Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Many Faces of Cassini's Division

I thought I'd write a review of some CD shows today, since its been a task long overdue. I mean, I haven't actually written a show review for the band ever since they left Someplace Else - and there have been some really dynamite shows in these past 6 months:

A> Their 2nd ever show @ Princeton (and their 1st one after the SPE exodus)
B> The show @ the Carmel High School fest which was something new for the band - playing in front of a mammoth crowd of school kids and some stern nuns/sisters/teachers.
C> The show @ Princeton where they made their HMV announcement.
D> The show @ the Statesman "VIBES" fest at Nazrul Manch.
E> The jugal-bandi with Lou Majaw for the opening show of the Sharktooth Music festival.

... Hmmm! I'm clearly lagging behind in terms of reviews and I don't think I'd be able to do justice to all these great gigs by just compiling one khichdi of a blog. And it wouldn't be fair for either the band or the fans. And it definitely would not do justice to any of the shows, each one being stand-out kick-ass gigs in their own respect.
Each gig had their own unique flavour and environment and for those of us lucky enough to attend them it was a cool experience seeing CD at their finest outside the confines of Someplace Else - a venue where most of us hard-core fans had gotten so used to seeing Cassini's perform. Almost so it was like CD had become a piece of Sunday furniture @ the Park.

The last show @ SPE was indeed a mile-stone and a turning point for not just the band but also for its fans, including your's truly... Sundays had become more than just about Cassini's Division. Sundays @ SPE had become (for the last 3 years) a week-end full-scale adda session for the regulars. A day when groupies and friends and lovers would all get together and enjoy a fun-filled 2-3 hours of booze, chit-chat, make-out sessions and music.

And unfortunately if we all take an honest look back at the those good 'ol days, Sundays had become less about music and more about fun.

Music is fun without a doubt - but when I look back I kinda realise that the band needed a change - needed new challenges. The music was and still is primarily the same, and the old-school CD fans like me never seemed to get tired of hearing the same songs being played day-in and day-out: "Stay", "Drown", "Only For A While", "Rumble", "Higher", "Caesar", "Voivoid", "Satyr9, "Glowworm", "Urban Phenomenon".
We'd occasionally hear a new song or an "OLD" song which had not been played for centuries. But the crowd never seemed to get tired of listening to the usual list of Sunday originals and covers.
Sometimes I think back and wonder - were most of the kids really listening? Or was CD just something in the back-ground for them while they were busy guzzling beer and eyeing the pretty females/ hunky males? I don't know.

Anyway, things came to an end at this venue - for the good. Playing the same stuff to the same faces at the same place is nothing short of killing.

Princeton came along - as did other shows. New venues, new faces, and newer music.

And during this phase the number of new songs that have been churned out by the band has been pretty phenomenal. And its good to see the crowd enjoying them as well... though for quite a few of the old school the change in sound has been quite a new experience. I would believe that most of them are used to seeing and experiencing a certain kind of CD sound and suddenly seeing a change in direction has knocked their socks off. More so because its not like they're seeing a CD show every Sunday anymore... it's almost like once in 1 month for them. For some its like once in 2 months... maybe longer. I guess its like coming home after being away for months and months, and then seeing that your favourite chair has been given away to your maid-servant. Something like that.

But the wonderful thing about all this change is the fact that CD is living up to it's name. And they are doing precisely what they have set out to do. Think about it.

For the past 5-6 years Cassini's Division has always tried to stand out amongst the mundane cover bands that this city has been churning out like a noodle factory. When they initially started out they were playing covers by bands like R.E.M., Nirvana and other prominent alternative/modern rock bands of the day. And NO Pink Floyd or The Doors.

And just when the city crowd started getting a hang of them, the band starts pouring out a string of originals. Something unprecedented at that time.
(Well ok, We had Skinny Alley doing it prior to them - but they are established musicians - the CD gang back then were a bunch of brash ciggie puffing tough talking dreamers still yet to make a huge name for themselves in the circuit).

It was around about this time that I made my entrance in the CD army. And this change in "scenery" totally bowled me over. Forget the fact that I am a metal-headed freak - the fact that I was getting to experience something so new in the city made me want to dance with joy. And hey I do love alternative/modern rock too for your kind information :))

Well ok - that done. So what next? A trip to JRO Chennai and it seems that another change was in the offing. I can't pinpoint the exact date or time, but suddenly I find the CD sound becoming more heavier and gothic and boy did I love it. Fine tuning your existing body of work is always important, and this was doubly so in the case of the CDs originals. In a scene devoid of bands that played anything remotely heavy, CD were like an oasis in the desert for me. And there was this one particular show (I remember it like yesterday) - their old 9 PM Sunday slot... where I was fortunate to be amongst the crowd for the debut of their only SYSTEM OF A DOWN cover "AERIALS"

True, nowadays heavy metal has made a revival in the city with bands such as Atmahatya, Crystal and The Witches and The Hobos in the forefront. And true even bands like Insomnia play a pretty darn heavy set during their normal gigs.
But back in those days it was so much different.
There were no bands playing heavy music, much less alternative or heavy metal. There were only classic rock cover bands. Everywhere you looked. And then some more.

So I loved it, the new sound. Someplace Else hated it. So did the hoity toity SPE regulars as well. And it was during this time that the battle between the fans of CD and the fans of the cover bands (almost seemed like us VERSUS the rest of the world) raged at its heaviest. Those were electric days. Every day seemed to bring up a new fight and a controversy.

And it was during this time where I managed to differentiate between the posers, the sycophants and the real CD soldiers.
Don't misunderstand me - everyone, even Osama Bin Laden is welcome to a CD show and we want everyone to enjoy the band's music - the more the merrier. But during those days it was plain to see who the back-stabbers were and who the music lovers were. Addendum: I don't see those assholes at the CD shows anymore. A blessing in disguise.

Time went by in a flash. And then came the day when CD bid adieu to Someplace Else. Things had unfortunately staled a bit for a certain period. New songs were written but they have apparently been kept on the back-burner for the time being. The band did appear to make attempts to integrate some new sound and style to their repertoire - but when you're playing week-after-week at the same venue to the same old faces I guess implementing that change is a tad difficult.
And so we see songs like "The Forest", "The End Of The World", "The Mind's Eye", "View From A Window", (and a song about Hollywood/Bollywood too? I don't quite remember the song name), blah blah blah, being played for some gigs - but I guess they slowly were phased out because amidst all these experiments the band came up with something which blew the crowd away:

"The Story Of My Life"

And yes, rap and rock have been fused together by CD in the past but somehow it was this song that got everything in place at one shot!

Anyway, the current chapter in CD's life has shown us that the band is back again to its changing ways. New songs that reflect the current direction in which the band would like to go. A sound that has gone down tremendously well with a load of new listeners, most of whom are "middle of the road" - NOT very genre conscious or genre loyal. And its fun seeing this evolution happen.
Funny though, one of my favourites amongst the newer originals is "Falling" - sigh, I guess some people don't change that easily! :))

Well like I said - change has always been a constant for Cassini's Division - and for me its like seeing a new face of the band at regular intervals. A real treat, since you never know what to expect, especially with their huge hoard of new originals. But no one in their right mind can also say that Cassini's has discarded their old sound. Its still there for all of us to sample. A mix of the new and old - new faces in the crowd and the good 'ol soldiers from the SPE days. Its like this very surreal ambience at their gigs. An absolute delight.

If you really want to know what I mean, then check out the crowd at their next show... well, lets hope there is a show soon. Thats the one piss-off for me. I don't get to see the guys perform on a more regular basis! But if that isn't change, then I don't know what is! :)