11:00 AM: The blinding sunlight of Lahore makes me wake up. It's a slow and lazy morning. I look around and laugh because I have a room all to myself, while the other guys are slutting it up in the other rooms. I guffaw victoriously and prance.
11:10 AM: After a shower and change, I go to wake up the other guys. Ali Alam is awake and missing. Rahayl is bleary eyed. I walk into the next room where OK is calmly smoking a cigarette and Yasir is passed out. This really does not look good.
11:30 AM: We hit Yasir repeatedly till he wakes up. OK tortures Yasir by implying that he may or may not have teabagged him in his sleep.
11:45 AM: Yasir does not know what teabagging
11:46 AM: Yasir finds out what teabagging is. We console Yasir.
12:30 PM: We find Ali chilling in the TV lounge, it's a long day ahead of us, its hot outside, and we've got nothing but time to kill before we have to go for soundcheck in the afternoon. For some reason all of us are pretty down, not really excited about the show yet. So we spend our time in the most un-rock'n'roll fashion, lazing around on the couches and watching "Jodhaa Akbar"
12:45 PM: Boredom reaches epic proportions as we flip through channels and discover this really weird channel that displays some sort of frequency graph. We think we have stumbled across some hidden spy communication thingy. Or something that responds to loud noises. now I'm not proud of this, but we made Yasir go stand near the TV screen and wave his arms to see if it woulf affect the frequency graph while we shouted loud noises.
1:00 PM: Massive debate ensues about what we need to do for lunch. Yasir leaves to visit relatives, Rahayl leaves for adventure. Returns with a drink in a soda can called "Panda", which is 0.5% Alcohol. I kid you not! Apparently this stuff is commercially available in Lahore. Just so you know, we ADP, endorse PANDA DRINK.
2:00 PM: In a fit of diva-ness, I call up manager Aamir and demand that LUMS send over a couple of roadies to help us transport our equipment to LUMS. Sure enough within a couple of minutes, two kids from LUMS show up at the rest house. We are nowhere near ready, so instead we convince the boys to chill with us and have some pizza and Coke. One of them is pretty friendly, a Lahori guy also a musician, who wants nothing more than to meet the great Omar Khalid of LUMS. He assumes it is me. Sigh. The other one, a Karachiite, doesn't say much and refuses our offers of food and drink. I'm pretty sure he thinks we're going to drug him and rape him.
3:00 PM: Despite our attempts to stall, the LUMS boys load our stuff into their cars and we head out to the LUMS campus, hoping we'll be able to soundcheck soon.
3:15 PM: We get to the campus and discover that while the stage has been set up, nothing else is ready. Just as we feared, we were going to be in for a long long wait...
3:30 PM: The worst part about these things is sitting around waiting for other people to hurry up. From what we can see, the setup is definitely going to take longer than expected. There is no place for us to chill and relax at LUMS except the students rec room, which is where we all head. OK has brought his laptop and is on the net. Rahayl engages Aamir in an animated discussion about something. Yasir is stressing because some local musicians want him to play with them at the show tonight and he doesn't know if he should do it. Ali and I go searching for ice cream.
4:00 PM: Did you know LUMS has it's own Hot Spot? The ice cream is a welcome relief from the heat and boredom. Ali, Rahayl, Aamir and me discuss our game-plan for tonight. We are told that there are going to be almost 17 LUMS musicians performing as opening acts before we take the stage. Now the band Laal was also supposed to be performing and were heavily promoted in the events posters, but hilariously enough, the members of Laal are all in London and have no idea that they were doing this gig. These two bits of information should have been warning signs. Anyway, we figure we're going at a good time because we'll have a full crowd and it wont be too late. We're going to be followed by EP and then Noori are going to close the show, I'm really excited to be meeting both.
5:00 PM: Ali Alam walks back to the rec room, where he sees OK working on his laptop. Next to OK he sees a couple passionately making out. OK smiles looks back and makes a thumbs up gesture. How awesome is this place?
