Indiegaga’s 2022 Bengaluru Edition Was An Exquisite Sadya
Indiegaga 2022 Bengaluru edition on November 19 was a spectacle to enjoy, featuring a diverse and rock-rooted lineup. This included Bengaluru funk pop rock band Lagori, Sithara Krishnakumar-led Indie folk fusion act Project Malabaricus, Chennai folk acoustic project Sean Roldan & Friends, and Arivu and The Ambassa Band led by Arivu of Enjoy Enjaami fame.
In addition, the latter half featured the biggest Kerala rock bands viz. The Down Troddence, Agam, Thaikkudam Bridge, and Avial. Except for Agam, this was my first time witnessing these live acts which are firmly embedded into Indian independent music mythology.
While we missed the earlier acts, we were just in time for the bands we were most eager to see for the night at Indiegaga.
The first band we witnessed was Kannur Folk Groove/Thrash metallers The Down Troddence. Laying down the backdrop was Sushin Shyam, one of the hottest composers in Malayalam films right now, on his synths and keys, along with the irresistible force that is Munz on roaring vocals. Riff masters Guitarist Varun Raj and Advaith Mohan and drummer Ganesh Radhakrishnan were the metal monsters that fuelled this machine. Bassist Nezer Ahemed was loud and thundering donning his signature plush aviator-style beanie.
TDT’s set began with Kolam with its mystical blend of chenda rhythms, double bass drums, sitar drones, and chunky guitars. The yet unreleased track is touted to be part of their upcoming sophomore album. This was followed by the riff fest regulars of TDT that were Kfc and Death Vanity. From the Vedic chanting, we got a transition into the familiar bass riff of Shiva. The Down Troddence were at their best brutal and magnificent live form. Huge vocals coupled with irresistible grooves with the right doses of hypnotic drones and magnetic soundscapes. Not an act to miss for live and heavy music lovers! Fans might have missed two major songs Nagavalli and Forgotten Martyrs from the set.
The next act at Indiegaga were Carnatic progressive rock veterans Agam. Featuring Bengaluru veteran tech lord vocalist Harish Sivaramakrishnan albeit with a shorter hairdo and the formidable TPK on guitars. Harish was at his usual virtuosic best with his signature superelastic vocal delivery. Someone from the audience asked for Sreeragamo, the immortal Yesudas-MG Radhakrishnan ballad. To his Harish retorted “Indie music festival, ser!?”
Agam have gained much popularity over the years for their reimaginings of Carnatic and Hindustani standards. Rangapura Vihara and several songs from their second record A Dream to Remember rocked the venue ground with equal servings of classical and metal fervour. The jugalbandi of the performers on stage was more in-the-moment and lively instead of rigidly executing a set. The songs all had the right doses of heavy power riffing, Carnatic soloing, and vocal slurs and alaaps. Sadly they did not play their rendition of Dhanashree Thillana from The Inner Self Awakens. They concluded their set with The Boat Song which has become ‘the’ unofficial Onam song over the years.
After some relatively light yet heavy classical rock music came the highlight of the night, Thaikkudam Bridge. Named after the address where they were based off, the classical folk heavy metal fusion act has become synonymous with the rising wave of indie music out of Kerala and South India.
Firstly, they began their set with the song in the news for all the interesting reasons, Navarasam. The outro with its chenda and the beefier guitars made this the perfect song to begin the set with. Vian Fernandes, the prominent bass guitarist of the band, spoke about the elephant in the ground. Noting that the bond between the city and the band could not be severed over petty regionalism and plagiarism, they reiterated their appeal for credit where it’s due.
Following this, Govind Vasantha practically the frontman of the project, led the song Aarachar (The Hangman) with its spoken word verses and walls of headbanging riffs and drum sections. Chathe, the malencholic song on death and melancholy succeeded this. Setting a sombre mood came Peethambaran, the baritone vocalist with his face paint of white, black, and red tones. Peethambaran who happens to be the father of Govind was at complete gothic rockstar vocalist ease in the presence of the relatively younger lot. With gritty vocals, he sang while the song progressed to heavier territory. Finally, the magnificent graphics displaying a skeletal being aligned with the band breaking into metal breakdowns.
