If you’d like a mind map of NH7 Weekender 2017, imagine this- the sprawling Mahalakshmi lawns, five stages, amazing eats, a happy go lucky crowd open to having a good time and a range of artists worth every ounce of your effort of merely getting there.
With sponsors like Tinder, RedBull, Google Pixel and such, the venue was an audio-visual stunner of an experience in more ways than one- the finest sound systems, great stages, and so much music to pick from you are spoilt for choice. Bacardi NH7 Weekender kickstarted on the 8th, a sluggish Friday evening in Pune brought to life with a line up made to set the pace for the three day festival.
Roughly sketched for the festival goer, the Dewarists stage saw most of the Indian acts, with day 1’s soundtrack thick with Indian talent- the unique Ankur Tewari from Ankur and the Ghalat family, the sinful Kamakshi Khanna collective, and the most delightful aswekeepsearching- a live set with table, percussions and violin. (Yes!)
As loyalists dubbed it, the first day was one for the metalheads, and it’s doubtful anyone went home sans a sore neck from the sheer inability to withstand headbanging to the hardcore metal acts- what with The Dillinger Escape Plan, the American mathcore band giving rise to an astounding mosh-esque crowd at the Bacardi Arena stage. The star of the evening would have to be the one going out, with Dutch metal band Textures marking this festival as iconic, with their last tour leg live in Pune. The bands to follow like Scribe made every head-banger proud as a new generation of rockers found itself inspired and sweating like never before.
It’s hard to miss the variety at weekender, and diversity was so thick in the air you could taste it. Mahesh Raghunandan floored as usual with his city-cowboy songs, and Aditi Ramesh blended blues and Carnatic music with ease that can only be understood when you’re watching her agape. Day 1 stayed buoyed with Uk Acapella scores like The Magnets, and the biting sharp satire and musical ranting of Aisi Taisi democracy. Day 1 taught us this much- stay well-shoed and ready to make many circuits of this vast venue as the artists end their acts and swing into action seamlessly- and you really don’t want to be missing any of it.
Come Saturday, Day 2 sure didn’t disappoint when it came to tickling funny bones, with the Breezer vivid stage staying lit with the likes of Azeem Bannatwala, Kanan Gill and Rohan Joshi. The day moved at maddening pace, with many an Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hop skipping and jumping in their attempt to watch it all. They aren’t to blame, what with the multifariousness that was the 9th. The representation was real, and often with a taco in one hand a biriyani in the other all you could do was close your eyes and fathom the Telugu rock Alluri or Skrat from Chennai delivered alongside some brilliant Punk from Bad Pop, the Vancouver weirdos. Day 2 was made of heartwarming material- starstruck appreciation of Improvised Sitar like acoustic Folk from Bhrigu Sahni, Screaming adulation at French Indie band Colt Silvers and for the most hipster sides of us- the “musical journal” that is Easy Wanderlings.
An amalgamation of soul, pop and folk in its own stead, day 2 could perhaps be summarised by the finely crafted textural electronic pop music of experimental and kooky Sid Vashi, or pinpointed to the moment over sunset as the genre bending hiphop of Bombay Bassment that had everyone jigging, but the highlight was undoubtedly (and many giddy rockers will testify) the set of Guitar World’s 10th Greatest Guitarist in the world Steve Vai. Plain shook, is what his performance left everyone. Weekender saw the heavy guitar twangs fade into the more melodic and floaty Indian Ocean, and the best part about this festival like all others- you could choose instead to delve into Ketan Bahirat’s electronic music headspace in Oceantied if what you wanted from your Saturday night was to party. But of course, there was also The Local Train and the Ram Sampath Experience and consequently, every Hindi rock lovers happy place.
A livewire, alive and definitely tiring Saturday later, festival goers dwindled home with their Bacardi cups and shoes in hand. Whilst the incessant jumping can get overwhelming this much is certain, if you’re going to bed with smarting feet- the festival is probably doing right by you.
Final day-going out with a bang as it ought to, had people thronging for- let’s face it- Cigarettes After Sex. But the fest brought in store with it sheer and relentlessly packed genius in the oddest forms of Vir Das’ provocative and hilarious Alien Chutney on what was dubbed the House Party stage, the feminist overtones and powerful tunes of the Nooran Sisters, and the never-failingly beautiful Raghu Dixit Project. The Ska Vengers broke every stereotype to have existed in this millennium with their incredibly contagious set, scavenging dancers and not-so-dancers as everybody well, grooved. That’s the beauty of NH7, as Youngblood tshirts frim Alexis Young fans and hiphop outfits ready to break it down at the NH7 hiphop collective collectively jumped on trampolines, sang in Camp Tinder and swung on the LED swing set. A Sunday to reckon with!
Now as far as cover bands go, Marky Ramone NYC set the bar far too high, in the hands of flailing punk rockers as the crowd remained unable to stand still to back to back songs straight from the 70s. Weekender 2017 saw our beloved Biswa Kalyan rath and Shakhya among others, laughter ringing simultaneously to the lyrical and soul-shattering Parvaaz. Oh and how can we forget how everyone, regardless of differences, couldn’t resist whipping out their Dhan-te-naaan for Vishal Bhardwaj. Hriday Gattani and Madame Gandhi like modern legends stole hearts and curated new fans, and as night grew thicker so did the anticipation for what can be fairly called the most heartbreaking band in the world. An otherwise scattered crowd ranging from stragglers to die-hard music buffs, somehow Cigarettes After Sex in their first show in India managed to build a toe-to-toe crowd headily drinking in their mellow, almost sopoforic indie sound. With the black and white aesthetic being a semi colon in the otherwise –psychedelia of the festival, there weren’t too many dry eyes in the crowd. And the soul-searching just didn’t stop! Our Golden Boy Prateek Kuhad played heartstrings and ivory keys of remembrance, with his idyllic voice and simple lyrics.
Pentagram did an amazing job of bringing it all to an end, belting songs everyone knew and sang right back to the stage with gusto. And then it was it. A whirlwind, a musical journey, a museum of multiplicity and quite simply- a good time.
NH7 Weekender 2017 was assurance that December has already been made a success, for there are good weekends and then there are great weekends, and then there’s the Weekender State of Mind. What’s in store 2018?
Pictures Credit: Maanas Singh