Notes From The 2015 Edition Of The Journey Music Festival
If they gave out awards for music festivals in India, Oranjuice Entertainment’s Johnnie Walker The Journey would very likely win in a Most Eclectic Line-up category. Over its three years of existence, the event has featured a diverse range of acts. A concert by 1980s pop chart-conquering progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project was the sole musical presentation among the film screenings and theatre performances at the inaugural edition in 2013. Instrumental jazz-fusion ensemble Snarky Puppy and electronica exponent Bonobo played last year. And post-rock group Explosions In The Sky, ambient music outfit Tycho, and disco pioneer turned electronic music DJ Giorgio Moroder took the stage for the 2015 round at the Mehboob Studios on Saturday, December 12. What binds these six acts though is that their music melds a variety of styles. Which is also why the combinations have surprisingly worked each time.
At the 2014 instalment, the organisers underestimated the popularity of Snarky Puppy by slotting them at a smaller venue inside Mehboob Studios. As a result, the experience of watching the punchy Grammy-winning American group was marred by a claustrophobic setting. This time, they took no such chances and programmed all three gigs in the same large room. Texas’s Explosions In The Sky were the first to play and three of them came dressed in kurtas, just like Ed Sheeran and Skrillex did for their gigs here earlier in the year. Before playing a single note, they had charmed the crowd thanks to Indian and Pakistani-origin guitarist Munaf Rayani who addressed the audience in broken Hindi.
Post-rock is perhaps the fastest-growing sub-genre in the Indian independent music scene right now. During the last couple of years, post-rock groups from across the country including Ahmedabad’s As We Keep Searching, Bangalore’s Until We Last and Mumbai’s A Mutual Question have garnered a sizeable following. It was thus no surprise to see a number of young ‘uns lined up front for Explosions In The Sky’s performance, which was the second part of a sweet double treat for post-rock fans after Scottish group Mogwai’s sets at the Pune, Bangalore and Delhi editions of the NH7 Weekender festival.
We did a spot poll among a handful of the genre’s aficionados, most of whom said they’d rate Explosions In The Sky’s appearance over Mogwai’s. To us, Explosions’ sound was not as wide in range as Mogwai’s but just as deeply immersive. Their textured triple-guitar layered tunes anchored by the precise stick work of drummer Chris Hrasky and embellished by simple but elegant light design, offered music to which you could head bop, headbang or simply lose yourself in.
You could also get lost in the self-described ‘ambient music’ compositions of San Francisco’s Tycho helmed by composer Scott Hansen. Much like Bonobo’s Simon Green, Hansen performs electronic music with a band. Or what we jokingly like to call “electronica for over-25s”. There were a few tonal similarities with Explosions In The Sky but you could also dance to Tycho’s stuff, which was accompanied by visuals that were occasionally bizarre but for the most part, an entrancing backdrop for their instrumental tracks.
While you could at best sway your hips to Tycho’s sophisticated dance rock, to shake your booty you had to come to Giorgio Moroder who blazed through over 30 tracks in his 70-minute set. The septuagenarian mixed a mash-up of his greatest hits (from “I Feel Love” to “Take My Breath Away”); songs from his new album, which was out in June and features contributions by Sia, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue; and a tad disproportionate lot of recent electro-house chartbusters by everyone from Avicii to Zedd. It was this third element that put off some attendees who weren’t expecting to hear Calvin Harris and David Guetta after a double bill of artists on the opposite end of the commercial music spectrum.
But those who wanted a nostalgia trip got it, even if it seemed like Moroder was rushing through his set, denying revelers a chance to fully soak in the memories he had just made them recall. The difference between his gig and, say, a night at Hawaiian Shack was that the guy spinning the tunes was the chap who actually made them. In short, he threw a crowd-pleasing dance party. If they gave out awards for the world’s coolest grandpa, Moroder would be a shoo-in.