The Ska Vengers launch their second album, XX

The 16th of July saw Delhi-based 'Ska' band , The Ska Vengers launch their second album, XX, at the Humming Tree in Bangalore. The evening started out with about two dozen people when Bass B'tards opened the gig, but the venue quickly filled up by the time Ska Vengers took the stage. Pumped up from the grooves of the opening band, the crowd was primed and set for Ska Vengers who kicked off the show with Vampire from their debut Lp.





Missing from vocal duties was front woman Samara Chopra, aka Begum X who was out with poor health. Accompanying frontman Taru Dalmia, aka Delhi Sultanate, on vocals were Talia Bentson and Meg Dsouza. The band's energy was at full throttle from the first song right to the end as they powered through songs like Frank Brazil, Shut your Mouth, Jail Mein, El Cumbanchero and other songs from XX. The band closed the evening with Badda from their debut self-titled Lp.




This was the second time I was seeing the band play live and they've gotten a lot tighter without compromising on the live performance or their sound. The album, which took 4 years to be put together, is a lot more mature in terms of sound, bringing together jazz and funk elements without compromising the overall politicking nature of Ska Vengers lyrics. If anything, that fire burns lot brighter and hotter now. 


You can buy the album from oklisten.com.

Vh1 & The Humming Tree Present: Blackstratblues & By2Blues

After inching through two and a half hours of traffic (why do I bother even talking about this problem any more in B'lore?), I finally made it to the Humming Tree to catch By2Blues opening the evening for one of my favourite bands from Mumbai, Blackstratblues. This is the third time I'm seeing By2Blues play live. This band is a classic example of how you don't need fancy electronics and (no pun intended) all that jazz to put up a good show. Keeping it simple the band had a healthy mix of covers from Eric Clapton, CCR and other crowd favourites along with some own compositions. The band had Shalini Mohan (from Lagori) accompany them on bass; and set the mood perfectly for Blackstrat Blues to take over the rest of the evening.







Starting off proceedings with The Happy Billy Song, Blackstrat Blues had the crowd screaming out requests from the first note. The audience were privy to some new material including a soft ballad titled Northstar which Warren dedicated to the missus; and a very trippy untitled number whose bass a drum riff were absolutely trippy and addictive. I could probably listen to just those two instruments playing that groove in isolation and not be bored. There was also a tribute to SRV and the band’s take on 12-bar blues (Check out my Instagram feed for a sneak peek)







The band powered through popular hits like Anuva's Sky, Folkish Three and The Universe has a Strange Sense of Humour. Having seen Blackstrat Blues perform for the seventh (or eighth ) time, it's very clear to see that the band have become really comfortable with one another, joking around between songs and having a good time playing with one another. Warren Mendonsa himself has become relatively verbose and spent a good amount of time between songs talking to the audience and sharing stories rather than rushing through the name of the song and the occasional thank you. That being said, he should never sing 'Sultans of Swing'. (An inside joke with the band that I didn't quite follow beyond the fact that it had something to do with a gig in Mumbai with Zero)





Talking about how he was inspired by The Beatles' song Here Comes the Sun, Warren moved into the penultimate song of the evening, Ode to a Sunny day followed by a very smooth transition into Renaissance Mission, the last song for the evening. This was yet another stellar gig from the band. Going by all the new material that was played, I’m looking forward to the next album whenever it’s out. 

Control Alt Delete 9.0 - Nine bands, one great evening

I'm writing this post after almost a fortnight after the gig happened, but better late than never. The renowned DIY gig Control Alt Delete moved cities to Bangalore for its ninth version. Held at The Humming Tree in Bangalore on the 16th of January, Control ALT Delete 9.0 gave audiences what I personally believe was the best line-up I've seen at an indie gig in quite some time. Upping the ante from last year and brought together nine bands for what was a spectacular evening of indie music.

