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Bacardi Weekender 2013, Bengaluru: Day 2

29 Nov

When we last saw the Weekender venue late on Saturday night, the ground was a wet sludge of mud and grass. The rain had started getting irritating, clothes were splattered with filth and everyone was generally miffed that they had to miss some great artists.

The atmosphere in the bus to the venue on Sunday was rather subdued. People kept glancing up at the menacing grey clouds seemingly speeding along with us to the venue. A couple of people behind us were grumbling that this wasn’t a cheap festival; washed out stages won’t get you your money back, whether you saw artists or not. And we were quite inclined to agree with them.

Dance music greeted us upon entry into the venue, but it wasn’t as enticing as Dakta Dub yesterday so we moved on to the Bacardi Arena area. To our pleasant surprise, we found that the Red Bull Tour Bus stage was functional, and protected with a thick tarpaulin roof to boot. The show, it seemed, will go on.

The first artist up was a dreamy post-rock band from Bangalore called Until We Last. More than a little reminiscent of God Is An Astronaut, the band filled the stage and our heads with deep, complex and emotive music. After the rather harrowing experience on Saturday, it felt great to lounge on the grass on a Sunday afternoon, listening to atmospheric, thoughtful music. Perfect!

Until We Last

Until We Last

Now, it’s important to note here that the Bacardi Area and the Red Bull Tour Bus stages faced each other; to get from one to the other, you only had to cross a small stretch of ground. This turned out to be a stroke of logistical genius, we soon realized.

Ten seconds after the beautiful dream of Until We Last faded away, classic rock started pouring out of the speakers at the Bacardi Arena, where The Fender Benders had just begun their set. With true Indian legends like Amyt Dutta and Sanjay Divecha mesmerizing us with their Fender fretwork, it seemed impossible for the jazzy blues jam to get any better – until, of course, Mr. Warren Mendonsa himself stepped on stage. Jayanta Dasgupta’s Clapton-like swagger, Jai Row Kavi’s immaculate drumming, and Mendonsa’s mindblowing solos added to an atmosphere at the Arena that is impossible to put into words.

The Fender Benders: Amyt Dutta

The Fender Benders: Amyt Dutta

In one fell swoop, everyone present felt that the Weekender already paid its dues for a washed-out Saturday, and then some. The most magical moment of the set by far was when the whole ensemble performed the blues standard “Let the Good Times Roll” even as rain clouds rolled in. Whether it was a heaven-sent sign, a spirited directive or just a plain coincidence, it does not matter; that one minute became the Weekender’s Moment to Beat.

Warren Mendonsa

The Fender Benders: Warren Mendonsa

Needless to say, it is not an easy task to follow an act like the Fender Benders. And few bands can live up to the challenge quite like Skrat, a spunky grunge/garage rock band from Chennai. Sriram TT and his boys wowed the crowd from atop the Red Bull Tour Bus with their wild songs and unstoppable energy. Favorites like “Tin Can Man” crazed old fans and created new fans, while newer songs like “Samurai Badass” left everyone in awe of the young band’s raw talent. Props to Skrat for rousing up an enthusiastic and wholly unpretentious crew, too!

Skrat

Skrat

The second Skrat ended their tight, killer set, it was time to run back across the lawns to the Bacardi Arena, where the Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate began their set. The ex-Motherjane guitarist, self-styled as a Carnatic Guitar Maestro, led the audience into a mystical light and sound extravaganza that seemed to end all too quickly. If there was a negative about the act, it was the presence of the Syndicate’s rather douchey singer who tended to overpower Baiju’s soaring, poignant guitar.

Baiju Dharmajan

Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate

Finally, at around 6 pm, we caught our breath at Maria’s Goan Kitchen, located right near the now-hallowed Bacardi Arena and the Tour Bus stages. And not a drop of rain so far! Papon & the East India Company, headed by the talented Papon, were already setting up at the Bacardi Arena, but I rushed to the Other Stage for a promising set by my new favorite singer-songwriter Nischay Parekh. The Calcutta lad shot to fame during the festival A Summer’s Day, helped along by his phenomenal love song, “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”. Nischay’s colorful stage presence and beautiful voice was the icing on the cake of the unforgettable three hours so far.

