day…I don’t even know anymore: live gig; gowri; retronome; blueprint (almost)

WELL I almost achieved the im…plausible…the impractical.  And as it turns out, the impossible.  I tried to see four shows in one day in a town where the doors open at 8:00 and close at 11:00 on the dot.  So I got a sunburn, I subsisted for 10 hours on a unholy roller-coaster of coffee and beer, supplemented by Mojos’ ultra-salty popcorn, and I turned up at the last show of the night just as they were loading the amps out the door  – drat!  But I tried.

Bicycle Days album artwork

Show one:  The Live Gig at Indira Gandhi musical fountain.  Props to Shalini for being my buddy during this first afternoon leg of the jaunt – it was hot, she had to call me three times because I had a hella hard time finding the fountain, but we got to see The Bicycle Days, a second of the Innerskin set and a trio of other metal bands whose names I missed…and a guy playing harmonica.

The Bicycle Days were weird, fun, and interesting…one of the few bands I’ve seen here that use effects, laptops, etc to add to their trippy, jam-y sound.  HERE’S their myspace page. And really, check out these videos:  HERE’S a short video of their Live Gig set, and HERE’S another from the same show. Those clouds of smoke aren’t what you think they are.  I’m gonna write more about them when I see them next, playing with Drones from the Turbine this Friday.

Even though the Live Gig is a great thing – outdoor daytime music in a park mostly always is in my opinion – we had to beat it out of there because we were both dying from thirst…which we slaked through a long afternoon setting the world at rights (as a friend of mine calls drinking and talking philosophically) on Brigade road…then on to Indiranagar for the evening shows, and responsible Shalini off home.

Retronome at Take 5

At Take 5 Retronome were in the middle of their set when I showed up, and I only stayed for a couple of songs since I’m going to their show next week (the 25th at the Hard Rock Cafe) and I’ll write more about them then. Chris was his usual incandescently energetic self!  HERE’S a dark vid of the Take 5 show and HERE’S a link to a short clip of a show at Jimi’s a month or so back.

Gowri at Herbs and Spice

I then dashed down the road to Herbs and Spices to see Gowri, a fabulous singer-songwriter of the pixie variety…she has this clear, bell-like but creamy voice – played Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and the rest original songs.  There seems to be a dearth of singer-songwriters in Bangalore which is a shame…I love that stuff and could go hear Gowri play like every week.

The video I took didn’t come out, but HERE’S a link to a short vid of a show she did at Alliance Francaise a month or so ago – with Gaurav Vaz on bass.  Amazing.

Gowri at Alliance Francaise

So I now have realized once and for all that the weekly Legends of Rock Sunday show begins at 7:30 and ends at 9:00.  For future reference.  Sorry to have missed Blueprint – next time!

Published in: on March 16, 2010 at 3:59 am  Comments (2)  

day 10: parousia at hard rock cafe

Naveen Thomas Joseph of Parousia

I’M GOING slowly but surely deaf and it is all the fault of the Hard Rock Cafe.  Why must it be so loud in there?  And why does the sound system for live bands mush every instrument together so it’s like you’re hearing the music from the underside of a waterfall?  These and other questions I was pondering at the Parousia show last night, which was played to a full house – the usual hard rock cafe mixture of buttoned-up guys off work, tourists, metal kids and everybody else.

Parousia played a solid long set of progressive rock covers – virtuouso playing and singing by Ranjit Abraham on vocals, Jason Zacharaiah on keys and vocals, Bryan Richard on bass and vocals,  Jomon on drums and Naveen Thomas Joseph on guitar. HERE’S their myspace.  I guess they haven’t played out in a while, but it didn’t sound like that.  They seem like one of those warhorse-type bands where you could probably ask them to play any song and in like 15 minutes they’d have it down.

Bryan Richard and Jason Zacharaiah of Parousia

I’m exhausted today.  Too many nights going to bed at 2 and waking up at 6, plus a very weird night last night.  So this post is going to be reasonably brief.  In summation: band=so very good. Sound=bad. Crowd=rowdy and happy. So basically a successful show, huh? HERE’S a short video clip.

Okay time to nap. But this weekend! There are so many shows:

Saturday at Opus: An alt-country/americana band called The Golden Manor Medicine Show (that is such an alt-country band name)

Saturday at Opus at the Creek: Advaita, a fusion Hindi band

Saturday at Kyra: Rajeev’s Wolfpack

Sunday at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain: the Live Gig – no more Drones from the Turbine, but The Bicycle Days are playing with a lot of other bands.

