Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Independence Rock -- The Story so far

The year was 1994, the year when I became a teenager. Just like others; I too was restless, full of energy, a rebel without a cause ready to conquer the world with his stupid beliefs. It was always my habit to hangout with guys older than me. They were more like idols to a stupid teenager trying to act cool. To gain their trust I had been through the usual drill of being their orderly, fetching cigarettes for them, being the messenger pigeon between them and their girlfriends and the occasional scapegoat for their practical jokes. I had earned my place in the gang. One day these guys were planning to visit the ‘Independence Rock’ concert. I was told that it is the annual pilgrimage that one must attend to keep their faith in rock music intact; it’s the mecca of rock music. Those days it was a two-day event, usually held on 14th and 15th august. I requested to join and they willingly accepted. After a bus ride to the station and train journey we reached Marine lines station. We started walking towards the venue. The guys took a quick pit stop at an Irani cafĂ©, quickly gulping down some old monk and thums up. After a brisk 15 minutes walk we finally reached Rang Bhavan, the ultimate venue for a rock show that ever existed in India.

Rang Bhavan is situated next to St. Xavier’s college near marine lines station. There were too many townie beauties around. For my adolescent mind it was nothing short of being in the playboy mansion, surrounded by Hugh Hefner's picks of the season. All the rock fans running screaming, singing in their traditional IROCK outfits, torn/faded/dirty jeans, mostly denim blue and with a black colored rock print Tee shirt on top. I wondered whether it was the official dress code for this event and whether I will be let in since I was wearing a normal Tee with jeans. Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, Metallica were at an all time high that season and invariably you could see a lot of Cobain and Metallica on the Tee shirts. The attitude level increases with the kind of music you listen to. The Cobain and Hettfield fans walked with the “so you are the new wannabe rocker – never mind’ look while the Sepultura fans eagerly searching for people they wanted to bash in the mosh pit. A guy wearing a Slayer tee would definitely look down on a guy wearing a Jim Morrison Tee. The girls were not far behind either, some of them in the traditional IRock attire and the rest in the Xavier’s uniform. By Xavier’s uniform I mean jeans, a kurta (khadi type), chappal, a jhola on the shoulders, big earrings as accessories and an accent which is patented as the townie accent these days. I was happy to realize that there are females whose taste in music scaled beyond boy bands. After years of exposure to this cult even I have developed the attitude of looking down on guys who would listen to rap and R &B music. I guess continued exposure to the rock/metal environment invariably transfers the attitude disease to you.

Like all other places in Mumbai you always have to stand in long queues for anything, whether for a movie ticket, or your railway ticket. It was a pleasant surprise to see a long queue for tickets, I said to myself goddamn; “I didn't know that these many guys lived this lifestyle”. Even before attending the show, just at the venue gates I had started believing that rock n roll is not a form of music but a lifestyle. Standing in the queue we could hear the bands playing inside and the crowd screaming and singing along. The sound of electric guitar was exhilarating, the sound of the drums making my heart pound faster and faster. It's difficult to describe the feeling, one has to actually visit and experience the feeling.

We stood in the queue and then my friend pulled out bottles of thums up from his pocket, and offered everyone a swig. Thums up never tasted that way and then I was told that it was thumsup + OLD MONK, god damn since that day thums up and old monk have become the official drink for all rock shows. No matter how much money we have and even if there's a hotel nearby, invariably we end up drinking on the road and that too OLD MONK. Standing in the queue there was only a 20 feet wall that stood between the venue and us, a wall that divided the ‘already insane’ inside, from the ‘wannabe insane’ standing outside.

Back in those days, thums up and Yamaha were the only companies that sponsored Independence Rock. We paid our dues for the favor by mixing old monk and thums up and continue to do so till date. Rang Bhavan is an open-air theater with a small stage at the far end and circular concrete seating. On entering Rang Bhawan we were welcomed with the best abuses that a crowd can shower on any band. Apparently the band had taken some time to do their sound check and the restless crowd had started chanting “Bhenchod, Madarchod start the fuckin music”. “Wow” I said, people on this side abuse in hindi too. The air was filled with smoke of all types. The smoke from cigarettes, the fogger machine and some really weird smelling smoke too, something that smelled like Mehendi being burnt. After years of attending the shows, the smell of burning Mehendi was what I craved to smell and to smoke. The toilets at the rear side are more of a make out zone. I had never imagined that just for Rs. 60 I will get to experience booze, live rock music and live porn, this was turning out to be the best event I had ever attended.

