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Best (And Worst) of 2012

Our picks of the year’s best albums, gigs and moments on stage

Rolling Stone India Dec 28, 2012
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Soulmate’s Tipriti Kharbangar and Santana. Photo: DNA Networks

Top Gig

Santana

Flash collaborations, note-for-note Seventies gold, two-and-a-half hours of concert rush, Santana didn’t miss a single beat. The American guitar legend won over the crowd in Delhi even before he’d begun his set, stepping on stage to join Shillong blues band Soulmate on their track “Lie” for a short while, leaving the audience cheering for more. Santana began his set with the unmistakable rhythm of West Africa and seemed to have found more nuance with every passing decade in all his hits be it his version of Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” or his own “Black Magic Woman.” It was all hands in the air again, when he showed great generosity by inviting Soulmate vocalist Tipriti Kharbangar back on stage on “Game Of Love” that snagged a Grammy back in 2003. With a sturdy 11-member ensemble that supported him on stage, including the legendary drummer Dennis Chambers, who had just wrapped up the HBC (Henderson/Berlin/Chambers) Super Trio tour, Santana delivered a set that made it straight into our once-in-a-lifetime gig list.

  

Slayer. Photo: Bobin James

Top Metal Gig

Slayer

Yes, this needed a separate category considering the number of metal acts that performed in the country this year ensuring that most fans were broke by the end of the year. Metallica fans be damned, but American thrash metal giants Slayer, minus their guitarist Jeff Hanneman [he was replaced by the equally skilled Gary Holt from Exodus] delivered a show that metal heads will remember for years. For one, Tom Araya spoke in Hindi, smiled a lot for a metaller, drummer Dave Lombardo, who rejoined the band in 2001, rendered a savage double drum assault and Kerry King was just plain joy to watch. Though the turnout wasn’t half of what Metallica drew, the crowd comprised hardcore Slayer fans who could sing-along and simultaneously headbang to most songs from Reign In Blood to Seasons In The Abyss.

Junkyard Groove at G.O.D. festival

Flop Fest

When we stepped into Cocoparra, the venue for the Go On Discover festival in Pune, we found it hard to suspend disbelief. Neon cobwebs and plastic pumpkins at every corner reminded the world that Halloween was around the corner, nevermind that the fest was a good four days ahead of Halloween on October 27th. But no stage markers that would tell us which stage we were at or directions to the next stage. We were there for UK beatboxing genius Beardyman, who was playing his debut show in India. The rest of the line-up including Modern Mafia and Madrobe Walfunction, both upcoming bands from Mumbai that we’d never watched before alongwith BLEK, a favorite  from Mumbai, held promise. Bands were in the middle of their soundchecks at 7pm when the festival was scheduled to begin at 5pm. Much like their schedule that was listed in a confusing reverse order of performance, the soundchecks too were switched about with the headlining band soundchecking just before the show could begin. 

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BLEK put up a fantastic show despite lead vocalist Rishi Bradoo being repeatedly singed by a faulty microphone and the production crew turning a blind eye until the end of his set. Beardyman’s set was also rife with technical glitches turning into a  massive letdown both for the artist and the audience. With barely 200 people at the poorly publicized event, the G.O.D. festival was an example of everything a music festival shouldn’t be. 

Top New Venues

Undying Inc bassist Reuben Bhattacharya at Blue Frog Delhi’s first metal night Photo: Blue Frog

Blue Frog, Delhi

The music venue, which opened in December 2011, gave music enthusiasts reason to cheer. In the last couple of years, rock mecca Turquoise Cottage morphed into a karaoke bar, while metallers mourned the metal nights at Mezz, since it shut shop in 2011. With Blue Frog opening, they could finally look beyond the underground gigs at Green Park’s Grand Sartaj Hotel and raise their fists at a plusher moshpit. Bands, which until then had to make do with Hard Rock Café’s faulty sound set up, were also happy to perform at this venue that boasts of equipment from German audio giants d&b audiotechnik. In 2013, electronica superstar Gotye will play just one gig in the country at Blue Frog, Delhi. 

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Liberty Cinema, Mumbai

Watching a concert while seated on a sliding chair may not be everyone’s idea of an ideal gig, but once you’ve sunk in, the acoustics of this single-theater are bound to impress. We recently caught UK folk pop act The Staves and Fink in concert at the theatre that recently opened up for gigs and returned completely charmed. The 700-seater with its art deco interiors and a balcony area is perfect for intimate, folksy concerts. Now if only someone would arm twist Norah Jones into a short pre-festival gig, we’d be all set in 2013.

Jayamahal Palace, Bengaluru

With a blanket ban on gigs at Palace Grounds this year, the country’s concert capital had to look for another venue within city limits. Clarks Exotica, Embassy International Riding School, NICE Grounds Dasanapura Hobli are all located over 20 kms away and though Bhartiya City made for a good venue, its location [10kms from the city] was a downer. So a wedding venue right next to Palace Grounds seemed to fit the bill. Jayamahal Palace hosted a packed show for the Children of Bodom concert this year and may just be the place swarming with black Tees all of next year as well.

Biggest Stage Tantrum

This one almost went entirely unnoticed. Most of us expected fireworks from Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose. Hell, we didn’t expect him to show up. So when Axl did take to stage in India, fans were willing to forgive everything else. Even bassist Tommy Stinson’s Axl moment. When GN’R ended their three-city India tour in Gurgaon, Stinson was put out at the idea of a two-track encore and marched off stage after the band wrapped up “Paradise City.” Axl followed him and nudged him back on stage for “Nice Boys,” only to have Stinson fling his bass across the stage, give the crew a middle finger and leave the rest of the band to finish the set. If only Axl had slipped him one of those asprins or whatever he was popping in Mumbai, all may have just ended well.

 

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