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The Eastwind Music Festival ’08 (Day Two): A Review

By Kriti Gupta | March 25, 2008

Split Magazine: Eastwind 2008Date: February 23, 2007 | Venue: NSIC Grounds, New Delhi

Three days! Three stages! 60 bands! Original music! Hundreds of screaming fans! This is the largest music festival India has ever seen. This is Eastwind.

These were the words that greeted me from across the infinite World Wide Web. The Eastwind (NUNusual) music festival was touted as the Woodstock of India.

The Delhi music scene is a strange mixture of paradoxes. On the one hand are the bands that continue giving loud, boisterous performances — and the strange impression that they have recently escaped from the nearest zoo. Others are creating sounds and developing patterns that come straight from the heart and touch the soul.

I have to admit that despite being completely saturated with the clichéd gigs I had been subjected to, the way the festival was marketed gave me hope that it was more than an evening of mindless head banging — that it would further the music scene in leaps and bounds.

As I entered the venue, the first thing that welcomed me was a sparsely decorated parking lot. In the midst of heat and dust and one sultry afternoon, I felt that something was missing. I could not hear music emanating from the stage. I could not see an overwhelming crowd of music lovers and radicals, ready to revolutionise music.

The concert ground was well set up. It was a rock lover’s paradise. There were three stages called ‘Rumble’, ‘RSJ’ and ‘On Stage’ with bands performing simultaneously. There was a bar which had cheap drinks (and no drunken brawl surprisingly!). Also, there was a coffee shop, a pizza place and a tattoo parlor. The crowd, albeit thin initially, was quite good (a testimony to the lack of drunken brawls).

And finally… we come to the music.

I attended the festival on Saturday, which I thought sounded most interesting. The line up was impressive with Thermal And A Quarter, Half Step Down, Pentagram and others.

The first band I checked out was Five Little Indians. They had a good, clean sound and played a tight set. Perhaps it would have served them better to play later in the day. In the hot, sleepy Saturday afternoon, people were lounging around instead of meeting the gyrating demands of the music.

The first Eastwind festival was a mixed bag. The organisation and management was impeccable, but a lot still needs to improve as far as forays into alternative Indian music are concerned.

One person who was fulfilling such demands was the bassist of Little Babooshka’s Grind. When they came up on stage, his antics made several girls blush. Then there was the heavy metal sound of Bangalore’s MyndSnare, who need no introduction. Though the bassist and the drummer were good, both bands failed to impress and seemed to follow the clichés that I have come to dislike. Then there was Gautam Ghosh who started his set with percussion. I really liked the organic nature of his sound. However, it was one of the less-attended performances.

The three stages caused much confusion (and exercise) for me. Often, I would leave good performances for the fear of missing out something brilliant elsewhere. Also, there was a jamming stage in the center that was completely wasted.

The bands that played later in the afternoon were better established and so by five o’clock, the place was swarming with people. The transition from the lesser known bands to the more popular was made by Half Step Down.

I had heard a lot about their music. It was described as definitive blues with a clean bass-driven sound and well-maintained percussion. Having never heard them before, this was one band I was really looking forward to. By the end of their set, I was rather disappointed with their performance. There was nothing exceptional in their sound — they sounded like every other rock band. The definitive “distinctive” blues touch seemed to be in short supply. Perhaps they picked the wrong songs to play or decided to go in a new direction, I really don’t know. Either way, they did not live up to the praise bestowed on them.

Then there was Jalebee Cartel. I loved the name of the band, reminds me of a cart wheeling jalebi! It was different and intriguing enough for me to go check them out. The music cannot be defined as rock; rather it was a sort of electronic R&B. And like the name, it was just as refreshing. I really enjoyed their set. They managed to get the crowd going and gave one of the better performances of the day.

The concert ended with Pentagram, Skinny Alley and Thermal And A Quarter. Pentagram and TAAQ were predictably brilliant. Both had the audiences eating out of their hands. The music was straightforward and intense. I kept shunting between the two stages, unable to decide which one I’d rather see. I had expected the same quality from Skinny Alley. Though I had never seen them live before, I had heard a lot about them. But like Half Step Down, I was not impressed. I think they must have got their sound check wrong or something, because it did not all come together. I felt like there were stray bits of music being doled out at me.

However, the best part of the day was not actually saved for last. The one performance that made this entire day worthwhile was Soulmate‘s. They were just amazing! This is, again, a band that I was watching for the first time. When they started playing, I thought “good, clean sound”. Two minutes into the song, I was completely mesmerised. The sexy, sultry voice of the lead singer Tipriti Kharbangar was spellbinding. The blues tones from guitarist Rudy Wallang were simply phenomenal. The chemistry between them translated into the chemistry with the audience. I have not witnessed such an enchanting performance in a long long time.

There was no need to headbang or jump around like possessed monkeys. It was easy and laidback; a space where the music was the inspiration. That moment, for me, was when it actually did feel like Woodstock (or what I imagine of it). I was blown away!

The first Eastwind festival was a mixed bag. The thought behind it seems to be in the right direction and the organisation and management was impeccable. A lot still needs to improve as far as forays into alternative Indian music are concerned. I would say this is a small step in that direction, not a giant leap.

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