NH7 Weekender, one of the country’s largest music festivals, finally made it to Kolkata, much to the delight of the city’s music-hungry population. The fourth and final leg of this event was to be held on the 14th and 15th of December, and with the completion of exams at most of the city’s educational institutions, the organizers seemed confident of wooing the huge student community to the venue grounds. In fact the Kolkata leg had a lot going for the city’s music lovers. With the highly discounted ticket prices when compared to the three other NH7 Weekender venues, the tickets rates for the City of Joy were a complete steal! And for the student population there was even an under-21 ticket to add to the bouquet of benefits.
The mouth-watering lineup comprising of more than 40 artistes, spread over 6 stages was surely enough to whet the appetite of even the most cynical music-lover in town. However, the venue chosen to host the 2 days of musical madness left many disappointed. Ibiza Resort, located on the outer fringes of the city in South 24 Parganas, was indeed almost in the middle of nowhere. Not only the distance, but the traffic jams and shitty roads were also a big downer, and due to these factors there were many who ultimately decided to skip the NH7’s debut in the east zone. The organizers too, must have had sleepless nights, owing to the initial negative feedback about the venue. But finally on the day of the event, the Kolkata music-lovers did not disappoint and the massive turnout on days 1 and 2 was enough indication that despite all odds, Kolkata’s love for music would always prevail over long distances, bad roads and traffic jams.
The action on the Day 1 started approximately at 3:30 PM. The layout for the 6 stages in the festival grounds was well thought out by the NH7 team and thankfully most attendees were spared the long-distance-run between the various stages. In fact the biggest conundrum for gig goers was trying to prioritize which artiste’s performance to watch, since many performances would be going on simultaneously at different locations in the venue. The timings of performances at the Dewarists stage and at the Bacardi Arena were the ones that caused the most consternation and those not too adept in time-management had a trying time juggling their schedules.
Many music-lovers from the North-East turned up in huge numbers to catch Shillong’s blues giants Soulmate up on the Dewarists stage at 4:30 PM. This gig pulled in huge crowds, and having always been a favorite among the blues lovers in the city, Soulmate went all out to impress one and all with a virtuoso performance. And there was no getting away from the mesmerizing vocals of Tipriti Kharbangar that literally blew the crowd away.
Mumbai metallers Demonic Resurrection were already getting proceedings underway at the Bacardi Arena – the first of three back-to-back metal bands to be performing on Day 1. Demonic Resurrection were hell-bent on bringing brutality to a new level, and in their allotted 40 minutes this veteran metal act managed to captivate the crowd with songs both old and new, including ‘The Unrelenting Surge of Vengeance’, ‘The Warriors Return’ and ’Bound by Blood, Fire and Stone’ – all tracks from their last album A Return To Darkness. The crowd loved every minute of their performance but 40 minutes were hardly enough to satisfy the metal hungry crowd. It would be approximately another hour until the Bacardi Arena lit up with the second metal act of the evening.
In the meantime, over on the MTS Other Stage, local boys Ifs ‘n Buts were having a ball playing their brand of indie music with the help of a few friends. Unfortunately this particular stage was plagued by music “over-flowing” from the adjacent music arenas and it was not really the best way to take in the band’s acoustic set. While Ifs ‘n Buts were busy enthralling their faithful fans, city heavy weights and NH7 veterans Pink Noise on the Dewarists stage and Mumbai’s Zero over at the Red Bull Tour Bus were both getting ready to up the volume. Choosing which act to catch that evening was indeed a painful decision. The veritable flip of the coin seemed to be the only way to decide which band’s performance to watch.
Zero’s energy and verve on stage belied the fact that the band was making a comeback and playing in the City Of Joy after almost 10 years. In fact, it almost made it seem like they had never been on a break! For 40 odd minutes the band dished out a host of evergreen favorites like ‘PSP’, ‘Hate In Em’, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Mariachi’ – and for those 40 minutes the Kolkata crowd was in a complete state of trance. Zero easily delivered one of the best performances of the day and those who attended their gig at the Red Bull Tour Bus stage, left fully satisfied.
