Space invaders

Young entrepreneurs are lending their venues to organizers of niche cultural events at less prices.

Written by Kevin Lobo | Mumbai | Published: July 8, 2014 12:00 am
Since Andheri Base does not serve food or alcohol, the performer is the sole attraction. Since Andheri Base does not serve food or alcohol, the performer is the sole attraction.

During the last gig of The Scene, a monthly night at Blue Frog, ADM Revival was midway through their debut performance, a solely acoustic set. With attention lagging, chatter rose above the music, and one could barely hear what the three young guitarists were strumming on stage.

The Scene was conceived to give birth to new young talent, but was drowned out by the club’s other offerings; alcohol, the World Cup match screenings and food, among other things. Compare this with a gig at Bandra Base. The tiny 500-odd square foot performance venue that was started a year ago does not serve food or alcohol, and when an artist plays there is staid silence, formidable enough to intimidate anyone who might want to yap.

Over the last year, venues similar to Bandra Base have been cropping up across the city —  intimate spaces that play host to small gatherings of true blue culture lovers where the frills don’t really matter. “The idea is to give people a platform to showcase their talent,” says Meghna Ghai Puri, co-founder of Bandra Base.

“Whistling Woods, which owns the space, conducts various workshops during the day, and that’s how we sustain the venue. We barely pay the artist and cover operational costs with the money we collect at the door for gigs,” adds Puri. With minimal settings, venues such as The Hive, Tangerine Arts Studio, Ave 29, The Grid, Bandra Base and Andheri Base, give out their space at nominal costs, which are decided with negotiations between both parties.

Until recently, new-age cultural events have been restricted to being held in restaurants and pubs that throw open their doors to attract crowds on a slow night and better their brand image. But with high overheads, sustaining new concepts is always an issue. Sudeip Nair, founder of The Hive, a cultural hub, which is divided into three sections — a performance space, a workshop room and a shared working area, used to organise events which include short film screenings, poetry slams and stand-up comedy.

“When we used to organise performances at bars we were trying to fit in events in venues that weren’t really made for them. With The Hive, the venues are made for performers, they are the central attraction, and that’s what people come to the events for,” he says. This is where these new spaces are
fundamentally different.

Guitarist Floyd Fernandes who announced his plans for The Grid last week, was sick of the elitism in music. The Grid, which is in Khar, will host gigs by lesser-known musicians, in a venue that will accommodate a modest 40 to 50 people. “There are venues which start off saying they are all about the music, and everyone gets excited. As time goes by, they become the same, people don’t really care what is happening on stage, and only a select group of artistes get to perform there,” says Fernandes, who plans to first conduct music classes at The Grid, and then open it for performances in a couple of months.

For Tanvi Mehra, founder of Tangerine Arts Studio, it is the experimentation that excites her. Mehra has hosted events by Chai Community, a monthly do that has artistes giving inspirational talks followed by an acoustic performance by a young band; the launch of Artsy Fartsy, an initiative that promotes new artists; Tall Tales, a community of storytellers, among others.

In the three months since she has started her Bandra-based studio, it has been buzzing with activity. “I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting ideas and if I find someone who is passionate about holding something different, the money doesn’t really matter,” she says. Mehra, who is a dancer and yoga instructor, sustains Tangerine with workshops on dance and meditation, among others.

The excitement that Mehra shares for experimentation is seen in many young entrepreneurs. Art exhibitions, hip hop battles, book readings, open mics, jazz events, stand up comedy and film screenings, among others have been hosted at these venues. Michael Burns, founder of Tall Tales, says, “In the West, one has different kinds of events to choose from, which is lacking in Mumbai. With these new studios, there is an opportunity for newer ideas to take shape, and may become mainstream and spread across the city.”

kevin.lobo@expressindia.com

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