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A Very Horrific ‘Maut’ Indeed…

22 Mar

Courtesy their Wiki page.

I cannot do a Top Five list for this band, so don’t expect that. I cannot genre-limit them or compare them to other bands, so don’t expect that either. As part of a pentagram of bands, Bhayanak Maut (BM) has come to define my Indian metal experience along with Scribe, Demonic Resurrection, Skyharbor & Bevar Sea (eclectic, I know). So I thought it would be a great opportunity to educate you sheep about Metchul, specifically about the Indian metal scene (not that I need a reason, but I might as well ramble on).

I confess I’m quite bad at defining said genres, as are most people. Nevertheless, for the uninitiated, one could try to define BM as a heavily deathcore-inclined band with obvious inspiration from grindcore and groove metal. Some would argue they can afford to experiment beyond their comfort zone, while some would say they should hang onto tradition; I couldn’t possibly comment.

Now into two full albums, two (rather brilliant) EPs and knee-deep in their third full release, BM have been around long enough to be called Mumbai-scene veterans. Despite a low-key start and early influence of gateway bands of the wicked West, they have snuggled into a dark independent pit of their own and created their own signature oft-interspersed with a strong Indian flavour (“MNS Messenger” and “Ranti Nasha” hooks always get me) which has predictably translated into a loyal Indian fan-base.  One should listen and compare their exploratory first album Hell Is All People to their watershed Malignant EP (“Elcit Set Nois Rot”, “Boiled.Unwound.Filatured”, “PICA” and “Phlegm Blot Technik”…which is basically all the songs in that EP) to better understand their stylistic shift. Following their phenomenal sophomore Untitled album (“Ungentle” and “You’re Perfect Now Change”: oh, the feels!), I personally think their latest Metastasis EP is an ominous sign of great things to come.

The first thing that hits you about BM is the goosebumps-inducing dual vocals style, followed closely by a dam-burst of bone-crunching riffs and mesmerizing blast beats. It’s obviously not a new concept, but rarely have I seen such synergy between two vocalists: Vinay’s (Vinay Venkatesh) death gutturals are perfectly complemented by Sunny’s (Sunneith Revankar) fry screams, creating a dichotomous clamour that comes together perfectly at crescendos. This swadesi juggernaut is driven by Baba (R. Venkatraman) and Aditya on guitars, while drums by Rahul Hariharan have bound this band together and given them the deathcore-with-no-breakdowns flavour I have so come to cherish. Their bass did tend to get masked in some acts; but they have a new bassist in Ishaan Krishna who joined last year from NerveRek / Modern Mafia, and has fit right into their demolition-derbyesque live acts.

I remember their performance in 2010 at BITS Pilani. Between all the headbanging, moshing and punching (!) in the front row, one image stuck in my head, of both these behemoths standing one-foot-on-monitor and belting out earache in quick and brutal succession (listen to “Blasted Beyond Belief” if you don’t believe me, you philistine!).

I was fortunate to see them live again at the 2012 NH7 Weekender in Delhi and they picked up where they left off in Pilani, which was basically to “tear you a new one”. They are a dying breed, a band which thrives on live performances and is never afraid to improvise. Vinay, his beard, Sunny and Baba are a stage act to admire, and keep every performance volatile and unpredictable. I guess their onstage antics are only surpassed by our beloved clowns at Scribe.

It was hence rather unsurprising that BM successfully owned national rock pilgrimages such as GIR, Deccan Rock and Independence Rock Fest, apart from regularly featuring in NH7 Weekenders and various college fests. They also stepped into hallowed grounds when they followed Demonic Resurrection, Undying Inc. and Scribe in playing at the Inferno Festival in Oslo, Norway. BM is peaking right now, and it’s safe to say they are a source of inspiration for the countless fledgling metal acts that are stumbling around to find their identity and niche in this dank basement that is the Indian scene.

Bhayanak Maut played at Blue Frog’s Metal Night on March 2 (after a year-long hiatus) and it seems like they will play again only next year, so I’ll just go back to my headphones now and wait for their third full-length [storyline-based] (http:/facialdiscrimination.tumblr.com/) album.

