“Why metal?” I ask Nikhil Udupa, who organizes Ctrl-Alt-Del each year along with Himanshu Vaswani and Rishu Singh. “Why metal?” he repeats. “Why not metal?” he says.
Control-Alt-Del (CAD), which has already seen three successful editions in Mumbai, featuring mostly alternative and punk bands, is now going the metal way. The popular crowd-funded gig, which originally began with a pay-what-you-want format with a donation box kept at each gig, graduated to a crowdsourcing platform with last year’s edition using Wishberry – the donation box fully intact too. This time, though, Nikhil explains that they would much rather crowdfund the gig on their own instead of going through a different platform. Fans can contribute before the gig as well as at the venue via the donation box. People have the freedom to pay what they want to enter the gig, that’s the only condition they’ve set. “You might be a fan who’s come down from far and has absolutely no money. All you can afford is ten rupees. So put those ten rupees then. The idea is – we want everyone to feel a part of it.” Those who contribute to the crowdfunding process will also get certain deliverables, including T-shirts, CDs, posters.
They’ve arranged for an explosive line-up – “the heaviest line-up Bombay has seen,” in Nikhil’s words – featuring Undying Inc., Zygnema, Devoid, Providence, Reptilian Death, Gutslit, Noiseware, and Grammy Winning Effort, on June 1, and the venue for this year’s edition is Blue Frog, Mumbai – “We all know that metal has, to use a cliché, an intense brotherhood. Nothing inspires more loyalty or a more fanatic bent of devotion that metal. We really wanted to do a metal gig because Bombay hasn’t had one in a long time.”
The vision of CAD, as Nikhil elaborates, was “to empower bands and people and get them off their asses and more involved.” They’re translating that same core philosophy to metal with this edition, with Nikhil insisting that it’s not a case of charity or that much-maligned plea: “Support the Scene.” “People are always complaining about the lack of gigs and the lack of support. Instead of saying ‘Support the scene,’ I’m giving you a viable business model – like it or not, it’s an open model. We’re consistently backing something till it results in something successful,” says Nikhil, asserting that irrespective of whether the organizers make or lose money, the idea behind CAD is to keep going at it and present an alternative model. “I don’t want it to be another flash in the plan.” There has been complete transparency in past editions, with each rupee accounted for and complete financial reports of the gigs released to the audiences, an endearing trend that is set to continue with this edition too.
“It is a reactionary gig,” Nikhil explains. “All of us are sick of hearing people complain and do nothing. By all means, do complain. But back it up with something that is solving what you’re complaining about. I wouldn’t say that what we’re doing is ‘giving back’ – it’s trying to create a market. We’re trying to create an ecosystem that shows everyone something that might work. You don’t have to be at the mercy of a sponsor or the whims of five promoters in the country. There can be active cooperation between all angles – promoters, bands, audiences.”
Apart from the gig, this year’s CAD will also feature a compilation album including all the bands that are featured on the bill for the evening – “Earlier, we used to have kickass metal compilations; some of the GIR CDs, Fine Tuned Disasters. There hasn’t been one for a long time,” says Nikhil, explaining the reasons behind releasing the CD. In addition, a merchandise stall at the venue will feature CAD merch, and bands can also sell their own merchandise there.
The previous edition of CAD was held at the Sitara studio, but this time, the troupe heads to Blue Frog, a place at which the occasional accusation of elitism has been directed every now and then. Nikhil, however, dispels such notions in an instant – “I can’t say enough good things about them; they’ve been extremely supportive. With so many metal bands on the line-up, it’s important to give them good sound.” And best of all, they’re also trying to curate a special “metal-pocket-friendly” menu for the evening with discounted bar rates too, which gives indie music patrons one less reason to complain, if nothing else.
As for the crowds, Nikhil speaks of a “misplaced sense of entitlement” that “old-timers”, people who’ve been around and coming for gigs for a long time, have developed. He admits hipsters creeping in and taking over such initiatives with the express purpose of “being seen” and appearing to support DIY causes. “I’m not against that. The people who want to come for the music will come. The idea of elitism applies both ways, and I can’t dictate what the audience would come for – you have no right over them; it’s an evolving scene that will change with or without you.” He also cites multiple examples of people coming from far off, planning their travel around CAD, figuring train schedules and what not. “My responsibility is to give them a great gig – what they take from it is up to them.”
Ultimately, CAD is an exercise in inclusivity – an idea steeped in the spirit of a DIY culture, aiming to encourage alternative models and active engagement between audiences, artists, and promoters. “This is just about the music,” Nikhil says. “Music is a reason that goes beyond mere existence. Show up at the gig; it’s a great way to spend a Sunday.”
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