Friday, June 16, 2006

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 2nd June, 2006

2nd June, 2006
It’s way past midnight and yet none of us can sleep – mister bus driver is driving as if he’s being pursued by a T-Rex. The bus swerves dangerously from one lane to the other, barely avoiding lorries and other buses approaching from the opposite lane. We also notice the guy nodding off at the wheel!
Everyone is holding on to the edge of their seats now – I keep on remind myself that this ain’t no scene from Keanu Reeves’ “SPEED”!!
Anyway, after much hollering and swearing we wake up the driver’s assistant who has been ‘till now, sleeping like a baby! Asshole!! And we also force the driver to take an impromptu tea-break. In fact we all need a tea-break as well, after that hair-raising experience!

The rest of the journey goes on peacefully – Ludo wakes me up at around 3:30 AM when we are passing through Hardwar. I personally am not a fan of places of pilgrimage, but in this case it is absolutely awesome viewing this holy town in the early hours. The air is getting slightly nippy too, a sure-shot sign that the mountains are close by.

We arrive at Dehra Dun at the break of dawn. I love the look of this town – reminds me a lot of Shillong, one of my favouritest places on this planet.

Anyway, the first part of our trip ends at Dehra Dun. We are asked to board another (much smaller) bus for the 2nd and final leg of our journey. And this we do… up and up we go – the air starts getting cooler with every passing minute. And I am mesmerized by the view of the mountains and green around me – it’s great to be up in the hills again!
Most of the passengers are either sleeping or staring groggily at the mountains like zombies. Actually, so am I!!
There is a huge box full of milk packets on the bus as well, and a few of these packs suddenly decide to make this sleepy journey more exciting by leaking all over the front of the bus. In no time we have milk all over the floor and the bus starts to smell like a diary product. Anyway this hiccup, we finally reach Dhanaulti – as the bus parks in front of Andyji’s “Evolving Cafetaria” I get my 1st glimpse of our host Andy Baines – a tall gentleman with a huge mop of “dreadlocked” hair and an extremely warm smile. Ajay Romola, his assistant shows us our rooms – I decide to bunk in with Rahul and John for the time being.

After a quick wash-up and potty session we all decide to go have brunch – it is almost 11 AM, and the band is supposed to be playing in the evening. After a hearty helping of aloo parathas and double omlettes we all head back to our rooms, where the others decide to catch up on their sleep. I decide to take a warm bath instead but am horrified to see that none of the locks on the bathroom door work!! And ditto in the other room as well. To soak or not to soak?? Well I choose the former with much trepidation!

By the time evening approaches the gang is as fresh as daisies. I’m pretty much amazed that anybody got any sleep though – the sound system has been blaring non-stop since noon and it’s been driving me bonkers.
Anyway, we hop over to Andy’s joint, where Ajay hands out our entry cards for the show. The venue, by the way, is in the back-yard of Andy’s restaurant – a nice comfy area which seems capable of hosting 100-150 odd people – but not more. The previous edition of “Dhanaulti Rocks” was held on a more grander scale, but none of the bands seem disappointed with this year’s venue as a whole. We stand around and check out the guys from Vishnu who are going through the motions of their sound check.

The sound… hmm. 1st impression – not too good. Me and the band have a quick cuppa tea and head back for a pre-show meeting in our room. Strategies are chalked out and a rough song-list for the show is assembled. Everyone is pretty relaxed, and the general consensus is that if the band can play good at a pub the size of Someplace Else back home in Kolkata, then the sound over at Andy’s shouldn’t be much of a deterrent for a good show. And I have to agree with them.
We soon hear Bobby Cash dishing out his country songs to the Dhanaulti crowd from our hotel room. Rahul decides to go check him out and we all follow him down to the venue as well.
Bobby Cash! Wow! I never really liked him much but after watching his performance tonight I have to admit that he’s one helluva artiste and an extremely talented guitarist as well. It was a fascinating show. At one point during his performance the power goes away, but he’s totally nonchalant and continues playing despite.

