Rock music has always had an audience in Bangladesh, and as with the genre anywhere in the world, live concerts have been a big factor in creating and growing that fan base. What began particularly with the open-air concerts by BAMBA (Bangladesh Musical Bands Association) in the late '90s, the concert craze was well and alive in the 2000s but has been on a serious wane in recent years. Although smaller-scale indoors concerts have been happening here and there, a full-blast open air show with a solid lineup had been a bit of a rarity, and Blues Communications took a big step in reviving exactly that. A good few thousands of audience screaming, jumping and singing along to top rock bands at the Big Rock Day on December 1 remains proof that rock music is alive and aloud.
Two of Bangladesh's best-known thrash/heavy metal acts -- Mechanics and Powersurge -- kicked things up at the open space of the International Convention City Bashundhara from early afternoon. Powersurge were closing their set with their hit “Mitther Agrashon” as this correspondent reached the venue, with audiences pouring in on a steady stream. The first thing that caught the eye was the stage -- with just a dark background and no backdrop, two sets of speakers hung from cranes on either side, a flurry of lights and just a minimalist Big Rock Day logo at the top.
Nemesis was next up on stage, wasting no time and opening with “Obocheton”, the song that put them on the map in 2004's mixed album “Agontuk 2”. They mixed their set-list up with newer material like “Ghuri” and “Swopnoshur” with older hits like “Tritiyo Jatra”, “Joyodhwoni” and “Kobe”, in a tight performance with Zohad at the front and Dio on the kit, as good as they have ever been.
Shunno was up next, with their brand of soft rock sound. Emil, the vocal, seemed a little strained in his vocal delivery at the start but recovered well as their set went on, which included energetic numbers like “Shono Mohajon” and “Bhago”, their more mellow ones like “Bedona”, “Godhuli'r Opare” and “Shoto Asha” and their adaption of folk songs “Khachar Bhitor Ochin Pakhi” and “Mon Tore”.
Arbovirus is one of the most exciting bands in terms of stage presence and their infectious energy, and they lived up their repute in an explosive display at the show. They opened with “Roder Kinaray” from their sophomore album “Montobbo Nishproyojon”, and despite some early issues with Suharto's guitars, powered through their angry anthems “Bhenge Felo” and “Jalo Agun Jalo”, mixing it up with early items like “Omanush”, the superhit ballad “Hariye Jao”, the inspirational “Shurjo” and closing with the nostalgic throwback “School”.
The audience's chants of “Artcell! Artcell!” were met with immediately as the iconic prog-rock outfit came on stage next, bursting on to the stage with “Shohid Shoroni”. Although with only Lincoln from the original band on stage it seemed a little strange to see this Artcell lineup for fans of the old Artcell like myself, the band did fairly okay -- performing “Dukkho Bilash”, “Onno Shomoy” and closing with “Chile Kothar Shepai”, along with a surprisingly good Metallica cover (Enter Sandman) and the essential Kazi Nazrul rock anthem of “Kandari Hushiar”.
Vikings, a band that came back after 11 years of hiatus and still managed to find an army of new fans along with their old ones, was a treat to watch especially for their older fans. They appeased both groups, in an immaculate performance combining songs from their new album like “Elomelo Kromosho”, “Ekbar Bolo” and “Opekkha”, with their vintage numbers “Shomoy”, “Din Joto Dukkho Toto”, “Bhalobashi Jare” and “Kotha Dao”. Their whole old-school rock ballad vibes -- high-pitched vocals, melody-rich riffs and having keys in the mix -- was a fantastic throwback of the older rock fans at the concert.
The final act of the night -- and the most-anticipated -- was Warfaze, and the crowd went wild as soon as Kamal -- one of the greatest guitar players this country has produced -- came up on stage and hollered. With the classic lineup of Roger, Tipu, Shams and Kamal, they found young blood in shredder Samir Hafiz and the vocal powerhouse vocal Palash, the former Radioactive frontman who is one of the very few who can handle the third-octave screams left behind by the likes of Mizan and Sunjoy. They sent the audience into frenzy with “Jibondhara”, “Oshamajik”, “Na”, “Purnota”, “Oporup Bisshoy”, “Moharaj” and closing fittingly with “Boshe Achi”. The combo of Kamal and Samir, easily a generation apart in age, going berserk on the solos with the trusted trio holding the rest of the arrangement up and Palash ripping through the screams showed once again the true legends that Warfaze is.
Blues Communications' arrangement, as expected, was immaculate, from the management to the sounds and lights, and their plans of making this a regular event is a big up for the rock music scene and its thousands of followers in the country.