Apr 25, 2012

Higher On Maiden (Iron Maiden tribute band) grins at Dimapur

How Iron Maiden and Ugly Eddie grinned at Dimapur (in Nagaland, dude)

Al Ngullie

You could almost sense sweet old ugly Eddie grin frantically in irrefutable approval at his protégés for grabbing big, bad Dimapur by the throat and slamming it to the floor, just to demonstrate how a truly international tribute band performs like. That’s exactly what you get even when you have to pay Rs. 100 to a concert to listen to exactly the same songs played exactly as you always hear on your CD at home. 

But, an unidentified wise man once said, ‘the CD ain’t no singer, ain’t no player, Dude.’ Iron Maiden’s original tribute band, Higher-On Maiden, did just than and more, on the chilly night of December 17 at Dimapur District Sports Complex stadium. 

Majestic, masculine and classic, Iron Maiden’s legacy couldn’t be in more trustworthy hands than Higher-On Maiden’s, led by a charismatic Big Dickinson. Backed by performers whose knack at their instruments went far beyond ‘talented’ (calling them ‘talented’ would be such a shameful understatement) the band bulldozed through the long-waiting fans in the stadium. 

(Photo: Dunno, it was on the artiste's website so we took it and published it in MEx)
For a show that was scheduled to commence by 3 PM, well, the Nagas’ rich old cultural tradition of late arrival was affirmed yet again – the show began somewhere around 6:45 PM. Mind-numbing sound checks, more sound checks and even more sound checks. By the time the show got off centuries behind schedule, the fans were already dizzy, wearied and malnourished and almost half-dying after having to use all sorts of expletives as a medium of communication to express their grievances across to the organizers.

Finally, around 6pm the show got off – sadly, to two hugely mediocre, unidentified opening bands. And the bad sound added to the woes of both the performers and fans alike. This meant that the gathered Dimapur fans had to keep contented with songs that had no “vocals” or bob their heads to a number in the middle of which they suddenly realize the guitar is missing from the music. The agony stretched on for hours. That’s when the customary Naga spirit kicked in – someone started to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ The  entire crowd joined in – and they sung in all genuine gusto  only irritated fans possess.The agony stretched on. Numbers ranging from AC/DC to Lady Gaga came and went. 'Where’s is Iron Maiden?’ some began to think loudly. Then someone started  a ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas.’ Anyone outside the stadium must have  thought the Christmas programme  inside the stadium was big.

The Troopers to the Rescue
Just when all hopes seem headed for kaput, the band of the night stormed in. Right from the word ‘go’ Big Dickinson led the charge into the crowd by announcing Iron Maiden’s 1984 whooper, yes, ‘Aces High.’ If they played behind a curtain, not even the fussiest of Dimapur's rock fans would have doubted that the song was being played by Bruce Dickenson and his legendary lot. ‘Aces High’, ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and of course, one of the most celebrated anthems in the rock world, ‘The Trooper', from Iron Maiden’s 1983 album Piece of Mind. There was no stopping the band (and the sound sounded  so  superb) as the exceedingly charismatic and eerily Bruce Dickinson-like Big Dickenson led the band from the front. Higher-On Maiden ploughed in, ploughed out; bulldozed in and broke out at whim –and the fans rejoiced.

How to Build a Pyramid for Iron Maiden 
But as party-poppers go, the sound system made sure to make it known that it was still around. “Would you please f---ing give me more on the speaker?” the singer demanded when one of the outputs decided to play proxy. “When we played Manipur, they were crazy; they were louder – you gotta f---ing work harder; they were louder than you!” Dickenson shouted to the crowd. Fans rejoiced. The bulldozing resumed. ‘Children of the Damned’ followed by one of year 1984’s biggest hits on the Billboard Chart, the top 20# ‘2 minutes to midnight’. Dimapur stadium was the vocalist on all the hits. In the joyful chaos and noise, one question hung on every face there at the stadium – 'how are they  able  to  sing, play and perform so  exactly like Iron Maiden…?' That’s what a real-time tribute band does in other countries, dude. That’s why they are not called “cover bands,” they are called ‘tribute bands,’ you could hear someone say. 
(Photo:Yupangnenla Longkumer) 

The fans celebrated the gift of noise. Men would be men – they actively engaged in heavy construction activities. They built pyramids and took down standing structures as Higher-On Maiden played. One young, shirtless fan somehow managed to crawl and scramble to the top of his friends’ shoulders and stood up in triumph – only to find him-self facing the wrong direction, away from the stage. Muttering every alphabet style that starts with the letter 'F,' the crumbling fan climbed all over again. Thankfully this time he faced the stage to salute Eddie's helpers.  Those incapacitated by high bottled spirits concentrated more demolishing the air from the ground level. 

