Barely a week after the Octoberfest, music fans across India scrambled over to Pune to witness the long awaited NH7 Weekender Fest. Did it live up to its promises? Did Pune triumph over Bangalore? Read on!
It seems like breweries and distilleries seem to be the only big players in India, especially considering their ability to sponsor large musical get-togethers India-wide; cases in point – Kingfisher sponsored Octoberfest while Bacardi / Eristoff / Dewars together hosted NH7 Weekender.
The orthodox pessimist would say that our youth have been reduced to alcohol dependency, considering the sheer amount of money required to support the logistics and bring in the bands for such large events. These are the types that would prefer to stay indoors and impose further age restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol.
Thank goodness there are only a few of these party-poopers around. For the rest of us, we remain forever grateful to such companies to bring about events of this scale and magnitude.
Similar to The Octoberfest, The Weekender Fest was held over three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However, instead of having just 2 stages, The Weekender featured 5 different stages for five different genres of music, with over 70 artists scheduled to play over a span of three days.
The Pepsi Dub Station served as the proving ground for the recently popular movements of dubstep and breakbeat.
The Dewarists Stage featured mostly fusion based acts, many of whom were participating in the Dewarists documentaries.
The Bacardi Black Rock Arena was the location for, you guessed it, rock – in its various forms.
The Eristoff Wolves Den was for the party animals amongst us, showcasing house and electronic acts.
In addition, there was also “The Other Stage” which provided a platform for the emerging singer-songwriter types within the larger musical community, to deliver unplugged performances.
Day 1: The Dub Station and The Wolves Den
We couldn’t help but be drawn in by the earthquake-like aura created by The Dub Station as we walked by. It looked like a not-so-clandestine meth-lab from the outside, with its black shack-like exterior, its corrugated metallic roof, buff bouncers patrolling the gates and seriously trippy graffiti on the inner walls, but this décor just added more to its enigma.
Upon entering, we were bombarded by frenetic drums n’ bass beats, as youngsters sporting a wide array of piercings, tattoos, dreadlocks and other forms of body art were shakin’ their tailfeathers on the dance floor. On this stage, we caught such acts as DJ SwaggaMuffin, The Reggae Rajahs and OX7GEN. We caught up with Aditya Ashok of OX7GEN earlier, and this is what he had to say:
The Eristoff Wolves’ Den:
Flitting to and from different stages, we caught more than just a glimpse of the various performances at The Wolves’ Den. Signature features of the environment at this stage included fancy light shows, and smokescreens throughout the lawn, which, when active, made one feel like walking through a steamy, high-security zone in some kind of a science fiction movie, complemented by electronic sounds and synth beats emanating from the stage.
One drawback here was that we couldn’t necessarily see the artists in their entirety, since their mixing station, with all their fancy equipment and Macbooks (Apple didn’t need to sponsor this event – EVERYONE here used its products, without the need for advertising), took up a lot of room. This was certainly the case with such artists at Midival Punditz, and Jalebee Cartel and Basement Jaxx, who chose to stay behind their stations at all times.
In contrast, it was a pleasant change to see Sahej Bakshi of Dualist Inquiry, sporting his signature T-shirts and Telecaster combo, brushing his hair every so often, in between messing around with his machines and turning the tables on his audience.
At the same time, Monica Dogra and Randolph Correiadelivered a smashing performance on Day 3, where Shaa’ir + Func was the headlining act for the Wolves’ Den. Fans were seen grooving and jiving around, enjoying cocktails and mixes by the bucket (yes, apparently they ran out of buckets on all three days), taking group pictures, chillaxin’ on the lawns (because that is indeed what they were doing), keeping their distance from Blinging Uncle (a semi-permanent fixture) and pretty much having a good time.
Day 2: The Bacardi Black Rock Arena
Functional only on Days 2 and 3, each day was poles apart. Saturday showcased more mainstream rock acts, whereas Sunday focused mostly on the extreme forms of rock.
Saturday began with Warren Mendonsa’s Blackstrat Blues, playing tunes old and new, with the same grace and concentration as he did back in the days of Zero (speaking of Zero… we were in for a surprise.
But more on that later), focusing more on his intricate fingerplay than on his effects box, while strumming and shredding away on his signature black Stratocaster. This was followed by The Circus and Mumbai’s very own Blakc (who will be playing again in Pune for the Independence Rock gigs).
When Menwhopause were conducting their pre-performance sound checks, a few overexcited members of the audience started yelling out “Rabbi! Rabbi!” much to the amusement of everyone else within the earshot, who easily forgave such blasphemy, giving the general state of inebriation the benefit of the doubt.The band too was in good spirits and played a marvelous set.
They were followed by Tough on Tobacco and Pentagram, the headlining act for Day 2, who performed as brilliantly as always, in front of a packed crowd. Vishal Dadlani miraculously managed to sustain his voice (pun intended?) as he rushed over to the Dewarists Stage to sing along with Imogen Heap for a live collaboration.
Day 3 was different, but equally rewarding for all those who gathered. Skyharbor and Goddess Gagged presented their audience with a generous dose of melodic prog-metal, with the spotlight on Keshav Dhar’s (Skyharbor) intricate guitaring, while Krishna Jhaveri’s bass lines dominated the scene during Goddess Gagged’s performance.
