by Shivalik Chandan
HUDA Grounds is cursed. That plot of land has played host to various gigs over the years, ranging from artists like The Prodigy to Enrique. However, the two gigs that were actually of interest to me (Metallica and Alt J) were both cancelled, and I returned from that venue the two times I went there, dejected, and angry at the organisers of the events for messing up. (Funnily enough, both these bands played in Bangalore and the gigs went off without a hitch.)
Let me be clear about something from the start: Alt J as a band is not one of my favourites. Sure, I enjoy their music, but they aren’t a band I would mention if anyone asked me what my top 5 or even top 10 bands are. Nevertheless, I felt that watching a live performance would perhaps be a more visceral experience than just listening to their studio albums. Undoubtedly, that is true to a certain extent for every musician, but I somehow felt that a concert would add more to Alt J’s music than it would to many other artists.
When I first heard that Alt J were returning to play in Delhi, I dismissed it as a rumour, the kind which crops up after every cancelled concert. Then, it was announced officially. The Gods had answered our prayers. They were coming back to Delhi. As the concert got closer, I started feeling the familiar sense of anticipation and excitement building yet again. Tickets were booked, and the day of the concert arrived. I took a cab from college to the venue, Indira Gandhi Sports Complex. However, I completely forgot about Delhi’s famous rush hour traffic, due to which I missed the opening act, Advaita (another band I enjoy a lot). Soon after I arrived, chants of “Alt J! Alt J!” had begun in the stadium, which I joined in with gusto. Surprisingly, I did not have to wait a long while before they graced the stage, and the crowd went wild.
They started their set with ‘Hunger of the Pine’, a soft, synth-heavy song, setting the mood perfectly for the night which followed. The stage was set up brilliantly, with halogen lights and dry ice complementing the music perfectly. Everyone present at the venue was captivated by the spectacle. Alt J managed to keep up the energy of the crowd throughout their performance, even though not all songs they played are well known. The energy I felt at this concert was very different from what I had ever felt. It wasn’t like a rock or metal concert, where the sheer intensity of the music gets you pumped throughout the gig. Alt J’s music doesn’t have that element in it. At all. However, there was a sort of connect in the audience, as if everyone was linked together by the music. I exchanged glances and smiles with people I had never seen before, all of whom were in exactly the same state of mind as I was, right in tune with the music washing over us.
Alt J aren’t a very technically sound band. Their music is straightforward, but also very, very unique. And that is not an easy thing to achieve. It’s much simpler to make a very advanced, technical composition which is not like anything anyone has heard before. Doing so with compositions that are simple is a tough job, and Alt J have done that job with aplomb. They have created a unique sound, and after watching them live, I now know that a live performance adds so much to the experience.
If you haven’t listened to their music already, I urge you to do so. Even if you don’t love it, I can assure you that it will be like nothing you’ve ever listened to before. They still don’t come into my top 10 list, but I can certainly appreciate their music a lot more, now that I have seen how it connects people.