– Samarth Hegde

PS: On a related note, connoisseurs of a more extreme experience should check out ‘Demonstealer’ Makhija and Vinay Venkatesh’s brutal-death metal outfit, Reptilian Death. Oh, also check out Sunneith’s groove metal ex-supergroup Providence if that’s your thing.

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Top Five Stunning Rock Covers to Shock and Awe

10 Feb

This is an extremely ambitious list. Not only does it try to select five out of all the good, the bad and ugly of rock covers that exist in the world, but it also tries to include a seemingly wide genre of musicians. As a result, you’ll find everything on this list: from an alternative metal band to a Spanish soprano singer, from an alt-rock super-group to a humble Indian indie band, and from a British metal icon to a classical pop pianist, all trying their level best to recreate some of the finest songs from rock music’s tumultuous past. Hope you enjoy it.

5. Tool covers Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”

Led Zeppelin

No Quarter” is one of those vintage rock songs that reek of Led Zeppelin from the moment they get underway. Yes, it is bereft of any of Jimmy Page’s textbook guitar solos, and yes, it’s not the first song that comes to your mind when you think of Robert Plant either. Yet, it always comes off as a masterpiece that just couldn’t have been the work of any other band – until nearly three decades later, that is.

Tool, who lay stake to being one of the finest experimental metal bands of today, decided to cover this Led Zep classic in their 2000 album, Salival – and while doing so, they also decided to add a dash of their own progressive flavor to it.

The result is, needless to say, absolutely stunning – though, if you’re a first timer, it could take a bit of getting used to. The cover is over eleven minutes long, over four minutes longer than the original. The vocals, courtesy Maynard James Keenan, are often modulated, which may raise some conventional eyebrows.

But leaving that aside, the music is staggering. The song is dark; there’s an element of dread that runs under the thick layers of drums and heavy distortion guitar. And then there is the usual Tool innovation that rears its head now and then, be it with their rendition of the trippy riffs in the beginning or the bass and guitar arpeggios that replace the original piano.

In the end, the cover completely deviates from the original thanks to a brilliantly improvised climax full of powerful riffs, alternate lyrics, heavy bass and a thundering drum sequence that we only wish had continued for a little more.

With this cover, Tool have not only taken a page from Led Zep’s iconic yesteryears, but have also planted it amid the dreary annals of progressive metal in their own unique manner.

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4. Tori Amos covers Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Tori Amos

To begin, let us first agree upon some things that countless others have agreed upon before. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the song of the early 90s, and Nevermind was probably the greatest thing to come out of Seattle since Jimi Hendrix. With these established, let us now look at Tori Amos’ cover of this cult classic.

If you were expecting a faithful rendition, one that begins with the instantly recognizable riff that grunge fans have head-banged to over the past few decades, you probably haven’t heard Tori Amos. Because in essence, Tori Amos is far – really really far – from the genre of music that Kurt Cobain pioneered. She’s a classical pianist, and she’s much older than what Kurt Cobain would have been had he been alive today. Her approach to the song is thus starkly different, and the only way you can appreciate this cover is with an open mind.

For starters, the cover is completely piano-based, and is therefore much, much slower and softer than the loud and angst-ridden original. Which means, if you’re looking for Cobain’s guitar solo, you won’t find it here. What you will find instead is a beautiful voice and some sublime, almost dreamy, piano. This is definitely not what Nirvana had in mind when they recorded this song, but the point is, it’s not meant to be what Nirvana produced either. The two versions have nothing in common except for the lyrics and the skeleton tune; trying to compare the two would be a bit like comparing pizza with cheesecake because both have cheese in them. Yes, it is the cheese that makes both of them so good, but it’s really mindless to try and choose one over the other, isn’t it?

My advice would be to listen to the cover and try to appreciate what Tori has attempted to do.

