• Thu, Apr 18, 2024

The punk rocker's guide to the underground.

Apr 08, 03:14pm

Bhanuj Kappal is the happiest cynic we know. He's been travelling across gigs, collecting epiphanies and drawing conclusions. Some of them are NSFW but here's what we're willing to share.

Photos: Sridhar/Thayil photograph by Shadaab Kadri/Blue Frog
Bombay Bassment photograph by Laksh Arora/PopSplat

I managed to make it to two gigs last week, both quite different in terms of music, location and audience, but both quite typical of their respective scenes.

The first of these gigs was Sridhar/Thayil’s triumphant return to the live stage after a year-long hiatus at the launch of their Still Tour at Blue Frog -if things had gone according to the script, that is. Instead, we got an opportunity to see an uninspired set by a band with less chemistry than zombie porn while sipping on drinks that cost more than my monthly phone bill.I’m not just being contrarian here, I actually like this band. I hated them when I first saw them live, but the album has slowly grown on me and this was supposed to be the gig where I would gladly eat my words once the dynamic duo weaved their magic onstage. Unfortunately, nobody told the band that.

Sridhar/Thayil at Blue Frog


Apart from a cheeky cover of An Evening in Gay Maharashtra, the set was a perfect example of a good band going through the motions. Everybody played their parts well, but it never really came together. What made it worse, of course, was the audience.When the audience members weren’t busy being painfully hip tweeting about the gig or taking videos with their iPhones, they were having a chat and a smoke outside. What they weren’t doing was dancing, or moving, or showing their appreciation for the music in any significant way. This is pretty typical of a South Bombay audience for a non-weekend, non-EDM gig. It’s almost as if they feel that they’ve done their duty by turning up for the show on a weekday, and any shenanigans involving jumping, dancing or having fun is the responsibility of those who don’t have a job to go to, the next day. Some people, I tell you.

The second gig of the week was the second edition of Bomb Thursdays, a regular night featuring young and upcoming bands at Andheri’s Kino 108 organised by ennuidotBOMB. Kino is one of those strange and weird venues that can’t quite figure out what it wants to be. It’s not the first place to straddle the line between club and lounge, but it complicates matters by throwing a claustrophobia inducing elevator ride and strange lantern-waving sculptures into the mix.Then there was the crowd, a mix of your regular garden variety hipsters, enthu scene kids and some truly kvlt specimens (There was a guy in a Parikrama t-shirt! I waited the entire night for a Pink Floyd request).

Bombay Bassment at Kino 108

The music was a mixed bag; openers Unohu had just gotten done with their board exams (10th grade for one member, 12th for another) and fumbled through their set like the nervous teenagers that they are. Lots of potential there, but no polish and I’m not a particular fan of their new sound, or their new ‘new sound’. The Fringe Pop dished up a tight but not very interesting acoustic set that sounded best from inside the sixth circle of hell aka Kino’s smoking room. But Bombay Bassment made up for the opening acts with an incendiary set that had everybody grooving. Man, DAT RHYTHM SECTION! While I’m not a big fan of the inclusion of wobble-step to their palette of sounds, Bombay Bassmentis a live act at the top of their game. Anybody who wasn’t moving throughout their set was probably dead inside. What made it even better was the sense that everyone here was here because of the music. Kino is far from the cool place to be and nobody brought their date to the gig in order to impress them with a show of disposable income. I’m being a bit of a nostalgia-peddler here but don’t we all love gigs where everybody knows all the songs and likes to sing along?

What’s interesting about these two gigs is that they exemplify two very different scenes in the city. One is the more dominant established scene, with (relatively) big money, posh venues and correspondingly high price points – see: Blue Frog, HRC, Pentagram, Dualist Inquiry. This means better sound, better venues and the bands get paid, but it’s made sustainable by catering to posh upper class snobs with deep pockets. The other scene is much more tentative and subdued, with DIY gigs, far from perfect venues and a focus on being inclusive and independent while still trying to make a profit – see: Rishu Singh. This means occasionally dodgy sound, venues that keep popping up and then disappearing without a trace and less financial security for all involved (but also a whole lotta love). There is of course significant overlap between the two, with a lot of people being involved in both. But it’s fairly obvious which one a nostalgic hipster like me finds much more exciting.

P.S: As I write this, NH7 and Blue Frog have announced ‘The Scene’, a regular night offering some of the hottest young indie acts for free, along with a zine and a platform for bands to sell their merch. Can the indie mainstream bridge the widening gap with the indie underground? Does that last sentence even make any sense? Tune in next column to find out! 

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