What do you get when you put together a five-star chef, a railway engineer, an official with a US firm, a company MD, a professional singer, a photographer, a music teacher and an executive with an oil company? “Slow down, unwind… forget the daily grind…” These lines from a jingle they put together for Puducherry Tourism perhaps solve this puzzle. “We are an unusual bunch of wannabe rock stars,” laughs Reji Varghese—he also runs the firm Forms and Gears—as he sips a drink at Chennai’s boat club. Both Tenny Allwood, the chef, and Phil Kohlhoff, the oil company executive, nod in approval. What brought together these predominantly jazz lovers is their thirst for music. “Senjen Joachem, who is into the art business and is based out California, and I used to jam together at a friend’s place in Yercaud,” reminisces Reji.
It was perhaps the green and laid-back backdrop of the Yercaud hills that provided the setting, around 18 months ago, for their Second Coming, both in music and life, evident from the glow in their eyes as they relive their musical journey. No apocalypse could have stopped their second coming which spans 48 gigs across five states. Phil, sporting a Second Coming cap, agrees that it is often challenging, “especially since most of us have families and have to find time to come together and jam.” Reji points out that the average age of members in their band is around 52.
At this point walks in Ryan Fernandez. Complete with the moon-rimmed glasses, the young man reminds of John Lennon. Tenny describes him as the “rock star” among them. “Among our band of ugly, overweight middle-aged men, he is the young blood who heads the ‘heartthrob section.’ All the girls eye him,” quips Reji.
The son of well-known guitarist Patrick Fernandez, Ryan, who is “legally blind,” is a professional and does regular gigs at Puducherry. “I grew up watching these guys perform with my dad. Now, to actually play with them, has been a dream,” he smiles, his body language proving he is at peace. A day later, Ryan’s likeness to Lennon, complete with a tuxedo vest, gets accentuated with their very Beatles-like stage act at the Ambassador Pallava in Egmore where the audience—mostly expats from the Anglo-Indian community—is up on its feet and shaking a leg.
The hippie in Tenny now sports a bandanna, while retro Phil grooves with a cowboy hat. From peppy jazz, country, pop, rock to even reggae, their skills span the musical rainbow. “We have around 40 songs lined up for the day,” shouts out John Thomas aka Yohan, another pivotal member of Second Coming, as Ryan’s charmingly peppy rendition of Shaggy’s Brown Eyed Girl booms across the ballroom. Their audience, like their music, is a tribute to versatility.
Rewind to the boat club, and Reji recounts their wildest gig ever, during the Bastille Day at Puducherry, when they had “around 2,500 people going crazy.” Phil recalls how they had all these “bouncers on the stage, trying to keep off the enthusiastic crowd as they tried to jostle their way through.” Combine this with their radical lyrics in Middle Finger Talk, and the more sober Just Be You. The crowd frenzy is hardly a surprise then.
Second Coming is now looking to release an album, “by this year” and is also looking at doing jingles and gigs for social causes. “We are working now on a No Honk Project,” informs Regi. As the name suggests, it is a campaign against the very annoying habit of road users.
For now, the seven-piece band—which boasts of three front-line singers, including Tonya, the only other young blood and the others like Railways engineer Mark Wilcox and drums teacher Maynard Grant—jamming together at their practice pad at Perambur and keeping alive their music is their way of not having ‘mortgaged their soul, to the bank down the road, as one of their singles go. You can catch their Second Coming at Chennai’s Island Grounds Gymkhana this Valentines’ Day.