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3. A Perfect Circle covers John Lennon’s “Imagine”

John Lennon

The original “Imagine” is a very happy song that tries to propagate happy ideas – of unity, peace and humanism. Attempting to make a dark, almost depressing cover of such a happy song does seem like a cruel thing to do – a bit like punching a rabbit in the face, and then trying to feel good about it. But the progressive-alt rock super-group A Perfect Circle had done exactly that in their 2004 album eMOTIVe. And the worst (or best?) bit is this: it is rather good.

The dark undercurrents are noticeable the moment you hear all the minor notes in the otherwise familiar piano arpeggio. John Lennon played the majors, while here, they just don’t. If anyone ever dissed about cover artists, saying that they fail to step outside the original, and that they fail to find a fresh perspective to music, he or she has probably never heard A Perfect Circle. This cover hasn’t just added a unique perspective to Lennon’s classic: it has bordered on the visionary.

The vocals (it’s the same Maynard James Keenan from Tool) continue the same sense of foreboding that the piano began. The droning rhythms of the drums and the synths supplement the vocals to create an atmosphere that sounds and feels sinister, almost ominous.

As a cover therefore, this is top class stuff. It’s quite unlike any other cover that you’ve heard. However, it doesn’t feel complete.

What seems to be lacking is lead guitars, which would have provided the final cut necessary to take this cover to the very top of this list. Apart from that, this is a must-listen – and unfortunately for all the happy rabbit fans, a must-admire.

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2. Montserrat Caballé and Bruce Dickinson cover Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Montserrat Caballe and Freddy Mercury

If there’s one word for attempting to cover “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it’s ‘ambitious’, and if there’s something that such ambition can lead to it, it’s generally a disaster. But when you have a Spanish operatic soprano – who’s shared the stage with Freddie Mercury in her career – embarking on such an attempt with the undisputed champion of British heavy metal, it’s difficult to not give them a chance.

The cover is eerily faithful to the original and has all the iconic elements that make the song the classic that it is. The beginning chorus has vocals in different harmonies, followed by Montserrat’s soulful voice that sends a silent shudder down your spine. Iron Maiden fans will absolutely love how Bruce Dickinson’s soaring vocals sink in to take this role. His voice reaches every high note that makes the original so remarkable, and the execution is just so perfect that it would have brought a tear to the eye of old Freddie.

As Montserrat and Bruce alternate with the lyrics, a majestic orchestra gives them accompaniment. What this means is that you won’t find Brian May’s lead guitar when you will expect it; instead you’ll find a wave of symphonic strings, peppered with the occasional piano almost throughout the length of the song. However, you can rest assured that the melodies in the cover are almost as much a treat for your ears as Queen’s original was.

Go give it a listen, and be mesmerized.

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1. Thermal and a Quarter cover The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”

The Beatles

So far in this list we’ve discussed a wide range of covers: a darker cover of an already dark song (“No Quarter”), a seemingly antithetical cover of a loud, angry song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”), a sad, dispiriting cover of a joyous song (“Imagine”) and an unerring cover of a particularly difficult song (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). To add to this diversity, we’ll now look at a fun cover of one of the most popular songs in rock history.

Thermal and a Quarter have been creating ripples in the Indian indie-music scene for quite a few years now. They are immensely talented and incredibly technical in their compositions, and their cover of the eye-wateringly popular Beatles classic “Hey Jude” comes as a breath of fresh air for all indie music lovers.

From the very first note, this cover stands out. It instantly catches your attention with its strange and syncopated style of play. What follows is absolute genius. The concept is terrific – a funk-blues cover of The Beatles – and the execution is spot on. Bruce Lee Mani’s vocals do complete justice to this bold attempt, as do the clever flute fillers, the pounding drums and the driving bass.

This is just masterclass stuff and thus tops this list. By far.

@wrahool

Happy Birthday to Us!

25 Jun

Top Five.

Last year, on a particularly idyllic summer day, a couple of us decided to start a music review website that heeded neither genre nor country. We wanted to talk about hip hop as well as psychedelic rock. We wanted to talk about Chennai as well as Massachusetts. We wanted to make lists; lots of them, about lots of topics.

Now, a year later, some of those things have been done; yet many others still remain on the list that we’ve created for ourselves. It has been a great ride so far, and there is much more to come.

