May 6, 2012

Firehouse burns down Dimapur Stadium

Written by Al Ngullie

No, not real fire. Since 1990, the foursome isn’t known to wash down burning issues. When they ignite the heat, an eardrum or two is destined to be scourged. May 4’s evening in Dimapur District Sports Complex was a good example of how real-time rockers in the like of American hard rockers Firehouse do their stuff – loud, heavy, extremely tight, good music all the way to leave the amps smoking and charred.

Firehouse pummeled the stadium hit after hit till the poor stadium was sweating.  After 7 years of the first failed date with Nagaland, Firehouse finally got to take her out. And the fans were out in strength to listen to a band whose songs they have had to request All India Radio Kohima at least once to play in dedication to a beloved. Firehouse didn’t disappoint – it was live coals all the way on Friday evening as the thousands rejoiced.
Better Never than Late?

Firehouse’s concert started after the customary observance of the age-old rich Naga cultural tradition of delay. By 6PM, the fanatics had already begun gathering. Women led from the front – a group of confident mothers and their teenage children marched in to take control of the front pit. Rock lovers of all species – including Dimapur’s inimitable males in boxers and vests, and curvy females of the species – marched in eagerly.

Dimapur rock bands, Avancer and Clueless Attention, were Firehouse’s opening acts.  Sadly, they could not bring in the matchsticks due to technical reasons – a source said they had to be cut as there was only a single track console. Firehouse had already pre-set the system and the concert’s organizers feared the worst if the system kept changing for individual bands. Thankfully, the crowd didn’t mind.

That isn’t to say that the hotheads were taking kindly to the delay – you could hear colorful Nagamese sentences that had no commas or full-stops but punctuated by blistering ‘F’ words. An announcer appealed for peace and reconciliation – she requested the fans to be decent with the tacit hint that the American stars are guests and ought to be shown respect. “Dimapur, promise that you will be well behaved!” she shouted. The poor wildlife in the stadium responded “Yes!” Then she added: ‘Good, please be patient as the band has not arrived yet.’ Oops. Wrong move. More ‘F’ words exploded from the pack.

Then, just when the crowd began readying to fire, front man CJ Snare leapt in. You could hear the joyful roar all the way from Dzukou Valley. Never in the history of the volatile Nagas has good manners been restored in mere seconds. The Billboards scorcher ‘Hold Your Fire’ (Hold Your Fire, 1992) exploded. Thousands of hands went up and lungs worked overtime. CJ Snare, Allen McKenzie, Michael Foster and Bill Leverty on stage even inspired dignity of labor in the gathered Naga throng – they started engaging in heavy construction activities such a building ‘pyramids’ and towers by climbing on each other.

Heavy, strong, loud and masculine, Firehouse had no time to water down the heat – good noise in the form of the single ‘Shake & Tumble’ (Firehouse, 1990) slammed down hard as did the #58 hit ‘All She Wrote’ (Firehouse, 1990). Some even danced. As the band played ‘You’re my Religion’ (Good Acoustics, 1996) men could be seen dancing – yes, hips and all – in eternal worship of their girlfriends perhaps.

Even Axemen Sing

Guitar hero Bill Leverty then took to the mic on ‘Holding on’ (Prime Time, 2003). For a people that haven’t traveled that much from the classics, the song didn’t attract many sing-alongs from the tower builders. That was before ‘When I look into your Eyes’ (Hold Your Fire, 1990), one of Firehouse’s biggest hits. The US Charts #8 had half of the stadium calling up their beloved, coochie-cooie darlings and holding up their cellphones so that their babykins and coo-coos would also listen. One could almost suspect that the men were blinking back tears as CJ Snare expounded the message of eternal love. But like an unidentified wise man once said ‘love is naughty,’ America’s most-played wedding song was followed by love of the non-vegetarian kind – the band started ‘Sleeping with you’ (from Hold Your Fire). Naughty, naughty Dimapur.

More followed: ‘Overnight Sensation’ (from Firehouse) and another ‘Here for you’ (from ‘3’). The stadium was the lead vocalist on ‘Here for you’ (yes, the same song you still hear in your village). And would you believe that the stadium starting making calls again to its darling somewhere? Yes, this time Firehouse brought in its #5 smash hit ‘Love of a lifetime.’ By the time ‘I live my life for you’ (from the album ‘3’) came, many had already found a lifetime love affair with Firehouse.

(All Photographs: Caisii Mao ©2012 All Rights Reserved © Al Ngullie Nagaland Music)
News Feature published on May 4, 2012, The Morung Express

May 3, 2012

Firehouse in India: We are Here for You Already

by Al Ngullie
And so the four Yankee fire starters finally stood there on pot-holed Naga soil after their first shot at Nagaland in 2004 misfired. Blond, bleary-eyed and noticeably airplane-wearied, the early 90s hair metal stars were definitely enduring a bad hair day after blazing across the skies from halfway around the world. 