That show had featured some of the best bands like Agni, Brahma, Pentagram and Parikrama. The time demanded that every band plays the best covers. Bands were not ranked based on how good their original composition was but purely on how well they covered Metallica, Deep Purple etc. That day all the bands were amazing with their work. Songs like Alive, unforgiven, one, another brick, highway star, smoke on the water, paradise city, jump, even flow etc were covered by these bands. In those days Farhad sometimes sang a song or two. ‘Knocking on heavens door’ being his favorite. Lately due to sponsorship commitments he tends to read news from DNA newspaper and somehow tries to make it sound as music. Futile attempt farhad, its neither music nor entertainment, stop making a jackass out of yourself. At a rock show the brain starts defying logic and laws of nature, physics etc. Thanks to the atmosphere and negligible amount of blood in your alcohol and nicotine stream you are bound to believe that you can sing louder than the band. Yes I was screaming (please note: screaming not singing) all the songs. The general practice is to head bang if you like the song or if you are high then believe that you are a wrestler and enter the mosh pit.

End of the show, as usual Farhad Wadia made a promise that the next IROCK will be bigger and better, and I would say that he has kept his promise year after year. What followed after the show was a long walk back to Marine Lines, but this time with really tired legs, a dry throat, clothes drenched in sweat and most importantly a neck that had never felt heavier and this painful. I guess head banging does take its toll on the entire body. What seemed cool back then had now turned into endless pain.

16 years have passed since that day, times have changed but the enthusiasm has not. IROCK venue has shifted from Rang Bhawan to Chitrakoot grounds. The sponsors changed from Thums up to DNA, Network 18 and the wannabe types. The music has changed from melodious Rock/Metal to the less tolerable Death Metal, technical death metal etc. We are no longer teenagers; most of us are in the senior management in multinational companies. Everyone is busy and earning enough to afford a nice visit to expensive restaurants or even a 5 star hotel, but till date when it comes to IROCK

  • The same friends call up, doesn't matter if we haven't spoken for 6 months but 2 days prior to IROCK they will call.
  • We end up drinking old monk and thumsup, that too on the road no matter how much money we have.
  • The screaming, attempts at trying to sing louder than the band never end. End of the show we all end up with neck pain.
  • Back then we cursed the college principal for making us attend college. Nowadays we curse the bosses when we are pretending to work with a headache and hangover.
  • IROCK is followed by a jam session, where we pledge to form a band and perform at the next year’s concert; only to go back as spectators aged 30 but with the spirit of a 14-year-old, cant help but sing

You say you wanna go for a spin
The party's just begun, well let you in
You drive us wild, well drive you crazy
You keep on shouting, you keep on shouting
I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day…


  1. Hehehe. Nice. Can't say been there, done that, but I sure have lived it vicariously now! :D

  2. dude i remember u tellin us d stories of IROCK....i wanted to attend it to ,finally year2000 when i attended my first IROCK n i remember it was truely an experience and that was the time i started listenin to it ...i remember tellin u was listenin to METALLICA-NOTHING ELSE MATTERS u were surprised .yea nad totally agree wit ur last part when it shifted to CHITRAKOUT.
    DUDE i think last year must be d only year when u left it didn wait to get it over. i hope we get to listen to same MEALLICA,,GNR,DEEP PURPLE TYPES OF BANDS not d like DIMMU BORGIR N STUFF...IT WAS SUPER READIN IT YAAR GOT BACK D GOOD OLD MEMORIES

  3. Rock music has something inexplicable.It can make me high without alcohol.I love head banging and losing myself. Screaming, yelling, jamming.I so loved reading your blog.

    I hope you remain 14 all your life. Rock n Roll.

  4. @harleen -- The love for the music is what prompted me to write about it. Glad you liked it

    @harshal-- i remember those days. And yes the good times of old school rock n roll will be back

    Keep \m/

  5. Good stuff. Took me back those days for sure!

  6. Nice read, brought back old memories. My first rock concert was at Rang Bhavan............thank you for the memories. Just like you I work in an office but music stays forever do check out www.ryanmoonshine.com

  7. yea...brought back my old days! dont remember which was my first iRock...guess its around 94-95 :)


  8. Thanks for the feedback folks. I'm happy to note that there are others who share similar memories related to iRock