Sunday at Herbs and Spice: Gowri (a wonderful singer/songwriter)

Sunday at Take 5: Retronome

Sunday at Legends of Rock: Blueprint, a “blues and classic rock band.”

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 7:54 am  Comments (4)  

day 7: rajeev’s wolfpack at kyra

Rajeev's Wolfpack

SO, YEAH, I obviously have failed at the 20 shows in 20 days project…but it’s not totally my fault! I lost my bank card and so was penniless for a few days over the weekend until Charles wired me $…which itself was also for some reason a giant project that took forever.  Anyway, since I’ve already failed at the 20/20 idea I figured I might as well give myself a break and try for 20 shows in 30 days…more realistic especially since some days there aren’t actually any shows, I think.  Something I probably should have realized before I began.

So Kyra.  I enjoy Kyra for all the things that are good about it – the stage, the space, the lights, sound, the drinks and the fact that it has music regularly.  That’s my two cents about it. I’ve been here about 8 times I think, and the waiters are hilarious – they think it’s so funny to try and tell me that I’ve won some kind of prize, like, almost every time I go there.  Which FYI guys, if you’re trying to pull someone’s leg it’s best not to stand in a circle laughing before the joke is actually done, you know? Kind of gives it away.  I have no idea why they think it’s funny but I’m getting to the point that I really do too.

Wolfpack

Rajeev, late of band Retronome (who are playing a few times in the next weeks), has a brand-spanking new lineup, called Rajeev’s Wolfpack (link to FB page is HERE) with Ezra Ishmael on bass, Arjun Chandran on guitar and backup vocals, and Jyothis Balakrishnan on drums.  Rajeev, (HERE’S his solo project myspace page) like I’ve said before, has a really good voice, especially for slow ballads – the first time I heard him sing at Jimi’s I recorded myself going “holy crap” on the video, because I was so pleasantly surprised by it.  And also the girl next to me saying “wow he’s really cute.”  Yeah that doesn’t hurt either.  ANYway.  HERE’S a link to a short video clip of one of the two original songs that opened the set – called “Fallen.”

This lineup seems like it’s gonna be really solid – everyone plays really well and Arjun was pretty much wailing on some solos during the set – so classic. See a video of  “I Love Rock and Roll” HERE.  Even though it was a pretty cozy show – the best kind for a first gig with a new lineup – it did get kind of punkrock towards the end with a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit – a sped-up rollicking crashing cover that seemed real true to the original spirit of the song.

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 5:03 am  Comments (2)  

day 3: parachute XVI and lounge piranha at b flat

I FEEL very good right now.  Being at this show – and going to all of these shows – reminds me of a time in my life when going to shows every night and supporting people you liked was just…what you did. Before it became only a weekend thing because you have a day job or a thing where you have to convince your boyfriend to go with you to see a band that he thinks is maddeningly twee and he tries to tell you that you’ll really like a band who do grind-y screeching noise music wearing rat masks (that is a real show I was once persuaded to go to, actually).

I wish wish wish that I had better recording equipment for this because it’s kind of unfair to post videos where you can’t even really hear the sound of the band. But for now it will have to do.  And I screwed up last night and filmed a lot with my new ipod and the sound is complete garbage, so I can’t use those.

Parachute XVI

First off: Parachute –  they can really, SERIOUSLY shred.  They had the crowd eating out of their hand.  Polyrhythmic jams and Faith No More-esque operatic-type serious vocals…I saw them first at Rocktoberfest when I first got here but I had literally just stumbled off the plane and was in a jet-lagged haze, and also that venue was just weird and huge and like a barn.  This show was amazing. I had to crib this little picture from their facebook site as all of mine were just blurs. HERE’S a short video of their performance. And HERE’s their official site.  I didn’t really do them justice in this post at all, because I’m a horrible photographer and videographer…hope they’ll play again soon and I’ll get better shots.

