It’s been a few days since I got back to Mumbai from NH7 Weekender’s Pune edition (8-10 December, Mahalakshmi Lawns) and I still can’t get over my ‘Weekender state of mind’. Trust me, it is hard to pen down three-days of unadulterated madness in just a few words. Celebrated as one of the most loved music festivals in India, NH7’s eighth edition greeted thousands of music fans with some of the finest international acts and freshest homegrown music, once again.
The first day was a historic one for metal devotees in India, as they got to witness American mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mumbai-based metal band Scribe, with Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy on vocals, along with a performance by the veterans Zygnema. Coming back to my weekender tale, there were plenty to choose from. I reached pretty late at the venue on the first day, thanks to Mumbai traffic. Ankur and The Ghalat family has been my forever favourite and I literally rushed to The Dewarists stage as I didn’t want to miss any of the songs. It was packed, as anticipated, somehow, I parked myself right beside the console. Ankur’s voice and the contemporary, laid-back, comforting sounds of each and every song echoed in my mind, soothed my soul. He sang quite a few favourite numbers Dil Haare, Jaanu (T), Dil Beparvah (specially dedicated to Prateek Kuhad), Sabse Peeche, Aa Jaao and lastly Tum Badal Gaye among others and I was overjoyed to see the sheer number of listeners humming together. This had to be his ‘favourite set with the Ghalat Family’. I couldn’t overlook the guy who was playing the mouth organ beautifully when Ankur was singing Tum Badal Gaye on stage.
Here is a small clip:
I missed the magnificent performances by Carnatic classical music exponent TM Krishna, who played the first instance of the genre at the festival, the post-rock sensations Aswekeepsearching (I have heard/seen them before, so comforted myself), and British a Capella sensation The Magnets, who returned to India after a two-city tour earlier in 2017.
My next halt and the last stop for the day was the Bacardi Arena stage where literally everything was pretty wild. The first day of the festival was closed by Dutch metal band Textures, who finished their Last Miles To The Moon tour as their final show ever, after 17 years as a band. I am not very fond of metal music, but Textures simply destroyed the Bacardí Arena in the 2-hour long set, which was the longest set timing in the festival’s history!
Not to miss for the first time ever at a music festival in India, there was an extensive lineup of stand-up comedians including Kunal Rao, Sumukhi Suresh, Kautuk Srivastava, Nishant Tanwar among others. Also, trio Aisi Taisi Democracy (consisting of Indian Ocean’s Rahul Ram, lyricist Varun Grover and comedian Sanjay Rajoria) performed at the Breezer Vivid Stage and presented comic relief to the festival goers.
Irrespective of my musical preferences, I did take away something new and couldn’t have asked for a better start!
I loved the set by the Hindi-Rock band The Local Train. They have developed so much since I heard them last time in Mumbai. What guitar arrangements by Paras! What throbbing beats by Sahil! You have added one more fan to the list The Local Train, and I loved their acoustic set at Camp Tinder too. They pretty much set the mood for the perfect sunset along with other sought-after performances by Bad Pop and Easy Wanderlings.
Coming back to the headlining acts, NH7 saw the Weekender Pune debut of The Ram Sampath Experience (led by Bollywood composer Ram Sampath). The performance of Indian Guitar God, Warren Mendonsa of Blackstratblues who played a curated Blackstratblues All-Stars set was extraordinary. I bow down to you, Warren Mendonsa. Another surprise element was guitar hero Randolph Correia’s entry, it was massive!
Well, I couldn’t even think of missing the performances by fusion icons Indian Ocean, French rock band Colt Silvers, Hip-Hop act Bombay Bassment and acoustic guitarist Bhrigu Sahni. The acts worth highlighting also included singer-songwriter Ali Saifuddin, multi-instrumentalist blue-haired chap Sid Vashi, electronic acts by Kumail and a music riot by Ocentied at the Breezer Vivid stage on the second day. The day ended with the much-awaited headlining act on the Bacardi Arena by American guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, who performed at NH7 for the first time (He played at the Meghalaya edition too). Vai was given a stirring response when he hit the stage. His enthralling guitar grooves, appearance and an incredible amount of frenetic energy, literally gave me goosebumps. Vai showcased his technical wizardry on the guitar playing to ‘Answers’ with Joe Satriani on the screen along with jams supported by pre-recorded videos featuring legendary guitarists Brian May (Queen), and John Petrucci (Dream Theater). It was emotional and theatrical and I couldn’t stop my tears rolling down my cheeks at the end of the show. It was everything that I wished for and more.
On the closing day, NH7 Weekender continued with a variety of acts for the fans to look forward to. Listeners keenly waited for the performances by American rock-dream pop collective Cigarettes After Sex, punk sensation Marky Ramone, artist-activist Madame Gandhi along with the Indian acts. CSA, a Weekender debutant surpassed all expectations while I closed my eyes and let them take my soul.
Festival favourites such as Prateek Kuhad and The Raghu Dixit Project played to massive crowds humming to each of their songs. What I figured is, this edition focussed heavily on hip-hop, with the Bombay Bassment, curated NH7 Hip-Hop Collective, British singer-activist Madame Gandhi, Prabh Deep, Ritviz and hip-hop sensation Divine garnering a lot of fanfare.
Fans of Bollywood were thrilled by the first ever live performance of Vishal Bhardwaj (who played several tracks from his old and new movies), and the surprise element being Rekha Bhardwaj’s recital. There were some glitches with the sound and the performance got delayed by almost 40 minutes. The saddest part was I got to see just the last 20 minutes of Pentagram as the timing conflicted. It was special as electro-rock band Pentagram (led by Vishal Dadlani) made a fiery, emotional return to the stage after three years and their set was extended by fifteen minutes before the festival came to a close. At the end of the show, Dadlani gave a shout out to OML Founder Vijay Nair for being a ‘psychopath’ to get Pentagram back together. Accepting as true, I also believe that we need a few maniacs for creating something unreal, where mediocrity is not a choice.
I observed that the Indian acts attracted a lot of crowd in spite of heavy-weight names in the line-up. I was also glad to see that the festival continued the green initiative (launched in Pune last year), where the festival crew successfully used and deployed a responsible waste management system. I loved the intricate stage designs, graffiti and the intriguing art installations around this year’s theme, ‘Your Happy Place’ that aims to initiate conversations for a better world.
Kudos to the festival flag-bearers for being the leading promoters of culture across all forms of music and arts. Bacardi NH7 Weekender Pune edition was nothing less than magical. Until next time…