male and female, which is one of the nice things about this place. Girls obviously feel comfortable here: there is a nice, safe and homely feel about this place. Everyone is polite, well-behaved, and only there for the music.

The sound was…LOUD. My ears are still ringing, after two days. I have spoken to Ram about this. It can be really damaging is such a confined space. He says he had turned the knobs all the way town to 1/3, but it was still too loud. He promised to keep it even lower next time.

Mea Culpa: Photographs stolen from the Bands’ Orkup community pages…I still haven’t gotten around to buying my own camera ;(

Unwind Diary 1 – Unwind Center, Bangalore

This is the first in a series of posts which will talk about the events in Unwind Center, Bangalore – Jam Reviews, Classes, Upcoming Events…

Unwind Center is the new hot-spot for Bangalore’s rockers. It is a music school, jam club and general hang-out joint all rolled into one. Located in a quiet part of Koramangala, the central activity is the music school.

They offer courses in rock guitar, drums and keyboards. They have what they call a Fast-Lane package, which they claim can put a complete novice on the stage within 6 six months (the student has to do his or her bit, of course). I have just completed module-1 of the guitar course (two more modules to go, each of two months). I’m not sure if I’ll be ready for the stage in another 4 months, but I have certainly learnt a lot more, a lot faster, than at any other place. Having tried to learn the guitar at two or three other places, I can safely say this is probably the best place to learn rock in Bangalore.

The tutors are Bangalore’s own well-known rockers – they are all professional musicians with their own bands (e.g. my instructor Hemanth is the lead guitarist of Haven). The key difference is that they have all undergone a training course at the Unwind headquarters in Chennai, which trains them into teaching the Fast-Lane methodology. There is an intelligently designed syllabus they all have to follow, and there are regular tests, follow-up’s and assignments. There are regular batches which start every alternate month. The batches are no smaller than six, so that there is sufficient bonding, mutual-assistance and competition between the students, and no larger than eight so that the instructor can give individual attention. The batch system is another key to maintaining a high motivation level among students.

This is what makes the difference: there is no shortage of guitar classes in Bangalore, but this is the only one which follows a systematic, scientific and disciplined approach, and strictly implements a batch system. This is also the best equipped and coolest rock school in Bangalore. There are professional musicians coming in and out all the time, jams and performances happening all the time. The entire environment pulsates with life and music. If you simply hang-out around here long enough, you’ll end up a rock musician.

The other big theme in the Unwind centre is the jam club: There is a permanently set up jam room in the center, with a small stage, professional sound system, sound-proofed walls with excellent acoustics and cool rock posters all around, a couple of drum kits, guitars, keyboards, monitors, and an engineers cubicle. Ram, the manager of Unwind Centre, doubles up as the sound engineer. There are banked seats for the audience – it can accommodate about 80.

Every weekend, either on the Friday or the Saturday, there is a live jam by one or more of Bangalore’s established groups, or an outside group. Entry is either free, or miniscule (Rs 50 or Rs 100) – depending on if Unwind can find a sponsor or not. Even otherwise, there are musicians coming in all day and practicing in the jam room.

The third great thing about the place is nice out-door café, with really nice grilled sandwiches, fruit juices, shakes etc, and a nice little outdoor seating area with a few potted plants all around. Excellent for just hanging-out, or grabbing a quick bite after class, or kill time between the class and the start of the evenings jam.

Best thing about the place is the buzz: lots of talented, artistic, and interesting people, having fun and doing what they enjoy. No swearing, fights, drugs, running other people down, innuendos, misbehavior – all that is banned. This is supposed to be a safe, fun, and positive place, and the management ensures it.

All-in-all, you can safely say this is the coolest place in Bangalore…

How to get there: Unwind Centre used to be in Wilson garden, but it has moved to Koramangala.

Address: #104,17 C Main 5th block Koramangala.

Directions: Get on to Koramangala 100 ft road (directly from the inner ring road). Take a right on the Sukh Sagar corner (1A cross) Take the first right after Barista (17th C-Main). Unwind Centre is the big colorful building somewhere in the middle of this road, on the right.

Contact: +91-80-25436319. Ask for Ram Nath Thakur, or just ‘Ram’ – The ever-smiling manager (and the only permanent staff, as far as I can make out) of Unwind Centre, who doubles up as course coordinator, recruiter, examiner, jam organizer, sound engineer, friend, philosopher and guide.
(Ram and Hemanth in the office)

Departmental Meeting -2

(C) Poltu