A review of Bangalore’s latest musical blessing through the ears of an eavesdropper.

It was not just another Sunday evening for most Bangaloreans, especially not anyone who’d heard of these three names: Steven Wilson, Patrick Watson and Jose Gonzales. The first edition of Backdoors – by The Humming Tree, was about to get underway and some of the western world’s most interesting acts were all set to scorch, or at least mildly heat up the stage for close to a thousand fans. Try doing a headcount during an intense head banging. Man. When I think about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steven Wilson had a side-deal going on with Bangalore’s chiropractors.

Credits: Nikhil Kataria

Where were we? Yes, the review. Now, there are two ways to go about this. First, would be through my eyes & ears. I could tell you how I couldn’t help but sway at every strum of Jose’s guitar, how I was spell-bound at seeing the sheer energy in Patrick Watson’s entire performance, or how Steven Wilson was, oh, Steven Wilson <3.

But that’s just me. And I wasn’t the only one there.

Which is why, this review is about everything I heard apart from the music- about the music. Things that I casually ended up eavesdropping from everyone at the event, which will sum up why Backdoors was indeed, a bloody classy gig in every way.

“Birds, bro. These birds are trippy.” – Random dude in an Ed Hardy shirt.

Credits: Vikram Chandrasekar

He’s right. You see, the event took place in the Indira Nagar Club, one of the cities’ chirpiest venues. Literally. With greenery fortifying the neighbourhood around the venue, the evening was inaugurated by the loud, intense, and truly invigorating chirping of thousands of birds around me- almost as though nature’s own were setting the mood for Jose Gonzalez’s simple, pagan beats. As he first act, he began not a few minutes post 6 p.m, with the dimly relaxing light of the sunset punctuating every song. A crowd that slowly started in tens & twenties, soon turned into hundreds- and by the time he hit “Walking Lightly”, hoards were running quickly to catch the chorus. The crowd needed no reason to applaud separately, as claps were used as an instrument- in parts of the songs themselves. While I could make out that a large part of the crowd was listening to some of his newer pieces for the first time, he played to them too- winding up with his classics- including Heartbeats. However, as he began playing Teardrop, the skies began playing Raindrops, and out came the showers! (only to go down a few minutes later. Phew!)

“These guys are totally the Canadian Beatles!”- An thirties-something person shouting into the ears of his friend.

Credits: Vikram Chandrasekar

Hmm. No prizes for guessing who he was talking about. Once Patrick Watson got onto stage, the first thing you’d notice about him and the band was their chemistry. The first of the three, arguably best songs, were ‘To Build a Home’- with Patrick Watson’s unmistakably soothing voice sharply cutting through the instruments, setting a beautiful sense of calm throughout the crowd. It was followed by ‘Adventures in your own backyard’ & ‘Hearts’- two more astoundingly glorious tracks. For the band, unfortunately, their applause was short-lived by an audience which smiled more than clapped, thanks to the soothing, melodious nature of the songs themselves. All in all, old fans lived on, and new fans were born- guaranteed.

“Ladies & Gentlemen, we’ve got an update – Steven Wilson’s here!” – Patrick Watson during his set.

Credits: Vikram Chandrasekar

Well, this technically doesn’t qualify as eavesdropping. He said it into the mic. But well, stick with me.

Steven Wilson’s set (rightly so) was set to be played on the second stage- a larger, more conducive one for the madness which few of us knew was about to follow. Here was a crowd that’d moved only the muscles of their heart while skipping beats to Jose Gonzales and Patrick Watson’s melody. And they were about to witness something so hard, so intense, words now fail to describe it. In the 15-20 minute break between the sets, the crowds gurgled down their beers- prepping their own spirits to move like they were about to be possessed. Suddenly, in the middle of many a chug, the stage lit up, and there they were- starting off with a bang. By the end of the first song, the crowd got a quick hello from Steven Wilson, we were told that Bangalore was the last venue (that’s the 152nd venue) of a long, long tour. Something the crowd surely took pride in knowing. But before we could digest our self-importance, Wilson belted out ‘Lazarus’ and the crowd started swaying almost in a trance, following it up with newer tracks. Soon, the mosh pits were forming, the heads were banging, and a few had gone shoulder riding from the back to catch a better view. In a set that included Hand Cannot Erase, and my personal favourite- Index, the band also faked ending their session early- only to come back and perform two more- including Sound of Muzak, a song which Wilson laughingly admitted to have his most “catchy chorus” & a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘The raven that refused to sing’, which he went on record to call his most favourite song that he has written so far. Finishing the night on a high with an upbeat tribute to Prince, leaving the crowd grooving for more.

“You want to do khaana here, or Empire?”- Hungry headbanger after Steven Wilson’s set.

(Review courtesy – P.G. Aditiya)