Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: swarathma, live, uk, london, bangalore, 2010, tour diary, lovebox, bedford river festival, folk rock band, man like me, kirsty almeida
With one festival down and two to go, we were just getting warmed up. Saturday dawned sneakily, under a camouflage of clouds and sprang upon the unsuspecting city of London like a torch in the face of a sleeping cadet. Victoria Park, the venue of the Lovebox Festival was a stone’s throw away, or so we were led to believe. Turned out you needed a Bofors Gun to launch the stone. So we took a bus and legged it to the gate where Artist Accreditation (a booth-bungalow, if you get my drift) handed us wrist bands and put us in touch with a very matter-of-fact liaison lady who set about her business with German efficiency. It was easily the biggest festival (or perhaps even venue) we’d ever played at. Dozens of stages, some big, some small, scores of little nooks where you could catch a drink, relax between gigs, mill around, grab food…
Our stage was the Gaymers Bandstand, a circular covered structure bang in the middle of two huge stages. There was a tree house nearby, complete with tables, chairs and service before you get your Tarzan fantasy going. As the show was in London we had a bunch of friends show up: Guy Ohringer drove down from Oxford, Rajeev and Nisha, Chini our hostess with a day off made it a real feel-good gig. The fun part was we managed to stop all the traffic of people going from one stage to another, and by the time we wrapped up a short high-energy set, we had a crowd that went from the bemused curious to outright applauders. Lovebox FTW!
The rest of the evening brought home the fact that even though the festival was small by UK standards, it seemed HUGE to us. 30,000 people, great lights, happy crowds and good music in the unlikeliest of stages. I loved Kirsty Almeida whose myspace profile says she is influenced by ladybirds, rainbows and other delights that are all around us but we never notice. It is refreshing to see an artist that quotes such delights as musical interests. There was Man Like Me doing a set in a small tent-stage that blew my socks off with their stage presence and coordinated stage moves. There’s so much we learnt in such a short span of time!
The last gig of the tour was at Bedford, at a festival by the river. This was a total village mela. Gazillions of rides, clowns, stilt-walkers, food and drink stalls, little flea-markets, and people milling around. They had a pretty decent stage where we were slated to play at 4pm but thanks to traffic and the general absence of correct directions we got there just in time. We had the unique experience of having to toss over our gear over a fence behind the backstage area in order to save time. I felt like I was an East German, about to play a concert in West Germany, looking furtively over my shoulder for the Stasi or border guards who would gun me down for escaping any moment. Nothing happened, of course. We did end up playing a fun show, a relatively quieter one. This was the only show where there were quite a few Indians, who looked equally bemused as the British.
That was it, a short sweet tour wrapped up. We loaded back in to the tour van and headed homewards setting our controls for the heart of the sun, or London town, whichever you prefer. The next day would be a day off before we caught our flight back to India. We spent it giving Chini’s house a makeover. After a week of housing the Swarathma brigade, it had taken a beating as you can imagine. So while Chini went to work, we set to work too. The vacuum cleaner made an appearance as did several brand of domestic cleaners. We toodled off to my uncle’s home, our host the last time we were in London. My aunt had prepared a massive spread of honest-to-goodness Indian food that we fell upon like a pack of wolves forced to eat the food of sheep for a week. Don’t get me wrong, the English breakfast is great and the Shepherd’s Pie and Fish and Chips are all up there. But then place a spread of desi khana cooked at home and what can I say, you should shield you face from the splattering. We collapsed soon after in a stupor that good food frequently brings upon you, rousing from it only at the strident honking of the cabbie who would take us to Heathrow.
It was a terrific trip. Much had been accomplished, many doors opened, and new friends made. It was time to head home. And there were broad smiles in our hearts.
[Concluded. For now.]
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: swarathma, Tour, uk, bangalore, band, india, 2010, larmer tree festival, summer, indian folk rock
I wonder what it is about a big city that winds people right up. I’ve seen it in the Bangalores, Mumbais and Delhis of the world, and I saw it in London too. There’s a strange mix of a constant state of wakefulness blended with an ever-present tiredness in everyone’s eyes. But the moment you travel outside the city, Nainital for example, or Guwahati (these being smaller towns we’ve played in) and the pace of life takes on a new life in the eyes of those who live there. More easy-going, less stressed, more liable to break into a smile, less liable to snap at you.
I was made acutely aware of this in our festival weekend where we started out in the country, returned to London and then went back out again all in three back-to-back shows. The Larmer Tree Festival out on the Wiltshire/Dorset border just outside the city of Salisbury was a distillation of the loveliest people in the whole of England, or so it seemed. The stage manager Pete had a weather beaten face, but one filled with lines he got from smiling at the world, or so it seemed. Angel in pink disguise Abi was like a 500W bulb of good vibes. The place was smack bang in the middle of the English countryside which, I have to say, is just achingly beautiful with meadows and fields that fall away with a base jumper’s abandon. To have a music festival in a setting like this is about the best ideas you could have.
This was also our first real festival, complete with campervans, kids racing around dressed like dracula, a cross section of ages lounging about soaking in the sun (yes, we brought it back, muhahah), and the most delicious aromas wafting about like they were checking the festival out too. The show, ah what can I say. Suffice it is to say that it took us aback. From the first 10 or 15 people who started swaying to over a hundred of them right in front of us, moving, grooving, singing along, and not understanding a thing was a life-affirming moment for us all. It was quite kickass to see the topis and masks in the crowd too. The CD tent made brisk business, and we did an impromptu signing session. Now these are scheduled things where the big artists come down and interact with fans. Neither the organizers nor us thought one might be needed for an unknown Indian band! How’s that for the power of music?
Things went a little wrong in the end though. Montry and I got a little carried away by the brilliant atmosphere of the place and time slowed down. Thanks to that, the whole band got late getting out of the place and we hit bad traffic entering London. To all Bangaloreans, we say this. WE HAVE IT EASY! Downtown London on Friday night is a mangled mass of egos in cars. Vijay Nair was the most rattled. Every six minutes he would turn around from the front of the van and shoot gamma ray burst dirty looks at me. Richly deserved too, alas. Mention must be made of our angel of mercy on the road Prashant Nair. A chip of the old Nair block, he was absolutely marvelous as our driver and tour manager rolled into one.
Coming up: Love in a Box, and a Riverside Festival.
Filed under: downloads | Tags: 2010, calendar, Design, download, montry, swarathma, wallpaper
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Photo-credit: Hiba Zubairi | Artwork: Montry Manuel