6:00 PM: We are bored shitless waiting for soundcheck to happen. But I have to say, the stage and sound setup looks incredible. But the heat, combined with the boredom is sapping our energy and making us all slightly cranky. It's interesting to see how everyone in the band is reacting differently, it's such a reflection of the personalities. OK and Ali are the cool cucumbers of the bunch, although OK has been betraying signs of nervousness on this trip, probably because he's performing at his alma mater and he has to deliver on his reputation.
7:00PM: The concert was scheduled to start at 7pm, but we now only start our soundcheck. We're the first band on, and feeling especially drained, we start the process. However, getting up on that massive stage is a huge rush for me, especially when they test the lights. It really does feel like we're playing at Woodstock, with this massive stage in the middle of an open field. The soundcheck starts badly, with Rahayl and Yasir both not being happy with their sounds. It's always hard to remain calm and patient during these times, because the rest of the band wants to move forwad quickly and so when one person is being picky about their sound, it gets a little annoying, but it's really important for these guys to be satisfied, so we keep going. Some LUMS kid is talking us through the soundcheck but he's beginning to get annoying because he clearly has no idea who is playing what, nor does he know our names.
7:24PM: Right in the middle of our soundcheck, Noori show up at the stage ready to check. Ali Noor and Ali Hamza walk up to the stage and greet us warmly, (I am of course secretly thrilled but jelly-legged to be soundchecking in front of Noori). This is the first time they are hearing us and they keep telling us about how our reputation precedes us and they are really looking forward to tonights show.
7:30PM: We start our soundcheck with "Kiss". As I hit the opening chords, I feel extremely faint, the heat and the excitement and the lights are making me completely weak, but the other guys are feeling pretty good. I growl out the opening lines and after a shaky start settle into a nice funky rhythm, very aware that the Noori brothers are up on the right of the stage listening to us, and I'm terrified of messing up. Thankfully we perform really well, and the sound sounds amazing. The few people that are in the area stop and applaud as we finish, giving the sound guy a thumbs up.
7:35PM: Ali Noor chats with Ali Alam and tells him he thought we sounded great. I'm still extremely shy to go talk to him myself, so I quietly squat by my guitar case and pack up my things till I feel a loud thud on my back. Ali Noor comes up behind me and tells me how well I sang and that he honestly wasnt expecting us to be this good. I smile, slightly embarassed but I'm completely psyched inside to be getting a compliment from one of my idols. Noor then laughs and comments on how I'm a vain bastard who knows he's good ("Issey to pata hae bhai! He knows he's a good singer..bastard!")
7:45PM:Farhad Humayun from Overload and Shehzad Hameed join us on stage along with Salman Albert from EP who is drumming for Noori. Ali Noor is showing off this really complicated new monitoring system he is trying out for this show which basically uses his laptop and his own digital processing along with loops. It's way over my head. The atmosphere is really cool, a whole bunch of great musicians on stage chatting informally. Farhad and Shehzad are slated to perform one song as a last minute addition, but their bass player has bailed on them They shadily pull Rahayl into a corner and ask him to join them for their performance, which has Rahayl over the moon.
8:30PM: I chill out on the lawn with Ali Alam and we sit through Noori's soundcheck. Ali Hamza gets shocked from his microphone within the first song and hilariously yells out in that patented Lahori accent "Microphone change karo oye! Krunt lag raha hae".
9:00PM: It's getting really late and at the back of my mind, I'm tensing up about how late everything is moving. Noori have just finished their soundcheck. The guys from EP aren't here, and there are still 17 amateur acts that have to perform before us.
9:15PM: I go to my friend Asad's house to shower and change and relax a bit with some of my friends in Lahore, looking completely like the Asshole Lead Singer that I am. For some reason, the guys in the band think that every time I go off on my own, I leave them to be partyin with skanky ho's and groupies. This is only partially true.
10:30PM: I had told Aamir to call me just before we go on. When I call him, he tells me that there is still almost an hours worth of amateurs who are going to perform. Shit.
