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Diary of a Madman #5: Do Tribute Gigs Deserve Cover-age?

“Are tribute gigs cancer to the Indian metal scene?” asks mad scientist Dr. Hex in our metal special column

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Riju Dasgupta Jul 11, 2016
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Albatross paid tribute to Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and Megadeth at Hard Rock Cafe, Worli. Photo by Bryan Jacob Daniel.

Albatross paid tribute to Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and Megadeth at Hard Rock Cafe, Worli. Photo by Bryan Jacob Daniel.

In the 5th Century AD, Kalidasa’s poetry inspired passion, rage, mirth and many other emotions in society. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Kalidas Shenoy’s writings [on his Facebook status messages], have inspired much the same reaction within a significant population. While the ancient poet described the spellbinding tale of Shakuntala in magnificent detail; his modern namesake expressed his grievances at the new trend of tribute shows that have bloomed in/are plaguing the nation, depending on your perspective.  Some of you may have wondered why I did not have a status message pertaining to this “hot topic”, and the answer is because I wanted to be paid for my opinion. Ta-daa!

What am I talking about? If you’re connected with musicians from the Indian music circuit on social media, you must have seen updates by them, asking you to come and support them while they pay tribute to their favourite artists [if you haven’t, I’m afraid to say you know some terrible musicians]. Even personally, with Albatross, I was part of an Ozzy and a Motörhead Tribute [which was part of a Prince, The Eagles and Stone Temple Pilots Tribute, ie. Gigception], and quite honestly had a blast at both shows. But are tribute gigs Cancer to the Indian metal scene? Or can a Libral balance of tribute and non-tribute shows enhance the scene? Can the Indian metal circuit Aries, I mean ”˜arise’ to its potential, when tribute gigs are, quite often, the most profitable option? Let’s find out, shall we?

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I’ll be honest. The Ozzy tribute we performed at Hard Rock Café was our most profitable show this year. There was a lot of ground-work involved, including learning many songs from scratch”¦but guess what, it was a whole lot of fun. For a band that’s been promoting an album for almost a year, this was a welcome distraction from playing our own set and working together to put on what was, in my opinion at least, a very solid show. Of course, it was naturally a matter of pride to pay tribute to a band that has inspired our music, to such a great degree. Our fans traveled from out of town to attend this gig, and none of them were disappointed. Some metalheads in the crowd, who saw us for the first time, said they’ll attend our own shows in the future. And every penny that was earned will be put back into making new music this year. My conscience is clearer than the skies were until a few weeks ago. But let’s address a few genuine concerns raised on Facebook.

One point that I felt held a lot of weight was that we’re regressing to the early 2000s, where tribute gigs were the norm. You would be pelted with stones [quite literally”¦ask Sahil Makhija] if you dared to play your own music. Fair enough. I daresay I don’t think this is a genuine assessment though. While I’m oblivious to most of the non metal shows that happen in the city, there haven’t been these many metal gigs in a while. On an average, three metal shows happen every month in Mumbai/Navi Mumbai. Even as someone who attends metal shows, I am spoiled for choice. While none of these shows pay as much as tribute gigs do, most of these venues are packed to the hilt quite often. I’d say the sheer volume of gigs has never been greater for metal bands. So, what’s the harm in playing tribute gigs in this booming scenario?

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Is it ethical to make money from someone else’s music? I think it is. I’ve never known any musician to be put off by bands paying tribute to them. I remember Warrel Dane putting up a Facebook status recently, about how he was going to attend a Nevermore tribute show, fold his arms and stand in front of the singer in the front row. Epic metal legends Manilla Road constantly post covers of their music on social media. John Gallagher from Raven was all praise for our cover of “The Savage and the Hungry”, as he was for all the other bands on the compilation CD that comes out this year. Miya bibi raazi, toh kya karega Kali?

In conclusion, I don’t think Tribute gigs are detrimental to the scene, and are a lot of fun to attend, even as a spectator. It shows your musical lineage to your own fans, and help them gain appreciation of the musician you are, to a much greater degree.

PS: Sorry for ripping on Kalidas through the article, but I only did it because he’s a very good friend and a real sport. Check out his band ‘Punk On Toast‘.

 

Riju Dasgupta does not exist. The writer of this piece is an illusion created by mad scientist Dr. Hex, who makes it seem like he plays bass for Albatross and Primitiv. But because bass is inaudible, one truly knows that he doesn’t exist.

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