When the gig began at 5 pm, the venue was already packed with over a 100 people, and this number just grew through the evening till eventually the venue could take no more people. Unlike a lot of other gigs, the audience didn’t comprise of just the usual gig junkies like yours truly or friends of the bands playing who leave once the gig was done. I found myself next to a trio of women who didn’t know any of the bands, but stood rooted front and center from start to finish, very enthusiastically asking me about the band and the songs they were playing. 

This was the crowd at 5 pm for the first act of the day. Sriram TT from Skrat and Tails on Fire is a total scenester checking out all the bands with the crowd.
The first band up on stage was Bangalore's only band on the roster, RushLed. Relatively new to the circuit, the band had original numbers to present. A clear case of nerves was evident throughout the performance but kudos to the band for standing and delivering. This act was followed up by the Chennai rock outfit - The Broadway Addicts. Presenting material from the debut, No Act along with old-school punk from bands like the Stooges, this three-piece outfit really got the evening rolling. A lot of folks who I spoke to agreed that while the band sounded great, the long silent intervals between songs where the vocalist was either drinking water or saying something utterly pointless was a tad annoying. Great sound nonetheless.

Rushled

Rushled

Rushled

The Broadway Addicts

The Broadway Addicts

The Broadway Addicts

The Broadway Addicts

I'm not the biggest fan of the post-rock genre and very few bands have put together material that makes me want to listen to it over and over again. Unfortunately, the third band of the evening Mushroom Lake isn't one of those bands. Unfortunately, most of the band sat down or stood rooted to the spot. It was evident that after the cracker of a set from the previous band, this was the band a lot of people chose to step out for a smoke, take their loo breaks or grab something to eat. The music didn’t do enough to match the mood that had been set in the evening. Bringing the house down was the high-energy riot-inducing band Punk on Toast who got the mosh pit going for the evening. Staying true to the punk rock theme of being angry, with everyone from the BJP to Salman Khan, Punk on Toast had everyone screaming and head banging. 

Mushroom Lake

Mushroom Lake

Punk on Toast

Punk on Toast

Punk on Toast
Following them was Aswekeepsearching who're all the rage in the post-rock scene right now. What sets the band apart from a lot of their peers in the genre is aggressiveness and heavy drumming (which is why I like this band) which is sorely missing with bands who tend to have long-winding seemingly never ending repetitive notes being played. The crowd was treated to a special guest appearance from Sunneith Revankar of Bhayanak Maut fame (all hail!!!) on AWKS closing number B-303. Making his Bangalore debut, Achint Thakkar's self-titled act played his version of alternative-electronic music from his debut album Shalimar. While a lot of the purists frowned on the excessive dependency on backing tracks and samples, they ignored the good work being done on the bass and violins. All this didn't stop Achint from putting together a set that had everyone in the house dancing away. I thoroughly enjoyed the groove and was dancing myself. (Shocking! Do not tell my friends that I dance, I'll never hear the end of it)

Aswekeepsearching

Aswekeepsearching

Aswekeepsearching

Sunneith from Bhayanak Maut helping out Aswekeepsearching on a B-303

Achint

Achint
Bringing in some old school waltz and jazz influenced music was Delhi rocker's Peter Cat Recording Company. who played a lot of songs from their older material. They were followed by the other Delhi-based band of the evening - Superfuzz. While I had heard some of their music post them winning Channel V Launchpad way back in 2007, I had never seen the band play live. So expectations were high. What started out with new old-school garage rock tunes such as 'Future Baby Mama', the band soon moved into a disco-esque vibe (very reminiscent of the kind of music Ganesh Talkies are doing) with ' Message from the Stars', and got the entire venue dancing away. Bands like Superfuzz and Achint proved that live acts can still get people to dance and go crazy. (PS: I danced to this band's music also)

PCRC

Superfuzz

Superfuzz

Superfuzz

Superfuzz
The closing act for the evening was from one of my favourite bands, Skrat. Kicking off with my favourite, 'Shake it off', the band powered through their wildest set ever with stuff from both their previous albums and introduced audiences to 'Wake up', a song that would feature on their next album, Bison, out some time this year. The crowd had gone chaotic with mosh pits and other bands crowd surfing and bringing back all the rowdy scenes of live acts we've grown up seeing in the bygone era of MTV. I did have to tolerate the girls next to me gushing over front man Sriram TT. Otherwise, it was among Skrat's top three best gigs I've been to.

