We get up at the usual unearthly hour of 3 and a quarter am, and shove ourselves into a tempo traveler. As soon as we cross the Hosur checkpost, the sun burns us right on cue – Welcome to Tamil Nadu border, Thermal And A Quarter. 12.30ish sees us at Chennai locked in this traffic jam. Somehow we bump along to MCC and Bishop Heber hall. Our liaisons, (forget their names, good guys) arrive and we see one metal band finishing up the competition. Turns out they finish the competition as well as they place first, with Bruce doing a chief guest and giving away the prizes. And Tony and I see a lot of women walking away with prizes for best singing and best acoustic guitar. We are very impressed.
Meanwhile we have to go to our hotel to unpack, have lunch and come back on for sound check. We are taken to hotel Lion International, a newly opened joint apparently. Turns out when we step in that it is certainly not a Lion’s den, but a hole – rat hole or hell hole, take your pick. As we arrive several guys are just finishing up plastering the rooms and applying coats of paint, that’s how new it is. I think they just opened as we were stepping in.
Lunch over and we go back to the venue. Mr. Prithvi, the sound man has arrived. There is very little time to sound check, because the show needs to be over by 6.30 pm, as the girls have to go back to their hostels by then (awww… please don’t go). The stage is really cramped to fit in the entire band. But TAAQ thrives on the simply adjust maadi edict and we simply adjust maadi. Sound check quickly over and band meeting in the green room, where we pray to all the right gods and a few wrong ones. Some Red Bull to energize and we’re ON.
As the band takes the stage a lot of guys gawk at Nate and sax in tow. Nate says sax players are a dime a dozen in Americana, but here you got to throw a stone pretty far to hit a sax player. The show begins with a lot of the familiar – Brigade Street an all, with crowd singing every song. As I am the mixer, I hear this guy keep raving about “how good they are! Look at these guys” and I am very happy. Somewhere along the way Wonderwall and Nate pop up and this guy’s going nuts. I hear ya bro, I am going nuts too. Nate is sizzling on all his songs – Wonderwall, Paper Puli, Holy Jose et al. Then comes one of my favs among all the favs – the super gritty tale of the urban chameleon. The sound is cooking but also growing louder by the minute. A dazed, ecstatic hour and a half later, we meet Galacktiqua – where Rajeev is out of this world. It’s great to see everybody grooooving. 6.30 is here, and cries of Encore ring out. And the best is yet to be. The band does like the ultimate rendition of Hoedown and everybody goes bonkers. The girls leave (awww…please don’t go) but no one is ready to put their hoe down. After like a million autographs by the gang, we head off to the Lion’s bar to celebrate and contemplate. A great gig by any standards, never mind these grumbling musicians…