(Right: Firehouse's frontman CJ Snare is probably going "Hehehe my new Facebook profile pic!" as he arrives in Dimapur. Photo/Caisii Mao ©2012)
Still, sparkling with fiery passion only true rock devotees know to appreciate, the band addressed a press conference on May 3 at Niathu Resort to finally perform to a people to whom ‘I’m here for you’ is almost an age-old Naga traditional song. Or something similar.

America’s biggest rock export to the wedding industry is scheduled to perform in Dimapur, May 4, at the Dimapur District Sports Complex stadium. The Grammy-nominated American hard rock band is in the original rock capital of North East India courtesy of services company Sky Group and its venture Seven Sisters Entertainment in collaboration with non-governmental organization Queensberry Foundation. Sponsored by telecom services giant Airtel, the rock stars are performing in select states in the North East Region.

Singer CJ Snare, drummer Michael Foster, bassman Allen McKenzie and guitar hero Bill Leverty interacted with Media persons and explained why being in Nagaland to perform is “so cool” and ‘why Nagaland rocks.’  

“We are happy to be here; being here is an inspiration and we are really honored,” said CJ Snare, the nasal-voiced leader of a band that has sold millions of album copies since the band broke the scene in 1990 with a self-titled debut. Referring to the failed bid of a local organization in Dimapur in 2004 to bring the band to Nagaland, the singer said the entire case was one of poor event-organizing and management. “But today we are here now; we are here now and it is different this time,” he said.

After a rousing round of Gold and Platinum albums, successful raids on the Billboard charts, numerous awards and writing a hit song that would become America’s biggest selling wedding song (guess which? No prize for guessing), the band appeared mellowed. Wrong. “We are still out here touring; we are not dying” explained CJ Snare when queried if American artistes are finding Asia a good market after the dip in the American music industry, particularly for rock acts. 

(Photo/L-R): Firehouse's Michael Foster, Allen McKenzie, Bill Leverty and CJ Snare during the press conference. Photo/Caisii Mao ©2012)

Still reaching for the skies

CJ Snare must be right. For those who come in late, the band broke the charts with 1990’s Firehouse driven by hits such as ‘Love of a Lifetime’ and ‘Overnight Sensation. The band went on to consolidate their position as a million-selling group with 1992’s Hold Your Fire (remember that hit ‘When I look into your eyes’ and ‘Sleeping with you? You naughty, naughty fan). In Asia, Firehouse’s ‘3’ (Every Naga band has at least thought of covering ‘Here for you’ or ‘I live my life for you,’ you know) and ‘Good Acoustics’ are household songs, sorry, names. Oh sorry again, songs, that is.

“All we wanted was to be on the road; we are not giving up rock,” chipped in drummer Michael Foster. According to Bill Leverty – one of America’s speed goods responsible for forcing dads to buy their sons guitars – change has been inevitable. Change in musical trends not only in the United States but across the world, the guitarist explained. Some genres come and go while some remain but, Leverty explained, Firehouse will always be musicians first whether the market want pop or rock.

Bassist McKenzie agreed: Trends have changed but taste hasn’t. The bassist explained how at the ripe old age of 13 years he watched a concert of American shock-rock madcap Alice Cooper. Alice “Boa Constrictor” Cooper was performing in Cincinnati as part of the rock pioneer’s ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ tour. ‘The blood, chopping off babies heads (dolls)…they scared the crap out of me,’ the bassman explained. Yet classic rock it still is no matter what the markets say, the bassman explained, and ‘Playing in India is a real honor; we have lots of fans in India.’

For updates, the band has already released three albums when Nagaland was still worshipping the first three albums. Firehouse’s current but comparatively unknown albums are ‘Category-5,’ ‘Prime Time,’ ‘O2’ and the compilation of Firehouse favorites ‘Full Circle’ released on June 1, 2011. 

From Us to You with Love
So what message do you want to give to your fans here? “First, thank you so much for making it possible for us to play in Nagaland; we are so honored,” gushed CJ Snare, all humble but charismatic in his fresh goatee and a colorful Naga vest. ‘What I would like to leave for the people here is our legacy; the legacy of Firehouse, their songs and performances,’ said Bill Leverty, also sparkling in another colorful Naga vest. 

Allen McKenzie had a more vivid explanation of the message he wanted fans in Nagaland to have: “I can’t wait to get to see their faces; we have no idea; at the moment we are all going ‘wow!” Michael Foster nodded eagerly to his band mate’s declaration: “If I want to leave anything, I want to let them (see us perform) and go ‘Wow!”