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The Time Delhi Cops Busted A DIY Gig - Cops 1 - Rock 'n' Roll 0

columns Mar 04, 03:50pm

There was a grand ol' DIY gig held on a terrace celebrating Peter Cat Recording Co.'s birthday on March 1. The Delhi Police, despite being uninvited, decided to show up and bust the scene. Here's what happened.
 Photo Courtesy: A Previous Gig at the PCRC Terrace

I love cops. I love their delicately coiffured moustaches and their royal paunches nurtured through years of hard work. Their honesty, their dedicated work ethic, the way they speak so politely to the very citizens they're supposed to serve. The way they ensure smooth functioning of law and order, the way people feel safe in Delhi. The way they bust gigs. I fucking love cops.

That aside, there was this gig last week, to celebrate Delhi's hipster eclectic troupe Peter Cat Recording Co.'s birthday which, by coincidence or design, happens to clash with the birthday of their vocalist, Suryakant Sawhney. These guys have a very DIY ethic, which has led them to organize a bunch of gigs in the past at the "Penthouse" that a couple of the members stay at. It's an apartment on the fifth (?) floor of an old building way inside Hauz Khas Village with a massive terrace outside. There's no lift; you have to walk all the way up. On one side is a room with giant windows inside which the performing band plays, with the crowd - mostly comprising of friends, well-wishers, fans, and curious cats - standing outside on the terrace watching them and drinking and socializing. Basically, your typical EDM party but with live music, longer hair, and far less make-up and perfume.

In the past, these gigs have attracted around 60-80 people (maybe more), which the terrace can comfortably accommodate. On March 1, the bands on the bill included Begum, Nice Weather for Ducks, Hoirong, The Superfuzz reuniting after some six years, Lifafa, and a "Secret Set", which was going to be Caesars of the Green.  (DISCLOSURE: This writer is a part of Hoirong.) Resident hippie music exponents Begum had kicked off the night, their easygoing vibes gelling in perfectly as things were kicking off and people were getting comfortable on the terrace. The footfall of human bodies kept increasing steadily - we went from 25 to 50 to 75 to, say, a 100 people in like no time. Nice Weather for Ducks got on "stage" - i.e., walked into the room - did their thing. Hi's and hellos were exchanged, big plastic bags full of alcohol and chips and water and soda and Pepsi and Real orange juice were carried around, suitable spots to dump all the stuff at this BYOB affair were found.


This is what the stage at the Penthouse looked from the outside, where all 200 people gathered eventually.


Music was heard, band was experienced through the crackling PA system; space to stand was found and lost within seconds. People kept pouring in - allegedly up to 200 - getting considerably more intoxicated as the evening wore on. Around the time Nice Weather for Ducks were getting done, the place was crammed to capacity, perilously close to claustrophobic levels - the noise of the people and the music of the bands merged together to form an identity of its own. The band's set was good; people had fun. There were far too many band members so you couldn't see all of them from outside since the windows only offered a limited view. It was fairly cool.

Caesars of the Green, who were up next, were setting up when rumours started circulating that cops were in the vicinity. Word on the grapevine was that they were downstairs, most likely daunted by the task of climbing up the five flights of stairs. There was a buzz in the place as people were asked to keep all substance abuse on the Down Low (DL). So bottles were hidden back in the plastic bags they arrived in and the crowd waited cautiously while the band in the room did some minor plucks and plongs, keeping the levels on the DL while managing their soundcheck. The lull lifted soon after, and the party was back on - apparently the cops had left - but people were still asked to remain discreet. Fast forward a few minutes later and two men dressed as cops had reached the terrace and were speaking to the organizers aggressively. Soon enough, Rohan, the PCRC bass player and star of this movie, announced on the mic that we all had to leave the premises. Immediately, guys. Please leave.


The terrace in happier times.


At first, people just hung around, continued drinking. A few of them passed a couple of funny/snide remarks directed at the cops. The band was belatedly asked to stop playing. Instead, Sawhney from PCRC put this little chanting machine he had bought from Vrindavan, attached it to the PA system, and loud bhajans proclaiming the supremacy of Lord Shiva or Lord Rama or Lord Krishna or something began playing. On loop. There was the odd chuckle at the bhajans being played as people started to slowly leave. Very slowly. A couple of people laughed out loud. "I don't know why people would laugh at that," Sawhney told this writer. "I bought that machine from Vrindavan and it's really cool - it can play infinite loops of bhajans, all coming from this tiny little box." Nonetheless, keeping all good intentions on one side, the laughter did tick off the cops, who felt the bhajans being played instead of the loud devil's music that was going on just minutes ago was meant to mock, when it most likely wasn't. So they got that shut down too. God help me, I love cops.

 "Shut it down!" the cop guy yelled in Hindi on the mic. "What is all this? How can you all just gather here? Leave now. No delay." The last bit was in English.

One guy, walking out, decided to make small talk with the copper, offering to help escort all the people out. He was duly told by the cop guy that he will be the first person to be put in the thana. The cop man pointed towards a corner and told him how there were two whole bottles of alcohol lying there. Disgrace! Because cops never ever drink, and especially never ever while on the job. In reality, the number of whole bottles of alcohol was far greater, so the cop's outrage at the sight of two was almost cute.

Finally, after just the slightest bit of rough-housing and shoving people towards the staircase, the place was pretty much empty. Some people stuck around, assuming that the masses would leave while they could hang back and party it up. But everyone had to leave (no shit). And they did. By the end of it, a huge crowd gathered downstairs, outside the building with the address spray-painted on it. The coppers weren't happy still. They didn't even want people standing around outside the house, because they obviously own the street too. So they started pushing us away aggressively. It was magical.

Naturally, once kicked out of one party when only partially buzzed, the people wanted more. So they flocked in the general direction of all the pubs and clubs in Hauz Khas Village. The cops were happy, so I was happy too. Caesars of the Green didn't get to play; this writer's own band didn't get to play; Lifafa didn't get to play (on his birthday!); this writer's favourite Indian band ever of all time, The Superfuzz, didn't get to play. All the people gathered there, anywhere between 125 to 200 depending on who you ask, didn't get to have a good time and check out the bands. That's OK, though; the cop guys were satisfied.

It was a BYOB gig, so no alcohol was being served. No entry fee meant the organizers were making literally no money out of the gig. The main concern of the cops, apparently, was that you cannot host so many people and serve alcohol without a licence. License-less, you are allowed to host only up to 30 people if there's alcohol there. So that's that, then. I don't think the question of 200 people (!) gathered on one small terrace leading to safety issues ever came up. Maybe they were just bitter that they weren't invited.

According to unverified rumours - word on the street, or in the village, if you will - the clubs and pubs in Hauz Khas Village may or may not have supported the bust. The landlord of the "Penthouse" certainly didn't complain, and he usually doesn't have issues with people playing or gathering on his terrace. There were no sound or volume complaints, since the acoustics of the open-air terrace don't cause all that much noise or leakage and the volume levels were all under control as the organizers, PCRC, are veterans in the field of organizing penthouse gigs so they know their shit. The little shops and neighbours didn't complain either - "It's Suryakant bhaiyya's burday," one local shop-owner told me, beaming and excited. In fact, all the neighbouring shop owners and residents were at the party, so it would involve some serious high-level espionage for them to also complain to the cops. And, the best part: the cops didn't even ask for a bribe. That's impressive, especially in a city with no government.

As fantastic and commendable as the DIY sensibilities of the PCRC guys happen to be, the fault is their own - what they don't teach you in DIY school is that the Delhi Police will always be one step ahead of rock 'n' roll, and god bless them for that.  



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