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Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Bangalore 2014 – Day 2

15 Nov

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender is one of our favorite events of the year. It lets us catch up with tens of acts from across the country – some new, some legendary – all within a beautiful, aesthetically arranged venue. On the weekend of November 8th and 9th, we went to the Bangalore edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and were blown away by breadth of artists on stage. Here’s our take!

Beautiful aesthetics

Day 2

As with Day 1, our journey on Day 2 began with the Red Bull Tour Bus. The originally slated act, Delhi Sultanate and Begum X, was cancelled, giving way to an amazing performance by Your Chin, the peculiarly-named solo act of Sky Rabbit’s lead singer Raxit Tewari. Your Chin’s metered electronic music, buoyed by Raxit’s genuinely pleasant voice, seemed to pull the expansive lawns in front of the Tour Bus into a much closer venue. “Run Along Little One” was a stand-out track in Your Chin’s brilliant 45-minute set.

Your Chin

In perfect contrast to Raxit’s calm, subtle music was The Inspector Cluzo, performing immediately after at the Bacardi Arena. The self-touted farmers from Gascony, France, enthralled the audience with their music as well as what can only be described as stereotypically French stand-up comedy – the biggest butt of which was, of course, those Englishmen and their pissy English music. The Top Five Records team couldn’t help but remember the French knights scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Those silly English knnigghts!) All said and done, The Inspector Cluzo were a massively entertaining act, and rightly gained hundreds of new fans that day.

Inspector Cluzo

Up to this point, we had covered every stage except the Micromax Mega Mix stage. Thus, we made our way there to catch Klypp, a Bangalore-based duo specializing in making soundtracks to your inner visual-weaver (their words). Next, we caught Blent, a Bangalore-based game designer turned musician who currently serves as the resident DJ at the massively popular Humming Tree in Indiranagar.

However, this was all filler compared to the act that was setting up at the Dewarists: Thermal and a Quarter. Since 1996, TAAQ has been Bangalore’s most beloved alt-rock product, with several legendary albums under their belt. At the Weekender this year, we were incredibly lucky to hear the band’s latest album, The Scene, in almost its entirety. The album featured a tongue-in-cheek look at India’s music scene today, from the good (so many women festival-goers!) to the bad (all those ‘musicians’ on their Mac Books).

Thermal and a Quarter

Throughout their humbling one-hour show, Mr. Mani inadvertently schooled every lead singer in the country on how to captivate an audience’s attention: not by yelling at them to jump (ahem, Mink) or mumbling at them to dance if they want to (ahem, Your Chin) or by ignoring them to a large extent (ahem, Money for Rope). No, Mr. Mani captivated the audience by genuinely connecting with them, by giving a likeable intro to each new song, by playing skilled, appropriately-sized solos, and by creating a generally friendly and relaxed vibe. So much so that the audience had quite a smattering of little kids dancing with their moms!

Mr. Bruce Lee Mani

Mr. Bruce Lee Mani

After the show, we walked 20 metres to the MTS Discover stage, where Skrat began their ever-electrifying set. Like TAAQ, Skrat also took the Weekender opportunity to showcase songs from their new album, The Queen. The Top Five Records team has been in love with the album ever since its launch last month, and we naturally loved the chance to hear some of Skrat’s best new songs live. In particular, the wordless choruses on “Machete” and “Stomp” were the stand-out moments of the band’s raucous gig. The frenetic atmosphere was ably helped along by Skrat’s charismatic lead singer, Sriram TT, who was (or seemed to be) drunk out of his mind. He even ended up doing a tribute dance to Rajni Saar, in a not-so-subtle tip-of-the-hat to Kollywood in light of Amit Trivedi’s Bollywood extravaganza the previous night.

Skrat

Here, we must put in an extremely important word to the the festival organizers: NEVER pit Skrat against the F16s. It’s just not fair to make us choose between the two Chennai exports. Unfortunately, by the time Skrat’s monumental one-hour frenzy ended, we were left with just 15 minutes of the F16s, over at the Bacardi Arena. Luckily, we got to catch our favorite song, “Light Bulbs”, along with one or two new pieces that the band debuted.