Keep your eyes on Top Five. As usual, we promise to give you the one-oh-one on the world of indie, India and beyond. Thanks for reading!

A Shakey Picture

8 Nov

The Shakey Rays are a three piece rock and roll band from Chennai that have been creating waves of awed adoration wherever they bring their unique tunesmithery. Coming off of a brilliant show at BITS Pilani’s cultural fest Oasis, the boys are now gigging their way through Delhi, winning the hearts of hundreds of fans (and women) wherever they go. Top Five Records caught up with Dhruva, Vikram (Vicky), Niranjan (Ninju), guest bassist Abhinav (of fellow Chennai artists Adam and the Fish-Eyed Poets) and band manager Jolene for a quick fifteen minutes in between their hectic calendar.

Top Five Records: Congrats on the excellent show, guys! Those of us that weren’t lucky enough to be there to see you guys opening for TAAQ got regular, ecstatic updates from people that WERE there.

Pilani, as you guys know now, is in the middle of nowhere, which is quite a change for most bands gigging around India in the same five or six cities. Tell us a bit about what you were thinking when the cab driver was taking you through the seemingly endless rustic hinterlands of dust and Haryanvis.

Ninju: We saw our lives flash before our eyes.
Dhruva: Lord have mercy on our poor souls!
Abhinav: It was dusty.
Vicky: I was praying dude!
Abhinav: He (Vicky) was seeking divine intervention.
Jolene: It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. The drivers were racing each other, driving on the opposite side of the road and missing oncoming vehicles by mere feet of distance … we tried to alleviate the fact that our lives were on the line by alternatively trying to sleep, talking to each other and analysing the 90’s Bollywood love songs being played on the stereo. But all’s when that ends well, we got to campus alive and were later told that the sort of ride we had to campus was an important part of the BITS experience.

TFR: BITSians pride themselves on being, well, chilled out (sometimes a bit too much, actually). Tell us a little bit about your Oasis experience.

Dhruva: Brilliant!
Abhinav and Ninju: Special mention to Jashid and Champu (Vineet Chaudhury) for taking us around and being generally awesome.
Vicky: We didn’t steal any towels, though I hope I didn’t put one in my bag by mistake.
Jolene: I’m super glad we got to play this gig (thanks Neeharika, Karthik and the organizers). Playing in front of such a large audience, so different from the pub goers we’ve usually played to was an important step in itself, never mind the somewhat mixed reactions.

TFR: BITS was the first college gig that you’ve played as a band. How was that experience different from your usual gigs?

The whole band: More crowd! More people! Much better!
Vicky: We heard a horn from somewhere in the crowd during our set. That was sort of cool since we’ve been looking for a horn section since a while now and we randomly heard one; wonder where it came from?

TFR: One of the main concerns for most non-metal bands playing college gigs is that college kids expect metal and only metal bands. Did you feel that that was a concern at BITS? Did you get the crowd bobbing to the Diddley beat?

Dhruva: No, it seems like people only wanted to dance and we gave them that.
Jolene: I heard we were picked to play ahead of Scribe. That’s pretty cool, considering the band’s massive popularity.

TFR: Did you walk around campus a bit? Did anyone take you to Sarla, tell you what ‘putting’ is, or introduce you to the beauty of a Thunderbolt?

The band: Yes to all. Every item on the checklist, tick.

TFR: Tell us a bit about TAAQ. Did you meet/hang out with them?

The band: We met them, didn’t hang out with them. They seemed like nice people.
Ninju and Dhruva: Their drummer is awesome.

TFR: You guys have completed a country-wide tour recently. Do you have another such tour in the works? Tell us about some upcoming gigs.

Jolene: We’ll do another tour only after releasing an EP or album. We’re playing a lot around Delhi this month and charting out gigs for December/January as well. Details come up on our Facebook page as gigs are finalized.

TFR: If we still lived in a world of vinyl records rather than mp3s, then Shakey fans all over the country would have scratched their copy of Tunes from the Big Belly out of sheer over-use. We need new material! Is that happening?

