Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Aunty Disco Project: Our First Concert In Lahore.

As many of you are aware, we went to Lahore this past weekend to perform two shows, on in Peeru's Cafe and one in Nando's Lahore, which was a follow up to the Nando's Karachi gig. The following is my blog post about the day we performed at Peeru's Cafe, making our Lahore debut. It's really long and written in present, but there was no other way I could do justice to it. So here you go.

Saturday January 31st, 2009

9:00 AM: I have only slept 3 hours and am woken up by a call from City FM89 confirming our radio interview at their Lahore station. I have no idea what I said but I was conscious enough to write down “2pm radio interview”. I go back to sleep. Lahore is cold and the blanket is warm.

10:00 AM: Call from Ali Alam asking the plan. I politely answer that I will call him back with the plan.

10:01 AM: Call from Yasir asking the plan. I tell him to suck my balls and hang up.

12:30 PM: My guilt over suggesting oral sex to Yasir catches up with me and I finally wake up. I call Omar Khalid, who is surprisingly awake, and even more surprisingly chirpy. He tells me he's at LUMS taking a trip down memory lane, ie. Omar is standing in the middle of campus checking out the freshmen. I was once told that LUMS has some of the hottest girls in the country all together in one place. I am envious and I hope he gets thrown out like Jazz from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

1:00 PM: I'm staying at my friend Asad's house, and he's graciously lent me a driver and car for the length of my stay in Lahore. The tea at Asad's house seems to be made in a nuclear reactor because it never gets cold. Ever. After a half an hour the damned mug is still the surface of the sun. Asad's cook and driver smirk at the pussy from Karachi who's waiting for his cup to cool.

1:45 PM: I pick up Ali Alam and get to the City FM89 where we're greeted by station manager Saami. Our interview with Fiza went pretty well, except that nobody knew who the hell we were and I think out of the 4 ticket giveaways we did for the Peeru's show, I think only one person availed them. Oh well. Otherwise the interview was a lot of fun, with us having a “who can sound sexiest on the radio” competition and me once again issuing a fake challenge to Ali Zafar to show up at our show.

3:00 PM: I am asked to do a voice-over for “Bata Shoes”, because apparently the lahori RJ's pronunciation of “Bata” wasn't satisfactory. So they needed a Karachiite to do it. Smirk Smirk. Snooty Snooty me.

3:25 PM: We discover that Saami is a huge movie buff and for the next hour we sit around trading discussions on Kubrick, Japanese Horror, Kung Fu movies and Quentin Tarantino. Saami is absolutely hilarious, re-enacting the most ridiculous scenes from a bunch of movies. It ends with him and me seeing who could do the best Al Pacino impression. (I win with my recreation of the classic line from 'Heat' “Cuz' she got a GREEAAAAAATTTT ASSSS! And your head halfway up it”.)

4:15PM: We grab lunch in Liberty market trying to kill time before we leave for Peeru's cafe. Looking all over for a Lahori restaurant so that we can get the real Lahori experience. Unfortunately we only see Karachi based “Bundoo Khan”. The other option is a place called (I kid you not) “Biryani Xtreme”. We're pretty sure this will cause potty xtreme so we look around a little more and settle on “New Tikka Corner. It occurs to me that we look so out of place as four dudes who are obviously from out of town. Ali Alam is sporting his scarf and open fuzzy hair look along with his famed red/pink Converse sneakers. Omar Khalid is wearing a suit jacket and jeans and looks like an art collector. I'm wearing a 50's style beige bomber jacket and here we are in the middle of Liberty market eating tikka boti, anxiously hoping that we don't get shit on by the crows. We're immediately impressed with the electronic parking token machine in the Liberty parking lot and we circle around it marveling at how the Lahoris have progressed and how this machine would have already been stolen and sold for profit in Karachi.

5:45 PM: The trek to Peeru's Cafe begins. It takes us about half an hour to get there from downtown Lahore. It amuses me how Lahori's consider a half an hour drive to be an insanely long distance. Half an hour is kinda average for everyone in Karachi. (Insert superiority complex here).

6:00 PM: After 3 near collisions with two cars and a donkey cart, we realize that our driver is fucking batshit insane.