With some gothic horror imagery and violins began the track Thekkini. This is a track based on the legendary Oru Murai song from the Malayalam cult classic Manichitrathazhu. A magnificent dark and heavy aura was created with the haunting violin riff, the heavy guitars, and the graphics and light show.
Furthermore, the audio visual highlight of their set for me was Shiva. From the inception, the colossal projected image of Shiva was a sight one could not remove their eyes from. Its changing colours and alignment of lights with the initial buildup of the song was truly a transcendental live experience. While Shaivite psychedelic imagery is a staple of electronic and trance based music, the same aptly worked with rock and metal. They concluded their set with the signature song Fish Rock which catapulted them to fame almost a decade ago. Every battle of bands or music competition regularly features Fish Rock to the point of overcovering it. No better evidence of Thaikkudam’s status as part of indie music lore.
Furthermore, one prominent factor for TB was that a single vocalist did not matter. Having a little village clan for a lineup, the sonic territory was diverse while remaining rooted in rock groove and perfection. The graphics and light work was an integral part of their set at Indiegaga. It complemented the music in a perfect symbiotic relationship. Most of the songs builded up from a lighter usually dark beginning to a heavy breakdown. Like creating a strong theatrical and operatic vibe. The rockers from Kochi undoubtedly stole the show to what was one of the best live acts I have witnessed.
Last to end the show were the big godfathers of Malayali rock, Avial. No fan of rock music in India would be unaware of their rock rendition of the traditional song Chekele.
The first song in their set was Arikuruka. Luckily they did not play their regular laid-back live version but the proper album version with its upbeat groovy heavy rhythm and syncopation. Surprisingly, the visuals here were all math formulas and school-themed. This was a reference to the vocal sample from actor Thilakan’s dialogue from the film Spadikam. The outro visuals featured that scene transitioning into a smooth and double bass-layered rock breakdown. Next was the song Ayyo with visuals of jellyfish which looked ethereal. Rex with his trusty Les Paul gave us a tasty little solo and novel song sections which are features of the Avial live sets. While Tony’s vocals left much to be desired, his saxophone playing on Ettam Pattu was well performed.
From the edge of the Indiegaga stage, I had a peek at the guest vocalist of the night. Tony introduced him as coming “from the land of Padmanabha“. Thus arrived the highlight of Avial’s set: Job Kurian. The Padayatra vocalist rocked the song Karukara. Karukara is cover of the 1979 original from the Malayalam fantasy art film Kummatty which was recently restored as part of The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project gaining praise from Martin Scorsese. On Karukara, Job with his powerful and aptly textured tenor vocals was a joy to listen to. Job, Rex with his funky rock riffs, and the solid groove and rhythm section laid down by bassist Binny Isaac and drummer Mithun formed a dream lineup for Avial.
Aadu Pambe and some intricate graphics followed. And finally,Chekele with the crowds all singing along. SuprabathaKali came with some fiery power riffing by Rex and a stunning outro section with an amazing saxophone solo by Tony. Avial concluded their set with Aanakallan, the last song of the night.
Avial’s highlights were their extended instrumental sections for their songs, tight musicianship, and of course Job Kurian’s guest performance. In terms of graphics and the infinite swag and rhythmic tightness of ace guitarist and film composer Rex Vijayan, the set was mesmerizing. However, vocalist Tony John’s performance was the biggest turnoff from some otherwise amazing musical production. John sadly could barely even pull off the tunes where he featured as the original vocalist. Additionally, followers of the band might know that Avial’s original eponymous album which changed the face of Indian rock had the stellar rock tenor Anandraj Benjamin Paul on vocals. Who went into hiatus post that. Anand has since featured on the song Kanne on Thaikkudam Bridge’s 2019 sophomore album Namah. Along with two songs with the remote collaborative project Miles Apart.
Indiegaga 2022 was an overall magnificent live experience musically and visually. The technical and organisational aspects of the venue were undoubtedly impressive in terms of sounds, lights, and graphics. Beyond the music, how were the other organisational aspects of the festival? If the sheer lack of food and beverage options at Indiegaga is any indication, the answer would be not impressive. But hey, at least Indiegaga had an amazing lineup!
As the whole thing wrapped up, recovering from the energy of the night, it occurred to me that there would be several musicians in this audience getting inspired by the night. Going back home they would probably be writing some sick music to become future rockstars yet unknown to us. And thus the cultural cycle, The Music would continue.