Friday, June 16, 2006

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 4th and 5th June, 2006

June 4th, 2006
The early hours of Monday. The band and I have freshened up after our long road trip and have had dinner and yapped a bit with the ladies of the house. We are all tired but the band decides to have a meeting. I stay awake despite my deadly drowsiness. It is one of the most important meetings Cassini’s has ever held and I am honoured to be attending it.
It’s about 2 AM when things wind-up. We have a long day ahead and need to sleep.


Morning. RSJ has been phoning the band non-stop – tonight’s gig at CLIMAX looks like to be a major one indeed. Everyone is excited – and we have also been reading reports in the Delhi newspapers about the band – some are favourable and some extremely ambiguous, but in general we all seem pleased and excited that the band is getting some positive coverage.
Nikhil Alva, a reporter from RSJ is supposed to be our liaison agent for the day. He comes over to meet us at around about noon. The plan is to shift the band to a guesthouse close to the venue, so we pack our stuff and follow our escort Mr. Alva.
Our 1st stop is in a field (which actually reminds me of a garbage dump) – this field is supposedly adjacent to the RSJ office premises. We are left standing in the heat and totally at our wits end, while Nikhil goes hunting for an official RSJ vehicle that would take us to the guesthouse. After a long wait he finally returns and we all bundle into another deluxe vehicle and head off to our next destination: Chittaranjan Park.

Chittaranjan Park. I’ve heard tons about this place, but have never been here before. It is supposedly a “little Kolkata” in the heart of sprawling Delhi… and the moment we enter this locality I fall in love with it, as do the rest of the band members. All around us we see houses with Bengali names on their address plates. And signboards in Bengali as well. It seems like we’re driving through Salt Lake, and we feel totally at home.
Of course, like I mentioned – Chittaranjan Park being almost a carbon copy of Salt Lake, we take ages to locate our guesthouse (For those of you who have ever visited Salt Lake, you’ll know what I mean). We end up driving in circles for the next 10-15 minutes desperately seeking the guesthouse. The driver and Nikhil are as lost as we are. Anyway after a loooooong search we finally locate the place. Nice cozy room it is too. Nikhil takes his leave but before doing so he informs us that the car would be picking us up at 4 PM, becoz our sound-check is at around 5ish.

We order lunch and watch a bit of TV. Towards the evening a friend of Sookie drops by – Amartya. I’ve met him at Someplace Else before, so it’s cool to see a familiar face in big bad Delhi. He loses no time in asking me what appears to have become a customary question, “Are you Sukanti’s younger brother?” – I believe I’ve been asked this question so many times this trip that maybe it would be a good idea to actually become his blood brother. Officially. In a court of law thingie.
Anyway. We spend some time listening to his weird quirky yarns. It helps to kill the time at least, becoz as usual, our transportation to Climax is nowhere in sight. Phone calls are made to Nikhil and Shivani (RSJ Assistant Manager - Events & Promotions) and they re-assure us that the car would be arriving soon to pick us up.

The band starts their usual pre-gig preparations – the theme tonight seems to be “all black”. So everyone decides to wear black tees. John borrows my “Shadows Fall” tee and it looks kinda cool on him, even if I say so myself! They also decide to play an all-original set – another move I find sensible.
The car finally does arrive. We say bye to Amartya who promises to be at Climax by 7 PM (that he didn’t turn up at all is a different story altogether!) – and head off to rock Delhi!!

Climax. My 1st impression of the place is like “WOH MAMMA”!!!
Speaking strictly in a Kolkata context, Climax reminds me of a cross between ROXY, B.E.D. and SHISHA (all happening night-clubs back home). It’s truly a swanky joint and extremely upper class. But holding a rock gig here??? Pardon me, but I am pretty skeptical – especially when I notice that the stage is outdoors.

We take our equipment inside and pile them up in front of the stage. The RSJ staff comes up to greet the band, and we meet the lovely Shivani as well. I’m smiling inside, becoz I’m sure the RSJ staff are thinking, “Who the hell is this guy with the Queensryche tee? And why is he with the band??”
Them Clones is on stage doing their sound check – and we get a taste of tonight’s sound system – pretty much what we had expected, state of the art gadgets and crystal clear sound all around. The band looks happy, and frankly, so am I.

About tonight’s gig – Cassini’s are the opening act, followed by Them Clones and Mumbai rockers Vayu. I personally am excited about Them Clones, becoz I admire them a lot and I love their sound. Of Vayu, I have absolutely zero idea about them, but they seem like seasoned performers, and any band which can make it from metal crazy Mumbai must be good!

We roam around Climax (looking for the bathroom) waiting for our sound-check turn. In between I get to meet the grand old man of Indian rock, Amit Saigal. I exchange a handshake and a pleasant hello with the dude and I get the same bewildered look from him as well… “who is this guy with the band anyway???” But I am positively chuffed.