The F16s

After the double bill of Skrat and the F16s, we were too tired to catch but a few minutes of the wonderful Soulmate, comprising two of Shillong’s bluesiest, most talented individuals. After refuelling with food and drink, we made our way to the Bacardi Arena, where almost everyone had gathered to witness the spectacle that is Mutemath.

On a personal note, though, some of our team felt that perhaps calling a sparsely known (although talented) band was kind of an elitist take on what constitutes a headliner act. We’re pretty sure that 80% of the crowd knew less than 20% of the songs that the band played. But, on the whole, the crowd didn’t seem to care. Overall, Mutemath had the energy and raw talent to close out the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in a fitting manner, and that’s what mattered in the end.

MUTEMATH

MUTEMATH

Words by Neeharika Palaka. Images by Rajat Tibrewal.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Bangalore 2014 – Day 1

14 Nov

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender is one of our favorite events of the year. It lets us catch up with tens of acts from across the country – some new, some legendary – all within a beautiful, aesthetically arranged venue. On the weekend of November 8th and 9th, we went to the Bangalore edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and were blown away by breadth of artists on stage. Here’s our take!

Beautiful aesthetics

Day 1

We kicked off our day with a gig by funk duo Madboy/Mink atop the Red Bull Tour Bus. Comprising Imaad Shah on guitar and Saba Azad on vocals, Madboy/Mink’s energetic performance was the perfect way to pump up festival goers for the several hours to follow. The duo’s show featured some well-known numbers (“Alley Cats”) as well as some new songs (“Powders”) that literally got the crowd jumping along to Saba’s lively stage presence. Imaad even showed off a brilliant T-shirt that said “Funk Junky”, which we saw many people pick up at the band merchandise stall throughout the two days.

R-L: Madboy, Mink

Immediately after the last staccato beats of Madboy/Mink dissipated into the air, a British act called Houdini Dax was ready to go over at the Bacardi Arena. From 3:30 pm, the band had passed around little chits to people around the venue with a polite invitation to come to their 5 pm show. Perhaps because of this early publicity, the band drew quite a large crowd for a late afternoon show. And if that didn’t work, their music sure did: for Houdini Dax was easily Top Five Records’ find of the day. The Cardiff three-piece, dressed to the T in sharp collared shirts and skinny jeans, enthralled the audiences with their delectably British sound. Besides, as a bonus, their bassist pretty much looked like a young Paul McCartney.

The McCartney look-alike

The McCartney look-alike

Soon after Houdini Dax, we trudged over to the MTS Discover stage to check out the peculiarly-named Sean Roldan, a.k.a Tamilian percussion wizard Raghavendra. After Sean Roldan, Australian musician Appleonia started her set with a psychedelic, almost Vedic-inspired stage set-up that went over quite well with the slightly inebriated crowd.

On that note, we headed to the Bacardi Arena for Australian band Money for Rope. The band took the inebriated crowd to a whole new level: shitfaced drunk. Featuring two in-sync drum kits, a keyboard that’s been kicked over quite a few times and a corded telephone for special vocal effects, Money for Rope blew the collective mind of the 6:30 PM Weekender crowd. By the end of the performance, 2/5ths of the band was shirtless and 5/5ths were in a music-induced, almost Doors-like haze. It was a good way to spend the afternoon, although it must be noted that in the midst of all the theatrics, none of the songs particularly stood out.

In a few minutes, this image went on to have a second shirtless person.

In a few minutes, this image went on to have a second shirtless person.

The next few hours featured, in our opinion, the least impressive part of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Bangalore this year. Thankfully, there were many new food and merchandise stalls this time, and the weak early evening line-up gave us ample time to check them out. At 8:30 pm, we headed to the Redbull Tour Bus for a lovely set by Kolkata’s post-punk act The Supersonics. Channeling a little bit of Springsteen and a touch of the National, frontman Ananda Sen’s vocals were the perfect transition into the evening’s final act, Amit Trivedi. The famed composer of Bollywood flicks such as Dev.D, Wake Up Sid and Ishaqzaade attracted nearly the entirety of the Weekender population into one  happy crowd.