10:45PM: I come back to LUMS. Hilariously I am stopped at the gate. I try to convince the guards that I'm one of the musicians performing tonight but he's having none of it. So I have to call Aamir to come bail me out. I sheepishly stand on the sidewalk while random guys drive by me, one of whom spots me and yells "ADP?!! Wooooohooooo". Not cool.
11:00PM: Wow, within a couple of hours, the entire field has been transformed into this sea of people. I'm overwhelmed byt how massive this crowd is, and how fantastic the stage looks. I get their just in time to see Rahayl take the stage along with Shehzad Hameed and Farhad Humayun and watch them perform a balls-out incredible version of Led Zeppelin's "Rock'n"Roll" that brings the crowd to their feet. What a rush.
11:30PM: The guys from EP show up backstage and we meet them. Ahmed Ali Butt is really friendly and freely chatting with everyone. Ali Noor is backstage too animatedly talking to someone or the other. Fawad from EP is surrounded by a gaggle of girls asking for his autograph. Omar Khalid is chugging away at cans of Red Bull. I start to get really tense. We're pretty suspicious that the organizers are going to make us cut our setlist down. I hurriedly scramble to find a pen and paper and we write out two setlists, one complete, one shortened.
11:45PM: Sure enough, as the last LUMS acts winds down, the organizers approach me and tell me "Omar Bhai, can we talk to you about the time". I'm not in the mental state to discuss this because I'm already tense and I'm afraid I'll lose my cool. I tell them to talk to Aamir. Aamir walks off with them, followed by Ali Alam and Yasir. I can see a heated discussion taking place and I expect the worst. They come back to me and tell me to the organizers want us to shorten the playlist in the interest of time. I ask them how long, they ay "Half-an-hour". Half an hour? That's more than I expected. I tell them we'll do it. Crisis averted.
Midnight: After what seems like an eternity, we finally take the stage. Everything seems to be moving in slow motion. The band members are no longer excited, they look exhausted and haggard, the tension showing on their faces. There is just a general uneasy vibe. I can't get over how tired we are, maybe it's the heat, or the lights or the crippling nerves before going up in this massive crowd that stretches back as far as the eye can see. The trek up the stairs to the stage is slow and heavy. Our name gets announced and theres a loud cheer from the audience.
I very slowly, very deliberately walk towards my guitar case and kneel down beside my amp to make sure all my settings or in order. I go through my little pre-show ritual of running my fingers over the strings, allowing the warm hum of the amp to swell. I place my pick, my slide, cap and harmonica on top of the amp. Aamir comes on stage and hands me a water bottle I can barely swallow from. I take out the crumpled setlist and place it under my mic stand.
One section of the audience is playfully taunting us with chants of "Aunty Aunty". I play along, smiling and pumping my fists in unison with the chants. I still can't get over how many people there are.
I make my way over to the drum riser. During the soundcheck I had practiced jumping off it, but now it looks pretty dangerous to jump off. I climb up and talk to OK as he runs over the tom-toms and does little runs on the snare. He's ready. I get back down and make eye contact with Rahayl and Yasir and ask them if they're good to go. The nod silently. Ali is at my right, he's the last guy I look at before I start. Everyone's ready to go. But my voice is failing me. I walk up to the mic and I croak "Ladies and Gentlemen, we're the Aunty Disco Project".
The crowd erupts as I start the opening riff from "Baba O'Riley" (by The Who). OK starts the count in with the sticks. The crowd start clapping along building up the momentum. I feel like this huge bundle of energy waiting to burst as the guitar notes ring out across the field 1..2..3..4...Clap..Clap...Clap...Clap...
Fuck it...I'm going to jump off the drum riser.
I close my eyes and take a massive leap off the riser and land staggering back onto the stage. The band is a little shell-shocked by my jump, (I'm later told that they were convinced I was going to break something) but they recover just in time to come in with the crashing opening chords. OK's drum intro thunders through and we tear into the song.
