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NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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NH7 Weekenderone 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.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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!

Reviewed by,

Prasanna Singh and Joy Chakraborty

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Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

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After the mega-success that was the NH7 Weekender Bangalore last year, this year’s event was a must-see music festival for the music lovers of Bangalore. In a city that sees at least one grand music concert and dozens of smaller gigs every month, one would think that there wouldn’t be enough Bangaloreans interested in NH7 weekender to fill the grounds of the Embassy Riding School. On the contrary, after having waited for over a year for the next installment, music lovers in the city braved the harshest weather to be at the event. The experience last time left the audience in awe of how smoothly everything went and how well planned out the event was. What could possibly go wrong this time?

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

 

So Day 1 (November 23rd) came by. I remember walking up to the pick-up point with a spring in my step. The sun was out with a smattering of clouds in the sky. If only we knew what nature had in store for us! By the time we got to the outskirts of the city, there was a light drizzle. We Bangaloreans are used to unpredictable weather and the rains – in fact, we love the rains! Well this was put to the test, when a torrential downpour surprised us all about thirty minutes after we walked into the arena. People were swaying and grooving to Bala Subramanyam a.k.a Dakta Dub’s reggae-infused beats at the Breezer Dub Station when the drizzle turned into a full blown storm. Most hadn’t prepared for the rains, including the organizers, and there were very few tents to take shelter under. The attendees took the rains in their stride and just danced in the rain. A perfect opener for the festival, Dakta Dub stuck to slow and hypnotic mixes that was perfect to set people into the mood as they trickled in. Even people with two left feet were unable to stop shuffling around and dancing to his mix of hip-hop, jazz, trip-hop and reggae, made even more irresistible with big beats and deep bass.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

As a true testament to how much the people loved music, no one even thought of leaving and going back. In the muck and the mess, I made my way to the Bacardi Rock Arena where Bevar Sea had already got the crowd in a mosh-pit. The rain had by now soaked right through my bones and showed no signs of yielding. In a bid to keep the chill at bay, I took shelter under a flimsy awning and out in the distance I could see black tees pushing each other into the mud and flipping their hair trying to head bang.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Not wanting to get caught in a mosh-pit, I trudged back to the Breezer Dub Station only because it was the closest one. I stepped into the stage just as Pippin was laying down some trippy, pop, hip-hop and trip-hop tunes. As the evening set in, the relaxed and groovy mix that he played allowed everyone to wind down and lean back on their red bean-bags and chill. An interesting observation was that only the Breezer Dub Station had a full line-up or a full set of artists throughout the day with artists coming on stage back to back. So there was always some good music to dance to if you happened to walk into that arena. I decided to stay back at the Breezer Dub Station as I didn’t think it was wise to walk in many inches of mud without proper footwear.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Well, I seemed to have made the right choice as Dualist Inquiry, or rather, Sahej Bakshi came out on stage to play his solo DJ set. He was scheduled to play with his band on the Red Bull Tour Bus later on but I couldn’t figure out how that would be possible without accidental electrocution of the band members due to the rain. He definitely knew how to get the crowd going. After the laidback tunes from Pippin and Dakta Dub, Sahej got the crowd bouncing with a sick remix of ‘Unchained (The Payback/Untouchable)’ by 2Pac and James Brown, which was featured in Django Unchained, and the Super Mario Bros. theme. He quickly followed this with a very fun remix of the ‘Ghostbusters theme’ and got the whole crowd to sing along to it. From Hip-Hop to Pop, he then moved into the realm of jazz by playing ‘Catgroove’ by Parov Stelar. For his first solo DJ set, he managed to get the biggest crowd reaction, no surprise, for ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk. He ended his hugely popular set with some groovy swing tunes.

 Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Next came DJ Uri – veteran and legendary DJ who was one of the few who still played on vinyl. A quiet and reserved man, his music was enough to get the crowd hyped-up. We were all left gobsmacked with his turntable tricks and scratch effects – a completely new sound from that of the previous artists on stage. He transformed Adele, Eminem and Snoop songs into slick mixes.

 Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Over at the Eristoff Wolves Den, people gathered to listen to Shaa’ir + Func. As Monica Dogra’s sublime form took to the stage, the crowd yelled lustily for some of their most popular songs. They opened with massively popular tracks like ‘Shine’ and ‘My Roots’. Monica’s vocals were pitch-perfect and the band was cohesive but at times Randolph Correia’s guitars did overpower the vocals. One gripe with the performance was that it did become quite monotonous after a while as the band insisted on playing many of their old hits.

 Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

The Shaa’ir + Func performance took place under the heaviest rainfall of the night but the crowd didn’t care and sang along to ‘Every Time You’re Around’ and ‘Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’. They stayed away from ‘Oops’ and instead played some new catchier tunes like ‘Poker with the President’. Of course, people loved Monica’s stage antics and the fact that she interacted with the crowd as always. As it continued to pour, we walked back to and loitered around the Dub Station as many artists had their performance cancelled that night. Most notably, due to the dangers posed by the rain, TesseracT’s show was cancelled leaving many metal heads disappointed. The F-16s and the Dualist Inquiry Band, whose performances I was looking forward to, were also cancelled.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

On the way back we were informed that we had actually danced through Cyclone Helen. Day 1 was a near-miraculous one considering that most of the performances went smoothly despite all the water.  Unfortunately, members of  And So I Watch you From Afar did get electrocuted during their performance and were forced to play through the rain. Although I felt the mud added a very Glastonbury-esque feel, some women foolishly chose to wear high heels and to no one’s surprise, were stuck in the muck.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

The clouds parted and the sun came out on Day 2 and we were all blessed with quintessential Bangalore weather on Sunday.  An update about the change in the line-up was posted too late on the NH7 Weekender Facebook page and many missed most of Parvaaz’s set. Like me, many of their fans trickled in at 4 p.m. as they hadn’t seen the revised schedule either and got to listen to only about 15 mins of their set. I only got to hear ‘Ab Ki Yeh Subah’ before they cleared the stage and made way for Dry the River.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Their blend of folk-rock and country wasn’t very interesting and the MTS Other Stage had a very screechy band with a horrendous lead singer on stage so I walked over to the Eristoff Wolves Den where Randolph Correia a.k.a  Func was churning out some excellent electronic and dubstep tracks for the small but lively crowd that had gathered. Even though he was without his more famous collaborator this time, a seasoned artist like him managed to get the crowd excited and dancing.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

After this, it was time for me to watch Prateek Kuhad at the MTS Other Stage having heard his E.P. earlier this year. Although the crowd was intimate, he had the loudest groupies of all the artists I had seen so far. He stood alone with a guitar and belted out some amazing acoustic tunes that were perfect for the lazy Sunday evening. He played some of his most popular songs – ‘Yeh Pal’, ‘Be Surprised’ and ‘Be at Ease’ to a crowd that was slowly falling in love with his honest, heart-felt lyrics and soft, breathy vocals. The barebones arrangement and minimalist musical style surely won him a lot of fans that evening. After a lot of pleading from his groupies, he finally played his most famous track – ‘Ab Hoga Kya’, an upbeat and romantic track. Prateek Kuhad switched effortlessly between English and Hindi tracks and was keen to please his fans. After his dreamy set ended, it was back to the Wolves Den for Nucleya.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

His set consisted mainly of material from his latest album ‘Koocha Monster EP’. Although Dualist Inquiry or Sahej Bakshi came in to hype up the crowd for Nucleya, it wasn’t needed. The massive bass and cheeky interludes were enough to get the crowd going crazy. His new material has a lot of Indian street music but at certain times, it did sound too much like an Indian wedding band. Meanwhile, the Reggae Rajahs were bringing the love over at the Dub Station to a frenzied crowd.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Next came KRUNK All-Stars – a collection of some of the best DJs in the country, promoted by management agency KRUNK. The collective consisted of OX7GEN, EZ Riser, Sandunes, Tarqueeb and SICKFLIP. EZ Riser had played a fantastic set the day before and Sandunes was scheduled with play with the Dualist Inquiry Band. The first half saw Sandunes on the effects and synths, EZ Riser on the decks and QX7GEN on drums playing in an all-live format. Brad Tellis joined in on the guitar after a while and the second half was basically EZ Riser, Tarqeeb and SICKFLIP strutting their stuff. Their set was mellower and much more toned down after the explosive bass from Nucleya. Their music was innovative and appreciated but, I would have liked to see more energy from the All-Stars. They were looking into their computer screens so intently without so much as a glance at the crowd, it seemed like they were all reading a novel on their computers.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

After a long pause for much needed nourishment, I went to watch British-Indian DJ extraordinaire Bobby Friction. He managed to draw a large crowd to the Dub Station even though the more popular Noisia was playing at the Wolves Den. Looking flamboyant in a large feathered outfit, his fashion sense matched his music – loud, often brash and definitely in-your-face!

 Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Now it was time for the most buzzed about act of the whole festival – Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All Stars, where legendary percussionist Karsh Kale would be joined by all the artists who had performed over the last two days. People who waited at the arena beforehand were handed snazzy graphic novels features Karsh Kale! The first artist to join Karsh Kale was singer Benny Dayal, who enthralled the audience with his energetic and powerful vocals. Songstress Apeksha Dandekar came on next. Her restrained yet sultry singing style floored the audience. She was probably one of the best vocalists at the festival apart from Khalid Ahmed from Parvaaz.

 Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

Vishwesh K from Scribe joined in too, with some creative and mile-a-minute rapping allowing the eastern and western musical styles to merge smoothly. Alas, before Randolph Correia and Dualist Inquiry could take to the stage, I had to leave the venue. With a sad heart and weary legs, I ambled out of the venue just as the Karsh Kale Collective were playing their rendition of Ustaad Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Tere Bin Nahi Lagda’. Over 4000 people were packed into the Bacardi Arena as all the other stages were mandatorily shut down for this event. Yet, at the end of the day, the hodgepodge of so many different artists felt like too many cooks in the kitchen and the overall performance did fall short.

 Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Embassy Riding School, Bangalore

There is no other musical event quite like the NH7 Weekender. Once you attend one, it spoils you for every other music concert. It is the happiest music festival and even welcomes you a “Hic Habitat Felicitas” sign as you enter. I even appreciated the fact that there were so many EDM artists this time compared to last year – it gave people an opportunity to dance throughout the day. Moreover, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender has something going for it that no other music festival has – it attracts the most ardent fans of the Indian music scene, whom even the stormiest weather can’t scare away.  Even though there were a lot of problems with the set-up and sound, the artists were overwhelmed with the loyalty of their fans and the rain just helped people let loose much faster. Well, now I have to wait a whole another year to experience it again!

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Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!

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The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

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Would Delhi/NCR pull it off? The question had been coming up ever since the NH7 Weekender ‘The Happiest Music Festival’ announced its foray up north. Given Delhi’s past disastrous relationship with any big concert, doubts abounded. Amid much cynicism, tickets were bought, plans were made and expectations were given the freedom to soar. As the day drew closer, the excitement in the air was palpable. Some of the best acts in the country were going to enthrall us. Megadeth was headlining. For those of us who had seen them in Bangalore, attending a second live gig would give us bragging rights. This would surely be memorable. Like I said, expectations took flight. But did they soar?  Read on to find out.

Day One 

After an 80 Km drive from Gurgaon, I found myself at the Buddh International Circuit, host to Delhi/NCR’s sophomore edition of the ‘The Happiest Music Festival’. The grounds seemed to be huge, the stages were generously spaced apart, there seemed to be a decent variety of grub, and the flea market was slowly coming to its own.

My first stop was at the Dewarists stage, where the trio of Aditya, Suhail and Tarun (AST) got things going. Although not familiar with their music, I nonetheless enjoyed the few songs that I heard. The only hitch was the poor sound. Sound glitches, as we shall see, made their presence felt at multiple stages throughout the two days, much like Warren Mendonsa, who flitted from one stage to the other, only, his presence was mesmerizing.

Anyhow, after AST, I made my way to the Black Rock Arena, where Vir Das and Alien Chutney were up next. For his comedy rock act, Vir Das was backed by two supremely gifted musicians – Warren Mendonsa on guitar and Sidd Cuotto on drums. He raised quite a few laughs with his songs about ‘Banging your mummy’, the stinking friend that everyone has in ‘BO is my Deo’, a Haryanvi man’s bedroom preferences in ‘Village Man’, the tendency of Punjabi mundas to grow ‘Man boobs’. He ran through the periodic table in ‘The metal song’, praised Delhi’s girls’ make up miracles and denounced all J.K. Rowling characters as whores. His set was peppered with expletives and his lyrics were delightfully offensive. I saw many people laughing and squirming at the same time, especially a teenaged girl who’d turned up with her dad. Both were doing their best not to look at each other. Must have made for an awkward conversation post the set. Some may have dismissed Vir Das’s set as being crude, but he got the crowd going, and he elicited more than a few laughs. Granted, he is no Stephen Lynch, but if you were buying what he was selling, you wouldn’t feel shortchanged.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