Memories and the Years

One of the highlights of the band’s performance was ‘Wasted Years,’one of Heavy Metal’s most cherished anthems.  Almost  every fan at the stadium, fingers and hands in the air, sang along with Adrain Smith’s 1986 hit. This Reporter turned around to see a man of  about 40-45 years holding his fingers up in the great tradition of rock and singing along with the chorus. Then the man wiped his eyes and sniffled into a handkerchief before resuming his singing along with ‘Wasted Years.’ When Iron Maiden was at its peak decades ago, this tearful man must have been a younger fan too. Perhaps Iron Maiden was the idol of his youth. At the time of filing this report, Dimapur stadium was still quivering as Iron Maiden hit it hard and harder with each hit. Smash hit, in fact. 

(Published in The Morung Express, December 17, 2011)

Apr 5, 2012

Firehouse's Dimapur concert: Postponed, NOT Cancelled, dingbat...

by Al Ngullie

American hard rock hair band Firehouse is having bad hair days in Nagaland again. The 'Life of a Lifetime' hit makers were scheduled to play Dimapur April 7 and as concert dates go, the band has rescheduled their fiery adventures to burn the city and for now, the show is postponed.

Meebee Firehouse is jinxed

Deja vu? Boy. In 2004, the Dimapur Naga Students' Union had announced with jubilation that the former hair band would be playing nasty Dimapur. Well, tickets did their happy rounds: some bought the pricy tickets; some complained against the pricy tickets; some had no money to buy the pricy tickets; some never even saw the pricy tickets thanks to the rush-and-hype. All in all, that time in 2004, it looked like Firehouse was to become the first real-time international rockstar thing to play in Nagaland. Man, I remember playing 'Love of A Lifetime' in a music competition on National Youth Day in 1997, I think, and winning the third prize!!!)

Then, suddenly, the fire fizzled out - smoke and mirrors still surround the real reasons why Firehouse went kaput in 2004. I was a student then and boy, was I mobilizing fellow nose addicts to attend the show. An impressive stack of "real reasons" for the band not making the 2004 show, flew around those days. Some said the band refused to play due to low performance fees; there were others who explained that the government of Nagaland did not permit the band to enter the state; still a third more explained enthusiastically that DNSU pera boisa sob khai de shay.

Before: Good Hair Days

After: Bad Dimapur Hair Days

So in 2012, the fiery enthusiasm of Dimapur fans have been doused again. Angry Naga fans on Facebook are now murdering their statuses with every English word that starts with 'F' and ends with 'K.' Thankfully for now, the Grammy-nominated band's concert is only postponed, not cancelled (Read closely and you'll realize that the spelling letters for postponed and cancelled are entirely different, dingbat).
What the reason was for the postponement

What's wrong with you; do I look like CJ Snare? Whateva. Here's what the organizers, services company Skygroup have assured:

The show will go ahead. Here is what Skygroup's CEO Yanren Kikon wrote on The Morung Express' Facebook page: "Dear members there are lots of false information going around that Firehouse Rock to rescue tour 2102 has been cancelled(which is not ). Please refer to firehousemusic.com to know the exact reason why the tour has been postponed.In the mean time keep rocking...(Fans') concern for the fans of firehouse who bought the tickets is noted.We are working on it to make it happen at the earliest.."
What one of the organizers told me:

(2)   Firehouse drummer Michael Foster could not secure his Visa. All the other members -  CJ Snare (singer), Bill Leverty (guitars) and bassist Allen McKenzie  -  got through their Visa quiz with flying colors. Poor Foster. Let's hope the show goes ahead. What the Fart, hire Akha Jamir (our Crescendo Music Store dude) or Original Fire Factor's (OFF) drummer (whatisname?) to fill in for Foster for Firehouse's Dimapur show! 

(My theory is that Foster, being a rock star, probably babbled something quite colorfully unique that the cranky Indian authorities straightaway brought down the dreaded no-visit stamp down on the rocker's poor passport). For details, you may wish to raid Firehouse's website here  

(You gotta be fair, man. You can share the information with your friends if you want, just so that idiotic speculations and rumors won't affect the efforts of the concert organizers who, in the first place, aren't even having fun putting their blood, sweat and balls into an event we all would love to experience and appreciate).