Amidst the Zero mayhem, another local musician and singer-songwriter, Tajdar Junaid, was getting ready for his performance at the MTS Other Stage. Tajdar’s recently released album What Colour is Your Raindrop has received critical acclaim from most musical quarters, and for fans of his mellow, lounge-influenced acoustic style of music, it was indeed a treat to see him perform in his hometown – more so since it was his first performance in Kolkata after the release of his album. Tajdar did not disappoint the crowd with his set that included tracks like ‘Aisle’, ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop’, ‘Though I Know’ and ‘Dastaan’. One of the highlights of this gig was when ace guitarist Warren Mendonsa came up on stage to collaborate with Tajdar. All in all, this was a most satisfying performance.
Day 1 was mostly about the metal mayhem that was to take place at the Bacardi Arena. Judging by the number of metal-heads who had lined up in front of the stage and also taken up strategic positions in and around the vicinity, it was definitely not an advisable place for the faint-hearted to be. After Demonic Resurrection’s early evening assault, the next act to occupy the Bacardi Arena was Delhi’s masters of disaster Undying Inc. Right from their first song, these metal mongers were relentless and they forced the crowd into submission with their raw and powerful aggression. Front-man Shashank Bhatnagar was indeed in his elements that evening, and he had the crowd roaring with approval with his crowd-surfing antics. Shashank was like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, and he expertly orchestrated the crowd into one bloody moshpit after the other – and his efforts culminated in a massive wall-of-death during the song ‘Ironclad’. The fetsival had momentarily turned into a war-zone, and the number of injuries and blood stained faces around the pit area bore testament to this fact. Undying Inc’s setlist included the popular ‘Manimal’ and ‘Contagion’ from their album Aggressive World Dynasty and also their new single ‘Pit Mechanics’ from their new EP Ironclad – and their performance and stage presence that evening left an indelible mark on the minds of every metal lover in attendance. The band certainly upped the ante as far as performance standards go, that many Indian metal bands would find difficult to meet.
Meanwhile comedy rock band Vir Das’ Alien Chutney was over at the MTS Other Stage, busy regaling the crowd with their trademark sense of humor. It was the band’s debut performance in the City of Joy, but the huge cheers that followed each song they played would certainly have made it seem like they were Kolkata veterans. The biggest cheers were of course reserved for the song ‘Manboobs’, no surprises there! Vir Das’ on-stage banter, especially about the political leaders of West Bengal also had the crowd in splits.
Day 1 was nearing its end, but there were two huge artistes left before the day finally came to a close. Over at the Dewarists stage, Papon and The East India Company were facing some technical difficulties which delayed their show for approximately twenty minutes. Papon was on the check-list of most music lovers since many of them had never seen him perform live before. And true to their expectations, he and his troupe did not disappoint. This was one artiste who could sell out shows and still remain original and true to his music and he demonstrated this by enthralling the huge crowd with songs from his album The Story So Far and tracks like ‘Boitha Maro Re’ and the popular ‘Banao’. Papon and The East India Company were indeed a class act and hopefully they will be in town soon for more shows.
About 10-15 minutes before Papon and his band of merry men had started wowing the crowd at the Dewarists stage, over at the Bacardi Arena, the sea of black-tee clad metal maniacs had again started to huddle around the arena area. For the Kolkata metal community, THIS was the event they had been waiting for – finally, a metal band of international repute would be performing in the City of Joy, finally Kolkata would get to be on the international metal map.
Dutch metal giants Textures had previously been to India three times – and having previously performed in the south (Bangalore, 2009), the north (Delhi, 2010) and the west (Pune, ) in past tours, it was befitting that the band finally completed their Bharat yatra by being named as one of the headliners of Kolkata’s NH7 Weekender leg. And they gave to the city’s ardent metal fans a performance that they would not forget in a long time. The show began with the slow melodic instrumental ‘Surreal State Of Enlightenment’ but once this completed the band launched themselves into a set-list which pulverized the crowd with its sheer brutality. ‘Messengers’, ‘Old Days Born Anew’, ‘The Sun’s Architect’, ‘Laments Of An Icarus’, ‘Black Horses Stampede’ and ‘Sanguine Draws The Oath’ were just some of the songs that regaled the crowd that evening. However with the mosh-pits getting more brutal by the minute and with the metal-heads baying for blood, it took two of the band’s more popular compositions, ‘Awake’ and ‘Reaching Home’ to finally appease the crowd. Textures were truly majestic that evening and they won the hearts and minds of everyone who was fortunate enough to attend their power-packed performance.