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat
Control Alt Delete 9.0 is the finest example of "where there is a will, there is a way"! And a big slap in the face of all these new acts who complain that there's no "scene" in India and that EDM has taken away the crowds. The independent music movement is still alive and kicking, and sometimes moshing. All you need is good music, and people will come to listen to you. The nine bands that played this evening at a gig that had absolutely no corporate sponsorship is an ode to that. Kudos to the organizers and the bands!

Note: All the pictures are my property, so don't use it without prior permission.


Gig Review: Pepsi MTV Indies Featuring Parvaaz, Prateek Kuhad and Opposite Sex at the Humming Tree (Pt.2 of 2)

The final band for the evening was Parvaaz. I am extremely proud of this band, they're one of those bands that has matured so fabulously and are growing with every gig. It’s evident that the more shows they’re doing, the more they learn and improve their performance and sound.  I remember seeing the band play a few years ago and Khalid (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) came across as this very shy and reserved person. This evening’s gig has shown how fabulously he’s grown as a front man. He’s freer and more comfortable on stage and handles the audience fabulously. I won’t even start to write about how fabulous his voice is. There was this one point where the vocal mic went kaput, but Khalid shrugged it off and got to get the audience to sing along. I don’t think anyone even noticed and felt it was a part of the act. 





Kashif and Fidel are absolutely rock solid on guitar and bass respectively and have become a lot more confident with their presence on stage. From their earlier gigs where they were more or less rooted to the spot, they’ve learnt to use the real estate on the stage and get the crowd going. Sachin on the drums was brilliant as always. There was a point when Khalid introduced him to the audience and everyone went ‘Sachiiiiiiin….Sachin….’  One of the high points was this little nifty bass and drum piece by Fidel and Sachin that got everyone really crazy.




The band played the title track from their latest album Baran and mixed it up with some of the older material from their previous EP with Marika and Itne Arse ke Baad and more songs. We also got to listen to some of the new material that the band has been working on in the studio. They’ve truly embraced the psychedelic vibe. One of the new songs sounded like something Gilmour would have written.



I always go back delighted from a Parvaaz. The way the band and the individual members are growing, they’re on their way to become a monumental part of India’s rock scene (if not already) and of India’s rock history. 

Gig Review: Pepsi MTV Indies Featuring Parvaaz, Prateek Kuhad and Opposite Sex at the Humming Tree (Pt.1 of 2)

While most of the folks at the Humming Tree had come for Parvaaz and Prateek Kuhad, there was a very interesting opening set by a band known as Opposite Sex. This was the first time I’ve heard of them and I’m quite impressed. The band is a simple three-piece ensemble with Ragini Ramanathan handling vocals and bass and Siddharth Gautam along with Pradip handling vocals and guitars. The band sticks to writing simple songs of the world around us that looks at things like people in a relationship but working in different shifts, people who ‘faff’ their way through work and other more relatable topics. I did enjoy how the band did not complicate the sound with too many electronics (a trend that seems to be picking up faster than it should). Ragini’s cheerful demeanour and interaction with the crowd made everyone like the band almost instantaneously. While their sound was a little off on the vocal harmonies and the guitars got a little loud at times, it was still a very nice gig. I’m hoping the band matures with time and continues to stick to the simple guitar-singer-song writer formula.

Opposite Sex

Ragini from Opposite Sex

Next up was Prateek Kuhad with his band. I’ve been in love with his recent album ‘In Token & Charms’ and have been eagerly looking forward to see him play live. Prateek’s performance is exactly like the album - very chilled-out and enjoyable. Prateek is clearly in love with his music which comes across as extremely personal (even on the album) and is on stage just sharing the same. This simple three-piece band kept everyone grooving right from the first song. No time is wasted between songs, not even to talk to the audience or to address the one annoying person who kept screaming that he wanted to listen to Artist from the album. Prateek played some of the songs from the new album and mixed it up with a few Hindi numbers. The overall performance and sound was fabulous and I’m looking forward to more music and live gigs from Prateek Kuhad.