I strolled back to the Other Stage, hoping to catch Barefaced Liar unplugged. But all the sound glitches had led to delays, and I found Parvati and Mawkin just about to start. And for the next half hour, I stood enthralled as Parvati on vocals, Mawkin on the guitar and Natalie on the flute brought forth their brand of magic. It was serene, it was otherworldly. I did not understand a word of what they were singing, their tracks mostly being in Spanish and Portuguese, but I came away elated. And that’s when it started to hit me – that we need more of these festivals, so that music lovers get introduced to musicians we would otherwise never hear about, let alone watch them live. Yes, the NH7 Weekender was coming alive for me.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

And now, back to the Black Rock Arena. Boy, this is turning out be quite a bit of walking! I’d missed out Indus Creed and Zero was up next, also, by now a sizeable crowd had built up. Zero’s frontman Rajeev, resplendent in a stovepipe hat, took the stage with a very Brit “I say, old chaps” and Zero kicked off a firestorm. They ran through their catalogue of hits such ‘Old man sitting on the back porch’, ‘Hate in Em’, ‘Stop’ and ‘Lucy’, the crowd singing along lustily. The band was so tight, their stage presence so compelling, one would never guess they play maybe just once a year.. Bobby Talwar’s fluid basslines locked in tight with Sidd Cuotto’s immaculate stickwork, and Warren, well, he was just magical. His playing is so restrained, never too many notes, fast when fast is needed, but always melodic, never flashy. Is he the best guitar player around? I can’t think of anyone else who comes close. By the time the quartet get around to their iconic ‘PSP12’, they have a moshpit going (which was rather annoying, truth be told, with a bunch of juvenile delinquents pushing everyone in sight) and the crowd had been transported to another world.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

A bit giddy after the display of sheer awesomeness, I walked (a couple miles, it seemed) to the Fully Fantastic stage, set up in the memory of the Grandfather  of Indian Rock, Amit Saigal. I was very much looking forward to Menwhopause. Sadly though, they seemed to be having a bit of an off day. Sound continued to play spoilsport. While singer-bassist Randeep tried his best to involve the crowd, something seemed amiss, and the people started trickling out. I trudged back, more than a little disappointed. Would Pentagram have been a better choice? Judging by crowd response, the answer seemed to a resounding ‘YES’. Oh well.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

Final act of the night – Parikrama. They opened with the very catchy ‘Vapourize’ – Nitin pushing his vocal chords to the limit. They followed that up with ‘Am I dreaming’,’ Load up’, ‘Gandalf’, going steadily downhill. The vocals went awry, band members seemed to be missing cues, and the only saving grace was the violin virtuosity of Imran, who was in his element. The good part – I finally saw Parikrama play an all original set. They were saving ‘But it rained’ for the end, but ran out of time, and had to take a rather abrupt bow.

Well, so far they day had been a mixed one. The sound left a lot to be desired, some bands disappointed, while others shone bright. Zero was the highlight of the day for me. Could any band better their performance on Day Two? Oh, and no beer on a music festival? Even though Bacardi is the sponsor, ale deprivation is plain wrong. I stuck to sobriety and 7Up it was for me. Cut to the bright side again – the organizers put in a great deal of effort to ensure the audience got a ‘happy ‘experience. Bringing in the mobile ATMs was a very thoughtful touch.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

Day Two

The long drive, the almost equally long walks and the occasional bout of excitable bodily contortions to the music on Day One meant I woke up in a distinctly ramshackle condition the next morning. But all that was soon forgotten as popped in some Megadeth and turned the volume to eardrum damaging levels. It was the big day. I was going to see Megadeth, again. Yay! But before that, quite a few more bands to listen to, some more new music to get acquainted with, and who knows, maybe get blown away by!

 

I made my way to the Fully Fantastic stage, and pretty much spent the evening there.  First up was Ankur and the Ghalat family. Ankur Tewari, backed up by the prolific Sidd Coutto on drums, Johan Pais on the bass, and Niranjan ‘Pozy’ Dhar (of Tough on Tobacco and Shkabang fame) on guitars, made for a great start to the proceedings. His simple but easy to relate to lyrics and great melodies had the audience singing along, jiving. Ankur regaled the crowd with songs about being broke, political clout in Delhi, ‘Chand chahiye’ about a materially demanding girlfriend, and ‘Yaari’ about well, yaari. His easy connect with the crowd was a treat to watch. The band displayed they have a sense of humour too. When the sound problems surfaced again, the band, instead of going silent, sang an ad-jingle for Bajaj lights from way back when. Ankur Tewari then crooned his signature – ‘Sabse peeche hum khade’. I had a feel good lump in my throat after listening to their set. Later on I bumped into him, and told him how much I enjoyed his song and could I buy them online? His humility, when he said thanks and I could get some songs online at Flipkart, is something I will not forget.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

Next, Them Clones took the stage. They were accompanied by Nikhil Rufus of Indigo Children on bass, while Adil Manuel subbed for guitarist Joseph. They played a tight set, belting out their hits, and had the crowd singing along. For their last song, ‘Zephyretta’, the band was joined by Abhay Sharma on the saxophone. Amazing how a single instrument can alter the whole sound of a band. The last track was a moving experience, and the strains stayed with me long after the song ended.

