Photography and other experiences.

Rock Riders II

Some affections and afflictions are beyond explanation. I think they are best left as fey influences in one’s life. Sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists might question our need to desire certain experiences.To them I  simply say, ” come, participate, and if you do not , you will not understand.” This goes out to those who haven’t done biking and haven’t experienced rock music.

This time I was there when the whole paraphernalia was being set up.

When the speaker array was going up and when the wires were getting joined .

The ultimate in industrial beauty. This is when the machines look so good.

How elaborate and complex  is it to make a show like the Harley Rock Riders happen. For the organizers this must be just a part of the job.  Harley’s tireless team was there at the venue till 2 am the night before, making sure everything was in place.Same for the guys at Rolling Stones and  for the bands. Who would know the blisters their fingers have had while learning the guitar or any other instrument for that matter. Then there is hours and hours of practice to create a flawless performance. So this blog is a tribute to everyone who work hard behind the scenes and make people happy.

Notice the spelling of soul.

The allegory works beautifully here.

It is also a tribute to the rock band Circus. Their lyrics twisted something within me. Two years of my own musical negligence has ended.I feel enthusiastic and inspired to make music an important part of my life again. My musical journey begins with visual stimulation( perhaps that’s the reason why I am a photographer). The album cover is a very compelling connection . Its design and presentation pulls me into the music locked in its folds. iPod is useful, but its not for me. It is too convenient, easy and impersonal for my liking. Taking to downloaded music gradually made me insensitive  and today I find myself standing so far away, but I have just pulled out that Megadeth CD and  find myself staring at a hairless Siamese cat in an ochre’ background. For me music is incomplete without an album cover.

Coming back to Rock Riders, I was there to photograph the event with the usual nervous anxiety. Honestly music was far from the list of important things tapping the inner walls of my mind. The issue of light was disturbing. Venue lights were directly above the artists and behind them, so their faces and eyes would be in deep shadow. My own plan of putting a studio strobe at forty five degrees on right and above became unfeasible due to crowd control and other compulsions. At best I could fire it through a reflected umbrella at ninety degrees from the left of the artists. For fill, my assistant held an SB800 in front of the stage to light the singers and occasionally the crowd.Both were synced remotely through an elinchrome skyport. This time the show was held at the Talkatora indoor stadium. It was bigger,grander and had more for the benefit of the fans. It is fast evolving into a serious rock music festival. The show began with ‘The circus’ who woke me  to the reality that the event was about music.

If their work were indifferent, who knows I would have  simply concentrated on getting good pictures. But in a minute, I was involved in its various other dimensions..

Their style is similar to Nirvana. lyrics are wrapped deep in layers of rifle like guitar chords. The kind of music which is internalized, mysterious, revealing little like a passing high speed train. You want to know more, hop aboard or just be an awestruck spectator.

Abhishek Bhatia of  ‘ The Circus’.

Honestly I couldn’t understand a word being sung though the crowd was enjoying every bit of it.

The influence of ‘ Feels like Teen Spirit ‘ was not just confined to their music, but also on their attire.

Later at home when I read the lyrics , that the abstraction of their world struck me further. This is a sample of their ‘Japanese Rebellion’..

Feelings inside

Outside shut.

Open my eyes, and you know its sleazy.

Damn you Samurai

Damn you Samurai.

This is it. This is the nature of their music. Hard, tunneling through the very structure of your comfort.It is not easy to access.But I love it. I love its brutality and honesty. If you wish to listen to them, keep the lyrics at hand . I’m sure as the band matures, their music will transform, but hopefully they will keep their style intact.

Next on the stage was what I was looking forward to. A performance by the band from Mumbai  ‘Split’.

Last year they had inundated the genteel from Delhi with the hard as brass music at the Rock Riders Finale. This year the crowd was waiting in anticipation. Split did not disappoint. In stark contrast to The Circus, Split reached out to their fans. Their music was interactive and emotional.

If Garreth was intense , Aviv was riding his guitar like a ‘Nimbus 2000’ into ecstasy.

Last year, beside their music Split also gave us some memorable pictures. This year was no different.

But their performance was different . Different atmosphere and circumstances. I enjoyed picture taking and their music .

