The hand that I-Rocked the craddle

You need not squeeze in to the infamous mosh pits of Mumbai's oldest annual rock concert, but instead watch it on TV. Metal fans say the festival is losing its sheen with other festivals and their fresher venues giving stiff competition. Sunday MiD DAY finds out what the veteran concert has up its sleeve to draw crowds

There was a time when Independence Rock took place on August 15. This was a time when college kids saved up enough money to buy their tickets to Mumbai's first rock concert, when the streets of Dhobi Talao would be crowded with excitement and music junkies clocked in black, their hair unkempt and their heads bowed to the stage. The bands  themselves would go on to create some of the biggest acts in the country.

Today Independence Rock turns 26 and "nothing has changed," chirps Farhad Wadia, CEO of E18 and I-Rock founder, ahead of the 26th edition of festival, which will take place simultaneously across five cities. However, last year's edition in Mumbai was disastrous. The event was postponed for a month, the three-day event was cut short to one day and many of the concert's sponsors pulled out in the end.

This wasn't the first time, the concert faced problems. Every year, new challenges for the organisers prop up, including  police permissions and venue changes.

Sahil Makhija, a member of Demonic Resuurrection, the popular death metal band that was formed in the year 2000, fondly remembers his first performance at I-Rock. "It was 2002 and our performance didn't go too well. The audience threw stones at us," he laughs. "Since then the nerves have stabilised and we've often been called to headline the festival."  

There are a few innovations to the festival this year. Music channels VH1 and MTV will broadcast short clips of the shows. Also, the audience capacity has been increased. Wadia says, "The grounds have a capacity of 10,000 this year (owing to renovation) and listeners will be allowed entry on a first come first serve basis," he says.

This year's performers in Mumbai include Aftertaste (Mumbai Regional Winner), The Other People, Bhayanak Maut, Brahma and Parikrama (Head Liner).

Anish Menon, the guitarist from the band Blakc that will perform at the festival in Pune says, "I-Rock was once the only one (festival) and now it is one among many. But it's still known as the launchpad for many of the current big bands."

Does I-Rock need to innovate to be able to compete with other popular festivals like NH7. Wadia, quick on the defensive, says, "How can they be competition? They are a 2 year-old multi-genre festival. We're 26 years old. Ours is free while they charge a bomb. They must have had an audience of some 3,000 people."

At: 5 pm, Chitrakoot Grounds, Andheri (W); free entry

Where is our good ol' I-Rock?
Five years ago I looked forward to I-Rock. But you can't have the same bands coming back every year. It's a well-organised festival but they need to be a little more innovative and get fresh talent.
Mangesh Gandhi, Bassist, Coshish

Since its Rang Bhavan days, it has been missing a certain charm but the turnout is still impressive.
Sahil Makhija, Vocalist, Demonic Resurrection

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