Vishnu is up next. And they don’t waste any time in churning out their collection of Guns ‘n Roses covers, with a few Iron Maiden ones in between. Pretty cool show they put up.
We take a quick rain-check before their show ends – the guys go back to their rooms for a final round of preparation – and it’s a pretty funny sight watching them get dolled up before their show!!!
- John takes out his “FAMOUS” Mclaren jacket from his bag. And despite the constant leg-pulling from Sookie and Ludo, he decides to wear it on stage anyway. And he also busies himself with painting his finger-nails black and applying kaajol on his face. His objective seems to be to look as gothic as possible during the show.
- Rahul can’t decide whether to wear a sweater on stage, or his “99.9% Evil” tee-shirt over his sweater. In the end he chooses neither and puts on his “Wasted” full-sleeve jumper.
- Sookie takes a quick rush to the loo and comes out grinning like a Cheshire cat after a few minutes. I presume he’s been downloading.
- Ludo takes a few more swigs from my hip flask – and cracks a couple of “Chewing-Doing” jokes which irritates everyone no end.

Finally we are all ready – the band that is. We carry the equipment down to the venue and wait for Vishnu’s cover of IronMaiden’s “Invaders” to get over.

I help the guys put their toys on stage and select a strategical point for myself so that I can shoot pictures of the band in peace. The crowd has kinda thinned after the Vishnu show – I see a few excited (and possibly drunk) American tourists jumping up and down in front of the stage. Vivek Mattoo, a fan of Cassini’s Division joins me as well. This guy is a true member of the CD underground army – he’s from Simla but works in Noida, and he’s bunked a day’s work just to see the band play live. I tell him about the band’s new sound and he’s absolutely on tenterhooks, waiting for the show to start.

And then the music begins!!!

The band initially plan to dish out a few covers (as an unofficial sound-check) becoz they aren’t too sure about the quality of sound. So they start off with Dashboard Confessional’s “VINDICATED” but I cannot hear Sookie’s lead AT ALL! And the backing vocals sound like someone is singing in Paris and not in Dhanaulti. But the song goes down well with the sparse crowd.
R.E.M.’s “IMITATION OF LIFE” is up next – the band sounds a bit better now (after Andy has done some knob-twiddling no doubt) – so plan-B comes into picture – a full-fledged assault of Cassini’s originals for the crowd!!
Drown, Only For A While, Higher, Stay… they all come in quick succession. By the time they play “Stay”, the crowd has increased considerably. I smile smugly and yell back to the band “Kheye gachhe, crowd kheye gachhe” (loosely translated from Bengali to English: the crowd has fallen for your stuff hook, line and sinker!)

And then the highlight of the show – the 1st ever rendition of “Satyr9” at Dhanaulti. The crowd are thunderstruck and don’t know what has hit them – and then the moshing starts!!
I have already decided that I won’t be indulging in any head-bobbing activities – so I hide behind a pillar and busy myself by snapping away merrily.

The band complete their white noize assault with “Fake”, “Void Void”, “Caesar”, “Glow Worm” and “The Urban Phenomena”. The crowd up front goes completely berserk!! I see the members from Vishnu and Advaita and Orange Street starring intensely at Rahul and the gang from the back rows. Awe? Admiration?? Jealousy??? …I really can’t say.

But the bottom-line – Cassini’s Division bring down the house on Dhanaulti Day #1. The crowd don’t let them get off stage until they play an encore – so they go into another round of “Satyr9”, which turns out to be the night’s biggest hit.

The crowd cheers as the boys come off stage – and I get a few pats on the back too from the crowd (they obviously think I’m their manager or roadie or groupie or WHATVER!!!!)
It’s been a highly successful show despite the patchy sound. The band has won over the Dhanaulti crowd with their unique sound and undoubtedly added a whole bunch of people to their fan list.

1 comment:

Rahul said...


Awesome job, sire.

Yet another feather to your cap.