On a pleasant evening in July 2016, some 60 rock fans met at The Local, Fort. That had become the new venue for our club listening sessions. The theme was blues-rock, and besides many CDs, DJ Raz played DVDs of BB King and Buddy Guy.
Naturally, it came as a shock when we heard the place shut down earlier this week. Run by the D’Cunha brothers Meldan and Kevin, the place offered the best of music, food, ambience and hospitality. And we could party till 1 am.
Our club’s association with the D’Cunhas goes back a long way. For a nice lunch or dinner, their Soul Fry in Pali Naka is a preferred venue. And earlier, we had many rock sessions and football screenings at Trafalgar Chowk in Bandra.
The Local, started in 2013 and earlier called Soul Fry Casa, was probably more spacious for our comfort, despite the small loo. Located between Flora Fountain and Kala Ghoda, it had a nondescript entrance and no signboard. We went in after punching in a code.
Inside, it was magic. Enough seating and standing space plus a mezzanine. A good enough, if not the best, sound system, but a nice big screen. Our deal was simple. Fixed entry with alcohol at extra cost, so teetotalers needn’t feel the pinch. Was much cheaper if the drinkers bought a bottle and shared. Two veg and two non-veg starters, and likewise with the main course. Munchies, soft drinks and main course were part of the entry fee.
Their normal music had Bollywood on Tuesdays, karaoke on Thursdays, English retro on Fridays and Saturdays, and a mix of jazz, blues and rock on Sundays. Theme nights, essentially.
Our club, yet to be named after 16 years, had two more sessions there. One was the screening of the Woodstock DVD, and the other an assorted mix of classic rock, where we played Pink Floyd on request with the brilliant guitarist Rohit Kulkarni doing some classics by the band on his acoustic guitar.
We also had a reunion of my former company Mid-Day, where 76 colleagues partied. DJ Raz began with soft rock, moved into pop, then into harder rock. The theme was 1970s and 1980s music. So he shifted into Hindi film songs from that era, and the dance floor was on fire.
And there was the food. The famous Goan chorizo pao (minced pork in a pao sandwich), sungta maria (prawn on toasted bread), bombil fry, Anglo-Indian railway mutton, whatever that meant, and chicken or rice pulao. The vegetarians had nachos, pizzas, veg pulao or a choice of dishes served with bread or roti. The in-house manager Johnny looked after us individually with a constant smile.
The best thing was that though we fixed up the menu in advance, some other dishes were always served, and if someone wanted something exclusively, they weren’t charged extra in our sessions.
Why did they shut down? Says Meldan D’Cunha, “Ultimately it wasn’t lucrative. Money isn’t everything but the time and effort we invested in didn’t get adequate returns. Other restaurants in the area offered cheaper alcohol and longer happy hours.”
In May, The Local started a special lunch fare with light music. “The response was inItially enthusiastic but didn’t sustain. For many, it was far,” says D’Cunha.
We were actually planning to have our next rock session at The Local in late October. Sadly we can’t. Had we known it was closing, would have loved to do a grand farewell bash.
But one can always head to Soul Fry in Bandra for their Monday karaoke nights or whenever we want some great Goan cuisine. That’s a magical place.
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Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon (okay, doesn’t fit, but you get the drift), Naren, NK, Kusnur, Narender, Kaansen, Jahanpanna… however else many call him, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier. If ever there is an Ustad given for music writing, NK, would be among the first to receive one. Narendra Kusnur writes weekly on Xyngr. Don’t ask us when.