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2015 was an explosive feast for the metal fans who populate India’s financial hub. There were a number of gigs and festivals throughout the year, and 2016 promises to be even more interesting. While many artists, both domestic and international, have visited the city (Iron Maiden in 2008, for example), the scale of events experienced in 2015 was on another level. For music fans, what really started things off was the razor-sharp, two-day music festival known as Big 69 that took place in January 2015. Many homegrown metal acts displayed their chops, shredding, pounding, screaming and beautifully elevating spirits to the stellar heights of true metal bliss. For many who have followed and kept a close watch on the metal underground, this was a dream come true.
The magic didn’t stop there. In October, fans were treated to the Harley Davidson Metal Festival; the closing act on the first night was the legendary Megadeth. For so many, this was a dream come true. The stark visuals, Dave Mustaine’s vocals, and the drive of his band in that ominous arena will remain frozen in the theater of fans’ minds and hearts. Equally noteworthy is that the festival audience was composed of a mixed group of people who were either non-Mumbaikers or non-Indian. You could tell by their expressions that they were not aware just how hardcore Indian music fans can be.
Continuing the momentum of the mighty metal machine, fans were treated to a concert by rock icon Slash and his band, Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, in early November. Not only was the event epic in every way, but the place where it was staged, the Reliance JIO Garden at Bandra-Kurla Complex, allowed fans an even more elevated experience.
Although it has been said that Mumbai lacks interesting concert and gig venues, there have been some interesting changes occurring, offering both fans and musicians opportunities to engage with one another and indulge in the often misunderstood art of heavy music. For instance, the Big 69 gig was hosted at Richardson & Cruddas, a former steel mill that sits in the eastern suburb of Byculla. Once used to produce the railways lines that run across Mumbai, its metal support columns and slopping tin roofs made it the perfect venue for metal junkies to savor the music.
The aforementioned Reliance JIO Garden had some interesting facilities in place, which made the concert experience both enjoyable and easy to manage. And although they’ve been around for several years, venues like the Hard Rock Cafés (located at Lower Parel and Andheri West) and the ever famous Blue Frog have hosted a range of events: everything from tribute nights to album releases to plain old jamming.
Over the past decade, there have been a significant number of young aspirants and rock aficionados who have challenged the norms and poured their blood, sweat, and tears into creating and hosting gigs, clinics, and festivals rivaling some of the best around the world. This past January there was a tribute to Pink Floyd, featuring a music troupe from Europe belting out some of the band’s best tunes, at the NCPA on Marine Drive. Famous for hosting plays, comedy sketches, seminars and orchestras, this venue is also well designed to offer rock lovers an interesting time.
Running parallel to this eruption of musical activities is the sheer scale and talent of the local rock and metal community in Mumbai. Since mainstream pop culture and Bollywood have such a significant hold over listeners, people who aren’t familiar with the local circuit might find it both surprising and interesting to the note the diversity of taste that exists in the metal community in the city and to observe the quality, sophistication, and skill of many homegrown acts, who have evolved very rapidly over the past 15 years.
If you were to trace the local scene back to the early 2000s, you would notice that while most bands had both talent and capability, their set lists were dominated by cover songs. Occasionally you would get lucky enough to find a group that would play two or three original compositions. Numerous bands today are not only creating their own music; they are, in fact, becoming very savvy in terms of marketing their music, building brands, and touring across the country and abroad at a level hitherto unseen in the Indian metal scene.
The stage has been set for fans to discover, experience, and relish more of the exciting developments coming out of the Mumbai metal underground. Rock on!