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Pune’s High Spirits Café Launches Band Competition, ‘Bandcubator’

The first edition of the contest features 20 bands from Mumbai and Pune aiming for total prize of Rs 2.4 lakhs, a four-city tour and album deal

Rolling Stone India Feb 03, 2016
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The Ska Vengers play to a packed crowd at High Spirits. Photo: courtesy of High Spirits Cafe

The Ska Vengers play to a packed crowd at High Spirits. Photo: courtesy of High Spirits Cafe

With the decline of A&R within record labels, many players in the music industry that previously didn’t have to venture into talent scouting have been taking the matter into their own hands. Whether it is a brand-sponsored video series that showcases new artists [MTV Indies Superdry Krunk Live Sessions], a state-funded rock contest for bands [Nagaland’s Hornbill International Rock Contest] or an indie music compilation that features an exhaustive list of new acts [Stupiditties by ennui.BOMB], the void left by labels is being plugged at many levels. Popular music venue in Pune, High Spirits Café has now decided to do its bit by hosting a band competition called Bandcubator.

The contest, which will kick off on Februaury 7th, features 20 bands from Mumbai and Pune competing over four weekly gigs, followed by a semi-final among four bands and the final two artists on March 13th.  Among a total prize money pool of Rs 2.4 lakhs, the winner takes home Rs 1.4 lakhs, with second place receiving Rs 60,000 and the third placed band taking home Rs 40,000. The only thing that sweetens the deal for the winner ”“ and certainly gives Bandcubator a distinction over college competitions ”“ is an EP recording deal at Cotton Press Studio in Mumbai, a four-city tour booked by artist/event management company Mixtape and a video slot on MTV Indies.

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Band competitions have been, and continue to be, notoriously driven by biases and accusations of being rigged all the time. Besides several small-scale events, even the erstwhile iconic Mumbai competition and festival Independence Rock [I-Rock] has faced flak in the past, so we’re hoping the Pune venue will do things differently with Bandcubator.

High Spirits founder Khodu Irani, who started the café back in 2005, says the initiative was brought about by the need to “provide a potent platform for fresh, professional, deserving bands.” Irani adds, “When I was listening to bands, it was always at competitions. But the big ones like I-Rock have disappeared now.”

Irani and his team decided to keep registrations low-key and picked their own set of bands to qualify for the four preliminary rounds, a decision he explains as personal. Irani adds, “We saw bands like [Pune hard rock band] Silver who have won I-Rock but haven’t got to where they should be. All these [selected] bands have written to me at some point, so I went through their demos and pulled out a few.” Other bands on the Bandcubator lineup include psychedelic rock band MILK, punk/surf rock band Doctor Zebra, alt rockers Unohu, instrumental rock band Celestial Teapot, prog fusion band Raagalogik and more.

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However, Irani will not be a part of the judging panel, which includes Pune veterans such as guitarist Christopher Fonseca [who has worked with rock singer Gary Lawyer], Roger Dragonette [from Mumbai Seventies rock band Waterfront] and regulars such as guitarist Warren Mendonsa aka Blackstratblues, Mumbai vocalist/guitarist Siddharth Basrur, Mixtape founder Naveen Deshpande and more.

While Bandcubator is starting local and also reaching out to Mumbai bands, Irani says within three years, the competition will be nation-wide, involving venues across each part of the country. He adds, “This is just a testing ground. It’s garnered a lot of interest already from bands who want to get selected.”

The Bandcubator at High Spirits, Pune. More details here.

February 7th

Unohu, MILK, The Big Nasty, The Pickled Octopii, Raagalogik

February 14th

USP, A Mutual Question, The June Tom Influence, Left Hand Drive, The Tripp

February 21st

Silver, Moonstruck Project, Celestial Teapot, The Gravy Philosophy, Mannfarid

February 28th

Manefus, Doctor Zebra, Eden, Vitamin M, Skylight Vision

March 6th


March 13th


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