Rockin’, rollin’ and cringing at Open Mic Night

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KARACHI: Open Mic Night at the Base Rock Cafe, held last Saturday, was a mixed bag of some of the best and worst amateur performances in Karachi of (possibly) all of 2010.

The reason for such a colossal range on display was the cafe’s decision to fit over 14 mini-performances across the entire night. While this may have helped filter out the good from the bad, the downside to this decision was a decently packed crowd left hanging between performances, a total loss of energy and direction between some truly bizarre and disconnected acts and just plain old music overload.

The gems

Usman Riaz, who performed twice during the night, with nothing but his guitar was an overdose of talent, showmanship and pure musical genius. The young man laid down a seemingly unending string of licks, arpeggios and rhythm sections (including using the guitar body for percussion) which made the rest of the night’s guitar solos look like the random doodling of five-year-olds.

The next best act of the night was singer and guitarist Taimur Tajik who managed to hold his own with his songs. The same cannot entirely be said for solo performer Shaheryar Ali Mirza whose 15 minutes were filled with the occasional loss of lyrics and a few stops and starts, but overall his voice held a smidgeon of professionalism similar to Tajik’s performance.

The duds

Skipping over the other lack lustre performances included an MC, ‘rock’ bands with average sound and quality and some guy laying down some forgettable pieces on the synthesiser, the two unforgivable acts of the night were rock band Crackdown and Faisal Amin.

Crackdown failed somewhere between their utterly clichéd song list (Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and so on), their adaptation of the lyrics of Metallica’s “Unforgiven’” to “trust I seek, when I find in you” to the appalling guitar solos which sounded like note playing, not music playing.

However, Faisal Amin stole the show from Crackdown, with a truly bizarre performance which included stepping on stage with a synthesiser auto-programmed to blast pop songs which he sung to in a stunning display of all that is wrong with karaoke (and mind you, this was not karaoke night). Half the audience rolled over laughing while the other half cringed in silence as the mostly tuneless Amin made a passionate attempt to cover Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” and Bryan Adams’ “Please Forgive Me” — and the irony of the latter song’s lyrics were not lost on many in the crowd.

Overall, Open Mic Night was pretty much what you would expect given the sad, miniscule and mostly stale state of affairs of Karachi’s music scene. However, Base Rock Cafe must be lauded for providing a venue for such events to take place, though they will hopefully consider opting for quality over quantity in the future.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2010.

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