Lounge Piranha

Lounge Piranha, what can I say.  I’m biased because I’ve liked them for a few years now, listened to their demo and album a bunch and I’ve gotten to sit in on a couple of rehearsals, pleasantly curled up and sweating in the corner of the hot little practice room.  There is just something about this band, for me…for one thing they are, like, extremely charismatic.  And diverse! Shoe-gazing or  jangly-dancing, mbira and didgeridoo additions, experimental dark and driving songs or tuneful upbeat melodies…yeah, they have a really interesting vibe. And George’s art (he does all of the band’s stuff and tons of other stuff too)…i’m  enamored.

A couple of really short clips of the show last night HERE and HERE to just give you an idea.  Observe Kamal’s truly rad Shonen Knife tee-shirt (which he made and which I want). You can’t buy chewing gum in Singapore.

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 6:43 am  Leave a Comment  

day 1: galeej gurus at hard rock cafe

Oy. Kingfisher and menthol cigarettes (sorry mom if you’re reading this, I promise I only smoke occasionally) is the devil’s combination. I’m gonna have to pace myself, plainly, if I’m going to make it through 20 shows in 20 days.  Luckily I have just discovered that idly, sambar and filter coffee are an unbelievably good hangover cure.

But anyway, the show!  I’m so glad I went, because Galeej Gurus are so so good live and have amazing stage presence. They describe themselves as not fitting into one particular genre, but they do sound to me like a classic straight-ahead, blues-based, rock band with heavy riffs and a crazy amount of energy.  And they’re really tight and super entertaining.  I can see why they’ve won the recent competition that they did.  To read more about them and their accomplishments go HERE.

I have to say, too, that the Hard Rock Cafe is in a really nice building and I like that raised stage and all, even though the disneyland-like vibe there only really works for me if I’m in the mood for kitsch…which luckily I am quite often.  It’s also a really good place to watch drunken australian girls flirting super-obviously.  Giving whitey a bad name much? I don’t think we really need help with that…

Until I figure out why posting videos to this blog is insanely not working at all, you can see a short video of Galeej Gurus on my Facebook page, HERE.  And sorry about the sound.  I’m working on getting a better rig together.

Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

I have a new mission

AND THE mission is…to go to 20 shows in 20 days here in Bangalore.  I know it’s uber-bloggy to set yourself a coy little undertaking and report on the progress, but I need to get off my butt and see more bands.  Lately my evenings have been chock-a-block filled with languishing, mulling, pining, and generally wasting time. I’ve been missing way too many shows (aside from a couple of great ones at Kyra recently).

I’m not limiting myself by genre or location – I just want to see as wide a variety of rock music as possible, discover some new bands, and get more recordings and a better sense of the scene. Plus it’s nice to go out and meet people.

So here’s the lineup so far, which has some holes in it…well it’s mostly holes at the moment…I’ll be filling it in as I go.

Wednesday March 3rd: Galeej Gurus – who I’ve never actually seen but have heard a lot about – at Hard Rock Cafe, opening for Saving Abel (a band from the U.S. I’ve never heard of, but then my tastes are somewhat puritanical)

Friday March 5th: Lounge Piranha and Parachute XVI at B Flat.  Love these bands.

Saturday March 6th: Saturday Jam at Bangalore Central.  I’ve been to Saturday Jam twice but for some reason there weren’t any bands there either time. Better luck this time.
**And since I’m missing Thursday night due to a prior engagement, on Saturday I’m going to go also to see Chromatix in the evening at Kyra.

Sunday March 7th:  Legends of Rock,  Sunday Night Live Gig.

Wednesday March 10th: Rajeev at Kyra.  Really beautiful voice.  New line-up, I gather.

Thursday March 11th: Parousia at Hard Rock Cafe.  Also heard a lot about these guys and it’s Bryan’s band!

Saturday March 13th: Advaita at Opus at the Creek

Sunday March 14th: Drones from the Turbine at The Live Gig at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain AND Gowri at Herbs and Spice

Monday March 15th: Bulls Unplugged at Opus

Thursday March 18th: Aum at Hard Rock Cafe

I’m going to try to write  about every show I see,  posting vids, pics and links, with the bands’ permission.

A caveat, though – I’m not a critic or anything and I’m not trying to write reviews of shows.   I’m not really interested in whether a band is “good” or “bad,” though that might sound odd.  I’m  just more interested in the reasons why different people make different kinds of music, and also what reasons people might have for thinking that certain music is “good” or “bad.” There’s a difference, for sure.  It seems obvious, though it’s often overlooked, that when one makes a “good or bad” judgment about music it’s usually a reflection of his or her own tastes, which themselves are often fairly limited and highly subjective (I know mine are) even if one has all the indie cred in the world.  And as ethnomusicologists we’re meant to listen to music on its own terms.  Which is what I’ll be doing at these shows.

