Points proven must feel good. As the cool Sunday evening and a motley bunch of aficionados descended on Blue Frog, the launch of Split’s big debut Counting Perfume was the preoccupying theme of all handshakes and smiles.
After all these years, Mumbai’s Hard Rock savants had finally notched up a full length album – independently produced no less. From amateur loiter, their stance now had a professional strut, as they greeted acquaintances and loyalists alike at the forecourt, chugging on pre-show beers.
Aviv, his characteristic dreadlocks now embellished with a stubble, exuded a pseudo-Marley air to go with his innate composure. When I forward the heartiest congratulations on the behalf of the entire Score team, I’m met with a genuine thank you. “Hey, also thanks for the gig in Chennai”, he adds, reminding us of Split’s upcoming act at Star Rock, as part of the Score Night celebration of their debut album on the 18th of this month.
They seem to be enjoying the moment, but are wary of getting too caught up. Upon suggestions of probable music videos to follow this breakthrough, Garreth prefers to keep it real. “Well, the album has been coming for the last 5 years, so we’ll see how long the video takes to happen”.
Start Off Slow
The band still had some preparing to do behind Blue Frog, with little clandestine bottles of liquor and copious amounts soda for mixing, while Siddharth Basrur from Goddess Gagged took up position for his opening act.
It bordered on obstinacy how most people still chose to stick around outside, as if they’d only step inside Blue Frog to watch Split perform, no matter how accomplished those supporting acts might be. And Siddharth Basrur was; just that he caught Blue Frog on a night when the main event overwhelmed all else.
I’d seen Split onstage a couple of times before this, but this seemed like a new band. The self assuredness with which they took up positions under the gawk of an expectant crowd reminded you of what you’d been waiting for.
Garreth needled the crowd with sartorial ad-libs in between songs, and then even more with his searing vocals. Hanging on to the side of the stage crowded out by Shekhar’s humungous bass amp and Mel’s guitar equipment, I could feel every bass hook and strum reverberate through my feet. And oh, it felt good.
It was also the corner where the de facto music was created, as Mel jackhammered through scales and notes and Shekhar tickled nerves with basslines; often the delectably ominous outro and intro to the smash-and-grab of Split’s music. Especially on Fat Oaf, where he kept the bass intro simple – almost static – building up the tension to the point where we were primed for a cloudburst of rock ‘n’ roll.
The on-stage savagery takes you aback when you know the gentler sides of these men in the less profound world off the stage. After the beer bottle had been broken right at the top of show, there was almost no looking back.
The dreamy lull that came with Isn’t it Strange left as abruptly, once the band kicked into 60 seconds – their minute long off-key dash to the finish – and got even better when they performed a brilliant hard rock cover of Joe Cocker’s You Can Leave Your Hat On.
It was a wonderful take on the blues classic, filled to the brim with swagger and haughty innuendo, as it seamlessly transposed to the realm of Hard Rock.
A Night Aging Like Wine
Other staples soon followed, and I was eternally disappointed to have missed the intro to Holy Ghost Machine Gun because of an ill-timed bathroom break. But by then, the band pretty much owned all fantasies in the house and the sparse attendance was forgotten because everyone who was there ended up crowding around within ten metres of the stage, and swooning into the lights and sounds with gay abandon.
There might’ve been a hidden regret at the start at having foregone a chance to be at the Mahindra Blues Fest for this, but there were times when live music couldn’t possibly be more enthralling. Once into the last stages of their performance, the band took more leeways, with impromptu jam circles between Aviv and Mel’s guitars and Garreth’s extempore mouth organ segues.
In The End
Garreth’s mouth organ served him well through the night, but his shirt couldn’t last. Neither could those masks he brought out from the backstage, allegedly used in designing the cover of Counting Perfume which he flung out into the crowd and into short lived tussles, before the opportunistic ones pocketed them.
Filled with dewy eyed wonder, photographer Anushya and yours truly were moved to actually fork out currency to buy the album. Online downloads be damned; we were here supporting a cause; the cause of pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.
Zorran Mendonsa says Hi
The band made a quick getaway; all of them vanishing from the scene before we could pay personal odes. Except for Shekhar, and we were only too grateful to get a chance to say “Awesome job, you gais.”
Zorran Mendonsa, producer in toto for Counting Perfume, sounded unequivocal in the face of our bubbling enthusiasm. He might’ve been just tired. “It’s good to know that you guys liked it, but I’m just doing my job”, he shrugged. He was, in fact, more emphatic when talking about the couple of issues of The Score Magazine that he’d gotten his hands on. “You guys are really good”
Why, thank you! We’re glad you noticed.
Photography: Anushya Badrinath
Special Thanks: Aditi @ Blue Frog Mumbai
And just because we’re this awesome, Split are also our Band Of The Month. Catch up more on their music and much more in the latest issue of the Score Magazine out NOW!