Published in DAWN on the Feb 2nd, 2008

We are an entertainment-starved nation. Others might disagree, but this is the underlining black cloud for this article. Entertainment that is not dependant on self-creativity, that can be obtained from a public forum and that is designed as an audience-based service, is hard to find and usually substandard.The Young Leaders and Entrepreneur Summit 2008 concert, organised by JB&Jaws, seemed like a worthwhile event: Josh, Noori, Mauj and other underground bands were all part of one package.

What the very concise invitation forgot to mention (it was checked for fine print) was that the concert was also featuring over 400 people who were sold passes without availability of adequate space.Yes, this is a bitter tirade. Standing outside in Lahore’s unexpectedly persisting cold spell, waiting with passes to enter a concert that was scheduled for 8pm that actually started at 10pm is a surefire way to stamp out all concert fervor — or rather put it on freeze.

However, still persisting alongside the sharp cold, the anticipation to hear Mauj more than any other band made waiting a default. Judging by the mob trying to push past hyperventilating LUMS/ YLES volunteers, nothing was worth ‘waiting’ for: it was push, shove, survival of the crude and the brute.

Over the colourful and highly inventive exchange of pleasantries by the testosterone-injected crowd and the frazzled organisers, Mauj could be heard sans Hamza who had been electrocuted by a guitar stand earlier during the sound check. Not a positive harbinger for the band members as they rushed him to the nearest emergency centre. All of the bands had second thoughts about getting on the stage that tried barbequing one of their comrades!

From what could be deciphered, regardless of the disastrous start to their evening, Mauj with Mona and Khushfehmi made an instant connection with the crowd. What could also be deciphered was the low quality of the sound system or the inefficacy of the sound engineers.

By the time the organisers decided to let the frozen human popsicles in to defrost, Mauj had taken their final bow. After several stages of half-hearted security checks, the view from the entrance of the hall stopped us dead in our tracks. The hall was a mass of heads and limbs, one starting from where the other ended. There was no place to sit, no permission to stand and no oxygen left to breathe!

Alternating between battle-axing and begging a way through the crowd, there was a moment of an annoying realisation: while there was no possibility to experience the concert from a full front of house system, the remaining options were either to sit and hear the music from behind the speakers without any view of the stage or to have a thin slice of the stage which standing right next to a mountain of speakers.

The third choice was to leave, which eventually was the best option of them all. In the meanwhile, the first two options were being tested and retested when Noori arrived on stage.

While Noori keeps a low music profile and a highly-entertaining intrapersonal one, with Hamza taking off to discover himself, every so often, it was astounding to see the reception the audience gave them.

Noor and Hamza were literally buzzing with energy; one wonders if they didn’t cause the power surge that zapped Hamza Jaffery! Fahad, their drummer, was stuck in one corner of the stage; only those audience members who were standing upfront could have seen the intensity of his movements and his expression of complete involvement with the music.

At such a concert, where sound quality was unarguably horrible, one litmus test is how a band can get past the inferior sound and communicate with the audience. The oomph that the Noori boys had underlined the who-gives-a-f*** attitude necessary at such moments and the audience loved them.

By the time the organisers decided to let the frozen human popsicles in to defrost, Mauj had taken their final bow. After several stages of half-hearted security checks, the view from the entrance of the hall stopped us dead in our tracks. The hall was a mass of heads and limbs, one starting from where the other ended. There was no place to sit, no permission to stand and no oxygen left to breathe!

Noor just had to thrust his mike into the audience and the high-ceiling hall resounded with a thousand voices echoing stanza after stanza.Manwa Re, a song that I personally feel was that one number that put the band on the map, just reminded one of the progress the band made between the first album and Peeli Pati, the second. It was sung with a sweet reverence that could playfully be cut off by another number only to be smoothly brought back to Manwa Re.After a few songs, obviously hesitant organisers tried to subtly remind Noor and Hamza that had run out of allotted time but at concerts where audiences have been harassed and delayed, no one else has the right to remove the band from the stage other than the crowd — and they wanted Noori to stay.

Looking at Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, literally on pogo sticks, ending each song in front with a head bang in front of Fahad, it seemed that the pure pleasure of playing together in front of such a massive audience was something they re-realised. The boys went off stage after a finale with Dil Qe Qasam.By now, more people had taken up the virtual space that the organisers were calculating and it was the DAT file of Josh that was the final push. With perfect harmonies recorded, their live vocals fell short by at least a mile.Not that most of the audience cared: Josh’s entirely rehearsed dialogue onstage managed to engage those desirous of dancing to their very predictable melodies. After one or two relatively slow numbers, their one hit wonder Josh Nal Pa Bhangra could be heard outside as once again the battle of the bodies began as simultaneous entries and exits were being attempted from the same doorway by the young leaders of the night.What did the bands have to say?Hamza Jaffery was unavailable for comment — one wonder why — Sameer the bassist from Mauj had a couple of words to say.Obviously, Hamza Jaffery’s accident was fresh in the band’s mind. According to Sameer, such an incident of electrocution was unheard of: he did not know whether it could be passed off as a “freak occurrence or negligence.” Hamza had passed out and they had to leave sound check to take him to a hospital to make sure there was no serious injury. After they sent Hamza home, Mauj debated whether they should play, whether it was safe to go on stage after such an incident. It was decided, Sameer said, that as people were waiting “the show must go on”. A cliché in many occasions but very apt at such a moment.No chance for a sound check, Mauj were left on stage without their guitar player, as Sameer said, they were not playing under ideal conditions. As a layperson, the sound seemed terrible, how was it for Sameer?

When organising a concert, different things take precedence for different organisers; As far as Sameer was concerned, the sound system should be first priority. With regards to this particular venue, which had very high ceilings hatched with metal girdles, he thought a good sound system would not solve the problem on its own — experienced sound engineers were also required. Who, he noted, were not in abundance to begin with. On a more positive note, Sameer noted that the massive turnout was a good indicator that the people of Lahore were waking up. After such a long stretch of silence, only punctuated by sounds of violence, he said it was a positive sign that so many showed up.Speaking with Ali Noor, it turned out that Ali Noor and Ali Hamza were equally shaken up by Hamza Jaffery’s incident. Ali said Hamza Jaffery was like a brother, and their families had known each other for a long time — Ali Jaffery had been the bass player for Noori. When Hamza got electrocuted, Noori was very concerned about him.Resultantly Ali Noor and Ali Hamza were not sure whether they should go on stage, fearing it might not be an isolated freak incident. Like Mauj, however, they decided to go on with the performance and not disappoint the audience.When Noor was asked to comment on the response they got from the audience, he laughed with a sense of proud achievement. Noor said that there were three types of performances: one where for commercial reasons where bands have on-stage gimmicks, another which Ali Noor prefers and implements, where one plays for the audience, and the third which he personally has never understood, playing on stage but only for oneself.

The way Noori performs, Ali says “It’s a humbling experience, one stops feeling like a rock star and the audience takes something emotional back with them after the show.”

Share this
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • email
  • Print