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Tales from the Dustbowl: Octoberfest – Day 1

Though convened in November, the Great Indian Octoberfest was one of Bangalore‘s most happening highlights of the year. Held over a period of three days, this would probably be one of the most ambitious projects in the entertainment history of India in 2011. Read on for Cyd The Squyd’s reports from Day 1!


As things go in India, there is never really any smooth sailing. Especially where concerts and event management are concerned. Numerous obstacles had been plaguing Octoberfest from the very beginning, the most notable one being changing the venue from the centrally located Palace Grounds to the far flung KTPO in Whitefields towards the eastern limits. And that was merely the tip of the iceberg…

The tickets mentioned that the event would commence from 2pm onwards, on all three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Right away, one can see how Friday would draw a very limited crowd, since most of the targeted audience wouldn’t be done with school/college/work until 5 – 6pm.

And then there is the question of commuting to the venue.

A fairly congested and crowded city, getting across from one location to another within Bangalore posed yet another challenge for those who had bought 3-day tickets. While the bus services are pretty efficient, dealing with cabs and autorickshaws to get across isn’t for the faint of heart or light of pocket. Especially considering that an all season pass would have lowered one’s economic capabilities further…

Nonetheless, being a stickler for punctuality, I set off for KTPO grounds, aiming to arrive there by 2:00 pm, expecting a full parking lot, crowds thronging the stages etc, etc. Imagine my surprise when, upon my arrival, I was welcomed by dust storms and thistle-weed blowing across the grounds. I checked my watch to see if it was still functional, and upon confirming with my phone, I did verify that it was indeed 2:30 pm.

Deserted, I tell you. Completely deserted.

But there was absolutely NO sign of life whatsoever. When I entered the grounds, I witnessed carpets being laid out, stalls being set up and sound engineers lugging wires across the main stage. I was confused… I thought I might have been misinformed, so I inquired within, and discovered that things were running behind schedule. By the looks of things, you couldn’t expect anything to begin in earnest before 6-7 pm at the earliest. Crap, I thought, what am I supposed to do for the next FOUR HOURS?!?!?!?!

(chill readers, our drama king survives..)

Opening Acts: Bicycle Days & Bombay Bassment

But thats just me. It was an even greater injustice to the artists who were scheduled to perform within that time. When such bands as Bombay Bassment and Bicycle Days actually started playing on the side stage, they drew a crowd of maybe 20 people at the most, probably a bunch of curious onlookers, who were scratching their heads, questioning themselves if this was another round of sound checks.

It was only when the band announced their thanks that we realized that we were actually witnessing the opening acts of the Octoberfest, all 20+ of us who had gathered. Our applause was met with sheepish grins from the bands. A special mention goes out to Bombay Bassment, who ARE actively ‘changing the face of Hip Hop‘, not just in India, but across the globe.

Amit Heri & Co

In the meantime, acts on the center stage had begun performing, even before the side stage shows had finished playing. Once again, by the time the twenty-fold audience traipsed over to the main stage, Amit Heri & Co. were already in the middle of their routine. Yet again, another brilliant performance, infusing electric blues with Carnatic vocals featuring, tablas and keyboard driven melodies went largely unnoticed by Bangalore. For a moment, it seemed as if the audience did swell up in ranks, but the bulk of it comprised mainly floor staff and security guards who were, well, going about their tasks. Or so it seemed.


When Motherjane took the stage, there were perhaps 50-60 people up front. Yet another travesty, for such an acclaimed band. But Mani, the vocalist, was not one to be discouraged. “There may only be a few of you, but you guys are loud enough to make up for all of Bangalore. Consider this a very, very private show… just for those of you who made it here!” And they played for us classics like “Mindstreet” and “Soul Corporations,” as well as more recent tracks like “Fields of Sound” and “Jihad.” It was extremely reassuring to see that Motherjane had one die-hard fan whose zeal knew no bounds, as he headbanged his way through every single song, lip syncing the lyrics to perfection each time.

Much to the delight of the minuscule audience, Mani kept quipping in between each song – “Its not like we’re in a hurry, are we?”  It was only towards the end when the lead guitarist showed off his mettle with a 2 minute solo performance on a classical guitar that more and more people began to take notice of the sound of music emanating from the stage. Motherjane left the stage gracefully, despite numerous yells for encores… perhaps an indication of how we would need a much, much larger group of people to voice our demands effectively…

HEADLINER: Ram Sampath

The headlining act that night was Ram Sampath and his entourage, who played out the entire Delhi Belly repertoire. As soon as they began with “Switty tera pyaar“, anyone and everyone who was idling around the beer booths or flirting with the Kingfisher models ran towards the center stage with reckless abandon, singing along with the band.

For once, it actually seemed as if Bangalore was coming alive, albeit just during the last major act that evening. Nonetheless, there were moments when Sampath’s vocals were virtually inaudible over the audience’s uproar when they played the irreplaceable, inimitable and infamous “DK Bose.”

Throughout their performance, the audience kept demanding them to play the same song, over and over again. Sampath was visibly overwhelmed, and he tried to shake things up by playing a Pearl Jam cover, but on realizing how the audience was losing its momentum, he went back to his original routine, and called on stage Apeksha Dandekar, for a duet of “I Hate you (Like I Love You)“, the chorus for which was echoed by everyone present.

After some slight hesitation, the band finally relented to an encore performance of “DK Bose“, this time featuring the audience on chorus. It was a good way for myself and others like me to vent our frustration through euphemised vulgarities, making it that much easier to forget all previous banalities of the day…

We started leaving after Sampath & Co. were done playing, assuming that nothing else would live up to the furore they created that night. The following acts – DJ Suketu and The Jalebee Cartel didn’t necessarily strike us as particularly important, especially after our voices were already hoarse from all the singing along, dust and second hand smoke that surrounded the stage that night. Making our way to the bus stop, we were contemplating what the next couple of days had in store for us…

Would everything go as planned?

Would there be a sizable audience?

Would there be other inanities getting in the way of having a good time?

Would our team make it through the security checks?

Stay tuned for more, on Octoberfest – Part 2. 

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