The guys finally go up on stage for their sound-check. Pretty elaborate it is too, I should add. But everyone seems pleased with the way things are going till now.

And now, the long wait. The gig is supposed to start at 8 PM, but this being India, nothing really ever does start on time. So we wait. And we wait. The crowd slowly starts to trickle in. We go to the gates becoz we have a few passes for friends and acquaintances. And we find out that this night-club has a dress code as well – no jeans or sneakers or sandals!! Eeegad!!! Bloody murder!!! Luckily this rule has been relaxed otherwise hardly anyone would be allowed entry!
Outside we meet Lena and Rose and Abhishek Tiwari – another Delhi-based fan of the band. Also outside is Ludo’s pal Mainak and Tukan.

Inside its pretty crowded now. And it’s a pretty hep crowd – totally unlike what I am used to seeing at my favourite pub Someplace Else back home. I’m not sure whether these people are here to listen to the music or to just socialize the night away. But I keep calm anyway – no point in getting agitated even before the show has begun.
My pal Abhishek Majumdar finally arrives as promised, and I am delighted to see him – and as promised, he brings along a few of his pals as well. I also am happy to see Hemu Adhikari, an orkut pal of mine. Tall guy he is, and a nice “Cannibal Corpse” tee he is wearing too (or is it “Cradle Of Filth” – my memory!!!).

Amit Saigal and the band finally get up on stage. Mister Saigal says a few words and formally declares the start of the PUB ROCK festival in Delhi (lucky city, I’m already jealous!!). He introduces Cassini’s Division to the crowd and lets the festivities begin!!And begin they do – the band dish out “Drown” to the crowd. And it’s an excellent rendition as well, I might add. “Drown” is followed by the usual suspects: “Only For A While”, “Higher”, and “Animals”.
However, something doesn’t really seem right here. The crowd isn’t really getting involved or anything. They’re sitting on the ground and applauding after each song. And there are a few shouts of appreciation from behind as well. But not a single indication that there might be any headbanging or moshing happening tonight. I feel pretty disappointed.
Anyway, the show goes on – the band play “Stay” – and that perks up the Delhi crowd! I can see some of them bobbing their head now.
“Satyr9”. Awesome start to the song, and the crowd seem to like it a lot – the excitement on their faces is pretty visible.

I’m looking around however and I still see no signs that any moshing might take place. But at least the crowd behind the bar is jumping up and down with excitement. Unfortunately the crowd in front of the stage seems to be hard-core heavy-metal fanatics (I have read a lot about this underground group – they only listen to metal, the heavier the better!) and though they seem to be enjoying the music, they don’t show any signs of getting up.

And then… disaster! Rahul’s mic suddenly starts to fade out during the rendition of “Fake”. I don’t know whether he or the other band mates even realize this, but it’s definitely sounding bad, almost as if he’s whispering on stage. Lena frantically rushes off to the sound guy who raises his hands helplessly. After the song I shout out a few swear words about the sound. And a few guys in the crowd do so as well. Thank God. Coincidentally the AAJTAK camera-man starts to focus his gadget on me after my swearathon, which is a wee bit embarrassing – and I also get stared at by the pretty AAJTAK TV reporter. Stare, mind you, NOT ogled at!! I decide to mind my language for the time being – looks like Delhi can’t handle my weird Manipuri act.

Anyway, what to do, CD continue their Delhi onslaught with “Void Void” which goes down exceptionally well with the crowd. As is expected. And then follows the crowd puller “Caesar”.

Unfortunately, another guffaw enfolds here as well.

For some weird alienistic reason, one of the RSJ guys (a pony-tailed dude in an Arsenal tee) decides that this is the right time to tighten up a screw of one of Ludo’s cymbals… yes, during the midst of the song. So Ludo is rendered playless for a few minutes, which is absolute madness. And the guy also manages to disconnect Sookie’s guitar as well. So there you have it – for the 1st time ever, a semi-nude version of “Caesar”! I’m boiling mad by now.

The rest of show goes on without anymore sound or equipment hitches – “Glow Worm” and “The Urban Phenomena” are appreciated with a good amount of clapping and cheers. But no calls for an encore, unfortunately – this crowd either did not enjoy the show or they happen to be the most decent crowd ever to have been present at a Cassini’s gig. I am absolutely bewildered!! But anyway, I guess I can’t complain – it was definitely a sizable crowd, and there was no hint of the intimidation factor that I had heard so much about. Delhi rock lovers are considered to be the toughest people to play to in the country, so in hind-sight I would have to say this was a pretty good gig by Cassini’s – but it didn’t rise to their Sunday “Someplace Else” heights, thatz for sure.

