After the mega-success that was the NH7 Weekender Bangalore last year, this years 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 wouldnt 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?
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 Dubs reggae-infused beats at the Breezer Dub Station when the drizzle turned into a full blown storm. Most hadnt 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.
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.
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 didnt think it was wise to walk in many inches of mud without proper footwear.
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 couldnt 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.
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.
Over at the Eristoff Wolves Den, people gathered to listen to Shaair + Func. As Monica Dogras 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. Monicas vocals were pitch-perfect and the band was cohesive but at times Randolph Correias 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.
The Shaair + Func performance took place under the heaviest rainfall of the night but the crowd didnt care and sang along to Every Time Youre 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 Monicas 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, TesseracTs 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.
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 ones surprise, were stuck in the muck.
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 Parvaazs set. Like me, many of their fans trickled in at 4 p.m. as they hadnt 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.
Their blend of folk-rock and country wasnt 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.
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.
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 wasnt 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.
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.
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!
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.
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 Khans 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.
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 cant 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!