6:30 PM: Peeru's Cafe is this beautiful, magical place and we're all absolutely stunned by what we see. It's about an acre of land with a Museum of Puppetry, a sprawling, green outdoor cafe and a giant amphitheater. We look inside and our jaws drop. The stage, the lights, the seating, its just incredible, We can't believe our luck. Plus the sound guys are already there and waiting. They've already set up the drum-kit and placed it on a riser. The boys and I are over the moon looking at the venue. Look at the pictures and you'll know why.

7:10 PM: Walking along the lush green lawns at Peeru's, we encounter three 14 year old kids and we hear them whisper “is that the Aunty Disco Project”. Thinking them to be young fans who've showed up to early, I greet them with a big smile and say”Yes yes, we're ADP, you kids here to see the show?”. Turns out these kids were the show. They were the opening act. Other three band members point at me and laugh.

7:15 PM: The name of the opening act is “Borstal Escape” and these kids were barely more than 13 or 14 years old. But they were all energy and rock'n'roll. They even had a single groupie girl, which according to Ali Alam is a must for every high school band. I don't remember having a single groupie girl in high school. Come to think of it, I don't think we even have one now. So they look like kids, we weren't expecting much. But at sound check, these little fuckers take the stage and proceed to rock the hell out of the amphitheatre. It was only a sound check, but these kids played like they were at Lollapalooza. They had all the stage moves down, jumping up and down, hammering out the power chords, shredding guitar solos. Their drummer was this bundle of energy, in fact I don't remember his name, all I know is that they referred to him as “Vehshee” which is Punjabi for “barbarian”.The boys and I look at each other and smile uneasily, simultaneously being very impressed and also realizing that there was a real possibility that we, the mighty Aunty Disco Project could get upstaged by a bunch of teenagers playing Metallica covers.

7:30 PM: We start our soundcheck in an empty stage, and its one of the best, most relaxed soundchecks we've ever done. The sound guy knows his shit and on our first run through, we're literally shocked at how good it sounds. For the first time we can hear everything all of us our playing individually and the venue has this beautiful, warm natural reverb that really makes the sound come alive. We've become so used to playing in tiny venues and cramped spaces that hearing ourselves sound like this huge rock band is exhilarating. Just then they turn on the lights and we're bathed in rays of blue, red and green and a slithering cloud of smoke. It's truly magical. I actually get a lump in my throat.

7:31 PM: Yasir ruins everything by complaining that he can't hear the darbuka. Now Yasir is generally never happy with his sound anywhere and the rest of us just kind of play along till he gets it right. Usually we can find no discernible difference. But we were getting visibly irritated because no matter what the sound guy tried, Yasir could not be satisfied. Usually by this time I tend to lose it with him and just force him to play as it is, but I didn't want to kill the vibe so I just left him to his own devices. Omar took a similar approach and just wordlessly played along with Yasir's requests to check the sound again.

7:45 PM: Everything looks and sounds great. Yasir is still not happy. Ali, Omar and me converge to decide what would be the best way to shove the darbuka up Yasirs butthole.

8:00 PM: This was the time we had officially put on the event. So we were chilling out. The temperature has suddenly dropped and we start freezing. The venue is outdoors with a marquee on top so we really have no place to go. And the Peeru's guys wont let us near the bonfire in the cafe area because we don't have reservations. So much for rockstar status.

8:30 PM: By now we are resembling something from a Russian novel, the four of us are huddled together, shivering from the cold which is getting unbearably worse and getting more tense as showtime approaches. No one has shown up yet, but we keep telling ourselves its too early.

9:00PM: The opening act take the stage and play to an empty auditorium. I feel bad for the kids because no one has shown up, but it doesnt seem to faze them at all. They rock out playing some AC/DC and a demonic cover of Metallica's “Seek and Destroy”. Sure their guitars are too loud, their vocals incoherent and drums out of sync, but man can they put on a show. Their lead singer who we christened “Chota Hetfield” was aping his idol right down to Hetfields' signature hunch over the mic and low slung guitar. I genuinely loved these kids, they totally rocked out with complete abandon. Watch out for them when they're 18.

9:30PM: No one has shown up. I'm trying my best to project outward calm but its not working and Ali Alam is constantly reassuring me that people show up late in Lahore. Omar Khalid is keeping to himself, and Yasir is sulking because we gave him a group yelling over the soundcheck.

