The Shakey Rays and F16 had the crowd grooving to their fresh sound and dance friendly songs

The Indie March Festival is on at Counter Culture and last weekend featured two acts from Chennai—The Shakey Rays and The F16s, each with a fresh sound and a list of dance-friendly, guitar-based songs.

The F16s start off with an unexpected reserve of energy for the relaxed evening. They have an up-to-date indie sound that comes across like Vampire Weekend-ish guitar work going through a heavier setting, more akin to the Arctic Monkeys.

The vocals are simple, raw and tuneful reminiscent of Kings Of Leon, while the keyboard excites like in the Foals’ music. Influences allow musicians to play what they love to hear and this six-month-old band with an average age of 20 seems on the verge of taking flight from the sounds that inspire them.

“We’re going to mellow this down a bit,” says Joshua, the vocalist, proceeding to walk with us through a merrily sunny day at a carnival, titled ‘You Can Wonder.’ It’s short and sweet like a TV jingle. The F16s are currently doing well at college fests and working on their debut album, Kaleidescope.

The Shakey Rays have been around for longer, acquiring a fine, original flavour to their music, yet conserving roots that go back to some melodious, bygone era. Dhruva leads the band, so to speak, from stage left; they’re often deliberately unconventional in that way.

In contrast to the F16s, who seem to have a play/pause button, The Rays pick up their pieces progressively. Pretty soon they’ve gotten pretty loud in a way that’s not noisy, although the venue lets the chords and melodies get submerged in the drums. A road accident has kept the Rays’ volatile drummer, Ninju, at home. He had better recover fast, because Prabhu, who has only had a week to take over, is doing a perfect job of it. ‘The man’s a genius,” says Dhruva, pointing to the talent nurtured by Chennai’s Adam and the Fish-eyed Poets. The Fish-eyed Poets’ prolific guitarist, Abhinav, is also doubling on the Rays’ bass.

Shifting smoothly from heavier to softer songs, the jazzy, nostalgia-inducing chords move into punchier choruses, peaking with screams. Vikram’s forte of riffs even accommodates outrageous solos that bend notes like a post-punk B.B. King, high on speed. The band reaches their complete output when Vikram backs Dhruva’s vocals. The duo’s experiments in search of the sweetest harmonies go back to their school days. What’s noteworthy is that both these groups are working on their music full-time, as niche as it may seem. The Rays’ fan-turned-manager, Jolene, who has also taken the F16s under her wing, feels that this is a great time to be a band in India, “given the rise in the number of festivals and general overall interest in non-mainstream music. But there's a long way to go. We need more performance spaces and for the industry to grow to a level where it'd be possible for younger bands to sustain more easily.”