There were members of the audience who looked like they had been growing out their hair primarily for windmill-style headbanging, just for NH7. This was then followed by Bhayanak Maut, Scribe and Demonic Resurrection, who unleashed upon the audience an unrestrained barge of brutal metal, fueling the already chaotic environment within the arena, as numerous audience members formed a mosh pit, bang in the middle of the ground.
A huge roar of cheers went up as Motherjane took to the stage; things calmed down in magnitude, as people weren’t moshing around as violently as before, but the energy of the crowd transcended itself from beyond the domains of the arena. During their performance, skeptics and old-school Janists, who were previously apprehensive of Motherjane’s new lead guitarist, were fully convinced that Santosh Chandran is nothing short of awesome, be it on electric or classical guitar.
The Dewarists Stage
This was probably one of the most anticipated and long awaited of all stages at NH7. There were immense delays on Day 2, as there were extensive sound checks and pre-gig set ups going on, even as other stages were abuzz with activity.
Mattresses and cushions were laid out on the lawns initially, to provide comfortable seating / sleeping / slouching for one and all, but it was only after the first couple of acts, featuring Hipnotribe and Ankur & The Ghalat Family (which had Tough on Tobacco’s members filling in on instruments), that the ground crew decided that they had to do away with the ambience and make room for more eager audience members.
Hipnotribe launches new video!
We can only wonder why they had even bothered with such things in the first place – they were simply hampering movement and room for everyone else who wished to catch a piece of the action.
It was only when Advaita started performing that the organizers realized the enormity of the crowds that had congregated by this stage. In fact, they had to announce people to message their friends and peers to STOP them from coming to the Dewarists stage, since it was already FULL (can you imagine that?).
The full effect of tight packing was felt when the Raghu Dixit Project started playing, and despite the infectious nature of their music, there was actually no room to jump and dance along with the catchy tunes.
The headlining act for that evening was Imogen Heap. There was a lot of activity on stage, which involved setting up numerous keyboards, multiple drum sets with exotic cymbals and such, as well as recording machines and various other peripherals, some of which also included a set of pre-filled wine glasses. And then came in Imogen Heap herself, dressed like a grand harlequin (a rather ravishing one), bedecked with microphones on every square inch of her figure (no, seriously!) – which she actually demonstrated and explained to the audience.
And then she performed for us numerous numbers, all of which were played note-for-note, without her missing out on even a single sound effect, as she single-handedly multi-tasked around her station, recording and setting up loops live, playing the piano with panache and singing simultaneously, making it all look like a movie.
Except there was no studio enhancement – we could see her inner maestro at work, before our very eyes. Toward the middle of her performance, she even brought in Vishal Dadlani for their Dewarists collaboration. In a few words, the audience was simply awestruck; it was quite the challenge to take in all this at once, especially after having enjoyed numerous other acts from before.
The following day, we unfortunately missed the two opening acts while covering the other stages, King Creosote and Swarathma, but we were fortunate enough to be there for everything else that ensued – a brilliant virtuouso jazz performance by Dhruv Ghanekar on guitar, along with his retinue.
This was followed by Papon & The East India Company, who, true to their name, brought out inspiring north-eastern folk songs, injecting them with innovative funk and energy, and invoking within the audience a great spirit of well being, especially with the notorious ‘Banao Banao’ song, an ode to revelers and philosophers alike.
Last but not the least, the one and only Indian Ocean graced the Dewarists stage. Words are not enough to explain how spellbound the audience was, under their influence as they played their classics, and even acquiesced to the audience’s demands of ‘Kandisa’.
Other notable features:
- Siddharth Basrur of Goddess Gagged and Bertie and The Bones revealed his alter ego as an acoustic crooner on The Other Stage. Female fans turned their heads away from the Dewarist stage, giving up their hard-to-obtain spots prior to Imogen Heap.
- Imphal Talkies voiced all the sociopolitical frustrations plaguing India and its people in an upbeat satirical form. Numerous fans rushed to buy Manipuri headgear in support.
- Scribe had their own hand-made scarecrow mascots and an officially endorsed Pav Bhaji stand.
- Zero reunited briefly for a 4 song performance in the Dub Station. And of course, they played PSP-12. Helll yyeaahhh!
NH7 All Stars
Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy. Vishal Dadlani. Warren Mendonsa. Karsh Kale. Siddharth Basrur. Rahul Ram. Papon. Randolph Correia. Monica Dogra. Midival Punditz. Kanwer Singh. Imogen Heap. Sahej Bakshi. And many others. All on one stage. Collaborating like never before, performing covers of Rage Against the Machine, Led Zeppelin, Metallica etc. as well as their own original compositions. Way beyond our imagination. Way beyond epic. Bordering between ingenious and insane. Eargasm after eargasm left us numb.
The NH7 Weekender Fest provided us with an amazing three days worth of endless entertainment. But it went way beyond just listening to music. Just as its namesake national highway connects the north and the south, bridging the gap between the east and the west within India, NH7 itself was another such platform, uniting musicians and music fans from across the nation in one location, albeit only briefly.
It was a phenomenal gathering, worth philosophizing about. And now that it is over, that is all we can do… cherishing the memories of the Weekender gone by, we can only hope that the next one will be bigger and better than ever before.
PHOTO CREDITS: ANUSHYA BADRINATH
Check out some of her other stuff at www.behance.net/anushyabadrinath
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