India part two - Fear and Dosa in Bangalore
And then we remember that we're here to do an actual job, not just gawp at the sights and stuff our faces with masala dosa. We had an important brief - to deliver top quality rocking sounds to the good people of India. It was time to grease up the bass strings and get down to business.
Our first show is at a club in Bangalore, which necessitates a short flight from Hyderabad. Arriving at bleary o'clock in the morning the airport is predictably chaotic, a clangorous swirl of noise and activity. Thronging travellers wrestle themselves into endlessly snaking queues as children shriek and charge around to the chagrin of hassled parents. Their delightful screeches entertain us no end as we wait for inefficient officialdom to peer at our documents and issue stamps of approval. Having survived Heathrow at the height of holiday season I reckon I'm mentally prepared to take it all on. However what eventually pushes my sanity to its limits is the cheesy cover version of 'Eternal Flame' playing continuously on a loop.
Over and over and over and over the syrupy sax riff endlessly torments as we shuffle along like chained convicts. Surely this must constitute some form of mental torture against the poor unfortunates who have to work here. I will therefore shortly be launching a new charity called 'Musicians against Muzak' which will deal with terrible abuses against innocent eardrums everywhere. They banned passive smoking, let's do something about passive listening.
"Hooray! We've escaped The Bangles"
We eventually reach the refuge of our airplane and settle back for the flight, which happily passes without further crimes against music. Landing in Bangalore we're met by a rep from the club and squeeze our guitars and keyboard into a waiting car. The insane traffic situation is clearly not unique to Hyderabad and it's another white-knuckle ride at high speeds through heavily populated traffic, arriving at our hotel with pounding hearts. Those of us still acclimatising to the madness that is, I have yet to attain the zen mindset that allows you to smilingly accept the transience of life every time you go for a drive.
After a quick freshen up we head to the Humming Tree, a short but perilous ten minute walk away. I gingerly play real life Frogger (reference for the 80s kids out there) as cars and auto-rickshaws hurtle past, slowed only by the occasional nonchalant heifer sauntering along the middle of the road.
The venue itself is very pleasant, boasting tree-top views across the city from it's rooftop floor. As tradition dictates we settle down for the long wait until sound check by allowing a cool golden lager or two to slip down the throat.
We do a quick interview for The Hindu paper and prepare our noise-making devices and trousers for the show. We're opening the bill and draw a modest but attentive crowd that steadily grows as we rock through an upbeat set, ending with covers of 'Sweet Jane' and 'Can't Explain.' Never imagined I'd end up playing The Who in Bangalore all them years ago jamming along to Entwhistle on me stereo.
Afterwards we head off with some friends of Redds for late night grub and chat before crashing out in the wee hours. After what feels like a few minutes sleep it's up and back to Hyderabad to be greeted by the soothing tones of Eternal Flame once again.
I'd been wondering what the music scene would prove to be like in India. The group we played with in Bangalore had a very 'Mumford & Sons' vibe to them and a lot of the piped music I'd hear in malls or bars tended towards Indian versions of US/UK mainstream pop rock. Our next gig, at the NH7 Festival with several stages of bands playing would be a good opportunity to catch a larger slice of what people are listening to round these parts.
The blistering heat had roasted the festival ground to a medium rare singe by the time we arrive for soundcheck. The air is thick with giant dragonflies buzzing around like tiny patrolling helicopters as a hubbub of hardened crew set up the stage, seemingly impervious to the unforgiving sun. We walk across scorched yellowing grass to seek air-conditioned sanctuary and, as the strict laws of touring dictate, search for the catering area. Once located small snacks are duly piled up into wobbling towers on paper plates and escorted back to our room to be devoured.
can't remember the sponsors name
Show time soon approaches and we hover side of stage waiting for the signal to start. There's a decent crowd for the early time slot and when the minute arrives we stride on and grab our chosen weapons. It sounds great from where I am, the festival P.A. giving it a good bit of oomph. The crowd is appreciative, especially when Redd sings his song 'Evari Kosam' in the local language of Telugu.
Afterwards we celebrate backstage in the usual fashion, bumping into a couple of the lads from Django Django who kindly donate some beers (this being a rum sponsored event there is literally no other booze choice on offer, it's a Rummy Dictatorship.)
Suitably refreshed I head out front for a stroll and experience some Indian metal from Mumbai's Bhayanak Maut, who chug along in arse kicking fashion, a powerful show. Apparently metal is a big scene over here, as well as everywhere it seems. After the planet finally implodes (current estimate - late 2017) all that will be left after the apocalypse will be cockroaches and Heavy Metal music. And I mean that as a compliment, by the way. It endures.
I hear more than a few bands that sound very western 'Indie' in their approach, a little too slavishly for my tastes. I was hoping to encounter a wider variety of musical traditions and to that end the most enjoyable set came from the bouncy Raghu Dixit, a highly entertaining watch. It's a great evening all round and there are plenty of laughs to be had until we're poured into our waiting car at the end of the night.
The following day there's more sightseeing and dosa and I get a wee souvenir on me arm from Amin at the excellent Angel Tattoos (great work and very hygienic too, for the concerned traveller.) A wee skully butterfly joins my growing travelogue of tattoos from around the world, ideal for my plan to see out my days as a rum-sozzled old sailor haranguing strangers with tall tales of sea monsters.
Our second Hyderabad show boasts an exotic location at Pier 33, a sprawling open-air club constructed on a series of platforms overlooking a lake. Lights and lasers shine out, sweeping across the water to pick out distant skyscrapers, It's all a bit Bladerunner, not the last time I'll feel like I'm on a film set over here. We set up on a stage high above the crowd who are dancing and drinking cocktails below. A little disconnected but an enjoyable gig nonetheless and certainly contender for best ever view.
The altitude doesn't affect our pouting skills.
That's all for now, part three coming up soon! Stay tuned folks. x