Fifty gigs in two months! Eating, sleeping, dreaming music. Bruce Lee Mani of the band Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ) fame confirms that the tour was intense.
“Our longest back-to-back set of gigs before this was six in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. So before we set off to UK last July, we weren’t really sure we were physically ready for this – especially for me, as the singer, keeping the voice in shape in a colder clime, the odd hours, lack of sleep… Oh yes, I was quite apprehensive! But that was the only thing to worry about – right after the first gig we weren’t at all worried about how folks there would dig our music,” he beams.
At the ‘heart’ of the tour, were songs, culled from TAAQ’s decade-long catalogue. “We put together a set list of 60 plus songs going from our first album thermalandaquarter.com to our fifth, 3 Wheels 9 Lives,” says Bruce, adding, “With this extensive list, we performed a different set every day of the week at the Edinburgh Fringe, which prompted many people to come to our gigs repeatedly.”
The Fringe itself is incredible, with 3,500 plus performances across music, theatre, dance, comedy, cabaret, burlesque and more every day, for 26 days. So when TAAQ was selected to feature on the ‘Pick of the Fringe’ show, Bruce knew it was special. “Later, when we won the ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ Award (given to only seven among the thousands of performing artists), we were completely floored. Several extra gigs popped up, and we would often have two to three shows in a single day. Quite strenuous, but exhilarating,” beams Bruce.
And, watching the other artists display their tunes, gave Bruce a feeling of ‘wow, see where we are’. “We were privileged to be in such company from around the world. From incredible jazz musicians to jaw-dropping acrobats and jugglers, from madcap stand-up comedy to serious Shakespearean theatre - we soaked up as much as we could,” says Bruce.
After UK, TAAQ headed to Ireland, where they played back-to-back gigs in five cities, traversing the geography of the beautiful country in the classic fashion: a tour bus. “A week later, we were in Kathmandu, wrapping up the tour headlining the Nepal Music Festival. Some trip!” admits Bruce.
TAAQ celebrated with a series of gigs before they left on the world tour and after they returned to Bangalore. Were the celebratory strains any different? “We performed three back-to-back gigs at Bflat Bar in Indiranagar. That allowed us to ‘road-test’ all the material we were taking on the tour. After two months of non-stop gigging, you can imagine how ‘on top’ of that material we were – so doing another three-night stand at the same venue seemed necessary. It also helped us deal with withdrawal symptoms – when you’re playing a gig a day for two months straight, dealing with a gig a week can seem rather long-winded!” explains Bruce.
With all that glory – including being awarded the Spirit of the Fringe and being featured in BBC Asian and Phantom FM, TAAQ’s withdrawal symptoms are more than justified, despite the “smallness” of the world right now. “With everyone plugged in a ‘rock band from India’ is still quite an exotic item in places like the UK,” says Bruce, adding, “Being the only rock band from India performing original music there, at an amazing festival like the Fringe makes it quite unique. Through our music, we were showcasing a side of modern India that people there were only dimly aware of. We believe that it is this, combined of course with the quality of our performance that won us the coveted ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ award. The feature spots on BBC Asian Radio in the UK and Phantom FM in Ireland were also great – and along with our appearance on the cover of the Rolling Stone Magazine in India – gave us a mega boost.”
On top of the world music circuit, it takes professionalism and a liberal slice of madness, the way TAAQ rocks it.