After over a year up in the Northern belt of political incorrectness, caste-insensitivity and casual racism, there comes a gig featuring everyone a non-cowbelt resident would ever want to watch, all under one roof. The South Side Story was a blast and as I recall it even today, it feels fresh in my mind.
This is one of those things where you chose to call a concert a festival, expecting no differences. But hey, the lineup was really good.
It began with mallu hip-hop headliners Street Academics followed by Bangalore regional headliners Lagori, and women represent headliner Sithara’s Malabaricus. It then led to mainstream-indie-crossover headliner Job Kurian, Tamil headlining voice of the discriminated, Arivu and crew, Malayalam Carnatic prog legends Agam, Thaikkudam Bridge, and finally, to the ever-legendary show-stopper Avial.
Can you believe that lineup? I honestly couldn’t.
I booked that ticket almost instantly and shared it among some 40 people too. This was probably a multi-stage plan, beginning at probably 4 pm and going through until 10. 6 hours, 2 stages, 9 bands, with some opening acts here and there would’ve been quite a great plan too. And by opening acts, I mean that chendamelam.
We got here in time for Job Kurian. He was high on energy and very charming. Great gig except for the few times he went off-tune. I mean, this heat wasn’t a joke.
Then came Arivu and his crew. They caught everyone’s attention; they made the crowd move in sync even though this outfit was coming together for the first time on stage. He played a few tracks from his solo album too along with a lot of representation from #Babasaheb. And no, no Enjoy Enjaami. I guess we know why, but who really knows though.
Next on stage was Agam. I mean, at this point there’s absolutely nothing that can hinder their quality performance. As the sun slowly settled in, it made the lights also stand out. Next up was Thaikkudam Bridge. People LOVED IT. I wasn’t people. I recharged instead by hiding away in this not-so-secret FULL AC empty tent listening to the thumping bass, you see.
And then, the headliner of all headliners, Avial took the stage. Now I haven’t seen Avial in a while. Probably in 2011 or 12 when they played in Autumn Muse, Bangalore. Oh wait, I think I saw them live at Hard Rock Café, Worli too. I actively stopped going to their gigs because of how beautiful the vocals were. This gig was a tad bit different though. Besides the audience singing all the tracks, Job Kurian taking on the tougher song and main man Tony learning to play the sax, this gig was more nostalgic than anything else. SCREEAAMM FORR MEEE – he said. Nope, not Bruce Dickinson… Everyone singing every track in unison without missing a word, not necessarily in tone (who really follows it anyway. Heard the album?), while being soaked in sweat – was truly what Avial’s show was and will be all about.
I’m not going to complain about how the sadhya had only white rice, how there were just two food stalls for a 9-hour binge, those ten cute little fans to keep a crowd of 2500 cool, or those delightfully hilarious and lonely sponsor selfie booths or the Delhi heat (38-degree celsius. That too in September!!. But hey, I’m happy that I attended this gig. I was most definitely living under a rock imagining the gig to have at least 10000 people considering each band can, on-their-own gather not less than 2000 people on an easy day. It is true what they said, these regional sounds are still (surprisingly) new up here. There’s a whole lot of conditioning and exposure needed for sure.
I managed to wear a lungi throughout the South Side Story gig, without a belt, without a Velcro tape (ahem Job Kurian), with new levels of confidence, bumping into probably every Malayali in town and listening to tasteful music after what felt like an eternity.