Review: Keep It Real EDM Festival
Highs and lows from the just-launched EDM fest in Bengaluru
PUMA’s had some successful musical endeavours in the past, aligning itself with artists like Delhi-based audiovisual collectiveÂ BLOT! and design collectives such as Busride. The latest occasion was a three-day electronica festival called ”˜Keep it Real’ nights in Bengaluru. All this was going down at their very first venue, the PUMA Social Club, which is in the same building as the centrally-located store in Indiranagar in Bengaluru. The lineup was created with the idea to present a small slice of the evolution of dance music.
Much like Mumbai and New Delhi, Bengaluru was flooded with rain as well. The space itself was not any worse for wear, as the upstairs terrace, where the gigs were to take place, was covered with sturdy tarpaulin. The Social Club, built over three floors, is a big win. Floor one has two sections partitioned by a glass wall, one of which is a cafeteria-like eatery with a tidy menu. The other has a bar leading into a room dominated by a sprawling installation created by Busride and BLOT! called the “Play Machine”; a mass of metal which had everything from a typewriter to an old-school PC with Mario Brothers set up on it. The Social Club’s all about upcycling, which involves re-using old materials to create new products. So, old VHS tapes are born again as ashtrays, walls are created from old scrap metal and old factory parts are converted into furniture. There’s no air-conditioning, but duct pipes carry air from coolers to different parts of the club.Â
A wooden staircase also leads up to the terrace, which has a large bar and enough room to dance, with steps on the side that lead to another smaller terrace available for parties. This feels like the future of dance music in India. DJs and audiences want just that one-degree of separation between them with more energy and intimacy. Clubs can’t provide that, simply because it’s hard to fill up a huge space. Days one and two at ”˜Keep It Real’ hardly had that problem. By 9pm, it got so crowded, it was almost impossible to move. While they did shut the doors, pre-sale tickets ensured a steady mass of people arriving in waves. This was personally uncomfortable, but no one else seemed to care, so Benguluru, you get two thumbs up.
Day one was dedicated to ”˜Old School Scratch’ and it was owned by DJ Uri, who spun everything from LL Cool J to Naughty by Nature. The Jiver and Sam [of State of Bengal]Â collaboration that followed was a smidgen harder, but we were still reeling from Uri’s essential set to fully commit to it. Sam then took over as his proper moniker, State of Bengal, closing the day with a dubby-grinding set that left us satiated ”¦ and sweaty. The rain was clearly not a dampener for this crowd. Day two closed with Dualist Inquiry. You couldn’t get in the door while he played, because it was overrun with people. We settled for watching him on the TV screen in the cafeteria downstairs, bopping our heads as he wafted through his set, “Qualia” included.Â Sandunes, Jiver Upcycle Beats and Teddy Boy Kill had about an hour each to play before him, and while Sandunes was ambient, chill and compelling, Teddy Boy Kill and Jiver got a bit too shouty in the middle.
Day three ”“ ”˜Future Techno’ ”“ hit the spot for me since it wasn’t as suffocatingly packed as the first two days. Kohra kicked in with a set that started off deep with nu-disco sounds and progressed towards more techno organically, setting the tone perfectly. Tuhin Mehta took over and upped the tempo gradually, closing with some acidic Josh Wink. And then Anil Chawla ”“ one of the finest DJs in the country at the moment ”“ took over and all hell broke loose. He even threw in that vintage gem, Armand Van Helden’s “Professional Widow” featuring Tori Amos’ ethereal vocals, which was a whammy that everyone loved. This was the real deal as far as indoor, underground music raves went. If that isn’t keeping it real, we don’t know what is. As far as a property goes, this one’s a keeper due to its clever programming, easy vibe and the right kind of venue. More crowd-control next time, and we’ll have a proper winner.