Nischay Parekh

Nischay Parekh

After Nischay’s short and sweet set, I headed back to the Bacardi Arena, where I found the crowd in a sort of frenzy. And for good reason – Papon was singing “Banao”, his famous ode to Ms. Mary Jane! He closed off his set with a spectacular Assamese folk song about the Baisakhi festival, managing to get everyone (and I mean everyone) on their feet. Papon really has it all: grace, humility, stage presence, and a killer voice. I felt almost honored to see such a great artist live!

Papon & the East India Company

Papon & the East India Company

After 5 busy – and completely dry – hours, the crowd seemed to be trying to get rid of the ‘dry’ness in a different sort of way. By the time Australian indie rockers Hey Geronimo took over the Red Bull Tour Bus, only a handful of people managed to stay on their feet. The rest were plopped on the grass, finishing the last drops in their Bacardi buckets, and stayed that way through most of Swarathma’s set too.

Swarathma

Swarathma

Hunger coupled with tiredness from hours of non-stop excitement kept me away for nearly all of Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All-Stars but I’d already got my money’s worth. And no, it didn’t rain a single drop on Sunday.

So there you have it. Day 2 certainly filled us with music-induced happiness, but also left us with a sort of wistfulness of what Saturday might’ve been, had the heavens not opened up. Overall, the Weekender was a great, if not grand, success, and I’m certainly going to be back next year.

A look back: Day 1 at the Bacardi Weekender 2013, Bengaluru

Bacardi Weekender 2013, Bengaluru: Day 1

28 Nov

In any enjoyable event of considerable length, there are always a few moments that shine a bit brighter than others. It’s not always clear why these moments in particular make it into this mental photo album. Maybe it was the confluence of several senses hitting you simultaneously. Maybe your mind just chose the most colorful, the most shocking or the most fun parts. Or maybe it was the way that you were both suspended in a moment that seemed to go on forever even as it ended too quickly.

When I flip through my mental photo album of the Bacardi Weekender 2013, Bengaluru edition, I don’t see the rains that played spoilsport on Saturday. I don’t see people craning to catch a view of Lucky Ali or Manganiyar Seduction betwixt myriad umbrellas. I don’t even see the fuming mob when TessaracT got cancelled.

Okay, maybe I see the last one a bit. (They were pretty angry.)

Anyway, the rather convoluted point that I am trying to make here is that at this year’s Bengaluru edition of the Weekender, the show really did go on. A sizeable chunk of artists, cutting across all genres, were cancelled on Saturday, and people stood drenched to the bone for hours to watch the artists that were lucky enough to perform. But they didn’t seem to care. When we left on Sunday night, there was no doubt that we were indeed leaving the Happiest Music Festival, in spite of every hiccup.

Let’s start from the beginning. Day 1 started off with a bus ride (Red Bull included!) that foretold of the day to come, with rain sprinkling fitfully as we headed to the venue. Once we got in, we marveled at NH7’s kickass aesthetic sense for a few minutes before heading straight to the stages. Unfortunately, the rain followed us there.

NH7 Aesthetics

However, the spirit of the festival-goer is not daunted so easily. We headed to the Breezer Stage, where Dakta Dub was entertaining the fast-filling crowd with their reggae beats. An unfurled Jamaican flag graced the laptop table. Dreadlocked members of their entourage danced with abandonment. A light rain, buoyed by breeze (get it?), tempered the air, and the stage turned electric with magic. Oh, and then Dakta Dub started playing Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”. First entry into the photo album!

Dakta Dub

However, the next couple of acts didn’t fare so well, in my opinion. I never have been a big fan of metal, especially mediocre metal, so Bevar Sea at the Bacardi Arena really wasn’t anything to write home about. Singer-songwriter Winit Tikoo was rather forgettable as well. However, his song “GDS” did have a few nice moments from the band – especially the wall-like fuzz of the guitars and the confident bass.

