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Strawberry Fields Forever

This year’s edition of the National Law School’s annual festival was witness to one of the most fiercely fought battle-of-the-bands in the country

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Jan 19, 2009

Nat Geo’s guilty dream was coming alive. Thick fluorescent beams of laser infinity shot across the grey night. Dancing bullets of rain split that phosphorescence into gigantic Celtic harps. Man pelted on the metallic cymbals and double-kick pedals. Wild made him headbang rhythmically. Alpha Beam 300s focussed brightly on nothingness. Till they caught the swaying, towering trees that held the grounds captive. Strawberry Fields made a poet out of a hopelessly drenched night in the back of beyond that they call the National Law School of India. Man versus wild was no amorous contest here.

“This one’s not a pleasant dedication,” announced the vocalist of Metal Messiah, one of the five finalists of this colossal band battlefield. “It’s for all those people standing at the back, not willing to come forward. This song is called ”˜Loser.’ ” You smiled, and started bobbing your head with the beats again. The Static X-esque discovery of this year’s SF is a good addition to the crop of nu/industrial metal acts rising through the nation. Pin Drop Violence a few years back was a hit here, no wonder.

An hour earlier, three days, 55 bands and tons of live music later, Blood And Iron started the finale with King Of Darkness. Their upbeat black metal was tight enough to keep most of the crowd put while the heavens opened up and poured. Some broke away into the asbestos vendor stalls. Some pulled down the sponsor banners tenting underneath. Many just soaked in the rain and music.

Blood And Iron was followed by Rosemary. A relatively non-descript, young yet talented band from Mumbai that eventually turned out to be the dark horse. They pipped Grey Shack to win the night. Not announcing the names of their songs or introducing the band, Rosemary just played ”“ good rock/grunge. Their take on ”˜Come Together’ was unique, almost avant garde, and their winning was not entirely unpredictable, if you’d spoken to the judges.

“This year was a great mix of genres. Last year we had four bands that were just metal.” That from Geoffrey Thomas, RJ, National Programming Director of Radio Indigo, was indicative enough that the metal acts may not be what the judges were looking for.

Chili Potato played groovy rock, catering to the Bengaluru masses by rendering their version of the legendary Dr Rajkumar’s ”˜If You Come Today.’ Their keyboards were matched only by the hyperactive vocalist of Grey Shack. Popular votes suggest Grey Shack should’ve won. Then again several bands that played during that past two days should’ve won. Inner Sanctum, not making it to the finals two years in a row, was being missed sorely in many quarters.

Whatever was being missed about women not playing on the night quickly disappeared when Shruti Haasan and the Extramentals took stage. She was wearing a hippie T-shirt: fcuk war. And many were being them hippies, urging her to take it off. She’d surely heard that before, and played even louder.

But loud was when Vishal Dadlani took centre stage. Adding to the noise, he declared that they bust-up their comp, and Pentagram will have to perform without their synthetic loops and electro. What next? A bikini-bloused Miss World dancing up on stage asking who the hottest girl in the world is? How Pentagram showed the world once again that Bollywoodization, shmoliwoodization means nothing. Now was party time for all the hard-working organising committee students from NLS who quickly abandoned their posts and joined in the fun. Pentagram proved that come thunderstorm, come One Day cricket, come time restrictions, come what may, when it came to music, “there just ain’t no party like a Bangalore party.”