One of the first Indian bands to restart multi-city tours, Kochi band When Chai Met Toast is in Chennai for its final gig
After five sold out shows, When Chai Met Toast heads to Chennai for the last leg of its tour. The Kochi band is one of the first in India to complete a multi-city tour after the pandemic, instilling much-needed hope into the indie music scene: could it be that live gigs are back for good?
It has been an interesting cocktail of caution and exhilaration for frontman Ashwin Gopakumar as he and his band hop from city to city: Candolim, Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai. Multivitamins have replaced afterparties, but nothing can dampen the joy of being back on stage.
“It’s like being home again,” says Ashwin. “For a five-year-old band like ours to have so many sold out shows is very promising. In Guwahati, there were some people who travelled 12 hours from Manipur and Mizoram to watch us play, that was overwhelming.” He chalks the buzz down to the fact that for many of its audience, it was their first night out, listening to a live act.
“People were singing along. It would get so loud that sometimes I could barely hear myself,” says Ashwin. The band — vocalist Ashwin, Achyuth Jaigopal on guitar, Palee Francis on keyboard and Pai Sailesh on drums — was ecstatic to be playing on stage again, and that energy rubbed off on the audience, he believes.
The live act is where it is at, for Ashwin. “We have always been a touring band. We aren’t one of those content creators who will just make something and put it up online. We love to make people dance,” he adds.
However, the one-year break helped them experiment with their creative side: the band released When We Feel Young, its début album last year, and went on to produce ‘Nature Tapes’ versions of their songs: stripped down, calm, acoustic, surrounded by greenery.
This creativity has fuelled the current tour with a fresh set list and a fresher vibe — the band has added instruments such as the charango, ukelele, and electric guitar. It has also helped them understand their demographics better: “’Kahaani’ was a big hit in Delhi, ‘Ocean Tide’ in Guwahati and ‘Break Free’ in Kolkata, whereas ‘Khoj’, ‘When We Feel Young’, and ‘Firefly’ were popular everywhere,” he notes.
Lugging all of the instruments around — down to Ashwin’s personal microphone, for hygiene — was one of the challenges in the post-Covid world. “There are so many different rules in the airline industry, it’s confusing. So there’s an upper limit for 15 kilos of baggage, right? If I have more bags for my instruments, I have to pay ₹1000 extra per bag, and then ₹500 for every extra kilo of weight it holds. These are new ‘handling’ charges which weren’t there before,” he says.
But their touring experience is laying down the groundwork for other artistes and bands who have got in touch with them to understand what performing in the new normal is like. “The other day, Swarathma texted us saying ‘it’s great to see you touring, it gives us hope that live music is coming back’, and that feels good!” he says.
When Chai Met Toast is performing at Barracuda Brew on March 26, 7 pm. Tickets on Insider.