Rudy Wallang and Tipriti of Soulmate tore into the stage with their brand of red-hot blues. Rudy’s guitarwork was a masterclass in blues playing and Tipriti poured her feelings out with her voice. The one catch, again, was the sound. Too loud and too trebley, it marred an otherwise awesome set.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

It was now the turn of Blackstratblues and friends. Warren was joined by Jai Row Kavi on drums and Adi Mistry on the bass, and he showed, again, why he is so in demand. I am running out of phrases to describe his guitar playing. Always in the pocket, never playing too fast, never playing too many notes. And always putting melody first. We have our own Eric Johnson here! Karsh Kale took over the drum duties and Apeksha Dandekar showed off her vocal prowess. As it turned out, Mr. KK can really play drums. Wickedly well. Nikhil D’Souza, Vishal Dadlani, Uday Benegal, Prithwish Dev all took the stage with the man playing the Blackstrat and the crowd, which had swollen by the minute, lapped it all up.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

It was now time for the big one. The Black Rock Arena was crowded with black tees, and more were sweeping in. The backstage cam focused on Dave Mustaine as he queried ‘Are you ready for Megadeth?’ a huge roar went up, anticipation building up by the moment. Megadeth take the stage to massive applause, and immediately launch into ‘Trust’, off the ‘Cryptic Writings’ album, followed by ‘She Wolf’ from the same album. The one thing that becomes apparent is that surprisingly, the sound folks have failed to get it right for Megadeth too. Chris Broderick’s guitar sounded too loud and whiny, while Mustaine’s vocals and guitars seemed to be controlled by an on/off switch. David Ellefson was pretty much inaudible too. Apart from the messed up sound, another downer was Mustaine’s patronizing speech in the middle, where he droned on about how he appreciated people coming out to see them, having had to make so many sacrifices, and spending money. Thanks for your concern Davey, but all of India isn’t exactly destitute. Blah! Talk about stereotyping!

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

The crowd, though, was living it up. The masters then chugged through their ‘Countdown to Extinction’ album. Tracks such as ‘Symphony of destruction’, ‘Skin o’ my teeth’, ‘High speed dirt’ and ‘Sweating bullets’ led to many a sprained neck. The crowd sang along to every song, hysterically, ecstatically. Megadeth played two songs off their new album ‘Thirteen’ – ‘Whose life is it anyway’ and ‘Public  enemy number one’. Youthanasia, surprisingly, got just one nod, with ‘A tout le monde’. Megadeth threw in ‘Hangar 18’ in the middle and ended the proceedings with ‘Holy wars’. I sorely missed ‘Tornado of souls’, but then everyone has their own ‘deth favourites. The band took a last bow, Mustaine saying ‘Thank you, you’ve been a great crowd, we’ve been Megadeth’. As the speakers went silent, I had the last hour rushing back, reliving the Megadeth experience. The line from ‘Turn the page’ playing repeats in my mind – ‘The echoes of the amplifiers ringing in your head’. Did the Megadeth experience turn out to be what I expected? Did the four-year wait seem worthwhile? In all honesty, the answer is no. I went to watch Megadeth expecting a whole lot of anarchy, and came away with a little bit of malarkey.

The NH7 Weekender at Buddh International Circuit

Thus ended the Delhi debut of the NH7 Weekender. Judging by experience, the claim of ‘The Happiest Music Festival’ is not entirely unfounded. It was well organized, the audience was well cared for, and it showcased some fantastic music. The 300 km drive, the aching body, the decimated throat were all worth it. It reaffirmed my faith that live music trumps recorded music everytime. Granted, the sound flattered to deceive. But I am sure that will be looked into, next time around. I can’t wait!

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Deep Chakraborty

Deep Chakraborty is a guitarist and singer with The Unwind Project, based in Delhi. Whatever time he manages to salvage from his daytime management consulting job, he dedicates to analog stompboxes, his retriever Mishka, daydreaming about meeting John Frusciante someday, and attending as many gigs as he can.

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