Sunday, February 19, 2012

DOWN HAUS II featuring PARKWAY DRIVE - OR - How In Hell Did they PULL THIS OFF???






Idols and Anchors

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em



Dead Man’s Chest

Deliver Me

Gimme A D

The Sirens’ Song

Home Is For The Heartless

Romance Is Dead

Carrion (Encore)


The D.I.Y. event is king in the current rock/metal music circuit in Kolkata.
In a city where most live-music venues scream “Wolf” at the mere sight of an enthusiastic crowd of head-bangers – and where event management groups and big name sponsors will have NOTHING to do with the local metal scene, most young musicians and music lovers in Kolkata have been forced to take things into their own hands. 

The recent success of THE PIT (a “DO IT YOURSELF” group of local metal musicians/aficionados who have successfully managed to provide a platform for Kolkata metal in these past few years), has inspired many of the younger breed to stand up and to do their own thing. And so Kolkata in 2011 has seen a huge wave of similar such D.I.Y. groups cropping up in and around the city trying to emulate the success of THE PIT. On a positive note, 2011 has probably been the busiest year ever for the young-upcoming/underground band, who in the past would have seldom had the opportunity to perform in front of an appreciative/musically like-minded crowd. 

And there is of course the negative side to all this – where a sense of over-kill has slowly started to set in. And with the action coming in fast and furious, these D.I.Y. groups are trying to pull off every trick in the book to pip each other's event. The average D.I.Y. event in the city is becoming more mega and more ambitious, but the lack of event management know-how and experience is leading to most of them turning into a damp squib. And of course, without the required financial backing which all these groups lack quite a few of their dream events have remained just that – DREAMS

Amongst all this hotch-potch however the efforts of DOWN HAUS are extremely note-worthy. After successfully organizing DOWN HAUS I, a small-scale metal event in the suburbs of north Kolkata, team DOWN HAUS decided to take the next version of this event NOT just to the next level – but 5 levels ABOVE the next level. And so was planted the seeds for “DOWN HAUS II - HAUS VON EXTREMISTEN” – an event which would be headlined by none other than PARKWAY DRIVE – yes those metal-core giants from Down Under. The declared supporting acts were just as impressive, enough to blow the brains out of any metal-head in the country: BHAYANAK MAUT, SCRIBE, ZYGNEMA and Kolkata’s very own CHRONIC XORN.
And this is where I take a philosophical look at how things started to unfold in the City Of Joy after this “little” announcement…

I have never been much of a believer in Karma and in the “Supreme Being” concept, where someone is remote-controlling your life, trying to make you go left when your intention is to turn right – or forcing you to eat a bowl of salad when a bucket of KFC is lying on the dining table before your very eyes. And yet a string of events that transpired during the 3 weeks of DOWN HAUS chaos have shaken my beliefs to the very core.     

DOWN HAUS II - HAUS VON EXTREMISTEN” was an event that NEVER EVER should have happened. Any sane logical person familiar with the current metal scene in Kolkata would have told you so. (Note my emphasis on sane and logical). And yet, somehow, shit happened. Somewhere something clicked, and things fell into unison. And we NON-Karma believers were forced to eat humble-pie that fateful day.

DOWN HAUS’s declaration completely knocked the wind out of everyone across the nation. A huge wave of disbelief swept across the metal-community of the country. The skeptics and non-believers were in a majority even within the City Of Joy. And who could blame them? An announcement of this degree being made just 3 weeks before the actual event… who wouldn’t think it was a hoax?

And as expected, despite all the hype and hoo-ha that went on for an entire week, Kolkata’s most ambitious metal event over-night turned into just that – a big-metal hoax. With just 2 weeks to go all the so-called sponsors for this macho mega event seemingly backed out – something that is a common occurrence in this city. The State Government may have changed hands after so many dog years, but the mind of the money-man has not. And no supreme being could make him do otherwise.

So with no “PLAN B” in place, DOWN HAUS II could go in only one direction – DOWN.

Or so it seemed.

And so Kolkata’s most ambitious metal event over-night turned into a big-metal hoax. All of us “sane” and “logical” people went back to our “sane” and “logical” lives with that “all-knowing” gleam in our eyes. “We Told You So” was our staple comment for the next 5 days. And we all lived happily ever after.

Or so you’d think.

It is said that an animal is most dangerous when it is injured and cornered. And this was the case with DOWN HAUS.

A dejected, frustrated DOWN HAUS had no intention of being the laughing stock of the Kolkata metal circuit. With no sponsors in tow – and I mean NO sponsors – the core committee of DOWN HAUS took, what in my opinion was, the most stupid and easily the gutsiest decision ever taken in the Kolkata music community. 

And this was: to go ahead with DOWN HAUS II (to hell with those lousy sponsors) and still bring PARKWAY DRIVE to our shores!