If you happen to read this and know of an upcoming show in Bangalore, will you let me know?  Thanks!

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 8:14 am  Comments (2)  

indian rock history (a tiny bit of it at least)

OH YEAH I have a blog.

I was going to write a long & hopefully erudite post about archiving and the constructedness of historical narrative, bringing in Foucault and genealogy and…yeah… stuff like that…

…but it’s too hot.  Why won’t it rain?

I’ll just ease back in here and post a few links and a few pictures of an early Indian band, Electric Plant, that I stole from the website Indiecision. Arjun (whose website it is) and Vijay from the promotions and everything else company Only Much Louder (an amazingly entrepreneurial duo and charming people to boot) told me lots of stories about the old days of rock music in Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore…but I didn’t have my voice recorder thingy with me, and anyway Hard Rock Cafe in Bangalore is like the loudest place in the world. But next time, guys!

Here is a really rather awesome looking band, Electric Plant, in 1983.  Best fashion ever?  I think so. If only I had a recording of them playing. I feel like they would sound like a combo of Deep Purple and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Electric Plant

Anyway, yeah….so….right, history.   Bryan, a journalist with whom I am acquainted wrote a wonderful article about the early days of the rock music scene in Bangalore and interviewed many musicians from the time. I suppose back then (70’s and 80’s) there weren’t as many available ways to record or preserve (unlike now when every fleeting thought and moment is recorded) and so the things he’s written about have the seductive quality of being like a secret history just waiting to be even more fully excavated.

I’ve been trying to make an archive of historical stuff and piece together what the history of rock looked like throughout the country, but it’s too much work for my time here.  Someone who lives here should do it! Go around to all the older guys and collect any media they might have like photos and recordings and flyers and all that stuff.

I do love collecting stories and sounds and pictures.  I’m a lover of other people’s old things and frequent thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales. I like the patina of old things, I like their nicks and scars, I like speculating about their provenances and previous owners.

Which leads me to my next thought, which is regarding the super-fetishization of vinyl garage rock from the last decades that every urban hipster in the world seems to be guilty of.  I do it myself!  I just love the sound of music that isn’t polished to a high, slick surface by one hundred producers and airbrushers and etc etc.  And I love the inserts, and the feeling of discovering something amazing in a pile of Crystal Gayle and other stuff.

simla beat album cover

So anyway, here’s the cover of the first (I think?) Indian rock band compilation, released as part of the 1970 Simla Beat competition. (Simla was a cigarette brand that sponsored a rock competition back in the day).

From website Garage Hangover, here’s the link for a song off the record by a group called The Confusions – the best band name ever too, jesus!

And for a cover verion of Creedence by The Dinosaurs – again with the perfect band name! – that in my opinion far exceeds the original.

simla beat back cover

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm  Comments (2)  

books books books

I HAVE a habit of acquiring books, far too many books, wherever I go.  I buy them for what’s in them, and I buy them for their covers often, and sometimes for just their titles.  My little room here is already overflowing with them.  And then last week I went to the Blossom book shop on Church street. Disaster.

IMG_1910

blossom book store

It’s a used bookstore with three levels, books stacked from floor to ceiling.  I had to stop myself from buying a $6 weevil eaten 1923 copy of Dryden’s translation of Lucretius, with an art nouveau cover…ugh, I’m kicking myself for not getting it now just thinking about it.

There were stacks and stacks of books from the 1920’s, some moldy from decades of monsoon seasons, and shelves of books about music and movies.

IMG_1913

candy: a great book, a great movie

I’m always on the lookout for books that deal with or represent the cross-cultural or intercultural relationship between India and the west, however obliquely.  Here’s a very bad and weird example of that, from the 1960’s.  It’s an “adult” book.  I have no idea.

