Archive | November, 2011

The Amazingful NH7 Weekender 2011

28 Nov

The most important things are the hardest to convey because words diminish them; sometimes you can only feel the strength of contentment within you, the euphoria of being at a particular moment in a particular place.  The NH7 Weekender 2011 music festival in Pune a weekend ago was one of these rare events – where everything was summum bonum and I knew it, two days of amplified happiness and I felt it.

I’d been planning to go for this festival for a couple of months primarily because of my love affair with Indian indie. I figured that I’d get to hear Imogen Heap (she was headlining) live, plus a few of my favorite Indian bands (Pentagram), and I’d be able to discover new artists from new genres. The Weekender was literally an escape from Hyderabad and all the drama that I’ve been dealing with, which was not very well.

So The-Reluctant-Girlfriend and I boarded a bus to Pune and set off. It was the Worst. Bus. Trip. Ever.  By the end of our sleepless journey, we had witnessed two fistfights (ending with a man being thrown out of the bus), a robbery of Rs. 1000 (which made me anxious because I had a 1000 rupee note with me and thought I would be accused *Catholic Guilt as always*) and a lot of swearing in Hindi and Marathi. FYI, The-Reluctant-Girlfriend has forever banned me from booking online bus tickets in future.

We got to Pune, crashed at our hotel, and then met up with a bunch of friends at a place called Toons, because tradition demanded that we drink before we went to the festival to drink. Having smoked a joint at the hotel, I was pretty baked (enough to say “Cash, I need shit”). So after getting a bit drunkish, we got into one of the shuttle buses and made our way to Magarpatta.

The venue was huge: Weekender had 5 stages – The Bacardi Black Rock Arena, Pepsi Dub Station, The Dewarist Stage, The Other Stage and Eristoff Wolves Den.

Each stage had its own personality. At the Rock Arena, black bats hung from the ceiling, rock star-ish wigs and foam hands were handed out during the acts, and the bar was decorated with a sign that said ‘Pop is Dead’, the Dewarist stage had a folksy vibe to it with the many mattress cushions that were laid on in front of the stage and the distribution of blue curly wigs, Dub Station’s distinctive coolness was illustrated by some crazy graffiti and the Eristoff Wolves Den projector visuals contributed to its electric feel.

There were plenty of food stalls and alcohol bars at each stage area. Initially, the fact that there was NO BEER caused quite an  upset, but everyone calmed down considerably after they’d bought themselves a bucket of vodka. There was a huge crowd of around 9000, and it was a convention of attractive people. Everyone there was cool, hot, cute, hipster or hippie (then again I was very stoned).

Exactly my scene.

I was mostly at the Bacardi Black Rock Arena and the Dewarists Stage on Saturday. I caught the first half of Tough On Tobacco, and was impressed with Sidd Couto’s likeable alternative rock songs. While his songs have undeniably catchy hooks, I found my energy flagging in between his choruses. Nevertheless it makes for good foot-tapping, head-bobbing music. I then ran over to catch the latter half of Soulmate’s performance, where the vibe instantly changed. Lead singer Tipriti Kharbangar has the most amazing voice, akin to Janis Joplin’s.  The rawness and grit in her songs and the jazz-bluesy tone to the music had the audience captivated. While I enjoyed both acts, I think I would have appreciated them better if I’d done some pre-festival research and listened to a couple of songs by both artists earlier. While I’m always seduced by melody, it usually takes the lyrics to get me into bed with a song. It was a similar scenario here.

The Pentagram gig at the Rock Arena was quite brilliant. The group is known for their high level energy performances and with Vishal Dadlani at the helm, everyone was caught up with the fervor, excitement and booming bass, jumping up and down and dancing along to the songs. It was mindblowing. I was grinning like an idiot possessed. It was so much fun.

As soon as Pentagram had finished, Vishal had to run over to the Dewarists Stage to perform with Imogen Heap. It was towards the end of her set that she sang ‘Hide & Seek’ which is the only song I was familiar with. However, even if you were unfamiliar with her music, you could not help but be charmed by Imogen and her quirkiness. Clad in a black and white sari slightly too small for her tall frame, she completely mesmerized us: with her flaming hair, her blend of sounds, – the tinkling of wine glasses, percussion rhythms, techno beats, intermingled with her piano melodies and singing, and her delightfully engaging stage presence, especially when she organized the crowd into a three part harmony. Imogen Heap is one of those rare people who embody uniqueness and creative joy. A free spirit who illustrates that “normal” is a symptom of not being able to have independent thoughts & ideas of your own.