9:45PM: We are being given a crash course in Lahori punctuality because still no one has shown up. The Peeru's authorities are beginning to pressure us into starting and I keep resisting. Yasir keeps coming up to me and asking me what to do. The five guys who have shown up keep shooting me anxious looks to start the show. I can't be around anyone at this point, so I take off for a long walk, trying to clear my head and calm myself down. I'm feeling horribly nauseous and bitter. Everyone in the venue is asking me what to do and I'm telling them to wait, but they keep pressing.

10:00PM: Peeru's announces that ADP is starting in 5 mins, effectively taking the decision out of my hands. A small crowd that has gathered in the cafe area starts making their way to the amphitheater. I stalk off on my own to go to the loo. Omar, Ali and Yasir take the stage and I can hear them warming up as a cheer goes off from the crowd.

10:05PM: While I'm outside the tent gulping down huge chunks of air, the noise in the amphitheatre seems to be getting louder. It seems like the crowd has just started to come in. I'm suffering from an unusual case of stage fright, I'm always tense before a show but its usually positive energy. But this time I am a complete wreck. My legs don't feel sturdy enough to hold me up, my hand are freezing and my fingers aren't moving fast enough. I'm hoping the rest of the band doesn't see me like this and am willing myself to go on stage and join them. This was definitely the worst case of jitters I've had, I can't describe how excruciatingly horrible it was, I felt like my entire body was shutting down on me.

10:15 PM: I finally close my eyes, say a prayer and walk inside the tent. A couple of my friends in the audience spot me and yell out my name. It doesn't help at all. So I just flash them a pained smile and keep my head down and make my way to the stage. Everyone probably thinks I'm such a prima donna by being the last one on stage. It's freezing cold on stage and my band members seem miles away from me on this huge platform. We've got a decent crowd in their and people are still coming in. I grab the neck of my guitar and I relax a little as I run my hands up and down the string. I switch on the amp and wait for the warm electronic hum to come through. I'm not looking at either of the guys. I take out the scrawled setlist from my back pocket. The first song is “Kiss”. I realize that I'm really uncomfortable, so I take of my jacket and a wave of cold hits me. It's showtime. The crowd is getting restless. I play one quick strum of the opening chord. Its Fmajor. I look over at Yasir and nod, I look to the right and do the same with Ali. I look back at OK and wait for the go ahead. He nods at me. I shuffle across to the mic and announce.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we're the Aunty Disco Project, and this is KISS”

one...two...three.....FOUR!

10:16PM: The moment I hit that first chord, all my tension melts away. We tear into our cover of “Kiss” and a huge roar erupts from the crowd. The song is upbeat, it's sexy and we play it tight as hell, the crowd is moving along to the beat and cheering at all the right moments. Suddenly its not cold anymore. The stage narrows down and there's this huge glow in the room. “Kiss” goes off without a hitch and the crowd loves it.

10:20 PM: I riff around the guitar for a bit and then I start the signature opening riff of “Sultanat”. The guitar sounds beautiful, loud and clear with the notes soaring high and cutting though the winter air. We play a ferocious version of “Sultanat” with OK being particularly brutal on the skins. We're playing as if our lives depended on it. It is a sonic assault and even though a lot of people in the crowd aren't familiar with the song, you can see them reacting to it. The energy on stage gets to a boiling point and Ali and me let loose. We end Sultanat with an extended, crashing finale and I windmill my arm at breakneck speed over the guitar drawing ecstatic cheers from the crowd. As the song ends, I want to collapse, I've spent nearly all my energy on this one.

10:25 PM: We power through the rest of the setlist including Tainted Love, Shehar Kay Aansoo, Likhta Nahin Mein and Rock The Casbah, where we finally released Yasir and his darbuka onto the unsuspecting audience who are wowed by his effortless interplay with OK's drums. I'm surprised that people are liking Likhta Nahin Mein so much, and theres a couple of guys in the last row dancing along to it.

10:30 PM: We do Ali's songs, although mid set, Ali vetoes the playing of “Dhoonda Taaron Mein” because we are so desperate to keep the energy levels high. We breeze past “Raat Jaagi” and struggle a bit through “Hum Na Rahey” because OK is clearly getting tired and beginning to cramp. We move to “Nazar” to give him a rest.

