The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sound gag, dues din at big gig
- Crossfire of charges at Satriani concert & after
Lake police had to step in on Monday morning to free a truckload of equipment of a Mumbai firm that did the sound for Sunday’s Satriani show. The truck was detained at the Rabindra Sarobar stadium over a dues dispute. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Why do the big rock names invariably roll clear of Calcutta' Some of the reasons rang out loud during and after the big gig on Sunday evening.

The first hitch happened on the Rabindra Sarobar stage hosting Joe Satriani. Just when it seemed there was no stopping him, the plug had to be pulled on the guitar god's show, 25 minutes ahead of crescendo call. The cause: cops invoking the decibel diktat in the rulebook and clamping a 9.30 pm concert curfew.

At 9 pm, when Satriani was Flying in a Blue Dream, the first wrap-up gong was sounded by the police brass.

'We were told that the concert must end at 9.30 pm, which meant cutting the Satch (as Satriani is popularly called) set down by almost half an hour,' said the organisers, caught napping by the sudden police intervention.

If the confusion over special-permissions-not-sought-or-granted deprived 6,000-odd fans of at least five Satriani specials, more chaos was to follow the morning after.

Police stepped in once again, on Monday morning, but this time not to clamp down on but to set free the sound of music . A post-show commercial row between local and national organisers threatened to spin out of control and further tar Calcutta's image as a big-ticket venue.

Lake police had to intervene at the Rabindra Sarobar stadium to rescue a truckload of expensive audio equipment from Mumbai, allegedly held to ransom by city-based Celebrity Management Group (CMG), which accused Opium Events, the national agency handling the Satriani tour, of non-payment of dues.

'The police, especially the officer-in-charge (Sukumar Chakraborty), were very prompt and helpful, and thanks to them, we can now leave for Mumbai in one piece,' Kamal Ahuja of Performance Audio, the company which provided the sound for the Satriani show, told Metro on Monday afternoon.

A traumatised Ahuja, however, vowed he'd never bring his stuff back to Calcutta again. 'It was a revenue dispute between CMG and Opium, and we were caught in the crossfire. At least 40 armed goons came in a convoy of cabs, attacked my men, and threw our gear all over the place,' he alleged.

The show partners were busy trading charges of payment default.

'Opium owes us Rs 9.5 lakh and the only way we hoped to recover the money was by holding the truck back. Later, when we found a guarantor, we let them go,' said Bhaswar Goswami of CMG, denying any violence or cop action.

Cyrus Gorimar, director, Opium Events, when contacted in Bangalore, venue of Satriani's last stop in India, rubbished the CMG claims. 'On the contrary, they owe us in excess of Rs 35 lakh from ticket sales, and this is after we transferred Rs 6.6 lakh to their account. We are suing them for default and also for manhandling our sound contractors and damaging equipment,' he said.

The concert-cut short-and then the cash conflict combined to sour an event touted as a litmus test for Calcutta as a venue for mega music shows.

Abeer Chakravarty, who, as part of action group 'Cause Calcutta, had tried in vain to steer the Rolling Stones into town, hoped 'too much' wasn't read into these glitches and that Calcutta would still get a fair crack at hosting such concerts.

Omer Haidar of Showhouse was less optimistic. 'Word spreads fast on this circuit,' he warned.

And such incidents only add to the handicap that Calcutta already carries.

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