Over at the Eristoff Wolves Den, Shai’ir and Func were the last act on Saturday night. Though I’m not a huge fan of their music, what with Monica Dogra’s stage presence (she is like a rakshasi/goddess on stage), the escalated level of inebriation, the wild dancing on all sides of me, and even though I’m a complete self-injuring idiot when I dance, I couldn’t help but join in. Take a look here:

In that happy confusion of alcohollovemusicweedbasstunecbklacknightboompinklight, the first day ended.

We woke up the next morning smelling of vodka and with unsteady mental dispositions. The plan for drinking before heading to the festival to drink that day was to visit a micro-brewery called Doolally. We had a lovely lunch and beer in the sunlight.

After which we headed back to Weekender. The first day had basically been a mad scramble as I’d been running in between stages to make sure that I caught at least a bit of the gigs of artists I wanted to see perform. Alcohol and adrenaline had dominated the first night, and I wanted the second day to be more relaxed. I wanted to wander around the food stalls, buy some merchandise, collapse on the grass.

This was the plan, until I found out that Zero was playing a secret set at the Pepsi Dub Station. Madness. The crowd was easily the most frenzied I’ve ever seen and been in. Utter craziness. What was even awesomer – the exact moment that Zero finished their set in front of me, a loud horn started blaring and everyone automatically turned 90 degrees towards the sound: it was a Reggae Rajahs vs. BASSfoundation battle! That moment. I loved it. Turning from one awesome performance only to be faced with another.

It was the first time I’d been to a live reggae dub act. But the atmosphere of ganja in the air, colorful graffiti, crazy lighting, bass-driven beats and the overpowering energy converted me into a fan within seconds.Champion Sound easily had me joining the crowd in dancing and chanting to ‘Ganja, ganja, ganja…’ You can listen to it here: One of the best discoveries from the festival.

Back at the Dewarist stage, Papon and the East Indian Company had 1000 people in colorful topis singing ‘Banao’ along with them. This crowd swelled to another 2000 when Indian Ocean took the stage, and conducted a mass rendition of their famous ‘Khandisa’. Can you imagine singing along with 3000 people? All those voices combined, chanting the same words? That.

After that performance, a friend and I wandered around the merchandise stalls. I got myself glow-in-the-dark NH7 boxers! Yay! And this small gorgeous Frieda magnet, which I’m going to use as a bookmark. I also ate a Gostana beef burger, which was amazingly delicious; the beef was juicy and meaty, and the bread was so soft. Then we just crashed outside the Dewarist stage on the grass for a while eating cupcakes and looking around at all the other people in their own little bubbles of contentment.

The last act of the night was the NH7 Allstars. 9000 people crowded into a huge venue, at the end of which a white ferris wheel set-up was positioned, onto which visuals were being projected, and with LED lights flashing in alternating colors and synced with the music. Immediately below was the stage. Different artists from various groups collaborated on cover songs. At one point, Vishal, Monica Dogra, Randolph Correia (Func), Imogen Heap and many other artists

were all on stage at the same time, rocking out to their music and enjoying themselves as much as the crowd was delighted to see them all jumping and head-banging on stage together. They covered Metallica and Blur’s Song 2 which was my favorite.  I could have easily caused myself or the people next to me an injury what with my whooping, screaming, wild jumping and head-banging. It was the perfect closing act.

My friend once said “I love it when the musicians sound like they’re playing for their lives like their lives are nothing but the embodiment of fun”. NH7 Weekender captured this very sentiment. The bands that played were not paid; they came solely for their fans, and they in turn were repaid by the thousands who appreciated their music and wanted to demonstrate it. The soul of this festival was music/love.

‘Her spirit flew out into the night/ And the song reached out and drew her in/ And she is filled with light and music/And she is happy”

Photo Credits: Campaign India, Tonmoy Saha Photography

NH7 Bacardi Weekender 2011

21 Nov

This weekend has been the happiest ever I have been in a very long time. I set off with a friend for Pune to attend Weekender 2011, a music festival which I have been looking forward to for a very long time. Two days, 5 stages, non-stop music, buckets of alcohol, a crowd of cool, attractive strangers, and just complete happiness at being there. It was brilliant.

I’m still hungover from the awesomeness. I promise details in just a bit.