Gig Review: Harley Rock Riders VI
Canceled bands, unreliable sound and interrupted sets made for a less than roaring edition of the motorcycle and music fest
Was this year’s edition of Harley Rock Riders a case of half-baked management, an uninterested crowd, or both? With sound issues, canceled acts, shortened sets and a dull overall turnout, it seemed like the sixth edition of the motorcycle and music fest fell short of its revved up rock hype this year.
Day One – All Riled Up
As if it weren’t enough that the event schedule was not announced till the evening before the gig, Harley Rock Riders managed to disappoint before the show even took off on Friday afternoon, canceling four Indian acts due to “unforeseen circumstances” that were later learned to be bought about by licensing issues. Delhi rockers Kraken, Pune metal acts Abraxas and Noiseware and Bengaluru-based folk metallers The Down Troddence were denied their forty-minute sets as a neighboring school apparently decided to play spoilsport. This also meant that apart from the headlining act– thrash metal veterans Megadeth – and a few local bands who snuck their way into a soundcheck, the rest of the acts had to plug in and play. That was an open invitation for a number of sound issues over both days of the gig.
Day one kicked off with Mumbai prog rockers Coshish took the Guvera stage as the opening act, sailing through a cover of American prog rock band Tool’s “Vicarious,” along with their most popular tracks “Maya” and “Mukti” off their 2013 debut Firdous and a newer as-yet-untitled instrumental. Extreme metal veterans Demonic Resurrection followed soon after, as they riled up the 1,000 odd headbangers with epic metal symphonies to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 2005’s A Darkness Descends.
Carrying forward the belligerence were Mumbai metallers Providence, who may have even taken things a bit too far as they broke into a slew of abuses directed towards the sound engineer mid-way through their set. An altercation that, no doubt, showed the band’s staunch following in Mumbai. The thrash/groove metallers blasted through material off Vanguard EP and even a cover of American metallers Mudvayne’s most popular track “Dig,” but the display of rage didn’t last as long as expected, with the sound being muzzled to make way for the next band.
Mumbai metallers Bhayanak Maut, on the other hand, kept the banter to a minimum and got out the mosh pit-mobilizing set comprising material from their 2014 album Man, marking exactly a year since its release. Fresh from their Shillong NH7 Weekender return, the six-member band blasted crowd-favorites like “I am Man” and “Now, Creation. Forever, Destruction.”
But while Mumbai welcomed back its most extreme metal export, it was probably hardcore band Scribe who really won over the swelling audience, as they invited all four canceled acts to perform a song each, before diving into their own dose of eccentricity and polishing off their set with their staple ode to street food, “I Love You, Pav Bhaji.”
With a shaky crescendo towards the headlining act, the crowd now reached its limit as it gathered around the Harley Davidson stage in anticipation of Megadeth’s Mumbai debut. As the lights dimmed and Dave Mustaine ascended the stage to open with the grating “Hangar 18,” the crowd of more than 2,000 people erupted into cheer. But as the band progressed through their set of hits from over the years, many soon realized that instead of Mustaine helming the headlining act, it was drummer Chris Adler [of metal band Lamb of God] and guitarist Kiko Loureiro in his own guitar-shredding splendor holding the act together. Although they picked up the pace and had the audience cheering and chanting their name towards the end, many older attendees realized that this act was far from the thrash veterans they had grown up headbanging to.
Day Two – Short Sets and a Thin Turnout
The second day saw an even bleaker turnout, whether it was for the bubbly opening set by Mumbai alt-rock trio BLEK, Pune’s prog rock band Celestial Teapot [winners of band hunt Find Your Freedom contest] or the less-than-modest gathering of around 250 people for punk rockers The Lightyears Explode and Chennai garage rock band Skrat. Even music personality/bassist P-Man seemed unable to hold the crowd with his usual dose of humor, as he joined the band on stage for “The P-Man Explodes” but was shut down mid-way through the next song, making way for Delhi rock trio Superfuzz. The Delhi-based band, veteran in a way since they’ve been around since 2005, too got the raw end of the deal as their set was cut short by almost 10 minutes in favor of Mumbai reggae act Bombay Bassment.
With all the acts so far being largely uptempo rock trios belting out anthems of rebellion, MC Bobkat’s politically-inclined verses were a pleasant change of pace, with a guest performance by singer Sarosh Nanavaty [from electro rock act Donn Bhat + Passenger Revelator]. On the other hand, The F16s brought back riff-heavy, brash tunes from their upcoming album Triggerpunkte, set against trippy visuals.
In stark contrast to the Chennai rockers’ angst-ridden meditations on “Meow Meow” and “Plastic Skin,” Delhi reggae band The Ska Vengers brought the groove with their dance-friendly set. Theatrical as always with their black bow-tied formals and top hats, they blazed through political confrontations on “Vampire,” jazz power ballads with “I Put A Spell on You” and the jumpy “Rude Boy Skank” despite the lukewarm response.
Swinging back to the end of a spectrum that best suited a motorcycle and music festival was long-standing rock act Indus Creed, who pulled out the classics as they powered through the day’s penultimate set. Despite missing drummer Jai Row Kavi [ who was replaced by drummer Andrew Kanga] and bassist Krishna Jhaveri [currently on tour with prog metallers Skyharbor] who was substituted by Naina Kundu, Uday Benegal and co. sounded massive as ever on stadium-fillers like “Dissolve” and “Fireflies.”
The energy grew from thereon in anticipation of reggae giants the Wailers, with the promise of reliving Bob Marley’s anthems. While the Jamaican band played to a meager turnout of 1,500people, the crowd present chanted and swayed along to classics like “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Buffalo Soldier” and glistened with nostalgia as the Wailers ended the night with “Redemption Song.”
Overall, the sixth edition of Harley Rock Riders paled in comparison to last year’s edition, which brought down American rockers Mutemath and includedbrilliant performances by Mumbai blues rock act Blackstratblues, rock legends Zero bringing in a bit of nostalgia and now-defunct Kolkata rock n’ roll band The Supersonics.
Or perhaps everyone is just saving up for rock royalty Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators’ Mumbai debut next week on November 7th.