With the Other Stage and Red Bull Tour Bus closed on account of roof-less-ness, we wandered to the Eristoff Wolves Den, the only other open stage, where we found the excellent Big City Harmonics. This guy had it all – the visuals, the lights and oh my, the beats. Definitely a find! Here, too, I added to my photo album: the radial lasers hit the vertical sprinkle of rain to create millions of tiny stars in the daytime. However, I don’t possess nearly enough photography skillz to capture that in a real photo, so that moment shall remain in my mind only.

Passing cursorily by Inner Sanctum (as I said, I’m not a big metal fan), we headed back to the Dewarists Stage for Lucky Ali. A seasoned performer, the man wowed the crowd with his stardom and sheer stage presence, and proceeded to sing everyone into a frenzy.

Lucky Ali

By that time, the good folks at NH7 had made arrangements to temporarily open up the Other Stage, where they skipped past Sulk Station and the F16s (sadly) to Kate Miller-Heidke. Under the makeshift red umbrella that sprouted up like a mushroom in the rain, the Australian singer-songwriter belted out gifted pop while dressed as Alice in Wonderland. It was a great experience!

Kate Miller-Heidke

After a quick bite at Faaso’s, we headed to Eristoff again for Shaa’ir + Func, starring Randolph Correia, Monica Dogra, and Monica Dogra’s midriff. I’ve never been a big fan of the band – I’m guessing it has something to do with my gender and orientation – but I will allow the fact that Monica Dogra has matchless energy and stage presence. Visuals aside, however, their live performance failed to impress me for the same reason as their recorded ones: they don’t have memorable songs.

Shaa’ir + Func

Soon, we left Ms. Dogra gyrating on stage to rush to the Dewarists Stage for the evening’s pièce de résistance (for non-metal fans), Manganiyar Seduction with Roysten Abel. The magic box of lights was already set up, piquing interest with its obvious theatricality. However, the uninitiated were simply left unprepared for the performance to follow. The way your heart flies as a Manganiyar singer lilts notes with his whirling hands; the thumping of your heart along with the big drums; the ecstasy when the rows and columns of the box light up all at once at the end… The moments are too many and too intense to recollect all at once. Needless to say, everyone in the audience was thoroughly seduced by the end.

Manganiyar Seduction

And thus ended Day 1 of the Weekender. The rain was the villain of the day, but thankfully there were quite a few heroes. We left the venue hoping for less rain and more magic on Sunday… and we weren’t disappointed.

Read on: Day 2 at the Bacardi Weekender 2013, Bengaluru

Saturday Morning Breakfast Songs: A List

13 Apr

Saturday morning, half past ten.

It’s Saturday morning. The curtains in your bedroom are slightly parted, and there’s a pleasant breeze breathing through the window. A beam of sunlight, just warm enough, glances across your face and bathes the room in a tint of impossible comfort. You just want to lay in your bed forever, a frequent flier between ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’.

You’re not unique in this experience: we’ve all been there. The question is, of course, what should you listen to? That’s where we come in. Here are the top five songs to ensure you wake up to a lazy, relaxed and perfect weekend. Since this list could engender a vast number of possible choices, we’ve narrowed it down a tad by including only inputs from within the subcontinent. Enjoy!

1. You Can Wonder, by the F16s

The F16s are a four-piece indie pop act from Chennai with an impeccable sense of rhythm and tone. Their lovely song, “You Can Wonder”, instantly brings to mind drifting clouds, aquamarine waters and, undeniably, contented laziness. It’s like sipping a fresh lime cooler on a Hawaiian vacation. From the laid-back guitar to the mellow phrasings of the singer’s voice, “You Can Wonder” hits every note of the perfect breezy song. We agree with the F16s: this song lies “between a fantasy and what is real”, much like those fleeting moments where you can still kind of remember what you were dreaming about.