PARKWAY DRIVE had already confirmed their flight tickets and had completed all their VISA formalities, so DOWN HAUS was well and truly on the point of no return and they could not back down!

Now let’s sit back and contemplate for a minute – anyone who has organized even a small-scale event knows the hassles one encounters to get things done right. Venue, sound, lights, printing banners/flyers/tickets, event promotion, guest band transportation/hospitality, etc. etc. etc. In fact all of this can be summed up in 1 word. Money. You need money, whatever the scale of the event might be, to ensure that your event is arranged perfectly. Without money your event is a dud.

Money was something that DOWN HAUS had none of. But with just 2 weeks away before the biggest metal event this side of the Bay Of Bengal, DOWN HAUS could not turn back.
In a nutshell (and to make things a lot less tedious for the reader) DOWN HAUS somehow did manage to get the money required (or at least the bulk of it) to arrange the event in question. And it was a miracle that they managed to do so.

DOWN HAUS II being totally self-sponsored, a huge proportion of the funds had to be borrowed from family members, friends, girl-friends and well-wishers – also, dough collected for years and carefully stashed away for the purpose of purchasing expensive cameras, musical equipments and various other items had to be dug out and put into the event fund. Dreams nourished for months, nay years, went up in smoke all for the purpose of organizing an event which was now just a week away. The many obstacles that needed to be overcome were somehow tackled at every step of the way. And that included the famous West Bengal bureaucratic red-tape, normally the proverbial spanner-in-the-works when things are needed to be done efficiently and quickly. But anyway, miracles do seem to happen – and with the organizers successfully overcoming a last minute heart-attack when the event very nearly got canned @ the 11th, DOWN HAUS II was ready to go DOWN UNDER.

The supporting band roster for the new DOWN HAUS II had been toned down considerably to give it a more local flavor – WHAT ESCAPES ME, CHRONIC XORN and YONSAMPLE were brought in as opening acts. A very wise decision, not only in terms of cost – but also because the metal bands of the city rarely get the opportunity to share the stage with renowned bands (international OR national). So it would have been a crime to deprive them of this chance. All opening acts had been requested before-hand to play short set-lists – and needless to say, they all were co-operative.

There was an estimated 500+ turn-out for Kolkata’s biggest D.I.Y. international metal fest – an extremely poor response from the Kolkata metal circuit. A huge surprise too, considering that the exam season had just concluded and that the winter holidays had already commenced. It was however interesting to see that a small percentage of the crowd were actually non-Kolkatans… there was a splattering of metal-heads from Bhubaneshwar, Darjeeling, Pune, Delhi and even Bangalore! A pleasant surprise indeed.

Due to the long duration taken for the sound-setup, the event started an hour late @ 6 PM. The crowd had started swelling up in front of the venue, Nazrul Manch, since 12 noon. And this delay had made them all the more restless. So when the gates finally opened @ 5:00 PM, a huge swarm of black tees poured into the venue.

The opening act was WHAT ESCAPES ME and as the venue started to reverberate with the intro of their 1st song (a cover, the popular Killswitch Engage number “End Of Heartache”), the Kolkata crowd burst into a huge roar! DOWN HAUS II had begun – and the city metal-heads went into a head-banging frenzy during the entire WHAT ESCAPES ME set-list which also included originals like “Pseudo Showcase” and the ever popular “Section 66 Part 5”.

The next band up on stage was CHRONIC XORN and with a short bone-crunching set-list that included songs like “Bleeding”, “Necropolis” and the anthemic “Death.Destruction.Sermon” the audience lost no time in getting into the pit – the music was intense and so was the action during the moshing, with bodies flying around all over. The security had a tough time keeping everyone under control.

The final opening act was Kolkata giants YONSAMPLE – the band had made a conscious decision of remaining under-ground for the better part of 2011, so their rare forays in the live concert arena nowadays bring about a huge level expectation from the Kolkata crowd. And needless to say the band lived up to this expectation – the performance of songs like “Passage” and “Reincarnation” from their critically acclaimed EP “Paraphernalia” had the crowd eating out of their hands, quite literally. And the highlight of their set was when the entire arena lent their voice to their ever-popular original “Breaking Through”.

But where was PARKWAY DRIVE all this while?

