We got the invitation from the organisers of this year’s ‘Kala Utsavam’ over 6 months back and knew that we were on our way to Singapore which would be our first international gig ever! but then when the day actually came for us to fly out, it was a very surreal feeling. All of us were stuck in our own busy lives and the magnitude of the situation never hit us until we landed up in the airport that night. The delayed flight, the long immigration queues, not sure whether we should declare anything at customs, we were just like a dry sponge in a bowl of water trying to soak in everything that was happening. And we had not taken off yet!
The flight itself was quite uneventful except for the fact that it was our first time coming to terms with the concept of time difference. So after flying for 5 hours and leaving at 3 AM, we were in Singapore early in the morning! The Singapore airport itself was quite overwhelming for us; it is HUGE!! and is like a city in itself. You can just stay in the airport for days and not get bored! As we landed we got a rude shock with Anirban losing his wallet which after much searching we found had stayed back in India itself. Raghu and Ankur (one of the organisers who had come to pick us up) did their best to salvage the situation and a couple of forms were filled and complaints lodged. Anirban was doing his best to come to terms with it and all of us chipped in with our “let it go … you can block the credit cards” and fundas about how money goes around and there is no point fretting over lost money etc ..
Now everyone had told us how clean and pretty the city is and how organized the traffic and the people are and I can definitely vouch for that fact. Infact for a first time visitor like me, the city takes you by complete surprise. Our van was ready and waiting for us to go to the hotel and infact, our luggage had been gathered and kept on trolleys ready for us to verify and load into our van so essentially, we just had to walk from the plane to the van!
The ‘Allsons Hotel’ on Victoria street which was our abode for the next 4 days is a really nice and comfortable place. We were shown our rooms, given our ‘per diem’ money for the 4 days and told that we had the entire day to ourselves to experience the city! This was like starting a game of monopoly or a scene out of ‘The Amazing Race’ . Raghu had been to Singapore before and surprisingly had quite a vivid recollection of the place and gave us some pointers on stuff we could start out doing. But the musician in all of us took over completely and off we went hunting for the first “Music Shop” we could find!
Every musician in the world inevitably suffers from ‘GAS’ or the gadget acquisition syndrome and we were no different. Put us in a place where there is every possible type of guitar and a choice of brands for each type and every possible type of music equipment you could ever want, and only one thing will happen. We will go beserk! and we did! but better sense prevailed and we decided to check out other stores before actually buying, but our eyes were set on things we would get and I guess that was the most calculation we have done ever as a band! Converting the rates from Singapore dollars to Rupees, add VAT, more conversion, consider what happens if we are stopped at customs, each person had a different theory on how much we would have to shell out, and this calculation with every piece of equipment that we had our eyes on! Phew! and I thought being a musician was easy!
We then had to go over to the venue for a discussion with the sound engineer and the crew for the shows we had to play for the next 3 days and so we headed out after a quick lunch to the ‘Esplanade’. We were definitely not prepared for what lay ahead for us when we reached the Esplanade. It is a performer’s heaven, the most beautiful venue I have laid eyes on yet! The theatres there are complete with the best acoustics and state of the art technology driving them but they stil retain that old theatre feel with the galleries and the circular seating. The outdoor venue, where we played faces the bay and in the night, when you stand up on stage, the entire Singapore sykline in all its splendour unfolds in front of you. It is a brilliant setting and definitely put us in the right mood. We were later told that the stage we played at was a makeshift stage and the actual outdoor stage was under construction .. atleast, I would never have known that it was makeshift!
While looking around the Esplanade, Shiva saw that there was a performance of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in the evening and convinced the rest of us that we absolutely should watch it! And at the end of the performance, we couldn’t thank him enough for it! The play was the best theatre production I have ever seen. It had live music and live singing and everything was note perfect, the props were mind blowing with a 1.5 Tonne car which actually flew all over stage and the first few rows of the audience. The scene changes were flawless and every little detail was taken care of!The amount of money and time spent on production had really paid off! all of us were clearly picking up our jaws from the floor as we walked out of the theatre that night.
The next day was our first performance and we were told to be ready by 10.30 because the sound check was at 11. Now we are used to the concept of sound check where everything starts getting set up when we arrive at the venue, the drummer in most cases goes and assembles the kit on stage, the wiring will be in the process of being laid out and it would be one big mess on stage and the band would just wait for everything to finish and get to squeeze in some 30-40 minutes on stage. But we were in for a BIG surprise! When we landed there at 11, everything on stage was in place, I mean EVERYTHING that we specified in our technical rider, including a microphone for Raghu’s ankle bells. Each person’s monitor was active and set up and for the first time, we played on stage with a seperate mixer on stage to just manage the onstage sound! We just needed a little tweaking and then we din’t want to get off stage because it sounded so good on stage!
We went back to the hotel for sometime, freshened up and were back fresh and eager to play in the evening and it was a complete blast! we were initially worried if we had enough material rehearsed for the 3 sets that evening, but at the end of the first set, we realised we had tons of stuff we hadn’t played yet, and the audience was loving us! After some refreshments and some relax time, we were back on and were relieved that most of the crowd from the first set had stayed on and there were more people this time round to watch us! we finished all three sets for the evening and had a few people from the audience who wanted to meet the band and take photographs and autographs! Now all this is still very new for the band and we din’t really have much experience in this, we have always gone all out and jumped off stage after a gig and met people that we played for and chatted with them etc, so when there was someone stopping people from coming to meet the band and not allowing them to cross some barricades etc, it was all quite surprising! but we did meet everyone and chat with them and ask them to come back and get more friends for the shows on the next two days. All in all, it was a very satisfying first day but we still had a few glitches from our end that we had to iron out.
Day two went much the same as day one, but this is where I have to mention Mae, the band manager. She is one of the most prompt people I have ever met and is always on time and was always reprimanding us about one thing or another! it was like being in school all over again! The good part of it was, we never missed a single deadline, managed to get everywhere on time and had a HUGE burden lifted off our shoulders. She was like one big mamma taking care of 6 spoilt brats! If you are reading this, we love you Mae!!
Watch this space .. the next installment is on its way!