Two years ago, if someone invited you for a Delhi pub gig in the middle of May, you would have probably called it a prank. The Capital could at best boast of gigs on weekends after summer was safely out of the way. No longer. You can get your fix of live music — whether it is jazz, blues, rock, reggae, metal or even ska — on almost any night of the week, the year round. Yes, sweltering heat or mind-numbing cold, there are still guitars being strummed, skins beaten and vocals stretched for your listening pleasure. And as is true the world over, the chemistry that ensues between audiences and artistes (not so much with DJs) is something else. And many venues now specialise in live attacks, even promising to have them all week — something that is not so easily fulfilled.
"We are currently running four live nights a week but hope to go live six nights with early evening performances as well, soon." says Emmanuel de Decker, head of live programming, Blue Frog. This club in Mehrauli, launched last month, is the latest entrant on the Delhi live music scene and has upped the ante whether its programming, ambience or sound and light equipment. Having established its music-centric USP (amphitheatre-type seating et al) in Mumbai, the club makes no qualms about charging an entry fee — something Delhi patrons are not known to like much. "The idea is just like one goes to the cinema and pays. However, on most nights, if you arrive before 9 pm, you can enter free," says Simran Mulchandani, co-founder, Blue Frog.
Sura Vie is the other new player. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s live-music venue concept sports unique architecture — the stage seems to hang above the bar — with an emphasis on Indian acts. “We concentrate on Indian artistes such as Raghu Dixit, Faridkot and Rajasthan Roots who have already played here,” says Manish Tandon, managing director, Sura Vie Lounge.
International brand Hard Rock Café (HRC) in Saket also charge entry for their live nights. True to their DNA, says Jay Singh, MD, HRC, “our programming is around the rock genre. We will explore other genres but this is our mainstay.”
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While HRC delivers an international, big venue feel, for a more intimate live music experience, you can head to Bahi at South Point Mall, Gurgaon. Leon Baker, founder and owner, says, “I like how the audience participates and becomes part of building the experience.” Baker is likely to know you by name within the first few times that you visit Bahi. In case he invites you for the Sunday north-eastern buffet, don’t turn it down!
Another place where you can be close to the music is Manajsa in Hauz Khas. With walls dotted with legendary music album covers, the feel is college-rock. Not relying on band following to fill up the place, the Singh family — Mary, Anup, Ajit and Sameer — have developed a loyal audience, which throngs the venue on most nights of the week.