After much deliberation (it was raining, my jaw was aching and I am not into progressive rock), I decided to go to Styx to watch Cryptic (starring Mrinal aka “Munnu”) perform.
This was my first time at the Styx pub, and despite all the rave reviews by others, I was less than impressed. A place that refuses to serve you a coke just because they have limited stocks which they need to keep for the rum and coke guys, and who refuse to take an order for any snacks if you don’t order *some* form of alcohol, is not a place I am likely to visit often.
Luckily, I had company – Kalyan, Gaurav, Ashwin, etc., and of course Mrinal’s family was there in full strength. Good company always makes up for obnoxious house policies and rude waiters.
Which brings us to the music.
First up, let me explain that I am *not* a progressive rock fan. While I know the music, it really works for me only under ideal conditions – conditions that one is not likely to encounter in a place like the Styx pub
Cryptic is without doubt a tight band. Their drummer Durga very clearly leaves nothing to chance – providing a platform so stable and so perfectly timed that it almost acts as a straight-jacket for the rest of the group (I mean this in a good way!), with no scope for goofing up. Nothing amateurish here – this was drumming that rivals the best I have ever seen.
The group’s sound overall was *very* professional. No needless playing around with effects, no overdoing it on balances for the most part. Chris’ vocals came across nice and clear, Trinity’s lead guitar was right on the button when needed, and Prakash’s bass was solid enough to walk on.
My single complaint about the sound was that (as usual) the keyboard volume was too low in most cases. Keyboards “fill” the sound with contras and atmosphere – keeping the volume so low that you can only hear the notes when the lead guitar wasn’t playing effectively defeats the purpose. This clearly wasn’t the group’s fault – I guess the guy at the mixer desk needed some education – possibly with a hockey stick.
But it wasn’t that Mrinal on the keyboards didn’t shine through – he sure did. In a total contrast to his performance at the Rust gig, he very clearly had a role to play here as part of the group, and he played it well.
And I can say this – even though I am not into progressive rock, the crowds at the Styx clearly were. And they enjoyed themselves *thoroughly*, singing along (when there was scope for singing), headbanging violently (Kallu in full head-bang mode is quite a sight to see, especially after he had consumed the better part of a pitcher of beer , and encouraging the band to give their best – which they obviously did.
An amazing (not often-seen) effect was the videos being shown while they were playing. These were the results of a week of hard work by Mrinal and friends – and they were so apt and sometimes even informative that the overall effect was *very* professional.
But for me, the highlight of the evening was something altogether different.
You know how you sometimes close your eyes while listening to a CD, and imagine yourself on the stage, with adoring crowds roaring along? That is the dream of every up and coming performer – connection with audience, recognition, acknowledgement by your fans and friends.
I know how hard my young friend has been working on his music, and how difficult it is to make a mark in this world of “instant Britney Spears” (just add water and serve). Mrinal literally spans three generations of music – the dino-rock stuff with Rust (and sometimes with me), the contemporary and peer-kind of music with Phenom, and prog-rock with Cryptic. I have seen him on keyboards, guitar and drums (and on the mike, though not on stage), and I know how important this versatility is to him, and I also know (from personal experience) how difficult this is.
So, for me, the evening was made when, every now and then (and in full hearing of family and friends), the crowds broke into a solid, thumping, full-throated chant:
“Munnu, Munnu, Munnu….”