I scream out the opening line and I can hear my voice resonate loudly and clearly. The sound mix is a little confused and all over the place. I can tell that the guys are having a hard time hearing each other, but we power through it.
The crowd is incredible, singing along with every word and jumping in time with the beat.
As the break in the song comes, everybody in the field joins me and sings "Don't Cry, Don't Raise Your Eyes, It's Only....TEEENAGE WASTELAND". The hair on my neck stands on the end.
We end the song in a manic storm of guitars and drums and build up to a crescendo and crash.
The audience is wildly cheering. I look over at the guys and smile. We won over the crowd. all the jeering stopped from the minute we hit that first chord.
Seconds later, we launch into the soaring opening notes of "Sultanat". As we start, I see Aamir standing in the middle near the soundbooth giving us the thumbs up. The volcanic buildup launches us into a ferocious version of Sultanat. Once again I'm surprised by how many people know about the song and are singing along.
The kids in the front row are headbanging and jumping and screaming, it's truly magical. Watching guys and girls just having a good time, letting themselves go and enjoying themselves to something we created is just mind-blowing.
We get through an intense, almost flawless version of "Sultanat" and I can see the crowd are ready to rock out even more.
The intensity of the last two songs has taken it's toll on the band, and I can see them visibly fatiguing, especially OK and Yasir. Which is why our start to "Rock The Casbah" is a little sluggish and confused, with a couple of us missing our cues. But the crowd doesn't notcie and goes wil for the darbuka. They're dancing and singing and pumping their fists in the air.
This is easily our best show ever.Well.... it would have been.
As soon as we end "Casbah", Aamir comes on stage and walks up to me, takes me aside and says "It's over". I'm confused,
"What do you mean?"
"They shut it down, the concert, the faculty shut it down"
I'm still dazed and not completely taking in the information. I sit down on the riser wiping the sweat from my face. The president of The LUMS music society take the stage and announces on the mic that the concert is over, because it has run overtime and the faculty is threatening to cut the power. He's greeted by booing and jeering, most people shake their heads in disbelief. As the situation becomes clearer to me, I'm surprised by how resigned I am to this.
Ali Alam comes up to me and tells me "We should probably tell the crowd to calm down, they look like they're going to riot"....sure enough, people are shouting abuse and getting worked up. Shaking myself out of the daze, Ali and I walk up to the mic's and plead with everyone to exit quietly and thank the Music Society for having is in Lahore. People disbelievingly start to exit. There's is a gaping black hole of disappointment all over the field.
The guys and I get off the stage. The Noori and EP guys congratulate us and shake our hands and tell us what an exciting performance it was. At the same time, I can see that they are absolutely, understandably livid and how the night has turned out. Ali Noor jokes about how ADP is jinxing his band (we were slated to perform with Noori in a Karachi show that got cancelled). Ahmed Ali Butt from EP comes by and tells me he really regrets that he didnt getto hear us do "Nazar" because it's one of his favorites. I'm really touched by how gracious these guys are, and let it be said that they were complete gentlmen and they didn't lose their cool at any of the LUMS organizers, no matter what any newspaper reports might say.
12:40AM: Things start to lighten up as a bunch of fans come backstage and chat with us and get their pictures taken with us. We hang around for awhile and then start the unglamours packing up process. Thankfully some LUMS students are only to happy to help us carry our equipment.
1 AM: OK and me get a headstart and start transporting our stuff back to the cars. As we walk down the footpaths of LUMS, guitar in hand. Something special happens. All the LUMS students along the road break out into spontaneous cheering and applause as we make our way amongst them. I'm humbled, and deeply touched and emotional at this outpouring of love. All along the way people shake our hands and slap us on our backs...
And thats where I end it, because thats how I want to remember it.
Here are some links to articles that appeared about the event in The News to help you guys get a better, more fact based idea of thingsArticle in INSTEP by Hani Taha SalimArticle in SHEHR section of The News on Sunday by Aziz Omar