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Festival Report: Control ALT Delete 12, Mumbai

Experimentation, political commentary and spunk reined heavy over two days of the crowdfunded indie music festival

Mumbai heavy metallers Albatross perform at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

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Control ALT Delete (CAD), Mumbai’s fully crowdfunded, D.I.Y. festival returned for its 12th edition over the past weekend amidst the grit and dirt of Malad’s Roaring Farms. Although the event clashed with the SulaFest in Nashik, CAD managed to pull in an enthusiastic crowd across five stages of eclectic sets. 

CAD also paid tribute to gig organizer Rishu Singh through a mural by graffiti artist Zake.

Not necessarily trying to scale up but perhaps strengthen their position as a discovery festival for the brightest and latest in Indian independent music, CAD also paid tribute to gig organizer Rishu Singh, who passed away last year. Part of the team that ran the show at CAD, a mural in his memory by graffiti artist Prathmesh Gaurav aka Zake ensured that a familiar face was not too far for indie diehards.

Kashmiri hip-hop artist Ahmer performs at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

In terms of the flow of both days, it took some time for people to get warmed up between the sets at the hip-hop inclined Mumbai 95 stage and the soulful singer-songwriter special Synths and Strings stage but both began to hold their own soon enough. Mumbai rapper Tienas brought the FTS crew out for his set infused with elements of R&B, soul, nu-metal, EDM and more. The rapper served tracks fresh off his debut album O, including “Die Romeo Die,” “Nice Guy” and more with DJ Blunt supporting the act. Kashmiri hip-hop artist Ahmer took to the stage next, saying with a wry tone, “Looks like people heard my name and ran away.” He got straight to the point with his set, speaking about how things had changed in Srinagar since the abrogation of Article 370. Ahmer belted incendiary with tracks from his mixtape Inqalab as well as his debut LP Little Kid, Big Dreams, and the crowd was particularly moved during the powerful “Elaan.” 

New Delhi dub, reggae and hip-hop duo Bass Foundation Roots Soundsystem perform at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

Mumbai crews Slumgods and Street Styles performed a high-octane set, bringing out the didgeridoo and the morsing as their breakers too took to the stage, ending with a freestyle session and closing the Mumbai 95 stage for day one of CAD. Day two featured crews such as Dogz Music and M Town Breakers representing the spectrum of hip-hop, while New Delhi duo Full Power – Yungsta and Frappe Ash – were unsparing and deservedly demanded the crowd’s attention. The capital’s dub, reggae and hip-hop duo Bass Foundation Roots Soundsystem — who had hauled their own speakers in their van and hoisted a banner that read “the people united shall always be victorious” — teamed up with the likes of MC Mawali (from hip-hop crew Swadesi) to throw a massive feel-good yet message-driven party. 

Urdu blues artist Sameer Rahat performs at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

On day one, we caught Mumbai singer-songwriter Ankur Tewari dazzling listeners with his soulful set at the Synths & Strings stage, ending with “Jeene Mein Aaye Maza” from the Gully Boy (2019) soundtrack. Usually the first stage to ease the attendees in, day two featured singer-songwriters such as Siddhartho Poddar, Urdu blues from Sameer Rahat (who closed with “Gyaan” and made sure the crowd sang along), the wavy alternative rock of Rounak Maiti and his band, plus an even trippier set from producer-DJ Kumail. 

Kolkata alternative hip-hop collective Park Circus perform at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

Over at the rock and indie peddling Sidestand stage, day one featured acoustic folk-pop outfit Second Sight’s serene, sunny set, peppered with interactions by vocalist Anusha Ramasubramoney for songs like “Fragile.”  Kolkata alternative hip-hop collective Park Circus found themselves shifted to day one of CAD’s schedule, still managing to turn up the drama and fun with their vibrant, wry and political set, bringing in tones of funk as they played from their 2019 eponymous LP, including the tracks “700017,” “Blame The President,” and more. 

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If there was any stage that was unfairly drawing a lower crowd at some point, it was the Sidestand stage. Where the Electric Jungle was always bopping, Sidestand dazzled with post-punk/shoegaze band Honey’s Dead, bringing a wall of noise, while Corner Cafe Chronicles surprised with buoyancy (plus songs off their upcoming album Renaissance)  and the Boombay Djembe Folas brought a little bit of Africa to India. 

