Live act venues are rearranging the week for you. What used to be the end-of-the-week routine with new bands and great music has shifted smack to the centre of your work-week, while Fridays are being kept strictly for partying hard. Is this about keeping the cash registers ringing or have audiences demanded this shift?
Remember when not too long ago, people would slog away at their desks the entire week and look forward to watching a quality performance over a few drinks and food on a Friday night? The times are a changing. The wait till Friday night is just too long, the number of quality international and national acts are far too many, and the few venues that are around, are rearranging your time for recreation.
UK-based musician Shri performed at the world premier of his ShriLektric
project at Bonobo on a Wednesday in August
Take for example the case of blueFROG, arguably one of the most sought-after live act venues in the city. One look at their event schedule of the past month, and you will notice the trend emerge. On Wednesday, November 23, Grammy nominated Imogen Heap performed at the Lower Parel venue.
The Wednesday after that, Austrian trumpet player and singer Michaela Rabitsch, called the "modern day female Chet Baker", and Austrian guitarist Robert Pawlik performed at the club. On December 7 -- another Wednesday -- international pianist Jaume Vilseca from Barcelona and Nordic beatboxer Droolain performed at blueFROG followed by the album launch of Canadian electro-pop band LAL and the Wednesday following that, on December 14, another international act called the Saiyuki Trio, featuring the French-Vietnamese guitar maestro Nguyen Le, the Indian tabla specialist Prabhu Edouard and the Japanese Koto virtuoso Mieko Miyazakiz, performed at the club.
Grammy-nominated Imogen Heap performed at blueFROG on
Wednesday November 23, to a packed house
However, the Friday after Imogen Heap performed, the club had a party, literally. For the first time in India, Avalon, a South African artiste who is the 'next big thing' in the psychedelic circuit rocked the dance floor for the venue's patrons, while the following Friday, Australian hip hop, dub step and beatboxing artist Dub FX entertained the audience. UK-based top ranking DJ John Digweed and US-based Felix da Housecat, one of the biggest names in house music, also performed earlier this month, on successive Fridays.
BlueFrog isn't the only venue that seems to be setting this trend. Bonobo, a live act venue based in Bandra, is another. For instance, in August, it hosted the world premiere of ShriLektric, a concert where UK-based musician Shri, known for his blend of Indian classical, electronica, rock and jazz, performed -- but naturally, on a Wednesday, too.
"We generally programme performances -- live band or standup comedy -- on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. On weekends, we generally have DJs play at the club," says Nevil Timbadia, partner at Bonobo.
National Centre for Performing Arts, Nariman Point, also prefers to schedule events and festivals on weekdays. "We do not specifically slot weekends for our events, especially in case of festivals. For instance, the Mudra Dance Week featured five performances in five different dance forms on all weekdays. Even Symphony Orchestra of India's Opera evenings has been scheduled for February 20 and 21, a Monday and a Tuesday, next year," said an NCPA spokesperson.
Curators and programmers are forced to go beyond weekend programming, as weekends are not enough to accommodate cultural events and satiate the cultural appetite of an ever-growing audience.
We asked for it
According to Timbadia, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are days when their clientele comprises people who want to unwind with a drink or two -- not more -- and watch a good performance. The 'party bug', he said, strikes on a Friday. "Fridays are not the day when they want to sit down and pay attention to a performance. Standup comedy on a Friday would never work, for instance," he says.
Emmanuelle de Decker, head of Live Programming at blueFROG, agrees. "Audiences don't mind coming in for a quality gig on a working Tuesday night. The gig doesn't go on till 3 am, nor are they partying, drinking and dancing. On Fridays, people want to party and it makes more sense to have DJs playing electronic or house music on those days."
'Let's not make it a late night' is more often than not the refrain that precedes a visit to a live performance on a weekday.
This is borne out by the feedback that the NCPA, which offers performances in six genres of performance arts, has received from its loyalists: People working in town prefer coming to the NCPA to watch a 6.30 or 7 pm show on weekdays. "This way they can beat traffic as well," explains the spokesperson.
"The general feedback is that on weekends they (audiences) prefer 'entertainment' -- a movie, a dinner, a big star-studded show."
Or, a party, as it turns out.
This new trend in scheduling events has also proved to be financially fruitful for venues.
"On an average Tuesday or Wednesday night, we have about 30 to 40 people come in, but if we organise a live performance on a Tuesday, the numbers shoot up to 150. Also, they spend more time in the club. On an average Tuesday people would enter post 9.30 pm but if there is an event that begins at 8.30 pm then they start coming in by 8 pm to catch a table," adds Timbadia.
"It just ensures a steady crowd throughout the week," concludes de Decker.