Tuesday, April 11, 2006

URBAN REFLECTIONS - a reflection of different musical genres @ SPE

A lot of people in orkut know I am a total metal-head - so I dont know if I am the proper person to write a review of a show for a band which was anything BUT metal/alternative. But, I'm not a narrow-minded git, and I do try and listen to other musical genres as well. I dont claim to understand them all. And I definitely dont like listening to them all the time. But music is an art form with no boundaries - and its good to experience something different at times.

SO here I am @ SOMEPLACE ELSE (the mecca for all things rock-related in Kolkata), still suprised that I managed to garner the enthu to come for something non-metallic/alternative. The crowd is pretty different as well - not too many people who I would term as regulars. Anyway, the band start off with an interesting sound-check. Cool. And the bass guitarist Sanket (of Lakkichhara) caught my eye - I liked the way he was bassing up the sound.The 1st song they started off with was a classic 80's Brit Pop song - "TEARS FOR FEARS" and "Break It Down Again" - man, what a good cover that was. So now I'm all wide-eyed looking forward to a real rocking evening. And all of a sudden - the next song... BARRY MANILOW!!!! - nothing against him, he's a superb vocalist. But I dont really like that type of music. Yuck!
In fact, that I feel was the pattern of the entire evening - excellent covers and excellent jam sessions all round - but in between, there would be a few songs which they played that suddenly changed the entire mood, and I really couldnt digest them.Their original compositions (sans the Bangla lyrics) were truly breathtaking however. You could just close your eyes and let the music take you away to another place, another time. If that is what an amalgamation of jazz/funk/blues sounds like, then boy, I sure as hell would like to listen to some more!!!

Another thing I noticed was the band played covers for many artists not very well-known or comercially successful. Yes, the crowd was knowledgable no doubt - but I dont think they had heard of most of these artists. Like LIVING COLOR... What an awesome band - and their cover "Cult Of Personality" was superb. It rocked the house!And I was suprised that not many people had heard of Me'shell Ndegyocello (judging from the crowd reaction). She is a monster bass guitarist (u might have heard her in the song WILD NIGHTS with John Mellen Camp). Anyway. Panku was awesome in that cover, a delight to watch. In fact, I at times just shut out the other instruments from my mind and solely concentrated on his bass playing: BA DA BA DA BA DA... wow! He was good!
Other artists whose covers they played were Rainbow, Steely Dan, Bob Marley (that got the crowd jumping up and down - seemd to me the biggest crowd-puller that night)... and a group called the AQUARIUM RESCUE UNIT!! - I must confess my ignorance - I have never heard of this group!

The worst moments? Manilow babu apart - I could NOT digest the Dr. Hook "Sexy Eyes" cover (I hate that group too) - and I DID NOT enjoy Debu's rendition of "Michelle" by "THE BEATLES" - no insults, but I just didnt like the way he sang it. Anyway.

At the end of it all, I have to say that Urban Reflections are an excellent band - I couldnt find a single weak unit in the line-up - drums, vox, bass, lead (awesome), keyboards (awesome again). So its a pity that these guys arent full-time with this group. They had excellent musical chemistry which was a delight to watch.In a nutshell, Urban Reflections were a treat to watch, but maybe next time they could stick to playing the blues-jazz stuff more and leave out the GOLDEN OLDIES bit.

Friday, April 07, 2006

HELGA's FUN CASTLE - 100% Pure Fun!

This gig wasnt just fun... it was sheer fucking madness

Helga's, as many of yo know, are a jam band who have this knack of composing their songs impromptu on stage. That, my friends, is a tough thing to do - but for their lead vocalist Sidd Coutto it was as easy as eating pie... or peeing in the loo... whatever... I guess u get my point.
And yet they have still managed to bring out a pretty interesting album called "THANK YOU. COME AGAIN" - the material that they play is a mixture of alternative (lotsa nu-metal undertones) and reggae and god-knows what!! Lets keep it simple here - these guys have been influenced by a million bands, but the stuff they play is undefinable genre-wise.

So to the gig itself. Good crowd btw. A few members of Crystal Grass and Cassini's Division were there. As were quite a few head-bangers.
1st song: ALIEN ANT FARM - great start. I actually didnt realise that they had started playing, the intro sounded so much like the original.

Other covers they played: "Roxanne" by THE POLICE and "Nice To Know You" by INCUBUS... I loved the latter. Really head-banged to that one!!
This band aint that high on the covers section however. And their idea of fun is to slash away at songs just for the heck-of it. For example, they played their version of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's "Bulls On Parade", but instead called it "COWARDS ON PARADE". Didnt sound too bad either.
Another time, they asked for a topic they could jam on. I yelled out "SEX!!"... and they then and there composed a song called "GET LAID" based upon an AUDIOSLAVE song! - and that my friends is the kinda band they are!

Suprisingly, for a band that composes songs at the drop of hat on stage, they actually had the time to pen down stuff to create an album.

And they gave us a full blast of their originals last night. Some of the songs were really good - "For Luke", "Mr. Fancypants" and "Little Bit Of This" got me and a sizable section to head-bang.
The "Marching Song" was a very good song too and Sid, the vox actually started marching on the stage... well there obviously wasnt much place to do any serious marching - and he ended up looking like a duck waddling around.

Biggest crowd-puller of their's was "SSG - Smoked Some Ganja"... nice reggae beat. That song got the non-rock lovers jumping up and down.
I personally liked the songs "Sometimes" and "All Is Lost" the best. The former, a good rock-reggae song, not too hard but just abt enuff to allow u to swing ur head around like a dummy.
And "All Is Lost" is actually a very well-composed power ballad. That was indeed a nice suprise.

