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Peepal Tree Win Bengaluru Leg of Hornbill On Tour 2015

The multilingual alt rockers beat formidable competitors such as Chennai rock & roll band Grey Shack and dream pop/alt rock band Black Letters to win a slot to perform at the Hornbill International Rock Contest in Kohima

Oct 16, 2015
(from left) Music Task Force Nagaland's Theja Meru, Suraj Mani, and members from Peepal Tree - drummer Willy Demoz, vocalist Sujay Harthi and guitarist Tony Das with host and judge Jishnu Dasgupta. Photo: Himanshu Rohilla

(from left) Music Task Force Nagaland’s Theja Meru, Suraj Mani, and members from Peepal Tree – drummer Willy Demoz, vocalist Sujay Harthi and guitarist Tony Das with host and judge Jishnu Dasgupta. Photo: Himanshu Rohilla

Like the Mumbai edition that took place last week, the Bengaluru leg of Hornbill on Tour also showcased the best new bands in the city across a spectrum of genres – whether it was some sludge rock courtesy of Shepherd, dream pop courtesy Black Letters or the multilingual alt rock of Peepal Tree, among the five finalists who competed for a spot on the Hornbill International Rock Contest shortlist.

Peepal Tree, comprising members from veteran bands such as metallers Bhoomi and Thermal and a Quarter, emerged winners for their fresh tunes. They will travel to Kohima, Nagaland in December to compete at the final rounds of the Hornbill International Rock Contest courtesy of the Music Task Force.

Among the five finalists, post-rock band Farfetch’d and Shepherd seemed the most in form, coming in fresh from playing warm up gigs earlier in the week prior to competing. But when Peepal Tree kicked off the evening’s proceedings with songs in Kannada and Hindi like “Konevaregu” and their upcoming single “Roshan-e-Kaafile,” their experience gave them a clear lead, guitarist Tony Das shredding away while also adding prog hues on songs like “Chetana” and “Tangi.”

Meanwhile, Farfetch’d were representing Bengaluru’s always-growing instrumental rock scene, with guitar-led post-rock at its finest. Playing material like “Inert” and the title track off their 2013 debut album The Alchemist, they were however perhaps a bit too meditative for the crowd to take in.

Grey Shack, on the other hand, were the perfect fit for Hard Rock Café, frontman Rohan Sen pouncing around as the band rocked out to new material as well diverse tracks such as the balladesque “Light Her Up.” They were loud and fast like no other, and emerged runnners-up to Peepal Tree. Grey Shack, who have been shortlisted for the Hornbill International Rock Contest several times prior, just missed out once again.

Bengaluru/Kochi alt rockers Black Letters chose to stick mainly to their 2014 EP Shapes on the Wall, leading with an big-room rock sound with catchy tunes such as “You Say,” “Old Firebox” and only managed to play one song showcasing their new dreampop direction, with “Autumn Hue.” Vocalist-guitarist Sharath Narayan said, “This was so much fun, it doesn’t feel like a competition.”

And it seemed as though heavy rockers Shepherd didn’t think that way, either. Drummer-vocalist Deepak Raghu announced as the band kicked into slow, dense songs like “Spite Pit” off their 2015 debut Stereolithic Apocalypse, “We’re Shepherd and we’re here to ruin your evening.”

Just as Mumbai prog/alt rock band Daira won the Mumbai leg of Hornbill on Tour last week to represent the sound of the city, Peepal Tree too will be representing the Bengaluru sound. Among the crowd gathered at Hard Rock Café on a Thursday evening were the likes of folk rockers Raghu Dixit and Vasu Dixit from Swarathma, as well as judge and host for the evening, bassist Jishnu Dasgupta. Also on the jury panel was singer Suraj Mani [formerly of veteran prog rockers Motherjane], who said all competing bands were worthy of playing a big stage anywhere in the country.

Up next, Hornbill on Tour wraps up at Hard Rock Café in New Delhi on October 22nd, featuring bands such as electronica group Tankbund, psychedelic rock act Udan Tashtri, rockers October, math rock/metal band Kraken and alt rock band Chaos in the Capital.

Photos: Himanshu Rohilla

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