I have a few books that I’m engrossed in right now.  One is “Conversational Kannada: A Micro-Wave Approach”

IMG_1923

conversational kannada: a micro-wave approach

Kannada is the local language here.  It’s a Dravidian language spoken by many of the city’s inhabitants, although not most.  It’s tricky to get a handle on the language politics in South India.  I spent two years studying Hindi, then was told to switch to Tamil, and now I’m here, speaking English, trying to translate the Hindi (Hinglish, more accurately) spoken on MTV and wishing I’d had some Kannada language classes so I could speak to the people who have grown up in Bangalore and who I interact with on a daily basis. I have no idea why this is a “micro-wave approach,”  but I sure wish I could beam the whole thing into my brain via microwaves.

IMG_1931

growing up in the knowledge society: living the IT dream in bangalore

This is another interesting book only published in India.  It’s an ethnography of IT workers in the late 1990s here in Bangalore.  The author spent a lot of time hanging out in cyber cafes with a group of young men in the IT field.  It’s interesting as a snapshot of the city a decade ago.  Things have changed with amazing rapidity since then.

IMG_1929

neti neti not this not this

This is a beautiful, poetic novel by Anjum Hasan.  It’s about a young woman who moves from Shillong, in the northeast, to Bangalore, and about her life there working for a BPO company (business processing outsourcing).  I feel as though I’ve learned more about Bangalore and contemporary India reading this book than any of the academic books and articles I’ve been poring over the last months.  It reminds me about a conversation I was having with some friends here – basically we were answering the question, if you had to only read books out of one section of the library for the rest of your life, what section would that be? I said fiction. Paradoxically, there’s a strong knowledge about reality of things that one gets from reading fiction (and I’d say poetry, too) and not from other kinds of books.  I guess in a sense it’s a kind of a deeper emotional understanding of reality, and the possibilities of reality and of the future rather than a factual or analytical understanding of the state of things.

Published in: on November 8, 2009 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

some thoughts on the indian independent music industry

I’m a month into my research now and it is, knock on wood, going really amazingly well.  This is wholly due to some really lovely and generous people who have given me their time, thoughts, connections, and long interviews over coffee.  Thanks especially to Gaurav, Aditya, Amrit, Ashish…and new acquaintances and friends who have been steering me in productive directions.  Because of them this research is taking shape in ways I couldn’t have previously anticipated but for which I am seriously grateful.

I came in with a general picture of how the rock music scene was operating here and slowly that picture is getting refined and filled in.  One of the things that is most notable to me now about the Indian rock music scene is the strength of independent industry that supports it.  This industry includes smaller-scale promoters and largely independent venue owners, digital media mavens with their blogs, online radio stations and online music magazines: collectively they have  a force  and a momentum that seems to me to be keeping rock on the up and up despite its lack of support from the mainstream Indian music industry.

There is a very interesting post from Arjun, founder of the website Indiecision, about the Nokia Music Connects conference, which collected the mainstream music industry bigwigs to discuss rock in India.  At a certain point, reading about the proceedings, one begins to wonder – does Indian rock need the input of the mainstream industry?  There’s going to be a convention in Bombay in a couple of weeks – called Unconvention, it collects independent music workers to discuss and debate pathways forward for independent musicians.  I’ll be there and will post about it.

Although I’m talking about an “independent” and a “mainstream” music industry, these are simplified ways of discussing groups that are not necessarily opposed  but are interestingly entangled networks of people involved in different ways with making popular music in India. I have a tendency to take an anti-corporate stance by reflex, but the picture here is more complicated than that…

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

signs & tee shirts

AT THE Kingfisher Rocktober Fest, a three day rock music festival at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore, I took pictures of people’s band shirts. Thanks to the guys who let me take their pictures – too bad we all had had a couple too many Kingfishers and  I wrote their names down on a napkin I then lost. Sorry.

iron maiden

iron maiden

iron maiden and manowar

iron maiden & manowar

beatles

beatles

I’m trying document as may of these signs and tee-shirts as possible, but inevitably I see one flashing by when I’m in the back of an auto or when I don’t have my camera.

I take pictures of these signs not because they’re so especially notable in Bangalore but because they’re so very not notable: they’re an integral part of the visual field, normalized –  but, I hazard,  highly symbolically meaningful.

IDENTITI you just got to have it

IDENTITI you just got to have it

This is a store on my street that sells jeans and tee shirts.  You can’t really see the sign on the right but basically both signs together read “IDENTITI you just got to have it.”  I double take every time I walk by because it’s just so…postmodern.

the mobile store

the mobile store

Another favorite near my house – The Mobile Store: Buy a cell phone. Be a rock star.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 10:31 am  Comments (1)