And so Day 1 of the Kolkata NH7 Weekender ended with a bang – and there was not a single unhappy soul at the end of the day’s proceedings. Even the bunch of young metal-heads who were feuding over Textures’ drum sticks went home happy when the band finally resolved the situation by offering a plectrum to each of the aggrieved parties.
Another bright and sunny December day, and the expectations of the crowd were sky-high after the success of Day 1. There were some very big names scheduled for Day 2, including a few young acts from Kolkata. And in fact two of the day’s openings acts were The Monkey In Me on the Red Bull Tour Bus and Ganesh Talkies on the Dewarists Stage, the latter opening their set with the song ‘Style’. The band’s flashy style of music was accentuated by their colorful but loud outfits. Their catchy music had the crowd dancing, jumping and doing all sorts of crazy stuff, especially when the vocalist Suyasha Sengupta requested the audience to show some “Bappi Lahiri moves”. Their set included ‘Roadside Romeo’, ‘Pyaar Ka Tohfa’ from their EP Three Tier Non AC and some new material like ‘Dancing, Dancing’ and ‘Brother From Another Mother’. A fun band, especially if you aren’t allergic to the Bollywood style of music.
Day 2’s opening act on the Bacardi Arena was New Delhi’s The Ska Vengers. This 8-piece band was making their Kolkata debut and they were easily one of the best acts of this two-day music fest. Right from the word go, these merchants of ska got the crowd dancing to their compositions which included set regulars like ‘Rough And Mean’, ‘Bam Intifada’ and The Velvet Underground rendition of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. The Ska Vengers had a great gig, and special mention must be made of their female vocalist Miss Samara C whose charismatic stage presence hypnotized the Kolkata crowd.
Over on the MTS Other Stage fans of Gangtok’s Girish Pradhan were busy being enthralled by this singer-songwriter’s set-list that comprised of originals and classic rock covers. Girish started his set by playing an instrumental version of ‘Hotel California’, and followed this up with a string of originals that included ‘Loaded’ and the ever popular ‘Angel’. The set also included ‘Hey You’ and a brilliant cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’. Girish Pradhan’s amazing voice and vocal range stunned the crowd and he easily won over the hearts of those in attendance.
As soon as Girish ended his set, it was back to the Dewarists stage because Swarathma was the next act to be performing. Their set included popular originals like ‘Duur Kinara’, ‘Topiwalleh’, ‘Kooraney’ and ’Ee Bhoomi’. During the performance of their song ‘Pyaar ke Rang’ vocalist Vasu Dixit came off stage right in the middle of the audience, which got the crowd going. Despite the obvious language barrier in some songs, Swarathma’s gig was indeed a fun one and there was no doubt that the crowd would be remembering the band’s performance for a long time.
And over at the Red Bull Tour Bus, local lads Write In Stereo were getting the crowd to groove to their indie dance music. Heavily influenced by the band Mutemath, this quartet impressed the crowd with their compositions that were mainly instrumentals and included ‘Tokyo Kyoto’, a composition influenced by their love for anime, space and sci-fi.
The Bacardi Arena in the meantime was fast filling up, for Mumbai’s electro-rockers Pentagram, who were soon to start their set. It has been a while since this band has performed in Kolkata, and their fans were on tenterhooks waiting for the show to begin. But once it did, a huge roar erupted from the crowd. Pentagram began proceedings with their track ‘Identify’, and their set-list also included tracks like ‘Lovedrug Climbdown’, ‘Drive’, ‘Mental Zero’, ‘Tomorrow’s Decided’ and the popular ‘Voices’. The crowd had a ball, and this was evident from the number of bean bags being thrown up in the air and bouncing all over the arena area. Vishal Dadlani’s showmanship and Randolph Correia’s guitars were stand-outs in the band’s performance – with Randolph’s guitaring especially sounding raw and powerful throughout Pentagram’s electronica blended grunge set.
