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“Man, I think I’m going to file a petition that all B-school aspirants should know their Shakespeare. That should bring at least some sense of hygiene when it comes to naming music festivals. Like Wild Wild Fest? Really?! Coming from a place with an impeccable legacy like Nat Geo, that’s the best they could come up with? And tell me again, what exactly do they pay their brand managers a big fat packet for?”
My friend – let’s call him Luke – wasn’t the sort who would’ve found himself fitting into anyplace which may have had the remotest association with anything that resembled corporate cubicles and corner offices. The only place he knew which was his own was when he was suitably intoxicated in mind already and willing to go “higher” aided by whichever band occupied the stage in front of him. So when he said this, he wasn’t to be blamed for not knowing that brand managers at large corporations usually get paid big fat pay packets for just adding to the pool of ever growing mediocrity.
We were on our way to Wild Wild Fest, a festival of music happening at Zorba (the place has picked up well as an outdoor venue for hosting live gigs this season). The festival was an initiative by Nat Geo Wild, which had left us…quite thoroughly confused. Zorba is situated in the heart of the city, right next to a metro station, on an arterial road which leads up to Gurgaon. Unless of course, there was an inherently intelligent reference to the city being the jungle, the location didn’t seem fitting in any way with the kind of brand image that Nat Geo Wild carries. Unless Zorba had been made to metamorphose into a scene straight out of an Amazonian forest or a patch of the Siberian tundra.
Despite all these deterrents, the only reason which made us travel all the way to that side of town was the lineup of performing musicians. The lure of good music, and that alone.
It was evident that Zorba had undergone a metamorphosis. Crossing the usually plain bare gates (which were now plastered all over with panels bearing the names of sponsors), the entrance to the performance grounds spooked us out some bit. Imagine entering a cave which has icicles hanging from the roof. Only that these icicles are strips of white cloth hanging from the roof, like a bead curtain, and you keep walking for a good ten seconds before beginning to freak out about when you would reach the other side. Maybe this was their way of telling everyone that the crossing over to the Wild Wild Fest involves making your mind run wild with panic.
It was 4.15pm. Barefaced Liars were still doing their soundcheck. They were supposed to have started almost an hour back. Looked like things were running behind schedule. This also meant that Menwhopause would get on stage after sunset. Which wasn’t that bad a thing.
Barefaced Liars played their regular set of “original” music. Somewhere down the line, a lot of bands on the scene who still try hard to emphasize that they are playing “original” music seem to have not noticed that bands playing covers completely lost out on the game at least half a decade ago. Today bands play covers of bands which preceded them here, not there. Somewhere down the line, such bands also forgot that “original” music doesn’t have to mean uninspiring music. Keep playing covers if that’s the best you can do. At this juncture, it must be said with a tinge of sadness, that not much can be remembered from Barefaced Liars’ set that evening.
Thankfully, it was time for Menwhopause. This was supposed to be “their last performance in Delhi for a long long time”, as vocalist/bassist Randeep mentioned later on stage. The band is off to Goa for a performance and “plans to work on material for their third album”. A bit of a twist in their performance this time was that instead of closing their set with “Kaatil Sardar” (which they do if the setting and momentum is right), they played a recorded version of the song during the band changeover while readying for their set. Unusually again, the set opener was “Whore”, a new song featuring a sparse stripped down instrumentation and vocals which felt pronouncedly edgy on that bare backdrop of sound. The band sounded quite good for the rest of their set comprised of their usual songs (“Puppets and Paupers”, “Solitude”, “Floating”), except some minor recurring sound issues which their drummer Paul kept having with his monitors.
“Wasn’t there some hot model kinda girl who was supposed to perform too? Some DJ Candy or something?”
Luke meant DJ Candice Redding. All that we knew about her was that she was quite “attractively” dressed up in the promos for the festival. The usual good looking attractively dressed up, down on her days model, regular on the party circuit who has taken up to spinning tunes on a console. Oh well, Paris Hilton is a DJ too now.
Earlier, I had made a trip to the other stage which was set up for electronic acts. A DJ was playing some beats on loop. Trite would be an understatement. It wasn’t even “lobby music” for the food stalls which had been set up around the lawn area demarcated as the dancefloor. I hadn’t cared to return for any other DJ for a while at least, attractively dressed or undressed. After Menwhopause, with nothing much to do while the band changeover was happening, we moved towards the other stage – partly out of not having an option, and partly out of curiosity. We’d never been to any of these model turned DJ performances in the past anyway. “And what if she does a Ganguly, man?!” Luke always had his priorities right.