The band seem to be disappointed with their performance though and they vanish from Climax with Chintan Kalra and Dilip Ramachandran (both of PARIKRAMA fame) – I guess they need time to reflect on tonight’s performance and over-all crowd reaction. So I let them be.
I stick around and check out Them Clones who are now on stage are busy wowing the crowd with an all original set. I like this band a lot and it feels good to see them playing live after almost a year.

I spend the rest of the evening hob-nobbing with Lena and Rose and the rest of Cassini’s support line. And with the crowd of Delhi socialites – they are an interesting bunch of people, the likes of whom you don’t really get to see in Kolkata. The crowd has magically decided to stand up now and all those scary metal-heads who were initially sitting are now head-banging with gay abandon to each Them Clones song! Well duh, Them Clones are a Delhi band after all, so I guess it’s very natural that the Climax crowd loves them so much. Sniff. Reminds me of the Sundays back home at Someplace Else when Cassini’s Division play to a full house. Sniff.

After Them Clones, it’s now the turn of Vayu to get up on stage. The Cassini’s gang co-incidentally decides to make their re-appearance at Climax again with Dilip and Chintan. We stick around to watch Vayu who are a classic rock covers band. And they give a really tight performance with loads of classic rock crowd-pullers. Their front-man 2Blue is quite the showman. He even tears his tee off and offers to give it to the woman (or was it a hetero-sexual offer this? Don’t really remember!!) who screams the loudest during their show. I wonder if he really did give his tee away. I didn’t stick around for that scene, thank god.
Anyway, personally I feel Kolkata’s very own Hip Pocket is a much better classic rock covers band than Vayu – but Vayu certainly does put up a very impressive show, they seemed to go down with the Climax crowd extremely well.

SO, the 1st Pub Rock show ends and it looks like it’s been a major success. As in Dhanaulti, here too members of the audience come over and pat me on the back and shake my hand and tell me how much they loved Cassini’s sound. One bloke even comes up to me and says that he has my number and would be calling me up to book Cassini’s for another Delhi show in October. Ya right! Like I believe that bullshit… a taste of Delhi for you!

It’s past midnight now. All I wanna do is eat dinner and go to sleep. I have a flight to catch at 9 AM in the morning and I am in no mood to party whole night. Unfortunately the night is still young – and no one really is concerned that it’s already a new day, Monday –
5th June, 2006

We have a quick pasta dinner and I manage to get the band to pose for a few snaps with the Them Clones guys who are sitting at the table adjacent to us. Dilip from Parikrama is also around and he wants to take the gang to his pad to hear an uninterrupted acoustic version of “Caesar”. And Chintan is coming along too. So that means I have to tag along! Oh dear! I’m more worried than sleepy now becoz it looks like it’s going to be a looooong night.

We follow Dilip back to his flat in South Delhi and I must say it’s an extremely well furnished place. Chintan and a few of their friends join up as well. So after the customary jokes, the band get down to business – Rahul plays and sings them “Caesar” and a few other tunes like “Simba”, “Rumble” and “Mister Mishra”. Our hosts are absolutely delighted with their mini performance. Chintan and Dilip dish out a lot of words of encouragement for the band, and it really is wonderful to see such established musicians speak so highly about this “controversial” Kolkata quartet. They even call them the “FUTURE OF INDIAN ROCK” – now that my friends, is the mother of all praises!

Unfortunately I ain’t in much of a sociable mood – so I sit quietly in a corner sipping away at my peg of Absolut Vodka feeling sleepy and worried drunk. Worried that I ain’t gonna get any sleep and that I’m gonna miss my morning flight. Anyway. It’s a pleasant party notwithstanding and I do enjoy myself even though I generally keep mum. If either Dilip or Chintan is reading this then I apologise for my weird behaviour. I’m generally not that bad a bum or party-pooper. Well most of the time at least.

At approx. 4 AM we decide to call it a night (or should I say morning??). We say our thank yous and byes to our hosts and head back to CR PARK. The trip doesn’t take too long – the roads are empty after all!


And that my friends ends my part in this journey of mad-cap mystery. I guess I’ll just add that I did manage to catch my Kingfisher flight after just 1 hour of sleep back at CR Park. My last memory of the band is:
- Ludo snoring away to Kingdom Come.
- John snoring away to Kingdom Come as well.
- Rahul underneath his blanket.
- Sookie downloading in the bathroom.

The CD guys leave for home in the evening by train. I hope none of them strangle anyone on their way back or is force fed poison.

A week with the band – one of the best experiences I have ever had – I got to hang out with not only 4 talented musicians, but also 4 really good friends. It was one of my best vacations ever, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me and also for letting me be a part of their world – the nutty, crazy, totally blow-your-mind-out world of CASSINI’s DIVISION.

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