Milind Deodra is a huge fan of rock ‘n’ roll and the blues and often perform with rock-blues bands in various cities across India. In fact, until recently, he had his own band called ‘Tightrope’, where he played the lead guitar. If you also like down-home music, but feel a little out of place with India’s burgeoning EDM (electronic dance music) scene, the good news is that there are still tons of awesome live music watering holes—some fancy, others seedy—from Kolkata to New Delhi, all the way down to Mumbai and Bengaluru. Here are some of his favourites:
1. Someplace Else, Kolkata
More than just a live music venue, Someplace Else is an institution. It’s located in The Park Hotel on Park Street and hosts some of India’s finest bands. Because Kolkata is a melting pot for the Northeast, and Northeasterners know their music inside out, it’s highly likely that the guy standing beside you at Someplace Else’s bar is an accomplished musician. Definitely not an easy audience to please.
2. Turquoise Cottage, Delhi
Located in DLF Place Mall, Saket, “TC” is another Indian live music institution. In addition to getting local blues-rock bands to perform, TC has featured international artists such as Gypsy Kings. TC is well regarded for its pub food, a mix of Tex-Mex and Chinese, which always hits the spot for me, especially after one of my shows. It’s got a warm, living room vibe, and at TC, regardless of the number of patrons, you always feel like you’re performing to a small group of friends.
3. Opus, Bengaluru
Opus is a great venue for its loungy decor and a popular spot for locals. It’s got an indoor and outdoor section, and there’s something very refreshing about the place’s acoustics.
4. blueFROG, Delhi and Mumbai
Given its sound and F&B quality and great live acts, blueFROG should have been No. 1 on my list. It’s a great place to perform at, and I always enjoy performing at blueFROG, Delhi and Mumbai. However, I rank it at No. 4 because everything about it is too commercial. It’s not personal enough and needs more heart. Scheduling an EDM DJ right after a blues band isn’t my kind of gig, but I guess it pays the bills. Overall, I still think blueFROG knows what it’s doing and will be around I’m sure, for a long time.
5. Cheers Crossroads, Guwahati, and Club Tango, Police Bazaar, Shillong
The Northeast has India’s finest blues-rock musicians, and although both these clubs aren’t India’s best in terms of decor, stage size or F&B, both their owners are into music and go the extra mile to warm up the ambience. If you’re traveling to Meghalaya, it’s worth popping in to check out local bands such as Soulmate take to the stage. Live bands usually perform on Thursday and Friday nights, and unless you dig it, make sure you’re not there on heavy metal night!
6. Shisha Jazz Cafe, Pune
More of an Irani café than a bar or pub, it serves Iranian breakfast in the morning and sweet Jazz at night. Located in the lush Koregaon Park, Shisha Jazz Cafe has a garden feel to it, it evokes a Santana kind of feel. Definitely a cool place with very cool music and people!
7. 3 Wise Monkeys, Mumbai
Located in the three-star Hotel Unicontinental in Khar, the dive attracts students who are into live music. It reminds me of a place from yesteryears called Raspberry Rhinoceros in Juhu. When growing up, it was one of the only places in Mumbai where you could watch people playing rock classics live. I picked up a lot of my guitar tricks watching musicians play at Raspberry Rhinoceros.
8. SinQ, Goa
Located in a “party hotel” with the same name, SinQ is a club that occasionally masquerades as a live music venue. It’s got a pretty diverse repertoire of performing artists across genres and always has an audience that’s receptive to all kinds of music. And in the end, it’s Goa, so everyone’s looking to have a good time.