Roctoberfest 2005, Gig 3: Orange Street and Skinny Alley

“Hey…dude. You gotta listen to these guys.”
“Yeah? They’re good?”

I get one of those are-you-nuts stares.

Another from the group that’s come down from Cal (or is it Kol?) shakes his head. “They’re the most amazing band in the world”

“What do they play, then?”

“You wan’t to hear music? You gotta hear these guys. Just see the difference in the quality of music from the last band.”

“So….what do they play?” I have a rather bemused look on my face.

“Mostly their own stuff. And Steely Dan.”

“What sort of music is that? I haven’t heard Steely Dan.”

“Jazz. R&B”

“Oh, okay. Should be good, then.”

I have this habit of striking up conversations with strangers at rock shows. One, rather – this one – doesn’t get the opportunity to discuss rock music offline in this City too often. Sometimes conversations have been interesting. In some cases, they’ve been disastrous. Still, I’m bent on becoming more familiar with the heavier form of metal, even though I haven’t yet developed an affinity for heavy bass.

While Orange Street was playing their own version of Naraina by The Prodigy, I barged into a conversation on the poor quality of music in Delhi among the Kolkattians (Hahaha), and proceeded to blame the acoustics of discotheques for the reverb that made the sound heaver, the lag making it worse.

The show began rather late, at around 10:30. Orange Street played their own version of the much-overplayed and over-rated Another Brick in the Wall. The sound was clear, though the lead vocals seemed to lack amplitude. The backup hindustani vocals, however, were rendered particularly well and the fusion was better than most I’ve heard. I haven’t heard Indian Ocean play, and the basis on which Rahul Ram, at Jaideep Varma’s book launch, insisted he recognised me at is beyond me. The lead was fortunately loud enough, unlike at most concerts, but the bass was particularly impressive. They continued with their own composition called Vinash. Predictably heavy beats, followed by mellows. While I don’t particularly like fusion, in this case the hindustani vocals seemed to fit in perfectly. Again, the audibility of the lead was just perfect. The crowd, however, was unresponsive. Perhaps the song was a tad bit too long, and no matter how much the lead singer tried, he was unable to push the crowd. They followed this up with their own version of Naraina by the Prodigy, and added some ‘Right Here, Right Now’ from fatboy slim. The Puppie crowd was static, and there were just two or three of us headbanging right in the front. I was told by the Kol guys that the rock scene in Kol is better, and that Indian Ocean is much better than Orange Street.

Orange Street

Image courtesy Arijit Sen

Orange Street followed this up with Mirror. It was boring. The lead singers antics just didn’t sell, and nobody jumped up and down, and nobody clapped along.

The best song that Orange Street did was probably Firestarter. Adding a consistent lead to the song just took it to another level. It got the crowd involved and little, and head began bobbing. This was when I took notice of the drumming which had a surprisingly clear sound. New drums? Maybe. They sure seemed to have a lot of fun playing- the hindustani vocalist was now playing the tabla, and jamming with the drummer. This was during a song called I belong here, and they did it on a few occasions.

I moved back to the bar, and then rushed back on recognising Killing in the name of. Not a bad song selection, but one has been spoilt by the mastery that Them Clones have now attained over this song. A slower tempo just doesn’t make the cut anymore. Orange Street then played Hare Rama Hare Krishna, which seemed vaguely familiar. The chorus was pacy and I guess my neck hurts today particularly because of these last two songs.

Once they packed up, I went back talk to a few friends I had accidentally run into. Someone from the Kol gang mentioned that the lead guitarist had played with Clapton. “Yeah, right,” said the 19 year old cant-get-enough-of-rock chick I mentioned this to. “I sing with Cobain everyday, in my room.” I guess we would just have to wait and see, then, wouldn’t we.

Amit Saigal told us a little tale of his days with a rock band when they cam to play for an IITD competition and won. He mentioned how Jeffrey Rikh of Shiva had really helped them a lot in those days. Now he played the drums for Skinny Alley. I guess almost everyone’s heard of Amit Datta who does his bit for Indian Rock by tutoring anybody and everybody, and helping some of them off drugs. I think I’d first read about him in Rhythm Mag that Weirdbeard used to occasionally write for. Amit Dutta’s an Indian Guitar God.

Skinny Alley

Image courtesy Arijit Sen

Skinny Alley played a lot of their own numbers. They played songs by Steely Dan, Smile from a wave by screaming headless torsos, an R&B classic called Drowning in the sea of love, Tutu by Marcus Miller; Jayashree Singh kept giving us little tidbits about the songs. Remember, this is a middle aged band playing some excellent songs to a twenty something crowd. In between songs, someone said ‘Voodoo Child please aunty’ in a half-muted, pleading voice, followed by an “Oops” and a much louder “Voodoo Child please”. “We don’t do requests,” said Jayashree,” but….Voodoo Child.”

Bless you, man, whoever made this request.

I’m clearly at a loss for words to describe Skinny Alley’s performance because I was totally mesmerised by their music. I was gaping open mouthed at the way Amit Dutta’s fingers flew across the fret. I’ve probably never heard such mindnumbing guitaring before, except maybe John Myung’s solo at GIR.

Jayashree also mentioned before they played Like a Stone by Audioslave, that she loves Chris Cornell, and that the last time they’d played Like a Stone at SPA (I think), someone posted on the RSJ forums that Amit Dutta had got the lead messed up, and gave the technical modifications required to play it properly. I certainly couldn’t see anything missing. They switched back to Steely Dan, playing Fuzzy Logic and some of their own compilations, and also a song by Annie de Franco.

It was particularly interesting to note that almost throughout their performance, the crowd was mostly silent, taking in the music, mesmerised. There was no yelling or whistling during the performance, and everyone just more or less stood or sat as they were, and broke into an applause (accompanied by several loud whistles) only after the song finished. Respect. At one point in the concert, while Amit Datta was playing a solo, the words “we’re not worthy” came to mind.

A couple of articles on Skinny Alley:
At Infinitimag, and
At Deccan Herald

Also, a take on the rock music scene in India at Rediff.

Rocktoberfest ends tomorrow at The British Council. CCD is still acting cheap – charging for what are supposed to be free passes. So get the passes from the RSJ office in Vasant Kunj and be there.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Skinny Alley, Level 9 and Oritus will be playing at Turquoise Cottage on Sunday the 23rd of October. Details are here, but nothing’s confirmed yet. So, if you’re planning to go, please check the forum or RSJ for a confirmation. I’ll confirm from Sam tomorrow.


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