Cock Show

Rohit Bhatia

Around Independence Day there used to be a concert at Rang Bhavan called Independence Rock. Yours truly and his friends would save up their pocket money to attend this particular concert which we abbreviated to I Rock.

We prayed so that the gig didn’t get washed out by heavy rain. We always reached early and had snacks at the Irani restaurant on the way from Marine Lines station to Rang Bhavan. The restaurant’s Parsi owner cracked dirty jokes and called the gigs ‘cock show’. We laughed because it was true that very few females would grace this occasion. The women who did come that time were either too cool for us teenagers or worked at the vada pav stall and were thrice our age.

Sometimes fights broke out, the people incessantly chanted ‘Start the Fucking music’ if there were delays and there were really big ones.

We struck friendships with other people dressed in black. The album covers in rubber print on our t-shirts would give away our destination and taste in music. The 5 pm local on any given I Rock would be full of rockers. We could be sure.

Those days, there wouldn’t be much publicity for the concert. The post-gig coverage was a stand-alone photograph in a city paper.

Everyone got broke after I Rock and some fell in debt. That didn’t stop us. Every I Rock, the lane outside Rang Bhavan would be full of rockers of different types; hippies still stuck on The Beatles, chartered accountants who loved Pink Floyd, people who lived in hostels, people who lived in Mizoram and anyone who could appreciate the fine nuances of heavy metal. We made up a fraternity in which all rockers were welcome while the world around looked at us with amusement or disdain.

We would chip in money after buying the tickets that used to cost less than a hundred bucks and buy booze to get sloshed in the lane as one of us watched out for passing cop vans. Cigarettes of various types were smuggled inside and consumed on a ‘sharing is caring’ basis.

The bands were big draws. In front of our eyes, Indus Creed, Pentagram and Parikrama evolved from teens with acne to rock stars with attitude.

That was then. We could be sure that we would be there the year after.

Now, Independence Rock has become bigger and spread to other metros. On the down side, the gig’s finale has shifted to Chitrakoot Grounds, part of which is used as a parking lot on days there are no events. People go there to take a leak.

This is not bad considering the current parking crisis but the “oldest and biggest rock festival held in the country” surely deserves better. Problem: There isn’t anything better available after Rang Bhavan went out of bounds because of new laws and restrictions.

Independence Rock’s billing would have four big bands on each day. I remember one edition that went on for three days and at the end of it I had gone temporarily insane. These days there is a competition of amateur bands and the pro bands play for two days along with finalists of the competition. There aren’t that many good bands left anyway.

Having attended it since 1994, I feel the draw of I Rock is not in its current ‘rock competition’ form but in the nostalgia it evokes. In 2005, I spoke to the founder of I Rock, Farhad Wadia, and he said, “This is the last I Rock unless there’s a miracle. If we get Rang Bhavan back, we’ll do it again.”

I wasn’t surprised when the show happened again next year at Chitrakoot Grounds. There are big bucks riding on this gig now. There are sponsorships and media hype. The tickets cost 200 bucks nowadays. Rock bands are portrayed in Hindi films and people who can’t tell Deep Purple from Black Sabbath flock to be ‘seen’ with rock bands. These people include women who attribute their pathetic dress sense to ‘rock-chick attitude’ or have just been dragged by their boyfriends to see something other than the TV show Friends.

People stand obediently like sheep and bouncers scold kids for jumping/shouting/fighting/abusing. The whole thing is as much fun as a geriatric laughter club in your lawn.

There is no Irani restaurant on the way and getting drunk inside bars near Chitrakoot Grounds isn’t as thrilling as getting sloshed on the sly. The crowds have thinned and the fraternity has disappeared. Almost everyone has a day job and cash to spare so why bother ‘chipping in’?

That’s why, among other reasons, these days when someone asks me if I will be attending I Rock, I’m not sure.

The above article, with some censoring, was published in Mid-Day and evoked a response from Farhad Wadia who called this piece an ‘attempt to malign the I Rock brand’.

Rohit Bhatia (@bhatiawrites) is a journalist, lyricist and an award-winning writer who has covered the independent and classical music scene in Bombay for a decade. His opinion columns have been published in India and Australia.

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About johnny b

dj, writer, traveler, moonwalker, headbanger, mind expander, yoga instructor. View all posts by johnny b

2 responses to “Cock Show

  • Demonos Roy

    Thanks B for sharing this.
    Rohit – that was an excellent read.

    Yours Sincerely
    Fellow cocker who witnessed Indus Creed, Pentagram and Parikrama evolve from teens with acne to rock stars with attitude. 🙂

  • Arjun

    I havent been to Chitrakoot even once! Am not inclined to, either. Wasnt in 2006, am not in 2011 either. But if it comes back to Amphitheatre of Dreams – Rang Bhavan… I’ll definitely go

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