Their vocalist Siddarth, is BTW the original drummer for ZERO. And he has a superb voice. Wonder why he stuck around so long behind the drum-sets. Anyway, he's crazy too, and just abt the most talkative front-man for any Indian rock band that I've seen. Man, he talks more than Nitin (Parikrama's lead vox)... but he's a fun guy.
The most funniest part of the gig? When Sid suddenly climbed up and stood upon the bar and started singing!!
Bassist Johan and guitarist Meghashyam (another ZERO guitarist - he with the yellow jester hat @ the ZERO gig last month, for those of you who were there) were tight and impressive.
And Gino - no words to describe the way he played. This guy was awesome. It wasnt just the drum solos that were so catching, he got me with the little bits and pieces he drummed during each song. He is a monster drummer.

Complaints? Well, at times the impromptu jams did start to sound the same after a few songs. They need to work on that.

But having said that, Helga's Fun Castle lived up to their name - 100% unadulterated fun!

ZERO @ SPE - and I'm head-banging as usual!!

Great show by a great band - ZERO, supposedly India's best live act. And I have no reasons to doubt that fact after the sweat-dripping-energy-sapping show they played at SOMEPLACE ELSE, the mecca for rock music in Kolkata.

And what added to the fun at this gig was that I got to share the head-banging limelight with great pals and A-class guitarists, Sukanti Roy and John Bose (belonging to Kolkata's top-notch alternative band CASSINI's DIVISION)... so basicaly I spent my evening head-banging and MOSHING (well sorta) with them right up there at the 1st row!! Awesome! No better place at a hard rock gig than the front row!!

Abt the performance - well ZERO were definately a treat to watch! And unlike the last time (circa 2004), this show they played most of their originals - nice change that!

I have to be honest here. I hadnt heard much of their original stuff before this show (barring PSP - which is undoubtedly the best headbanger on the Indian rock circuit) - and I didnt find them very interesting, apart from a few here and there. But I bought their CD (was available at the SPE counter) - and now that I am back home listening to it, I can truthfully say that they really do have a pretty good set of songs. Folks look out for
"MARIACHI" and "OLD MAN SITTING ON THE BACK PORCH" and the real heavy "HATE IN EM" and some song which I think was called "LUCILLE" (not sure) - the last one isnt on their album.

Their covers were extremely well performed as well. Special mention: "The Banana Song" originally sung by Harry Belafonte!! Also provided with a hard-rock tinge were covers like "Come Together" by the Beatles song (or Aerosmith - since they sang that too) - their version of "La Bamba" rocked as well - and last but not the least, the crowd pleaser "Roxanne" by the POLICE. Anyway, so much for covers!

Special mention for their guest drummer Geno Banks, who was filling in for regular thumper Siddharth Couto. My God! He was a monster on the drum-set. Absolutely mind-boggling performance by him. Bobby on the bass and Rajeev on vox were cool too.

I have a sore back and stiff neck. Too much headbanging @ my AGE is injurious to my health! AND a new one - I think I somehow miraculously managed to pull a hamstring down there near my thigh during the show... wonder how I managed to do that
Anyway - GREAT show. Zero has evolved tremendously from when I last saw them play at SPE. And that is good.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

THEM CLONES... the night SPE crumbled to dust

SOMEPLACE ELSE - the mecca of rock music in Kolkata... the only place where u can chill out with a cool drink and listen to quality music at the same time.

SOMEPLACE ELSE - the only place where the best and most intense live performances take place in the city.

And that my friends, was the reason why SPE decided to host THEM CLONES, the new icons of the alternative scene in India. Their music knocked me out cold, and their intensity pounded me to smithereens. This was no live performance for the weak-hearted.

Anyway, I'll just go straight to what they played - an alternate/heavy metal lovers delight:
1. PEARL JAM - Animal, Alive, Jeremy
2. SCORPIONS - Rock You Like A Hurricane
3. U2 - Vertigo, (Pride) In The Name Of Love
4. COLDPLAY - Yellow
5. A few originals - In The Name Of God, Wait For Me, Zephyretta (a few others I cant remember)
6. DISTURBED - Stupify
7. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE - Bulls On Parade, Killing In The Name, Wake Up

And yes, I guess there were a few more I cant remember. For me the highlights were definitely the RATM, Pearl Jam and Disturbed covers - ESPECIALLY THE RATM covers - I screamed my voice hoarse and sang the loudest during each of these songs. And man, DID I head bang!! Thank God for Prithwish, the lead vocalist of THEM CLONES - he poured a bottle of water on us people to cool us down

Excellent show - but there were a few hick-ups, most notably the fuses giving out, not once - but twice - during their performance. And the 2nd one was during the RATM cover of "Wake Up" - unfortunately they didnt finish the song after normalcy was restored - and that also unfortunately was their last song.

I was amazed by the turn out - I thought alternative/heavy metal was dead in Kolkata - seems not, which is a great thing. There was a very knowledgable crowd out there. Its always a pleasure to head-bang with people who know their music, and not with fucking pseudos who head-bang just for the sake of head-banging!!

Anyway - I am happy, and I am grinning like a Cheshire Cat, despite all my body aches and aching eardrums and hoarse throat. THEM CLONES are a brilliant band!! Top-notch gig - hope they come to Kolkata (and SOMEPLACE ELSE) more often.