Unfortunately, it turned out that there wasn’t any visual stimulus on stage. There was some appealing aural stimulus instead. Percussionist Suchet Malhotra was in the mid of his set with a small but cohesive set of people listening intently and moving their bodies in sync with his beats. Meanwhile, the duo of Hari and Sukhmani had taken positions on the main stage.
“These guys have just hit a formula which works with the junta. The girl’s hot and has half a decent voice. Next, they pick up a classic folk track and do a live remix, throw in some contemporary electronic beats, a refrain in English to make it sound modern – the works. Zilch original creativity, but who cares. It gets them loads of shows. After all, there isn’t anything that sells like sexed up nostalgia.” Luke summed up Hari and Sukhmani’s act quite succinctly in his own unabashed way. A majority of the audience wouldn’t have cared about what he thought, going by the way they were enjoying the performance. On such occasions, I usually try working out exit scenarios in case someone overhears Luke and a lynch-mob situation seems imminent.
One of the high points of the evening was reached later when Advaita played a spot-on and tight performance which paved the way really well for the headlining act, Indus Creed. The Advaita boys have consistently been very creatively mature with their compositions, and have specially been known for their stellar live performances – that night was no different.
While the main stage readied for Indus Creed, the second stage had one half of the bass heavy Gods Robots, Janaka Selekta warming up the crowd. A fairly energetic set which got the crowd’s groove going, except that the music wasn’t very bass heavy. That didn’t really matter because the dancefloor was soon packed with people who starting breaking into a sweat despite the December chill. The only incongruity, and a major one, in the set was the emcee for the evening, who had climbed on stage with a microphone, pulled his hoodie (which was worn over a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf imprint – a clear sign of the number of years behind him) over his ears, and was desperately making failed attempts at trying to freestyle verse (or maybe act like a hypeman) along with the beats. In an attempt to make his American twang accent sound cooler, he ended up introducing the Janaka as Yanaka (like everyone who’s Jose is Ho-zay). Somebody needed to tell him that despite all his efforts, in all probability he was still going home alone that night to a cold and empty bed.
Painful emcee notwithstanding, Janaka’s set was enjoyable. So much so that we ended up missing the start of Indus Creed’s set, only to reach there in time for “Trapped”. The band looked fresh, and Uday looked kicked up about the performance. Delhi always gets together a fair share of old timer Rock Machine/Indus Creed fans who will sing along to the lyrics. The performance’s flow was interrupted when sound issues started erupting with one side of the PA system just conking off and on sporadically. After a while though, the PA system went off completely. But Uday, being the sport, called the audience up close saying – “the monitors are still working”. The audience didn’t mind.
“And next up we have…JALEBEE CARTEL.” The emcee messed up bad this time and took it a bit too far in his artificially enhanced adrenaline rush. Because the guys on stage weren’t Ash and Ashvin, but Nucleya and Avinash (B.L.O.T.!). Dev Bhatia, who was on stage immediately made his displeasure amply known to the emcee in the wake of what would be called a professional blunder. (Big up Dev, someone should’ve really slapped some sense into that emcee at least an hour ago). What followed was a mashup that Avinash and Udyan had prepared, which started by mixing up footage from Nat Geo Wild before gradually moving towards old Bollywood film clips (oh, and the classic Doordarshan “Ek Chidiya”). While Avinash would’ve been working on the visuals which looked phenomenal on those large panels which acted as the stage backdrop, Nucleya started spinning folk tunes set atop some dizzying dubstep. Whoever was left in the audience by then wasn’t seen looking for a reason to loosen their limbs.
The mashup started well and built itself up to a high note, but towards the tad end of the set it lost some steam. It was a tempting thought to stay behind for Ash and Ashvin’s set. The slowing down momentum of the mashup drained us some bit, but what made it unbearable was the emcee who jumped up on stage again to introduce the next performers. Luke had started getting edgy at his sight already, and although he’s normally a very calm person, he’s been known to indulge with pleasure in expressing his discomfort towards certain individuals from time to time.
I was still not sure about where the “wild” was in the entire evening. It had been a fun evening with some great acts, despite some mismanagement and technical flaws. But “wild” was something, I still couldn’t figure.
“What’s so tough about that? The organizers got that emcee right out of the rough. That was the wildest thing out there. Like those pseudo hot mamas who wear leopard prints thinking it will make them look wild.”
Full image set can be viewed here.