Intronaut Plough Through Favorites for IISc Pravega Pro Nite
The Los Angeles metallers braved a few technical glitches to present their confounding brand of sludgy prog on their return to India for a one-off show
The authority and conviction with which college festivals tend to book an international band is part of what’s brought a lot of one-off performances by some of the best in rock and metal. With the case of Pravega, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru’s annual cultural fest, it was a matter of reinvesting their faith in a band like Los Angeles prog metallers Intronaut, who first visited the country in 2009.
Intronaut were now back and headlining Pravega’s Pro Nite on January 21st, playing alongside Battle of the Bands winners – alt rock/nu-metallers Switcheroo – and New Delhi singer-songwriter Dhruv Visvanath. It’s an odd combination on paper, but the college kids who gathered at one corner of IISc’s huge gymkhana grounds were ready to take in any and all music.
So whether it was the calming warmth of Visvanath tapping, slapping and strumming his way through songs about space, prisoners and Botswana or the somewhat clichéd yet high-energy rock/nu-metal of Switcheroo and finally, the complex sludgy prog of Intronaut, Pravega’s Pro Nite had it all. They even had Bengaluru rockers All the Fat Children headline the first day (January 20th) and called on India’s most reliable party-starter, desi bass king Nucleya, to close the festival on January 22nd.
Visvanath, who opened proceedings, joked about space engineers being lonely, when he spotted just two, on “Orbit”. The banter is exactly what you expect of singer-songwriter – introducing his guitar Andrea, tying in current events like demonetisation with “Standing Still”, garnering laughs for how he spent a few years in Zambia but couldn’t find a rhyming word, so he wrote a song called “Botswana” and bringing his soothing calm on songs like “Prisoner”. But when he brought out his backing track-aided harmonious “Rain,” it really made us wish he bought his band. There’s always next time.
Switcheroo, who were at least somewhat in the realm of heavy, groovy music to get listeners set for Intronaut’s performance, had that crowd-pleasing college rock mix of nu-metal, djent, funk rock and then everything in between. We can see why they won the competition – for their chunky basslines, Fred Durst-esque vocals and the occasional solo. And when you perform nu-metal/funk metal mainstays like “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit and “Killing in the Name Of” by Rage Against the Machine, it goes to show that some things will never run out of fashion in the college circuit.
To the din of birds and an ominous guitar tone, Intronaut arrived on stage to play a gig as normally as they would anywhere else in the world. Vocalist-guitarist Sacha Dunable introduced the band and their Los Angeles origins, kicking into “Fast Worms.” Playing their 2015 album The Direction of Last Things in its seven-track, sludge-laden, chaotic glory, Intronaut also left the classics for last – ploughing into their dense sound for “The Welding,” “Core Relations” and “The Literal Black Cloud.”
There’s always a sense of dread when college students host an international band, but the only thing we saw going awry involved guitarist Dave Timnick’s guitar amplifier head, conking off mid-song and once again during another. The guitarist was clearly flustered, but drummer Danny Walker took the attention away, indulging in even more technical drum-work than what’s showcased in Intronaut’s catalog, while Dunable commented, “This is actually part of the show. Pretty entertaining, right?”
Like the best in the business of prog, Intronaut’s songs had everything from too-intense drum patterns to starry interludes and mathematical riffage that you probably can’t headbang to in time. But that’s the best part – that within 10 songs and just over an hour, India’s prog-hungry ears can be sated by being baffled. And just like that, the new year opens on the best note.