Dhruva + Vikram: We are in the process of writing songs, most of them are still in the demo stage.
Jolene: 16th of this month is when we’ll digitally release a new single, hopefully with a B Side.

TFR: One of the biggest questions we’ve had about you guys, and one that shames us for not knowing despite being huge fans, is the origin of your name. Please tell us it doesn’t actually derive from “Shakira”.

 Vikram: No real history behind the band name. We were looking for something particularly interesting and Dhruva, being the most interesting member in the group, came up with “The Shakey Rays”.

Dhruva: I suppose there’s a degree of truth to that. It’s a question that often comes up, and I wish I remember how it sprung up- I think we we’d had a drink or ten when THE SHAKEY RAYS presented itself in bold letters.

TFR: A lot of BITSians read this blog. Is there anything you’d like to say, as a closing note of sorts?

Vikram: No, not really… Thanks for the chicken!
Dhruva: Thank you for dancing, BITS!
Abhinav: Thanks for Neeraj Shridar.

So there you have it. You can listen to each of the Shakey Rays’ pop gems of perfection here. Happy listening!

NH7 Weekender: Delhi edition

24 Oct

By Anjishnu Kumar (Photographer Siddharth Shah)

As soon as I got out of the car on the Saturday of the Delhi Weekender, I was struck by the scale and sheer ambition of the event that was unfolding.  Buddh International Circuit’s gargantuan Grand Stand stood tall beside the curtained enclosures housing six stages that were to host around sixty bands over the next two days.

This is NH7 Weekender, the biggest music event to ever happen near the national capital.

The last biggest-music-event-ever-to-happen-in-the-capital I’d gone to in the NCR was the Metallica concert in Gurgaon. That day ended with me standing in the sun for four hours without water, with a rather obese gentleman vomiting next to me in regular intervals and having to run away from the venue before the police arrived.

As you can imagine, I was going into this event with a perfectly justified sort of cynicism.

The event was already showing signs of better management than the Metallica affair. The parking lot was a small ocean of grass. I was handed a complimentary glass of water at the entrance, and led through the security check. Things looked good.

We followed the music and ended up at the largest stage, the Black Rock Arena, where a perfectly mediocre whiny alt-rockish band was just finishing up. I didn’t bother finding out who they were.

Next up was Vir Das’s Alien Chutney, boasting of the comedian plus two stalwarts of Indian rock- Warren Mendonsa and Sidd Coutto.

Alien Chutney was half rock-band and half stand up comedy act in which Vir Das regularly walked the thin line between acerbic wit and vulgarity. Alien Chutney started with the surprisingly addictive ‘Villageman’, a ballad about having sex with Haryanvis.

He followed with some more originals, such as his rendition of the Delhi Belly classic Bhag Bhag D K Bose (“Bhag Bhag Madarchod”) and the Heavy Metal Song (“Iron! Iron! Aluminum!”), before finally ending with his attempt at wizard rock, a piece entitled “Harry Is a Randi!”

One band down and nobody had puked near me: already better than Metallica. A pretty good start to the fest.

Up next was Indus Creed, which is apparently one of India’s best alt rock groups.

Stripped of the Alien Chutney’s novelty factor, it was clear that Indus Creed was lacking in a lot of ways. At their peak they came up with decent but somewhat generic alternative rock riffs, with lyrics reminiscent of Linkin Park.

Their seminal song “Fireflies” had an almost Porcupine Tree sensibility: a breath of fresh air in the middle of a rain of angsty power chords.

I found myself wandering to the Other Stage, a small set up next to the much larger Dewarists stage, where we found Barefaced Liar: a trio consisting of a vocalist, flute player and a guitarist that specialized in Spanish inspired music. However, the band relied heavily on lead vocals, and the other musicians did basically nothing but provide backup.

We moved on to the Dewarists stage where Advaita was playing. While their music was technically quite sound, I’m sorry to report that it did not get the blood running. This was a fest that was supposed to be headlined by Megadeth, and I did not feel excited.

