Delhi 2 Dublin brings out the best in us
Where were you last night, Milwaukee? If I know you as well as I think I do, I’d bet you were racking your brain to find the perfect last-minute Halloween costume when you should have been at Turner Hall for the Delhi 2 Dublin show. Seriously, it was amazing.
Rather than staying home to carve pumpkins and watch scary movies, I let my secret love of world music get the better of me. Some of you are already cringing, but D2D’s show is exactly the kind of sound music lovers are seeking — the best elements of various cultures interwoven into a sonic quilt of awesomeness and authenticity.
The willingness to give D2D a listen was well worth it, as they offered our Midwestern bodies the rare chance to cut loose and dance our problems away. The culture shock factor was something our city needed. Canadian-based D2D is a celebratory display of the beauty in harmonious cultural exchange. I know it’s a stretch, but bear with me here. The music sounds like Mannheim Steamroller wrote the soundtrack for a Bollywood-style Underworld movie. It’s just crazy enough to work.
On the way up the stairs, Turner’s iconic doorman Al gave a warm greeting. Al could very well be the highlight of the venue. Every time I come for a show, he’s listening to some interesting and/or obscure music while cheerfully directing concertgoers to their destination. Al loves world music, but is disappointed that there isn’t more of it at the venue, suggesting that older crowds with an interest in world music don’t come out because of later start times.
Entering the venue, I was quickly seduced by the smell of curry. Upstairs, I was astonished to see a truly intergenerational, multinational crowd mixing and mingling with plates and drinks spread across clusters of tables, a few groups spilling into messy circles on the floor.
To fill the two-hour gap between the door opening and D2D’s set, 88nine’s Marcus Doucette opened with world-inspired electronica supplemented by montage images on a projection screen. The crowd was cordial, leaning heavier on the boomer-age, and the atmosphere was more relaxed than the typical adrenaline-jacked indie scene the Ballroom. People ate and caught up with friends as Doucette’s selections ebbed and flowed with the atmosphere — children played, old women laughed, young couples held hands.
The show had a different vibe than anything I’d experienced at Turner. D2D’s lineup mishmashes cultural flavor with a wall of sound, driving listeners into a frenzy. Lead singer Sanjay Seran worked with confidence, delivering lyrics in English and Punjabi. Not to be outdone, violinist Kytami danced, stomped and wailed on the fiddle, incorporating a Celtic flavor without making me feel like I was being held hostage in an Enya video. Percussionists Jaspaul Ravi Binning (on the Persian dhol drum) and Tarun Nayar (on table, turntables, and backup vocals) kept the beats sexy and danceable, offering amazing amounts of energy. Last but not least, guitarist Andrew Kim showed off his sitar and Indian violin skills while rocking out in a utilikilt.
The group did a great job of winning over an uncertain crowd, coaxing them from chairs to the dance floor, and finally up to the very edge of the stage. Everyone was feeding off of everyone else’s energy, and D2D did an excellent job of connecting with the audience. They even connected with the city’s local Indian community by featuring a Milwaukee-based dance group and singer (from the Aarabhi School of Dance).
Every song was perfect, and every new face I saw was smiling from ear to ear. Even the security guards were dancing. Then and there, I decided that Milwaukee could take a cue from D2D, and learn a valuable cultural lesson: our city should become one that not only embraces, but celebrates diversity through events and activities appropriate for all ages and races. Well, that, and maybe starting weekday shows a bit earlier.