Go VH1 Supersonic 2018: Festival review!

I try not to be petty, but guys, you should have been at vh1 Supersonic Day 1. Its past renditions in Goa have already established it as a leader in the business of music festivals and having an exorbitantly good time. But with their shift to Pune, its clear that they have taken it upon them to embody excellence.

Obviously, if you were there, you’re off the hook. If you weren’t, then sit back and read while I make you incredibly jealous.

The Supercrew had turned the venue, Laxmi Lawns into a veritable smorgasbord of quirk. Trampolines, jungle gyms, swings, slides, a mechanical bull, cushions on the grass, a beer garden, chill pods and barrels and tyres serving as seats provided plenty to keep your engaged when you needed to take a break from running between stages.

Of course, the lineup was enough for anyone to reconsider taking any breaks. There were four stages (five, if you are counting the Changeover stage attached to the Live Arena), and each of them were chock full of phonetic treats. Now, I obviously can’t talk about everything because that would kill my editor, but I’ll leave you with the highlights.

1. Nucleya: Obviously he pulls a crowd, but I was particularly blown by the visuals he tossed out. On the four screens of the Sonic Realm stage, snippets of old so-bad-that-they-are-good Bollywood films served as preludes to a set that can only be described as thundering. I recognised images from the Ramsay Brothers’ Bandh Darwaza, and I gotta say, I lost my mind just a little bit.

2. Parekh and Singh: One of my enduring musical love affairs turned the Live Arena into a space of repose. Away from the dancing, I sat on the grass and watched them take the festival goers into a dream with their new song “Evening sun”. As always, it was impossible to not smile when they played.

3. Adana Twins: One of the last acts of the night, this was where I got my groove on (sorry for being lame). By now, everyone was sufficiently loosened by alcohol and happy-festival-exhaustion. So, there was perfect synch with the music which would please the most dedicated clubbers in existence.

4. Alt-J: A band with no gimmick but the music. When they began “Fitzpleasure”, the crowd audibly broke into tears of joy. When they played “Matilda”, we howled in a blissed out madness. When they played “The Gospel of John Hurt”, hands were in the air to receive the blessing of their artistry. When they played “Interlude 1 (Ripe & Ruin), we knew were in a church of our own, and the music brought God right to our hearts. And yes, they played “Breezeblocks”.

5. Major Lazer: They started off with a couple of Hindi tracks, which got the people going like the plague was upon them. I’m not a huge fan of dancing, but nothing could separate me from the infectious energy that took over the minute they hit that first beat. Half the festival invaded the Sonic Realm, and I could swear that the ground was physically shaking.

There were innumerable moments of madness. Everywhere I turned, I could see people falling in love, with each other and the music and the fact that they were there. The only things that went awry were at the Laboratoire Supersonique. Both Vachan Chinnappa and The Midival Punditz played stunning sets, but on account of the fact that Alt-J was about to play around the same time, they only drew meagre crowds. The latter especially delivered their quintessentially inimitable sound with flawless pitch, but we just don’t get Alt-J that often.

Day 2

If you weren’t there, you can start regretting it right about now.

Let me begin by stating the best part of the day. Discovering new music. Despite Supersonic being heavier on the electronic lineup, they stayed true to their promise of multi-genre offerings. The Live Stage, especially, catered to more traditional tastes, while keeping things experimental.

My personal highlights were too many, but I’ll leave you with what deserved the moniker of ‘unforgettable’.

1. Raja Kumari: For fans, she was everything her music promised. The daughter of the king embodied hustle and grace to a crowd screaming and mouthing every word she sang. Much like her videos, she was the diva from the streets. For new listeners, she was magnetic. I saw eyes widen to “Meera”, “Believe in You” and “Mute”. “City Slums” obviously caused some pleasurable turbulence. We lost it, with good reason.

2. Tuhin Mehta and DJ Ash Roy: They played a punishing hour long set that never even veered to monotony. For individuals decidedly uninterested in sounds of the electronic dance variety, they were the very definition of “This isn’t usually my jam, but damn they are good”.

3. Bombay Bassment: The first Indian hip-hop band to have performed at Glastonbury Festival brought their A-game. They began with “Show me what you got”, and the crowd didn’t stop dancing until they ended their set. 

4. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: I admit this with great shame, but I didn’t know this eight-piece ensemble from Chicago before Supersonic. Consisting of the 8 sons of jazz maestro Phil Cohran. They were nothing, and I mean, nothing short of glorious. The crowd, many of whom were just as new as I was to their sound, were begging them for encores by the end.

5. The Ska Vengers: I don’t need to tell you that the sound of this ska-jazz-punk-rap-rock outfit is visionary in Indian indie circles. They were fierce, their sound was a call to power. Delhi Sultanate called out hate and corruption and injustice, Begum X threw her voice to the heavens and was a glowering goddess. Perfection was achieved early in their set, and stayed until the end. Also, someone tell me how Begum X can careen across a stage with the grace of a gazelle in pencil heels.

6. The Fanculos: I had reviewed their EP and fallen in great love. Watching them live was thrilling, especially with the presence of vocalist Ramon Ibrahim who, I am sure carries showmanship in his blood. Saxophonist Ryan Sadri did a fantastic job of twisting our hearts around his finger with that sweet, sweet melody. You had to pay particular attention to JJ on the drums, because he kept the manic music stringed to an equally frantic beat (don’t ask me how, I think I tore a vocal cord from all the screaming).

7. Obviously, Marshmello’s set became a gargantuan carnival of gyrating bodies and frenzied voices. People danced like it was their last day on Earth, which was the whole point. His rainbow-lit helmet against the explosive lights and colours of the Sonic Realm were a marvellous thing to behold , even if you had no intention of dancing.

Day 3

The last day began with the promise of Incubus. The venue saw an influx of people as early as 4. No one wanted to miss out of getting front row spots at the headliner sets.

Highlights:

1. Aswekeepsearching: Their sound was accompanied by its quintessential hypnotism as they delivered a flawless set in the afternoon sun. A sizable crowd gathered for them, braving the heat to cheer the post rockers.

2. Pentagram: The guys who practically created independent music in this country were back on a major stage after a long time, and they went HARD. Don’t let anyone tell you these guys got old. They didn’t. “Mental Zero” and “Nocturne” got the biggest kicks out of the crowd, many of whom were as the MC put it “OG Pentagram fans”. New fans showed up too, and were quickly converted to devotees.

3. Plini and David Maxim Micic: The former plays prog tones laced with jazz leanings, the latter brings in old school influences like Mike Oldfield to the ethos of Dream Theater. Together, they presented a sound that was hard to define but extremely easy to love.

4. DJ and record producer Zaeden sang, for the first time ever at a music festival. It caused quite the uproar, considering the crowd was packed full of fans who got to see his vocal debut up close. One must admit that the man is quite the singer.

5. Incubus: Magnificence descended upon Pune as thousands revealed in the nostalgia of a band that probably led them to rock music. “Anna Molly”, “Pardon Me” and “Megalomaniac” were personal high points for me. The crowd veered on insanity when they played “Drive”. They injected pieces of Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” into their song of the same name. Unsurprisingly, the move was met with massive approval.

In conclusion, flying to Pune was totally worth it. Three days of ace production accompanied by unblemished timing, reasonable security and absence of any visible mishaps. Good times were had, great sound was explored and you ended up already looking to Go Supersonic in 2019.

 

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