Prateek Kuhad with his band



Prateek Kuhad


Prateek Kuhad


Gig Pix: Live Banned, Skrat and Fuzz Culture at Humming Tree

Sponsored by Vans, this gig at The Humming Tree featured three bands. First up were the boys from Bengaluru - Live Banned. They were followed by Skrat from Chennai. Anyone hwo knows me knows the admiration I have for both these bands and I dont want to repeat myself as to how they played super gigs. Instead, I'd like to write about the closing band of the evening. All the way from Delhi, Fuzz Culture are an electronic act. I was planning on leaving, but this two member band had a very different sound from the usual electronic stuff I've heard previously. What stood out was the thunderous drumming and energy of the duo. I was honestly quite impressed and stayed for a large part of their set. Below are some pics from the gig.


Live Banned

Live Banned

Skrat Crew member and friend - Ashwath

Live Banned

Live Banned

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Skrat

Fuzz Culture

Fuzz Culture

Fuzz Culture

Gig Review: Black and White Moments : How Bangalore Came to Rock

A lot of us have the tendency to spend more time being fascinated about things like music, art, science of countries other than our own; we tend to forget how much of everything a country like India has. One of these is music, especially rock music. India has had a thriving rock scene from as early as the sixties, but very little is said about the movement. Some of the more mature musicians still acknowledge and spend nostalgic moments reminiscing about bands that were driving the non-mainstream music scene in India way before it became the sort of movement it is today.

It was an absolute thrill for me to be invited to what was going to be a spectacular journey to experience how the rock music scene in my very own Bengaluru (the musicians still call it Bangalore) has grown over time. Black and White Whiskey put together a fantastic evening that brought together almost all the stalwarts of Bangalore’s music scene – past and present; people who’ve a defied the odds to set the snowball of rock music rolling in Bangalore. Hosted by our very own Bruce Lee Mani from Thermal and a Quarter (TAAQ), the evening kicked off with a small video of a similar event that happened in Bombay (okay okay...Mumbai) and gave everyone a teaser of what to expect this evening. It wasn’t only going to be about the artists, but also the various venues that have been instrumental (no pun intended) in providing a space for bands to play.

Bruce Lee Mani plays host
One such venue from Bangalore’s past was the Three Aces. Previously located on M.G Road, the venue served as a bar and more importantly one of the most happening venues for the rock music scene. With tickets priced as low (or as high depending on the value) as Rs.10, the club was almost always sold out. I had only heard of this name once or twice from my very first guitar teacher. Alas, the place closed down. I’m sure some morbid mall stands in its place today.

The first artist on stage was sax player Rex Rosario. After spending a few minutes talking through how he made the scene in Bangalore, Rex proceeded to play two songs. The first being JK’s Jive (hope I got the name right) and the second being the iconic Dave Brubeck classic Take Five. Accompanying him was the house band for the evening which had Prakash K.N on bass, Tony Das on guitars, Deepak on drums and Floyd Santimano on keys. Rex Rosario was immaculate and received a thunderous applause from everyone.

Rex Rosario
Prakash K.N

The audience then got a glimpse into how the present Rex Theatre used to double up as a venue for bands to play. Some of the older musicians in the video still claim that the venue has one of the best acoustics and that we really ought to look to get a music gig going there. Next up on stage was a name I have only heard of before – Gerard Machado. Gerard shared some pictures of him playing the guitar from when he was a boy and a story on how musicians then used to get their amplifiers from this one person in Shivajinagar. The unique part about the amps was that they would directly give a distortion to anything that was plugged in. He started off with a tight rendition of Nothing but the blues, followed by a Charlie Parker cover. The house went mad listening to Gerard effortlessly run his fingers over the fret board.