10:45PM: I perform an uncharacteristically dramatic version of “Nazar”. The lights go dim and the smoke machine spurts out. Now usually “Nazar” is a cue for everyone in the audience to start talking, but this time, there was palpable silence which was slightly unnerving for me. I also discovered that after yelling out the first 8 songs, my voice was giving way and the high notes were beginning to sound hoarse. Beads of sweat kept dripping down my head and onto my guitar. It was then that I realized my fingers were burning. I couldn't believe people in the audience were actually singing along to the chorus. It was a beautiful feeling and when I finally brought the song down to a hushed whisper in the end, the crowd erupted in heartfelt applause.

10:50PM: We start winding up the show by pulverizing the audience with our versions of “Womanizer”and “Baba O'Reilly”. I realize that the burning in my hands is because I have torn open a gash in my little finger and thumb from slamming my hand into the guitar strings. Its also kind of gross to see that the volume knob on my guitar is bloody.

11:10 PM: We announce we're going to end with our brand new unreleased song “Mujhey Sahara Do” and it is a huge success. People start singing along to the chorus and bopping their heads up and down. Ali and me move to the side of the stage so that Yasir can pull out his final incredible darbuka solo and him and OK take turns at wowing the audience who are absolutely thrilled to see this percussion battle. We build up to a frantic climax ending in a wall of noise with crashing drums and screeching guitars and the crowd is on their feet yelling themselves hoarse.

11:30 PM: The crowd isn't ready to let us go just yet. Screaming for an encore, they chant our name repeatedly. I'm exhausted and my hands are throbbing. I look over at OK and he's clearly sent but he's grinning from ear to ear, savoring the moment. We get back on stage and Yasir starts our encore, “Sympathy For The Devil”

11:45PM: A long and emotional cheer goes up from the crowd as we slam the final chord and I leap off the drum riser and nearly collapse on stage. They're all on their feet yelling, clapping and cheering. It isn't a huge crowd, but they are loud enough to sound like we're at LiveAid. It's an emotional moment for me as I look over at the guys and think of how far we've come and even though we've got a long way to go, this will be a special moment. The show was incredible. We played out of our skins. I have never been prouder of my brothers, my band. We did it. We played the show of our lives.





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13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

congratulations! waiting for one of these tour de forces in an actual venue like this one in karachi.

2:16 AM  
Blogger Khizzy said...

now blog about nandos.
:P

2:29 AM  
Blogger Ahsan said...

Bravo Oba. Sounds like you guys rocked out with your, um, never mind. Pity I missed it.

Is Asad still wasting his life?

10:35 AM  
Blogger Starman said...

YAY!

dude you so have girl groupies kya baatein karrahe ho.

9:42 PM  
OpenID sabaimtiaz said...

"We're immediately impressed with the electronic parking token machine in the Liberty parking lot and we circle around it marveling at how the Lahoris have progressed and how this machine would have already been stolen and sold for profit in Karachi."

- Quote of the DAY!

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Chota Hetfield said...

AAHHAHHA!
too good!

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Chota Hetfield said...

we have groupies!
Borstal Escape > ADP!
we win because of the coolness of having a groupie!

2:19 PM  
Anonymous laila said...

Whheee
I also want to go to Lahore and visit the Chota Hetfieldd...

4:04 PM  
Blogger for every reaction.... said...

finally! what an extensive report! and i couldnt have been happier for you! I almost felt , I was there at the concert......thank you for writing this!
Come to India soonnnnnn!

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear the concert went well :D. I recently became a fan of your work...love your songs. and the blog too.

On another note, Ali Zafar mentioned you in his blog...check this...
http://www.alizafar.net/blog/

haha.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

lol hetfield, you have yet to witness an ADP concert in karachi. jest while thee can.

11:22 PM  
Blogger M. said...

performing in isb anytime soon?

12:30 AM  
Blogger Omar said...

Thanks guys for the comments and support. I suppose it should be worth mentioning that the show we did the next day at the Lahore Nandos really sucked ass, proving that god doesn't gift with both hands. Anyway, doesn't put a damper on the show.

@Ahsan: Yes, there was definitely cock action. And yes Asad is still wasting his life. But he gave me food and shelter so he's ok.

@Starman: We have groupies but they all want Yasir.

@for every reaction: Can't wait to come to India, if it ever happens. Meeting Govinda would be the ultimate life experience for me.

@Chota Hetfield: Yeah you guys totally woulda kicked our ass. PS Let it be known that the kids from Borstal Escape are actually 16 years old...my bad boys.

10:53 AM  

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