Rock Ruled at Indie March Festival 2016, Bengaluru
The first festival edition of the Bengaluru gig series pulled in impressive numbers for stand-out sets by the likes of stoner rock band Colour Haze and UK instrumental rockers 65daysofstatic
For every big-name sponsor-labeled festival that crops up, there’s also another DIY event that just wants to put together the best live acts in the country. Bengaluru music consultants CounterCulture, who ran the venue of the same name for five years until 2015, announced the two-day festival edition of their gig series Indie March earlier this year.
When you have the word ‘indie’ in your festival name, you’re bound to raise a few eyebrows, but Indie March managed to walk the fence between garnering sponsor support and skilfully programming artists. It put together international headliners such as German stoner/psychedelic band Colour Haze, UK electronic/instrumental rock band 65daysofstatic, electronic music producers such as Gaudi, Flako and Onra. None of these artists are widely followed compared to the international headliners that every other festival aims for, but even then, there were about 800 to a thousand people gathered over two days to witness 65daysofstatic burst into their cinematic yet noisy tracks, as well as the trippy energy of Colour Haze.
Amongst Indian artists picked to perform, CounterCulture preferred to go back to artists who have played Indie March’s club outings in the last three years, including crowd-pullers such as Malayalam rock band Avial, Bengaluru prog/psych rock band Parvaaz, Chennai garage rockers Skrat. No surprise, all three drew in a few hundreds at the Harman Live stage with brilliant sets. On the electronic music front, the festival once again called upon the old faithful lot of artists who have performed at CounterCulture the venue multiple times – from Delhi’s Teddy Boy Kill to Bengaluru producer Fuzzy Logic.
The only issue – apart from the sweltering 35-degrees heat on both days that can’t exactly be helped – was that the audience felt much more compelled to lay around the grass at the Gonzo main stage than stand around in a warehouse-like Adidas Originals NMD 0101 Stage that was fit for hosting at least a thousand. Meanwhile, the Alienware stage was set-up at an amphitheatre — with barely any space for more than a hundred people and the sound from the Harman Live stage annoyingly audible over every artist who played there. Even worse was Carnatic prog rockers Agam’s set clashing with the noisiest set of the festival, courtesy of Scottish psychedelic rockers The Cosmic Dead over at the Gonzo stage behind the Harman Live stage on day two.
But it wasn’t exactly a raw deal for electronic artists – the likes of dubstep/reggae veteran producer Gaudi, Scottish electro-pop duo Happy Meals and trip-hop/downtempo duo Sulk Station sounded their best. While Delhi’s Dualist Inquiry twanged his guitar through a fairly good turnout, Sulk Station were programmed a bit early in the day, and ended up playing to just a handful, picking out new material such as “Bleak” and “Suppressed.”
Sulk Station’s rare gig was also complemented by an equally rare gig by Kolkata dream pop duo Parekh & Singh, who ran through glitchy, futuristic new material such as “Computer World,” “Drum Machine” and “Je suis la Pomme Rouge.” The stand-out sound on day one belonged to rock & roll, though, with Bengaluru duo Diarchy nailing their set and Skrat taking over with their raucous energy.
At the main Gonzo stage, early starters such as Chennai electro rock band The F16s and Ahmedabad/Mumbai post-rock band Aswekeepsearching played what probably wasn’t their best set to fewer crowds. Sound issues plagued Aswekeepsearching’s set, but they managed to close on a high with “B-303.” Building the spectrum of heavy music, sludge band Shepherd performed the perfect precursor to Colour Haze, improvising an hour-long set that included “Black Cock of Armageddon” and “Turdspeak.” Colour Haze brought the evening to a loud, thundering close, performing hits such as “Moon,” “Transformation,” “Tempel” and even returning for an encore with “Get It On.” The three-member band have had a bit of a demand in India, with calls for bringing them down starting via social media as early as 2011. The band probably gained just as many new fans at Indie March, though.
The Gonzo stage on day two featured a loud set by Bengaluru rockers All the Fat Children, while The Cosmic Dead joked their way through a noisy jam, joking about a sustained stage noise as a reference to composer John Cage and calling another portion of a song a cover of British pop artist Lily Allen. But they ended up playing beyond their set time, no laughing matter for both organizers as well as the audience that just didn’t seem to grasp their music. A much bigger crowd gathered to catch Mumbai instrumental rock/metal band Pangea, who even included faster new material such as “History of You,” drummer Jai Row Kavi continually pushing the drum fills, even going into a few blistering blast beats. This performance is one among many that places Pangea on the road to becoming one of the best live bands in the country.
Indie March closed with 65daysofstatic’s setting of danceable electronic rock mixed with the poignancy of post-rock. Favoring material from their 2013 album Wild Light, the band kicked off with “Heat Death Infinity Splitter” and “Prisms” and then jumped a decade back into their first album The Fall of Math, with the triumphantly loud “Retreat! Retreat!”. With fans incredulously shouting “How can you be so good?” frontman Joe Shrewsbury shot back, “Don’t worry, there’s still enough time for us to fuck it up.” But the four-member band from Sheffield only furthered the journey into their catalog, including the much-demanded “Radio Protector,” “Piano Fights” and “Safe Passage.”
There’ll be few who can forget a festival as well-programmed as Indie March. Even the inclusion of The Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel – the spectacle of folk music amidst rock and electronica – found curious takers. Of the new lot, Diarchy and electronic duo Shreyas & Nikhil impressed immediately, which shows there’s still a lot more talent that deserves a stage. With a few relooks at their stage areas, Indie March is definitely on its way to being a must-attend festival.