Amit Trivedi

And thus, Day 1 drew to close. Overall, the good array of international and domestic acts – Houdini Dax, Madboy/Mink, Money for Rope – contrasted with a weak late afternoon lineup. We left Embassy Riding School hoping for a much better Day 2.

Words by Neeharika Palaka. Images by Rajat Tibrewal.

Striking a Balance: A Conversation with Ketan Bahirat

3 May

As we previously mentioned, we were very impressed with electronica/ambient/post-rock band Until We Last’s recent performance at Counter Culture. New writer Anindita Nayak recently got a chance to speak to Ketan Bahirat, founder of Until We Last, about the band, his early start in music and challenges.

Until We Last

Photo courtesy Until We Last’s Facebook page.

Let’s talk a little about their music first. Until We Last songs transport your mind to different level with their unusual mix of melodies, making them sound a little like God is an Astronaut or Explosions in the Sky (though the band does dislike the comparisons sometimes). One of our favorite songs of theirs is “Water”, which sounds even better live than it does on the album. Unfortunately, their SoundCloud channel doesn’t have all of the songs they had performed at CounterCulture, but maybe we’ll find them on their upcoming EP, which is launching in a month’s time. Now, let’s move on to Until We Last’s journey.

Currently in his penultimate year of college, Ketan Bahirat took formal Hindustani lessons back in 6th grade. He picked up guitar skills from YouTube videos and played with two metal bands before forming Until We Last in 2011. Until We Last has been performing live since late 2012, culminating in the launch of an album, copies of which they were more than happy to give away free at Counter Culture. When quizzed about his personal favorite gig so far, Ketan speedily answers with Magnetic Fields, an impressive festival in the middle of the Rajasthani desert.

The name of the band stems from a philosophical note that revolves around travel, our home planet, nature and the quest to strike the perfect balance between sustainability and development. When it comes to song names, it’s usually based on circumstances. Their most popular song, “Rain”, was so named because it was raining when they were composing it! And there is, of course, a conscious decision of keeping a close reference to nature or travel.

 

The initial few compositions were recorded in Ketan’s bedroom. When looking for potential band members, he remained close to the local music artists and often jammed with them. It hasn’t been an easy ride for Until We Last, considering that the lineup has had over ten changes so far. The longest time without a lineup change was for a year, ending when the bassist, Anjan Bhojaraj, left for higher studies and was replaced by Paul Dharamraj, a former member of the Bicycle Days. This aspect is probably one of the major challenges for any band, especially when the band members are so young and other aspects will tend to take higher priorities.

However, working with so many artists has also helped Until We Last’s music evolve. One of their former band members, Bhargav, continues to send across pieces of compositions from Singapore and they are continuing to reach out to other artists who could collaborate with them to produce more music.

Photo courtesy Until We Last’s Facebook page.

One good thing that struck us about Until We Last is that they don’t seem very concerned about the prevalent culture of piracy, especially in a country like ours. Admittedly, the growing number of music festivals and venues is changing that culture in India, but the fact remains that platforms for indie artists to sell music are uncommon and finding people who are willing to buy music is even less common. Until We Last has also seen a good amount of traction from countries like Germany and Russia, where listeners are willing to pay for their music.

But in the end it’s all about sustainability: fans need to buy music to support good artists. On that note, please do listen to Until We Last’s music and maybe buy it too. And be sure to follow their updates on Facebook and Twitter too. We wish them all the success with their upcoming album!

Indie March Night at Counter Culture, Bangalore (22/3/2014)

29 Mar

The month of March was a great time to visit Counter Culture, an excellent, aesthetic live music venue in the bustling Bangalore suburb of Whitefield. March 8 fielded an eclectic and wholly excellent bevy of women artists in honor of Women’s Day; this weekend features Avial, Agam and Lagori in a delicious palette of modern Indian music. But last weekend was truly the centerpiece of the whole mad March extravaganza: five gifted, exciting bands that form a rough outline of where Indian indie is today and where it has the potential to go.