2. Summer State of Mind, by Plastic Parvati

At all of 49 seconds, this excellent song by Plastic Parvati (Kolkata-based The Ganesh Talkies’ Suyasha Sengupta) boasts of four lines of lyrics and an addictive tabla-like beat that will make your morning almost improbably happier. Besides, there’s also Suyasha’s voice: jazzy, quirky, and positively drenched in lackadaisy. We promise you that even in your sleepy lethargy, you’re going to press ‘replay’ as soon as this song starts fading out.

3. Sleeping in the Back of Her Car, by the Shakey Rays

Here at Top Five, we’ve already heaped a lot of praise for our favorite Chennai boys, The Shakey Rays. This beautiful track from Tunes from the Big Belly picks up from the “crazy, hazy night” before the lazy weekend morning in question. On this fateful night, the singer walks around with beer on his breath and a smile on his face, meets a girl, gets into her car and (surprise!) falls asleep. Like most material that the Shakey Rays put out, everything on this track just fits: the palpable jangly beauty of the guitars, their immaculately harmonized vocals, and pleasantly nuanced drumming on Niranjan Swaminathan’s part. Oh, and the lyrics. This song could soundtrack your dreams: let it.

4. Monkey in Me, by Nischay Parekh

Nischay Parekh is a young singer-songwriter from the storied city of Kolkata with a voice that was intended by God to sing softly over sleepy mornings. The pretty, happy “Monkey in Me” is, frankly, a bit of a sensory overload: reminding you of sugary doughnuts and morning coffee (with vanilla swirls!) as much as it does of the way that green, sunlit leaves sway in a gentle breeze. Apart from Nischay’s delicate and gifted vocals, we also eagerly doff our hats to Shaumik Biswas’ intuitive drumming and Rohit Kapoor’s talented bass-playing. “Cosmically speaking, I think I’d be dreaming if I fell in love,” sings Nischay, but we beg to differ slightly: you’re going to fall in love with this song (and Nischay’s music) because it is exactly what you should hear when you’re dreaming.

5. Bindya, by Sulk Station

After shuttling between Kolkata and Chennai, we’re going to direct you to Bangalore’s trip-hop phenomenon Sulk Station’s gorgeous track “Bindya”. On this song, Tanvi Rao recites a beautiful hymn-prayer with all the splendor and clarity of sunlight filtering through a pristine rural morning, and Rahul Giri backs it up with a subtle touch of his electronica. “Bindya” is one of those songs that, if heard in the correct moment, can leave you completely spellbound. That magical twilight zone when you’re just waking up is one of those correct moments.

So there you have it. Have a nice weekend!

Oceans Apart: A Chat with Nischay Parekh

25 Mar
A man and his guitar

A man and his guitar

Nischay Parekh, 19, hails from Calcutta, a functioning chaos of a city famous (or infamous) for its poets and prose; a city that seems to have certainly rubbed off on the young singer-songwriter. We recently had the chance to listen to “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”, the spectacular first single from his debut Ocean. It’s a mix of 50s nostalgia and the breeze that causes the leaves to sway on a summer’s day, that hasn’t been heard since this side of an uncharacteristically mature John Mayer. Nischay’s better than Mayer, though, in our honest opinion.

A classic pop voice, burred with just a hint of heartbreak, is not the only thing in Nischay’s arsenal. The man seems to be a pro at the kind of graceful strumming that engender pretty pop ditties, and he has got quite the handy quill, too. If that wasn’t enough of a fix, you can check out more of his stuff on his SoundCloud, which features more than a dozen and a half brilliant, sometimes-glitchy-mostly-pop songs – including a pensive, stripped-down cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley that would put The Weeknd to shame.

A talent like this does not go unnoticed. Nischay played at the Bangalore edition of the Weekender last year, and shared stage space with none other than Norah Jones at the recent A Summer’s Day festival in Mumbai. India is rather inundated with its share of music festivals at the moment: there’s a new one mushrooming in every cognizant pocket of the country. It’s a world of ‘hear and be heard’ like never before out there, depending on whether you’re the audience or the artist.  The following is our humble attempt to connect these two sides of the spectrum. Top Five readers, meet Nischay Parekh.

Top Five Records: Hello, Nischay! We’re very honored to have you here with us today. Let’s start from the basics. Why music? How did this whole thing begin?