Gerard Machado
No rock scene is complete without a leading lady. Radha Thomas, of Human Bondage filled that role perfectly. Radha shared some of her experiences as a vocalist in Bangalore and how the scene has changed so much.

Radha Thomas

Bangalore is no stranger to Roberto Narain, who is well known for his work with the monthly Drum Jam. A lot of the younger folks tend to forget that Roberto was the power drummer behind one of India’s very first successful heavy metal bands – Millennium. After much coaxing, he agreed to play with the band and dished out some absolutely crazy riffs on the drum. At the end of his set, Roberto hadn’t even broken into a sweat. That’s genius. Giving him company was Eric Samuels on guitar. Eric again was a name that I had only heard of, but for this was the first time got to see him play live. It was a joy to watch him play as he very calmly hit all the right notes.

Roberto Narain

No story of Bangalore’s rock scene is complete without Thermal and a Quarter. As always, the band was tight with Rajeev taking on the drums for this set. And obviously Bruce Lee Mani on guitars. Prakash, their former bass player, continued his role for this gig. The band played their song In the middle. TAAQ have always been a little special to me because they were one of the first bands I remember watching when I began frequenting gig venues in Bangalore. I instantly enjoyed their smooth jazz rock sound which stood apart from all the other bands that were mostly interested in playing covers at the time. And with a unique name like that, it's almost hard to forget.

TAAQ

Bruce Lee Mani

Rajeev Rajagopal

Bangalore is also famous for its Heavy Metal scene. And no better person to represent it that Nolan Lewis from Kryptos who covered Metallica’s Seek and Destroy. A lot of folks in the crowd were hoping to hear the Kryptos classic Mask of Anubis.

Nolan Lewis

There is a strange sense of irony in the song chosen by Nolan which I am not sure was deliberate. The reason being, the next two venues up on the nostalgia train were Webb’s Grounds and Palace Grounds. The very last song played by an international band at Palace Grounds was in fact Seek and Destroy by Metallica. Both venues since have been closed to bands and we now have to travel to the outskirts to see a large live act.

Full house at The Humming Tree

Eric Samuels once again came back on stage to join Chris Avinash of Angel Dust who covered Pink Floyd’s Coming Back to Life. The evening also had Suraj Mani of Motherjane fame, play a two song acoustic set of some of his solo work. Also playing acoustic sets were Abhijit Tambe from Lounge Piranha and Varun Murali from Swarathma. Abhijit showcased some new material in two songs called Tinkerbell and Vampire Tree respectively, while Varun played an acoustic version of Bolo Kya Hai

Eric Samuels, Chris Avinash, Tony Das

Suraj Mani

Abhijit Tambe

Another band defining Bangalore’s rock scene was Galeej Gurus. The band came on for a quick song. Notable absence was Ananth Menon. Perhaps I missed a memo. Tony Das also took to the stage to showcase some of his magic. He did this by performing a Richie Kotzen classic Burn It Down.  We also got to hear from Vachan Chinappa who's been driving the EDM scene in Bangalore. No EDM set was played. 

Galeej Gurus

Naveen

Tony Das

Before the final act of the evening, we got glimpses into two venues of present day Bangalore, or is it now Bengaluru, that are keeping the movement of rock music alive. The two venues are Counter Culture and B-flat. As a rock music enthusiast, my sincere gratitude to both these places for bringing the finest music from all over for everyone to listen to. The closing act of the evening had almost everyone on stage including Vasundhara Das and Arati Rao who accompanied TAAQ, Tony Das and Gerard Machado on Hey Jude.

Vasundhara Das and Arati Rao

Gerard and Bruce

Add caption

If ever there was a great way to get schooled in the history of rock music which didn’t involve Jack Black, this was it.  A big shout out to the folks at Black and White Whiskey for dreaming of this event and making sure it all came together. Also a big thanks to Humming Tree for the venue for a spectacular evening It was just what the doctor ordered for yours truly to stop making excuses and pick up that guitar and get back to playing at venues that are more than my bedroom.