I was desperate to write this piece as the festival was in progress , but I’m sorry, I was having far too much fun. Before MAD started, something told me it was going to be the experience of a lifetime. Yes, Cobalt and Zomato could most certainly have done a better job of promoting the festival , but just look at the prospects:
- A line up with the best bands in the country and more
- Tents on a cliff
- Crazy music fans from all over the country
- All among the fern hills and eucalyptus environment of Ooty.
- A bunch of music , dance and yoga workshops I wasnt able to attend
- And Performance stages called blubaloo and calaloo ( for no apparent reason or significance ) – now THATs MAD!
I will head you off right here if you are reading this looking for a musical review. This article is about an experience; one that I believe every Indian who loves the arts or who simply cherishes experiences should, well, experience (if you might excuse my monotony in favour of the larger cause).
Into The Wild. And How.
Typical to the Indian road trip, our bus journey delayed us well into the first day of the fest – as a result of which we reached the venue just as Groove No. 3 and Yodhakaa were finishing up. We gloated a bit when Yodhakaa told us they’d been delayed getting there as well; some sadistic pleasures us reporters ought to be allowed to indulge ourselves in. We had however missed Kryptos as a result. But when someone told us that Kryptos should have remained in ancient Greece, we didn’t feel too bad.
What greeted us when we got there however was AMERICA level paranoia. STRIP SEARCH and in broad daylight! We watched in agony – as they emptied our bags & felt us up awkwardly in front of a million people – and then in delight, as they repacked our bags most efficiently.
We then headed to our tent eager to freshen up. We didn’t expect anything much and things didn’t really exceed our expectations. We worked out a mechanism for the toilets though – enter eyes closed, hold the door handle at all times and NEVER ever look down. Our only request for future editions is if you do intend to cut the water supply, kindly do so when none of us have soap all over. Oh also, please give us a cloth hanger in the bathroom. Wet guys running around in towels isnt exactly our idea of waking up to the naked beauty of the wild.
M.A.D at the core :
We realized soon enough that this festival was about more than just music or art or dance. It was a manifestation of the sheer lunacy of Indians and their festivals. So much so that I had half a mind to write this article hanging upside down, soap all over, tied to a tree, with midi pickups under my arms and using a fountain pen loaded with eucalyptus oil and NO, I was not high.
We did eventually get to the site and oh what a sight it was. Two huge stages set high up in grassy mountainous terrain, separated by only a Eucalyptus forest. In-between them – the eucalyptus tree grove and the mad Bazaar set within it. Now the stall strategy COULD have been an epic fail – too many & general ubiquity – but to the credit of the organizing team they had the perfect mix. From Indie Earth to eco-merchandize to 3D covered notebooks from Bechain Nagari, head bands, football t-shirts from 642 stitches and even home-made cupcakes (which were a saving grace to the starving)!
Along with the stalls there were also some wonderful musical installations that made the experience so much richer. A weird shaped metal junk arrangement that produced a crazy variety of sounds, Svaram; who had a wide range of exotic instruments that people jammed around with and Sulk Station, who set up a very interesting sampling station where they hooked up a tree trunk with midi pickups and let people fool around with sound effects. The forest was a perfect amalgam of all this, people running inbetween the stages, the sounds of sweet music from all around and the serene ripples of nature.
My favorite of the lot though was Puma Socials at the Blubaloo stage; the most innovative of the lot in terms of promotions for a brand. They had everything from miniature TT tables to darts and foozeball – all for us to play while watching the performance on stage. They even gave away free custom painted t-shirts to specific contest winners.
And then there was
The Bar. In the middle of the trees alongside all the stalls. Nothing more inviting in life. EVER. The booze was actually priced reasonably and boy oh boy did it sell. All you liquor barons investing in surrogates like CDs or whatever, invest in music festivals like this! Who knows; you might even resurrect crumbling airlines and promote more such events in the process. The booze wasn’t the only attraction at the bar. Actually, it wasn’t even the main attraction. People were.
The bar became an unofficial stage. People using fallen tree branches and the jute benches to knock out some beats, belting out everything from Srilankan baila songs to dylan to drunken cries of ‘Sachin! Sachin!’ all day and into the night. The organizers even left a few djembes and guitars lying around the trees. Sometimes, even the performing musicians joined the jam and got in on the revelry and camaraderie. It was a very heart warming sight.
The best part was that these jam sessions moved to the campsite and to the campfires. The same revelry and camaraderie among enthusiasts, fans, security guards and even the dogs who joined in with the occasional howl. The distant echo provided by the surrounding cliffs added brilliantly to the effect. The campfires were my favorite part of the festival. They happened from around 11 in the night to about 4 or 5 in the morning, from the first day until the very end of the festival. It was a boon in many ways – especially for guys like me who underestimated the cold and brought nothing but shorts and t-shirts.
Food For Thought, Dear Organizers
My only complaint was food – no variety and outrageously boring. Actually keeping with the trend of madness, they were spot on in one way – the pricing WAS insane! Breakfast felt like 100 rupees for aluminum foil. They said there was pongal inside, but I never saw it. Food from outside wasn’t allowed in and the performances were non-stop so there wasn’t really any time to go to the city and get back.
The five star food, courtesy Fern Hill Palace’s own kitchen, was the only food stall so to speak & didn’t really appeal to me. One miserable tasting bonda cost 50 bucks and don’t get me started on the cold sandwiches/uncooked biriyani/weird pastries. They did introduce a second stall on day 3 but since they sold a marie biscuit at 30 rs a pop and bhel puri several months past the expiry date at 50 rs a plate, people were pretty much starving. The food coupon stall and its inhabitants were really popular though – mainly as cell phone recharge stations but also as cover during the rain.
M.A.D – when we come around next year, and oh we will, get us some good food in there. Do the weird if you must; give us cotton kandy marinated in curd, ketchup and eucalyptus oil, serve the food on drum cymbals, pack the food in carbon fibre instead of aluminum, I don’t care! JUST STEP UP THE MADNESS.
At the end of it all though – it was a festival that gave me a glimpse of the excitement that got me into music in the first place. Brilliant performances, unbelievable atmosphere and an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Even the rain gods couldnt dampen the spirit of the festival.
I know you are all dying to find out what happened with the music and the acts and what not. THAT’s all out in the magazine so catch it there! But I will leave you with one question:
Who do you think was Score magazine’s MAD Act 2012 – the Most Insanely Awesome of MAD 2012?
Isha Sharvani and the Shiva Shakti Dance Company
Papon and the East India Company
The M.A.D. Musical Breakdown in fitting mad style can be read in the next issue of The Score Magazine! Check out photos from the festival right here.