I'll keep you updated. Thank you for visiting.

Update: Firehouse Burns Down Dimapur's Stadium
Update: Firehouse reaches Dimapur for Concert. Press Conference Story   

Apr 3, 2012

Nagaland Music: Lots on the way. And more big bands

by Al Ngullie

Music in Nagaland is so totally happening. I recall the early years when the biggest rockers that hit the fan  were these totally tight-crotched, war-ravaged denim-pant-wearing, greasy haired, loud bunch of barbarians called 'Squadron' (remember something called North East Beat Contest during the Jurassic age when the band landed the first ever big noise prize for Nagaland in history?). Man, bands like Squadron, Abiogenesis, The Oleanders and the then-4th NAP Jazz band were major big. During the age of the Dinosaurs I mean.

The winds of change have shifted and the seeds planted by the early rockers from Kohima, Dimapur and Mokokchung are not only bearing fruits - they are now hatching rocks. Heavy ones.

So what has changed since I got lazy and hadn't been updating this site?

  • Hitherto-Christian Rock band Divine Connection and Alobo Naga & The Band are still making waves after winning the MTV Kurkure Desi Beat Contest (2010) and sneaking into Vh1 top 40 (2011), respective to the bands.
  • Just yesterday, I threatened Alobo Naga that I would request him to sing Lady Gaga's 'Poker face' if he doesn't hand me his EP for review. The poor guy popped in with his CD so I'm working on a review now.
  • There's a guy called Among Jamir, from Nagaland, who plays bass for Indian rock band 'Agnee.' The band's song "Hello Mr. Andheron" is the theme track for new Holllywood superhero flick 'The Avengers."  
  • Those painfully gorgeous bunch of Naga ladies who have been draining your saliva and making you go "Hiyohey" for no good reason other than you're big time jobless - The Tetseo Sisters - have released an album called "Chapter One:The Beginning." The 12-track album is sung entirely in Chakhesang Naga dialect and I'm working on a review. No, Chakhesang Naga is the only dialect I cannot speak. Cough. Cough.
  • Divine Connection's leader, mentor and founder Mhathung Odyuo has left the band. The veteran bassist is now releasing bass tutorials  - I'm told he is the first Indian bassist to actually fashion a bass guitar tutorial. I think he is right - I have never heard or come across any bass musician in India come up with a tutorial yet. 
  • I have started writing for the national entertainment magazine Eclectic Vibes. The magazine rocks. My first piece was on one of our very own Christian rock pioneers of the modern times, Kilang Pongen. He is currently based in Bangalore. Go gab a copy, Scrooge - there are things even Google can't get you free!
  • Kilang Pongen is releasing an album where Brett Clarke also plays - never heard of Mr. Clark? Then you have never heard of anyone called Amy Grant, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Jewel etc etc. I interviewed Brett earlier and is still working on a piece for publication.   
  • British Iron Maiden Tribute band Higher-On maiden played Dimapur in December 2011. Man, those guys are so awesome, you can't stretch you mouth into an 'O' big enough to say 'AWESOME.'
  • Former-Petra singer the legendary John Schlitt was here in January - that guy is so totally serious time awesome! One of the guys responsible for forcing my darling mom to buy me a guitar and make me sing in the bathroom.
  • Currently I'm working on two reviews for publication: Eluveitie, the biggest melodic/death meatl band to grab Europe by the collar in 5 years and slam the continent to the mat and another, Dream Theater's 'Systematic Chaos' and a revisit to 'Images and Words.' 
  • Also, I have plans to interview India's own shredder Edwin Fernandez. Let's see how it goes. 
  • American 90s hard rock heroes Firehouse were scheduled to play Dimapur on April 7 but it's postponed after drummer Michael Foster couldn't land the Visa. I'll be updating you on this. 
  • There's more that happened. JFYI this blogsite beat every Google competition for everything-to-do with Metallica's India concert in 2011:) :) 
  • And, this blog now tops all searches associated with Nagaland and Music. I'm quite shocked because even nagamusiconline.com is nowhere on the Google search rank now. Thanks you, so much, dear readers, visitors and spammers. We are tops. Brag. Brag. Brag. Brag. 

Will start updating this blog soon. Keep rocking and thank you so much for reading.