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Review |  15 Jul 2016 20:40 |  By RnMTeam

Gig review: The Ska Vengers at antiSocial Mumbai

MUMBAI: antiSocial Khar has had nights absolutely buzzing with excitement and curiosity, but rarely (or perhaps, never) on a Thursday night. Not at least to the last night’s magnitude of thrilling sensation created before The Ska Vengers even took to the stage. Attendees were informed about Begum X’s absence from the line-up, however, the opening act – The Jass B’stards – ensured that the resulting disappointment was short-lived.

The Jass B’stards asked the revelers for song suggestions and did not comply with the requests, demanded the listeners not to dance and performed an hour-long set. Stephan Kaye’s (keyboardist) sarcasm acted as the fourth wheel to the three-piece band. The hour-long instrumental marathon provided justice to the build-up for the Delhi-based main act of the night. Comprising three members of The Ska Vengers, Stephan Kaye, bassist Tony Guinard and drummer Nikhil Vasudevan ensured the 150-odd people warmed up to what did follow.

Touted as among city’s best for live music engagements, antiSocial welcomed The Ska Vengers for the first time, and the vocalist Delhi Sultanate & co. wasted no time in unwrapping the sounds of the band’s latest album ‘XX’. The band kicked off the proceedings with Delhi Sultanate on the vocals, and two songs into the set, the vocalist received support from the songwriter Talia Benston. Begum X’s absence had little or no effect as Benston’s flawless vocal contribution satisfied the aural cravings of the people in the Social’s basement, most gulping down their third Budweiser of the night by now.

The band’s sophomore effort ‘XX’ (pronounced as Double Cross) revolves around issues that has affected the society on the ground ranging from fake encounter killings to the utterly ignorance among the decision makers of the government, and almost-everything-absurd on the socio-political front of the 21st century India. If the content of the compositions was strictly national, the sound was global and the performance at antiSocial continues to push the seven-year-old band to the international level – figuratively and literally. The band would set out for a UK and Europe tour starting 23 July, and if last night’s performance could be used as an element of reference, then the tour comes exactly at the right time for the ska/reggae (and beyond) band.

If Benston, albeit fulfilling the most of the eleventh-hour requirements, managed to replace Begum X to a certain extent, the other vocalist for the night Meg D’Souza continued where Benston had left. Apart from the basement setting and the indoor sound surrounding that boosted The Ska Vengers’ sound last night, another factor that raised the uniqueness of the performance had to be the lightings and the visual arrangements. The band barely stopped between the songs, and if one had to handpick the ‘instrumentalist’ of the night, then not many would argue on the brilliant display of versatility and significance portrayed by the drummer Vasudevan, who began his night earlier than few of the other performers, with The Jass B’stards. Vasudevan simply stayed in the background – as every drummer does – while his sound made to the forefront. For a regular at The Ska Vengers shows, trumpeter Kishore Sodha’s one-and-a-half hour long contribution to the entire set did not carry any unique feature, and that remains as yet another example of the immense consistency generated through years of mastering the instrument.

The highlight of the night arrived through the second track on the album – El Cumbanchero – that potentially had every soul present at the venue groove, jump and request for a repeat although Delhi Sultanate and the bandmates had more originals to offer. ‘Frank Brazil’ and ‘Jail Mein’ were received with equal enthusiasm and interest. Stephan Kaye joined the group a bit later, replacing Karan Joseph on the keyboards and the two keyboardist did not miss a single opportunity to flaunt their respective musical prowess towards the instrument.

The night ended with a 45-minute-long DJ set by Delhi Sultanate on the opposite side of the main stage, and while the unaware lot found its way to the exit, the lucky ones stayed back for Sultanate’s extension of musical knowledge to the electronica front.

The ‘XX’ originals weren’t the only The Ska Vengers content that the attendees consumed yesterday. With an elaborated merchandise set-up that included stickers, t-shirts and CDs, the fans who paid 300 rupees for the entry did not hesitate to open the wallet one more time.

The Ska Vengers has the ability to make every attendee dance, regardless to his/her hatred towards the activity. The impressive attribute of the Vengers’ performance at antiSocial Mumbai had to be the intelligent spacing between two songs, and the set-list that ensured not a single soul had the excuse to not dance to what was unfolding.