Nischay Parekh: Music started for me when I was 16 years old. I was taking ‘’recreational’ guitar lessons for a few years before that.  It was around that time that I started writing songs, and I really began to enjoy the process of building a song from scratch. It was like Lego, except the blocks were pieces of my own imagination. Once I began writing and playing more seriously I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

TFR: What did you grow up listening to?

NP: My mother had a very interesting collection of cassettes and CDs. There was a lot of cheesy stuff like Rod Stewart, Geri Halliwell (ex spice girl), but then there was also some great stuff that had a bigger impact on me like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Nat King Cole. The sound that came out of our old “deck” (yes that’s what they were called, CD and Cassette player!) has probably left a bigger impression than I care to admit. A lot of it is subconscious, of course.  I was lucky enough to have grown up with a lot of the ‘good stuff’.

TFR: Tell us about your first few bands. We understand your naming patterns for bands have an affinity for Kingdom Animalia.

NP: I have band in Kolkata called “The MonkeyinMe”. There are four of us. It basically consists of very close friends of mine that I started playing music with in school.  All of us are a little spread out geographically at the moment so it’s hard to put out material frequently. However, we are in it for the long run. A future MonkeyinMe album is definitely on the cards.

Then there was this group I was a part of in Boston called “Orange, the Panda”. I do have a fascination of animals and the general element of mysticism. Maybe it’s because I never had a pet?

Cover for Nischay's album

Cover for Nischay’s album

TFR: So we hear your upcoming debut album Ocean is being produced by someone who has done similar honors for the likes of Madonna and Radiohead [London-based Miti Adhikari]. Not bad for a debut! Has having Miti around changed your song-writing or music-making process in any way?

NP: Miti has been great. I am really fortunate that he was interested in working with me. Having him around has brought a lot of clarity and coherence to my music. I had all these songs and Ideas, which were flying around like loose pages. Miti has definitely helped me bind those pages into a book of sorts. He’s been a real collaborator on this album. Added to all this he’s really on top of his game as an engineer. So it’s been a great experience.

TFR: If you had to be sorted into a record collection based on similarity, which two albums would Ocean be slotted between?

NP: The Reminder by Feist and Plans by Death cab for Cutie. I’m probably giving myself more credit than I deserve, those two are great albums and I love them!

TFR: What kind of themes can we expected to be touched upon in your debut? Do you intend it to be a musical culmination of your nineteen years of life, or is the time frame shorter?

NP: Ocean is a collection of dreams I’ve had. I write exclusively about animals and relationships. It is definitely a culmination of my entire life. It’s full of mysticism. I enjoy the paradox between very ‘real’ human emotions and these stories that I tell with animals as central characters.

TFR: It’s always very interesting to know the kind of things that inspire each individual musician. What’s your trade secret(s)?

NP: I’m attracted most to design. The music I love most always has its own specific aesthetic.  I love creating a vibe and designing music that can live well in that world.

TFR: Congratulations on your success at A Summer’s Day! Word is that your performance gained you a legion of fans that day – quite a few of them being female, of course. What was it like to share the bill with Norah Jones? 

NP: It was a great concert. The audience was great. You can always tell when they’re really listening, and they were! The atmosphere was so relaxed yet charged with infectious positive energy.

TFR: What’s it like to be at Berklee? [Nischay is a current student at the prestigious music school.] Is Ocean different from how you imagined it before you got into Berklee?

NP: Berklee is a temple for music. Everyone and everything there inspires you. I’ve really learned the mechanics of music after spending time there. This has helped my music immensely, a lot of songs on Ocean were written in Boston during my first (and only) semester there.

TFR: Who’s one artist (Indian or international) that you’d give your right hand to work with right now?

NP: Leslie Feist and all her wonderful friends from Canada!

TFR: Give our readers one reason why they absolutely must listen to Ocean.

NP: It’s a happy album and it’s about love. Best reason in the world.

So there you have it. We are waiting with bated breath for Nischay’s debut album, and with this article we hope you are, too. 

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