First on the billing at the Indie March night on March 22nd was the intriguingly-named post-rock Bangalore act Space Behind the Yellow Room. This was the first time I’d heard them, and the little that I did hear that night was magical: the ethereal, frenetic music setting the tone for the night that was just unfolding. Interspersed throughout their mostly instrumental pieces were some rather unfathomable, but wholly enjoyable shrieks and screams from the drummer (we’ll never know if they were parts of the composition, or in-situ improvisation). Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons including Bangalore traffic and unfashionable lateness, I only managed to catch a few snippets of their music, but it definitely made a great first impression. And raised questions, too: what is behind the yellow room?

 

Which space? Why yellow?

Which space? Why yellow?

Space Behind the Yellow Room was followed by Until We Last, another post-rock band from Bangalore. From what I could gather, there were two different impressions that people had about Until We Last following Space Behind the Yellow Room. Some, like myself, thought it wasn’t the smartest of lineups: post-rock is great for quiet introspection and expensive headphones, but by this time, most people had had a drink or three in them and wanted, well, dance music.

Until We Last

They were dancing, but in a more post-rock way.

Others disagreed. Another Top Five member found the band to be top-notch, and arguably one of the centerpieces of the music that evening. Either way, though, Until We Last definitely did not disappoint. I had first seen them at the Bangalore Weekender last year, where they completely transformed a lawn on a bright Bangalore morning into a dreamlike, almost ethereal space. Here, too, they brought the same ethos, but perhaps their music is more suited for the aforementioned bright mornings: a few hundred tipsy twenty-somethings aren’t the best vessels of contemplation. Special note must be given, though, to their track “Water” as well as the way they signed off: “We are Until We Last.” Think about it. It’s pretty deep.

Like I said, two post-rock bands back-to-back wasn’t the greatest of ideas. In essence, the atmospheric drama carefully draped over the crowd by these two bands was ripped apart the second the F16s took to the stage. The young Chennai indie rock band were coming off of strong wins at IIT Madras, JD Rock Awards, Hornbill and pretty much anywhere else they went. It only took a few minutes into their tight, spotless set to realize that they deserve every damn one of those awards. The F16s have really got it all together: the suaveness, the confidence, the professionalism and, yeah, the hair.

The F16s

For me, one of the greatest moments of the night was when they broke into an absolutely perfect cover of “Mansard Roof” by Vampire Weekend. And these guys really are real rock stars. Of the five bands that played at Counter Culture that night, the F16s were the only band that had the audience singing along to every one of their tracks: the beautifully executed “Light Bulbs” was a particular stand-out. Last month at the JD Rock Awards, the F16s won “Best Emerging Band” and I have to say, Rolling Stone pretty much got that one exactly right.

After an amazing one-hour set, the F16s handed over the stage to Skrat, their fellow indie rockers from Chennai. Theatrical and energetic, Skrat are quintessential entertainers, led by the instantly likeable Sriram TT. The clock was ticking around midnight at that point (Whaddup, extended Bangalore curfew!) and most people in the venue were quite well sloshed. The crowd basically went wild during Skrat’s well-known and well-loved tracks like “Samurai Badass” and “Tin Can Man”, but things reached a different level of pandemonium when the band proclaimed their love of motorbikes and immediately got a guy to ride a motorbike to the front of the stage. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos to prove it, but I assure you it was awesome.

Shortly before the motorcycle arrived.

Shortly before the motorcycle arrived.

Most people didn’t really get over the F16s-Skrat double blast, which meant that the final band of the night, Parvaaz, unfortunately didn’t get the audience it deserved. The few people who remained sober until the end claimed that Parvaaz was pretty good too, and that they boasted of a heady mix of technical competence and soaring Urdu vocals. Apologies for our inability to verify that claim.

Parvaaz

Clocking at a little under six hours, Indie March Night was a mini-festival in itself, and a really great way to spend a Saturday evening/night.

Words, photos and video by Neeharika Palaka and Subhayan Mukerjee

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