Then what followed was a unique experience at a rock show. It was Half Step Down on the stage. For how their lead  vocalist Dhaval  jumped on the stage, the group can be safely  re-named ‘ Two Feet Up’. I just loved his ebullience and relationship to  music. The group has a  pleasant style . A mix of  rock ,reggae, Cindy Lauper and jazz ( to my novice ears). It has a serious feel good factor. After the very first song the crowd was chanting ‘ You are awesome’.

One of the instances where my rear curtain sync worked very well. I cannot say whether Dhaval here is going up or coming down.

He has a sweet voice and he sings from deep within his self.

How perfectly placed that right hand is in the blue light. Does that ring a bell ? Remember Michelangelo’s painting and that hand of god?

The pleasant music is deftly fused with serious metal guitar riffs and notes of a trumpet.

Alvaro Lopez is on the guitar.

Carl Abraham

Half step down is polite rock, fusion rock, a group which is very sensitive to sounds and appreciative of good work done by a lot of people in music. It creates a pleasant world of harmony, melody and beat. In one of the numbers Dhaval went into Bhangra mode and then what to me sounded like a heart warming  musical gibberish. Something which I often concoct when I sing to my son. For me it is true music. Innocent, pure and simply possessing  the grammar of love.

I call this edition of Rock Riders ‘Evolution’ for the simple reason, that everyone involved in making the show worked to make it better. Right from the venue, the signage, crowd comfort, lights, sound and most importantly the choice of music being played .It was eclectic. In style, rendering and intent every group was different, yet kept to the general theme of the show. The stage was bigger. Two bikes behind at an angle of almost thirty degrees lent to a much interesting background for the photographs. The roof of the stadium was used interestingly as a screen for the sponsors and other display. It was an artistic, industrial atmosphere.

To top it all there was Parikrama.

This was the first time I heard them live or otherwise. Let me tell you, I was blown away.

When Nitin Malik began singing, it was like he was possessed by  Brian Johnson of AC/DC . There was superb control in his voice. I always thought no one else has voice control of Brian Johnson and Rob Halford ( Judas Priest ). To my benefit  Nitin has shattered this illusion.

Sourabh Chowdhary  and Sonam Sherpa accompanied awesome vocals with some serious guitar riffs.

Parikrama uses a wide gamut of instruments in rendering their music. Besides drums, guitar and keyboard there was tabla and violin. Everything played seamlessly together.

As a photographer, the shoot was not merely about technique. It was to capture an experience. Often I turned off my two flashes to get available light purely. Sometimes it worked.

Subir Malik on the keyboard. Imran Khan with a uniquely shaped violin and Saurabh .

I really like this panorama. It is eight vertical frames stitched in Photoshop. Now a tribute to the software geeks at Adobe for their lovely program.

Subir at the keyboard was headbanging throughout their performance. I was amazed at his ability to remain in that zone. Marvelous neck muscles and his cerebral fluid to re collect.

Only at the time of jugal bandi with Imran did Subir’s head remain still.

It was one crazy performance that Parikrama dished. All of us wanted more.

One thing to mention here is a comment by my friend who is musically much mature than I am and is also a fashion designer. He lamented the fact the groups didn’t pay much attention to their clothes. What makes rock music so special is its texture. In texture each corner of its dimension is important. Imagine Ozzy without his glasses or Brian Johnson without his beret and shorts. If our artists paid some attention to their clothes, I believe they’ll be taken more seriously  internationally. Guys please please don’t wear striped T shirts. That’s bad taste and let’s have some more attitude. A bob Marley hair style is not enough.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the great Jose’. Master of ceremony and master of temper. Boy can he hold a crowd, take jibes, taunts and bad language in a stride and respond in the most admirable repartee. I think the congress party will be well advised to have him as their official spokesperson if they want to win the next election.

I missed Jose’s diamante pistol belt buckle this time.

The horn symbol is a mystery.  I think it is called the Malacchio. Now I believe it is used in appreciation at rock shows.

Finally my heartfelt gratitude to Sanjay and his team ( from left Milind, Kunal, Sanjay and Pallavi) for their tireless work, enthusiasm and spirit to make this show happen. It not only gives exposure to the bands but also is setting standards in presentation and execution of Rock Shows in India. Well done guys!

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