The Madras Gymkhana Club is probably the sole islet of Madras-ness in what has already turned irrevocably Chennai.
Or that’s what we thought.
The brief: it’s a long time since the stentorian gents and the dainty dames had enjoyed a rock show (the last one had been an exhibition of the igneous, sedimentary and amorphous variety), and they want to be entertained with some good, crunchy rock music.
The kind of music we play, in other words.
Early Saturday morning, we drove to Chennai, chauffeured at 80-120 kph on those deliciously smooth roads. After dusty Poonamallee and the relentless search for the statue of a horseman, we arrived. A splash in the pool was what some of the boys wanted. Rzhude dove in, while Mr. Tech, Nsyng, went to get the official nod. He came back instead with a rejection, by which time Rzu, in about 20 laps and a swoosh down the water slide, had completed becoming Mr. Poseidon himself. Ushered out of the pool in grand style, we returned to our air-conditioned lodgings.
We were greeted with a sumptuous, if slightly greasy lunch – parotas, mutton curry, veg korma, tomato rice, flied lice, thire saadam and some amazing curd. When we were about to burst, they brought us a tray of bread pudding. Mamma Mia!
Most of us caught some sleep before the sound check at 5 pm. Bru’s new amp, crafted by the alternately wise and funny Erisa, got its warmup. Sounded louder than life at first but blended in nicely once the drums and bass weaved in.
Mr. David Pascall, in absentia for this gig and the last because of scheduling issues, dropped by to say the hi’s. This man gives you some of the warmest hugs, pleasant even in Chennai humidity. Apart from orienting me to the geography/topography of the city, he left me marvelling at his PR skills – he knew everyone there by name and address – from the waiters to the secretary to the sound and light guys. It wasn’t enough to get me permission to shoot the gig, or anything on the premises. Military land, saar, no permission absolutely. Grumpy, I moped for a bit but decided to live with/without it.
It was almost 8 when we began. We had been warned about the stagnant river nearabouts, where mosquitoes split and divided like fissile atoms. They were like demons of mythological lore — each smack only aided their proliferation. I worried if the boys would have to contend with them on stage – imagine Tony careening off tune, swinging after a blood-drunk mozz with his playing hand!
We must not neglect to mention that there was a dance floor just a few feet away from the stage. It remained hopelessly vacant for the longest, until Bru exhorted the stuffed shirts to loosen up. Well, the band had a great workout. Once the sound got cooking, they played a lot of unreleased stuff, some from Plan B, Sunset Man from the first album and some covers – some Dire Straits, JJ Cale, the duly thermalised Roxanne, etc. Once the Tommy Hilfiger gift hampers were handed out to the pioneering dancing couple, the others found reason to hop on to the floor. And hop they did. Quite a spectacle, yeah.
Despite the scattered applause (which Bru unerringly acknowledged with tankews), we found few fans in the crowd, really. The band couldn’t oblige any requests – which ranged from Bryan Adams to Audioslave to Old McDonald had a farm. Hehehehehe!