Serpents of Pakhangba perform at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

On day two, however, the standout set remained Mumbai avant-garde/experimental act Serpents of Pakhangba and their unpredictable intensity. Weird is one thing, but Serpents were madcap – from pulverizing drum work to shapeshifting vocals and seemingly incalculable time signatures. They were followed by the well-intentioned electro rock of New Delhi’s The Pirate Radio. Despite some apparent jitters or lack of cohesiveness, they managed to power through a mostly memorable live debut. In addition to rock mainstays Blakc, The Many Roots Ensemble kept things refreshingly groovy while pop-rock artist Sharma and the Besharams closed proceedings. 

Kochi producer-DJ Parimal Shais performs at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

Act after act, the Electric Jungle stage had no trouble at all drawing in people as the sun began its descent. New Delhi electronica act Rijul Victor aka Corridors brought out violinist Tamara Mayela and guitarist Saksham Gupta for his ambient, eclectic set that flowed fluid between glitches of drums, violin and electric riffs. They were followed by one half of Mumbai electronica duo Three Oscillators’ Brij Dalvi whose experimental use of nature-like plugins melded well with the industrial verdure surrounding the stage, even teasing an upcoming collaboration with Visakhapatnam producer Kalmi. Kochi’s rising producer-DJ Parimal Shais ran seismic glitch-hop that sampled older Indian film music, while Bengaluru’s Oceantied introduced more hip-hop and bass blends to turn things up. 

Kerala classic thrashers Amorphia perform at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

If the Electric Jungle was drawing anyone who wanted to dance, the Survive This stage was for anyone who wanted to see dust-raising moshpits and whirlwind headbanging. Day one brought out Bengaluru rock duo Diarchy, who conjured a brutal set comprising material off their 2017 LP Here Lost We Lie  and their forthcoming album Splitfire. Mumbai heavy metal favorites Albatross returned to the stage after a slight gap, introducing new guitarist Akash Kar. While political statements were worn loud and proud by frontman Biprorshee Das, it was tales of fantastical horror for their set, featuring songs such as “Jugglehead the Clown,” “Children of the Cloud” and one of their earliest tracks, “The Dining Table” from 2010’s EP Dinner Is You. Kerala classic thrashers Amorphia — on the back of releasing their new album Merciless Strike last month — ran through a frenetic, unrelenting set. 

Hyderabad thrash/death metallers Godless perform at CAD. Photo: Swaraj Sriwastav

Day two of the Survive This stage featured a somewhat hard-hitting set from punk rockers The Riot Peddlers — who had also just released their new record Strength in Dumbers. Jumping past a few technical hurdles, they sounded as hardcore as ever, while Letters brought more instrumental intensity, followed by even more pummeling metal from Sukhna, Darjeeling’s If Hope Dies. At their Mumbai debut, the crowd remained warm and receptive as vocalist Aakash Sherpa stepped down from feeling overwhelmed about the moment. Hyderabad thrash/death metallers Godless, however, were less talk and more brutal action, even without their guitarist Ravi Nidamarthy who had to sit it out last minute, performing off their two EPs Centuries of Decadence and Swarm

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Where CAD chose not to pack in too many artists, they did give more attention to their stage designs and production, with Mumbai 95’s painstakingly well-detailed murals by Zake making it graffiti central, while Mumbai’s Aaron Pinto aka Kidsquidy brought his electric neon vision of the wilderness to the Electric Jungle stage where animals skirted the lines between reality, abstract, and the space occupied by humans, bearing influences of Mayan and Aztec art. For the Survive This stage, Anything Metal Works’ Johan Pais and Zarwan Elavia went borderline minimalistic for rumbling impact. The bare-bones steel wall topped with dripping tar was perfect for the metal acts that took to the stage. The design duo even created frayed barbed wire and stainless steel CAD installations across the farm. New Delhi designer Aaquib Wani created colorful standing thread installations for the Sidestand stage to pay homage to Mumbai’s environmental activists, especially those fighting to conserve the local Aarey forest. The stage blazed with unapologetic and fearless color even after the sun set.

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