Back to the Black Rock Arena, where Zero was just going up on stage. Zero is one of the most critically acclaimed Indian bands, performing an average of only one gig per year.

But damn do they make it count.

Frontman Rajeev Talwar adopted the persona of a hedonistic but rather likable British opera singer on stage. His overblown antics and Warren Mendonsa’s guitar set the tone for the performance from the outset, leading the audience through quirky lyrics, solid rock riffs and tastefully constructed solos. Finally some REAL rock at the Black Rock Arena!

Zero finished with their cult rock classic “PSP 12”, topped off by another blistering solo by Mendonsa.

Still a little dizzy after Zero, we wandered into the Bindass Fully Fantastic Stage into a performance by Gandu Circus. Now, Gandu Circus is the band that composed the furious Bengali-Rap soundtrack for subversive Bengali movie Gandu. Sadly, however, performing the movie soundtrack was only notable highlight of their show.

Following them was Menwhopause, a witty alternative rock ensemble from Delhi. Menwhopause brought to the table impeccable instrumentality and original melodies that combined both Indian and western elements. Menwhopause played a solid repertoire of soft rock songs, such as “Circles”, “Can’t we be Dreaming?” and “Downtown”. Meanwhile, there was a steady drift of people (from Pentagram which was playing in the Black Rock Arena), saying they wanted to hear a band in which people “could actually play the guitar and sing”.

But compared to the other solid act of the day (Zero), Menwhopause seemed rather subdued… until their final song, that is.

This song took the ‘soft rock’ label, smashed it to bits, and then proceeded to jump up and down on it repeatedly.

“Katil Sardar” is zany, irreverent, and possibly the product of fundamental deranged mind, but all in a good way, of course. This hard rock song has a soft rock song built into it: its lyrics jump from describing a hearty Punjabi meal, advising horny old men to move to New Delhi and ascribing the attacks on World Trade Centre to a malfunctioning bong. Besides, they had an entire verse is made up of terrible Punjabi puns.

Katil Sardar’s National Anthem is Bande-Marte-HUM! (“We Kill People!” -for everyone not from the North)

Is it genius? Or merely the the first step of a progression towards dementia? I cannot say. It probably doesn’t matter.

Following Menwhopause on the Fully Fantastic stage was Shaa’ir and Func , an experimental electronic duo consisting of vocalist Monica Dogra and guitarist Randolph Correia.

While S+F had a few interesting moments (“Shine” was one), I honestly lost interest in the electronica quickly, and spent the majority of their performance staring at Monica Dogra gyrating on stage.

So did the rest of the audience.

We decided to leave Shaa’ir and Func early and head over to Anoushka Shankar on the Dewarists stage, but soon decided that we really had not come here to appreciate Hindustani classical music. Thus ended day one, which definitely offered its moments but had several disappointments as well.

The second day had its work cut out.

Day 2:

I was late to arrive on Day 2 and jumped quickly into the fray.

The Black Rock Arena was hosting Indian metal band Scribe, whose frontman urged the audience to “tickle his balls” as the band passed out beach-balls into the crowd.

Scribe performed reasonable metalcore if you weren’t particularly bothered about things like lyrics, melody, rhythm or originality of any sort.

Their songs apparently had names, but I was not able discern any through the growling.

Sadly, I had to make a hasty egress when the lead singer of Scribe announced that his favourite ‘metal’ band was, in fact, Limp Bizkit.

Next up were Them Clones at the Fully Fantastic stage. Barring atrocious work from the sound technicians that kept the volume far too high for a normal human being, the performance was excellent.

Them Clones as a band seemed transformed from the last time I saw them (in 2010). They seemed much more professional and progressive, and much less like a college band. They played one of the best renditions of “Long Live The Dead” that I’ve ever heard, and introduced us to some of their new music, before ending with the perennial hit “My Life” and a version of the hit “Zephyretta” (accompanied by saxophone).

Them Clones were followed by Shillong-based blues-rock band Soulmate. I hadn’t heard this band before and they turned out to be quite a find. Slick, stylish, original, and supremely confident, Soulmate delivered a performance that would shame most of the more established bands.  Besides, vocalist Tipriti Kharbangar gets my vote for being both the sexiest and most talented woman on stage during this fest.