It was time for The Supersonics to join the Kolkata NH7 party and right from the word go this Kolkata quartet let fly a host of popular tracks – both new and old – much to the delight of their faithful fan following, who were attending in huge numbers. The Supersonics were playing in their home-town after a very long time, and not being familiar with their new material, their home support cheered the most for their older originals – ‘Hey Aloha’, ‘We Are We Are’, ‘In Memory Of’, ‘Fable Of A Lonely Fish’, ’Have A Drink’ and the crowd favorite ‘Yeah Whatever’ were just some of the songs on their set-list for the evening. All said and done, this was a pretty good performance by these Kolkata homeboys.
The event was fast approaching its climax – after twp days of non-stop walking, jumping up-and-down, standing and head-banging, our legs were starting to feel a wee bit heavy and we also had this constant buzz in our heads. So running around the venue to catch the different performing artistes was turning out to be a tad bit difficult for our weary souls. In the final hours we kind of parked ourselves in front of the Red Bull Tour Bus area, which was pretty empty – but it also gave us a good view of the Bacardi Arena as well, where Delhi classic rock veterans Parikrama were already in the midst of their NH7 gig. Like Pentagram, Parikrama too were performing in Kolkata after ages – and these Delhi rockers were successful in wowing the crowd with a set-list that seemed to comprise of originals only. Quite a surprise, this, since the band have rarely played a set-list of predominantly original numbers in Kolkata. It was almost like they were playing a greatest hits compilation and for a change, the Kolkata crowd had the chance to savor their originals like ‘Am I Dreaming?’, ‘Vaporize’ and the ever popular ‘But It Rained’, which was the band’s closing number.
Kolkata’s Nishchay Parekh was up on the MTS Other Stage during Parikrama’s assault, and being one of the rising stars of the current indie explosion in the country, most people at the venue wanted to check him out. Nishchay’s music has a certain freshness about it, which adds to its cool quotient and it was these two factors which helped him to win over his audience that evening. His set-list which had the songs ‘Ocean” and ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’ were extremely well appreciated.
Back at the Red Bull Tour Bus Mumbai’s hard-core kings Scribe were busy causing mayhem and promoting the pleasures of moshing. Front-man Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy was in his usual over-the-top mood making the crowd laugh with his outrageous comments, although for the most part he let the band’s music do the talking. This was in fact quite a tame show as per the usual high Scribe standards – and the sound was also a bit muffled at times, although most listeners didn’t seem to be too bothered with the sound aspect since they were either too busy moshing or playing around with the beach balls that the band had thrown down from the stage. Scribe’s set-list was interesting but was well short of being “amazing” – and apart from the crowd favorites ‘I Love You Pav Bhaji’, ’1234 Dracula’, ‘R.S.V.P.’, ‘Calender Khana Lao’ and ‘Cops! Cops! Cops!’ the band played a cover of the Fear Factory song ‘Edgecrusher’.
After two days of non-stop music, the Kolkata NH7 Weekender was about to come to a close. There was not a single unhappy soul at the venue, and India’s “Happiest Music Festival” had lived up to its reputation. As Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All Stars lit up the Bacardi Arena for the final time, the crowd totally lost themselves to the music, and the dancing and cheering seemed to go on and on. It was truly a wonderful conclusion to a festival that having promised so much was successful in delivering on all counts. To say that NH7 Kolkata did well would be an under-statement – this event was a rip-roaring success and for once everyone, including the fan, the organizer and the artiste, would seem to be unanimous about this fact. One can only hope that the success of the NH7 Weekender Kolkata leg will encourage other event organizers to allow this city to host similar such events in the near future. But if for some reason this fails to happen, well, we always have NH7 Weekender Kolkata 2014 to look forward to!
Prasanna Singh and Joy Chakraborty