Well the band had arrived in Kolkata at approximately around noon time, and their excitement at being in the city was totally evident from the expression on their faces. They lost no time in mingling with the few of us who were at the venue, once they had reached – and the number of photos and videos they snapped gave people the impression that they were more the excited tourist than metal band out here to play the final leg of their very successful SOUTH-EAST ASIAN tour. Some of the members even ran off to the play-ground nearby to involve themselves in an impromptu cricket match with a few very bemused locals! And during their sound-check (handled by the PARKWAY DRIVE’s road-crew), the band-members took off to Central Kolkata to get a 1st-hand experience of Kolkata’s traffic and crazy “market places”.  The members were extremely friendly and down-to-earth, and this was evident from their total willingness to interact with hordes of crazy fans eager for photos, autographs and signed band tee-shirts. In fact the Kolkata response, meager though it was (compared to previous international events held across the nation), was something that blew them away… “We were expecting a crowd of 50, but this is just huge!” was what the band members kept on repeating to the organizers, already grinning like hyenas.

And so, with the lights dimmed all across and as the gentle strains of “SAMSARA” echoed across the venue, PARKWAY DRIVE stormed on stage – and delivered a performance of such high jaw-breaking intensity that Kolkata could only sit and stare back in a mouth-gaping stupor. Their set-list clocked slightly over an hour, and pre-dominantly featured songs from their latest album “DEEP BLUE” – “UNREST”, “SLEEPWALKER”, “HOME IS FOR THE HEARTLESS”, “KARMA” and my personal favorite “DELIVER ME”. Other numbers played were “THE SIRENS’ SONG”, ”IDOLS AND ANCHORS”, “BONEYARDS” and “DEAD MAN’s CHEST“ (from the album “HORIZONS”) and “SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM”, “GIMME A D” and “ROMANCE IS DEAD" (from their album “KILLING WITH A SMILE”).

The stage presence of the band was monster, and their energy levels were unbelievable. They were a joy to watch on stage.
The Kinetic Theory describes a large number of small particles all of which are in constant, random motion, constantly colliding with each other and with the walls of their container – and the principals of this theory totally reflected the band’s performance on stage. There was not a single minute where the band stood still, constantly running and jumping around the stage, both during and in-between songs. The head-banging across the venue was relentless and PARKWAY DRIVE even encouraged the crowd to come up on stage and join them in head-banging to their songs, causing much anxiety to the organizers and the designated security crew. But after a point it sort of became pointless. No amount of warnings or threats could deter the crowd from going bonkers. And PARKWAY DRIVE would have it no other way. From start ‘till finish the band kept the tempo of the entire gig constant and calls for slower songs like “CARRION” were brushed aside by the vocalist Winston McCall… “Oh no that’s a slow song, we don’t wanna slow the tempo, let’s play something faster!” 

And so they did. And with each song PWD’s energy levels seemed to soar even higher. The band members did this curious mix of head-banging and dancing on stage, which was a delight to watch (if you weren’t too busy head-banging away to kingdom come or diving head-first into the PIT, that is). It was neither brutal or “metchul” – but just a beautiful expression of how much the band loved their music and how much it meant to them to be performing on Indian shores. They loved it when the crowd sang back the chorus bits for “KARMA”, “SLEEPWALKER” and “HOME IS FOR THE HEARTLESS” and so finally when it came for encore time, the band did the unthinkable – and something which I have never-ever witnessed in all my years of international gig attending… just before the encore “CARRION” was performed, PARKWAY DRIVE called upon the entire Kolkata crowd to come up on stage and sing the song along with them! And without a moment’s hesitation, approximately 200 odd people crammed up on stage with the band – leaving the remaining couple of 100s on the periphery of the stage, staring in utter bemusement at this crazy turn of events! The next 3-1/2 minutes were like a dream, leaving me completely dumb-struck as to how the band managed to perform amidst the constant pushing, shoving and head-banging going on stage. Not an inch of space available to move, but the musicians performed with aplomb – and the crowning glory of this encore performance was when the crowd picked up guitarist Luke Kilpatrick and made him crowd-surf the entire breadth of the stage, with him picking his guitar all the while. 

And so ended PARKWAY DRIVE’s last gig on their SOUTH-EAST ASIA tour 2011 – bringing down the curtains, as well, for DOWN HAUS II. An event which should never have taken place and certainly an event model which no organizer should try to duplicate in the future.

Whether DOWN HAUS II has managed to create a niche for itself in the national circuit and whether DOWN HAUS, as a whole, has managed to bring to focus the Kolkata metal circuit to the rest of the nation is highly debatable. It also brings into question the misguided directionless enthusiasm of the average Kolkata D.I.Y. group, where organizing music events seem to be LESS about promoting the local music scene and MORE about trying to win brownie points on the “visions of grandeur” department. Definitely this event has left far more questions unanswered than answered – but this is a topic best left for another time. 

Whatever be the case, there is no denying the fact that for the average Kolkata metal-head in attendance that fateful evening, watching PARKWAY DRIVE perform in their city was akin to being a part of the metal festivities @ say, a Palace Grounds. For that one evening, this was their Summer Storm, their Deccan Rock. And for that one evening, Kolkata had attained metal Nirvana.

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