Soulmate’s cornerstone tracks “Set Me Free” and “Voodoo Woman” transpose effortless, free-flowing blues melodies onto Tipriti’s vocals as they shift between silky smoothness and surprising force. The result is a musical tour de force.

The Bindass stage was already starting to dominate the concert, and next up was Blackstratblues, Warren Mendonsa’s instrumental guitar project with Sid Coutto on the drums.

Mendonsa had already delivered brilliant performances as part of Alien Chutney and Zero, and he did not disappoint here.

Most of his songs were from his new albums, the only two exceptions being “Ode to a Sunny Day” and “Ode to a Rainy Day”. For the majority he didn’t even bother naming them, letting the music speak for itself.

Since I can’t simply tell you to listen to song X on Youtube, I must tell you that Mendonsa painted sonic landscapes with his black Stratocaster and guided the crowd through a gamut of emotions that blues music rarely takes one to: sheer bliss, hope, and childish wonder.

However, it cannot be described in words so perhaps it is futile to even try. Blackstratblues was my favourite performance of the event and for me, Mendonsa was the star of NH7 Weekender, not Megadeth.

Mendonsa was joined by Vishal Dadlani of Pentagram and Prithwish of Them Clones as Blackstratblues ended with a reinvention of Zephyretta.

With some reluctance I left the Fully Fantastic Stage to return to the Black Rock Arena.

It was Time.

The crowd that gathered in front of the stage was immense but it was already tired after the fierce moshing that took place during the last concert.

(One source maintains that Bhayanak Maut’s Mosh Pits involved people punching each other with buckets.)

But as Dave Mustaine walked up on stage, all the injuries and tiredness were forgotten. And the crowd went up in a deafening roar.

I honestly have no idea what Megadeth played for the first fifteen minutes. I found myself headbanging even as a mosh pit opened up and I was pushed in. The next few minutes are a haze of bodies slamming into each other until Megadeth paused playing to tell us that they were touring to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their studio album Countdown to Extinction.

Megadeth played the entire tracklist of Countdown to Extinction.

Debris rained from the sky.

Clothes were torn.

People were sent sprawling onto the ground.

Girlfriends were hurriedly evacuated from the front rows by their boyfriends.

At one point I was the only guy with a shirt on in a five-metre radius.

As the Countdown album ended, Megadeth receded from the stage.

It was ten pm. Time for the concert to end.

The crowd roared, demanding Megadeth come out and play “Tornado of Souls”.  Mustaine walked out onto the stage, exhorting the crowd to cheer, playing one half of the audience against the other.

He told the crowd that he considered people in America spoilt, compared to the hardships his fans have to face in a country like India, shedding a lone tear at the end of the monologue.

The irony of that statement was not lost on me. After all, he was addressing possibly the most pretentious, privileged and generally spoilt group of individuals in this nation today.

And suddenly the rest of the band was back and Megadeth’s trademark riffs filled the air. The hitherto sobered crowd went wild, and for one last time, I found myself in the eye of a tornado.

Ok Go at The Stern Grove, San Francisco (27/8/2012)

27 Aug

Today being that rarity of a sunny day in San Francisco, I decided to brave the great outdoors and go to a park. Naturally, if one is going to a park, then one should choose one where a reasonably well known indie rock band happens to be playing. Admittedly, I am not the greatest fan of OK Go. The one song of theirs that penetrated my consciousness was not quite enough to get me to try another. There is no shortage of indie rock bands, and this one had nothing special to offer for me. Still, the price was right, and as I said before, any excuse to wear my sweater and get out into the sunshine was good enough for me.

The concert was slated for 2:00, but I could only make it to Stern Grove by 2:30, and so I missed most of the day’s opening act, The Family Crest. They seemed decent. They certainly showed a lot of enthusiasm and some small degree of spark. Keep an eye out for them.

The concert began with a cringingly bad hype piece. Being asked by a robotic voice to shout the band’s name before they come on stage is admittedly pretty harmless ego stoking and considering the band’s name I found it a funny thing to chant before they even appeared on stage, but no one asked me and the whole thing was over quickly.

The band began their set with no preamble. The music began almost as soon as they found their instruments, which was refreshing and certainly gave them a professional appearance. The only issue was the music itself. It was not bad, but it was not really any good either. There was nothing in there that one could sink into. There was quite a lot of confetti however.

For roughly the first third of the concert, the story was pretty much the same. Their music was almost decent. There would be brief moments where you could fall into it, but on the whole just slightly sub-par. Then, it improved. I can’t be sure precisely which song it was that changed things, probably Invincible.

From that moment, sure there were still a lot of what were at best mediocre songs, but at least there were enough moments with substance in them to give the concert meaning. There was a moving performance of Return with only hand bells.

 

There was Skyscrapers. There was “The Treadmill Song”, which featured Damian Kulash asking if anyone in the crowd could play the guitar and then handing his to just such a person to play for half the song. I certainly wasn’t the only one in the crowd to have only heard that song by OK Go and no other (actually I had also heard A Million Ways, but had forgotten completely about it until they were halfway through the song). And there was still lots and lots of confetti.

Also, there was Damian Kulash coming down into the crowd and performing Last Leaf by himself.

Finally, they may never be anywhere near someone like The Flaming Lips. They may have only had four songs of note in their entire two hour concert. A full third of their concert may have had me considering walking out. Still, at the end of the day, they put up a really good performance. I can’t think of any way that I could have better spent this Sunday afternoon, and I think most of the crowd would have agreed with me.

From Damian’s Instagram

– Nikhil

Moonshadow Frequency is on Hiatus

2 Aug

Their mission statement is a question – ‘Who are we?’.  The quest has taken them to the softer side of alternative music, and they seem determined to leave no musical stone unturned and no style untouched. On Tuesday, July 31st, this band unfortunately played their last gig before a self-imposed hiatus. Will the decision cut off the band’s momentum? Or will it shake their very foundation into further musical inspiration?

In a collection of songs that are as eclectic as the words that make up their name, the constant factor for the band is a grooviness which is sprinkled with jazzy blues, soul, funky punk, soft rock and pretty much anything they can mesh it with.

 

“Throw Yourself” is the band’s most complete and streamlined piece yet. An acapella-esque  intro is ridden into the chorus by Neeraja, a songstress who sings like sultry Duffy meeting soulful Adele, with a blues rock infused melody that reaches almost anthemic peaks at certain points. It is sad that the project has since parted ways with Neeraja.

The band picks at countryside blues in “Little Heartbreak”. And while their single dab at an instrumental, “Sea Jem”, leaves you wanting for a bit more shine, they show much more polish in their  short demo titled “SmoulderBoulder”, where the coupling  of acoustic rhythm (with a hint of palm muting) and the electric lead gives their groove a classy touch usually reserved for jazz pieces. Listen and see for yourself!

Bonus: Here and here are awesome covers by the band, paying tribute to their influences.

However, with a line-up that the band admits to be “excessively young”, and lyrics that need to be tightened, the band is moving too fast across the landscape of musical styles to hold anyone’s attention for long. To be good, you need to give yourself time. And in the band’s own words, their members have changed as often as the clothes on their back until settling on the current one.  Neeraja, particularly, seems to have been a missed gold mine, a result of their roots not digging deep enough.

With studies and alternative incomes to worry about, perhaps the hiatus the band is about to take will freshen them up when they regroup, and hopefully a more sustained package will be delivered. If they’re signed up by a label though, their philosophically clichéd question may well be answered by their decision on a morally clichéd one: should they move a bit to the right for the money, or continue left for the journey?

But until then, Moonshadow Frequency’s pieces can be enjoyed while lying on your back (figuratively), at a pub, or in your office.

Moonshadow Frequency recently wowed audiences at the beautiful Summer Sundowners Festival in Manali. You can read the Hindu’s coverage of them here.

– Rohit Ashok

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