The Bacardi NH7 weekender is amongst the most talked about music festivals in India. The four-year-old weekend fest held the first leg of it’s 2013 four city tour in Pune last weekend from where it travels to Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata over the next two months. This year it wasn’t just the venue that shifted back to Laxmi Lawns (the grounds for the festival’s debut edition in 2010) but the general vibe as well with the alcohol enclosures being taken down and buckets being reintroduced. However, for a music festival, the line up was disappointing enough for quite a few people to opt for tickets to other city editions despite them being further away.
Compared to last year’s venue Amanora Park, Laxmi Lawns is much more compact. Kudos to the organizers for handling parking without causing too much of a traffic jam. Additionally, shuttles ran regularly from the parking lots and Pune’s nerve centre where most festival goers were staying, Koregaon Park to the venue and back.
The smaller space made moving from one stage to the other a lot easier. What was missed, though, were the islands and open spaces of Amanora to chill at between moving from stage to stage. Making up for it were inflatable bean bag type chairs that moved from ground level to bouncing above crowds for some of the more adrenaline packed stages. The Dewarists and MTS Other Stage shared one space while the Bacardi Arena and Red Bull Tour Bus alternated performances in another enclosure. The Eristoff Wolves Den hosting electronica acts and the Pepsi Dubstation had their own dedicated areas. The Red Bull Tour Bus stage scored most points for stage setup and production value, but we felt a little bad for the artists performing in the blinding afternoon sun on a stage that faced the “sun.”
The flea market area seemed to have more stalls than last year with goodies ranging from T-shirts to floral head gear to LPs. Not that any of the above were very cheap… The most celebrated part of the festival was the absence of drinking enclosures. The grumbling as we entered on Friday evening about choosing between drinking and enjoying the stage performances quickly changed to beaming smiles when we met people walking around with their glasses and buckets. Such a needed change from last year. The second was that smokers could carry their own cigarette packs into the venue. The alcohol prices dropped marginally with rum being priced at Rs 250 and vodka at Rs 300 (per drink) while the buckets jumped up to Rs 800 from the Rs 600 it was two years ago.
The number of food stalls made it seem like a mini food festival. From rolls and burgers to Chinese, the festival catered to all taste buds. The winner amongst all of them was no doubted, the Bacon stall. Those who were lucky and patient enough to make their way to the front of the stall would have surely gone back for seconds if it didn’t mean standing in the long line again. With tokens making quick and constant exchanges at stalls and bars, it made up for the not so exciting music.
We got in late Friday evening to hear a super set from DJ Reji and followed by the Reggae Rajahs at the Dubstation. We heard a little of Ankur Tiwari and Indian Ocean, too, who played to a packed house at the The Dewarist stage.
Day two saw performances by Scribe (that caused the sporadic all-girl moshpit ), the Mavyns, Nucleya, Suman Sridhar, Midival Pundits, BLOT, Textures, The Raghu Dixit Project and Simian Mobile Disco that made people momentarily forget the bar. As usual the BLOT! visuals were outstanding.
We caught the adrenaline heavy Pentagram and Krunk all Stars on day three along with the softer Winit Tikoo set before the crowd split between Chase & Status and Vir Das’ Alien Chutney. Both were undoubtedly the stars of the festival. Party Scribe and Dualist Inquiry took over where these two left off before the NH7 All Stars played a mixed set to end the festival amidst an intermittent drizzle.
The truly standout performances belonged to the Bacardi Arena where Dutch metallers Textures and Newport rockers Skindred laid the crowd to complete waste. The latter even encouraged fans in the audience to make their famed chest-bearing move, the Newport Helicopter.
With so many artist names popping up it’s hard to complain about the lineup but the overall feeling was that it was most of these were artists who had performed earlier as well. For a festival ticketed at Rs 3000, it made a lot of people question whether it was really worth the money and effort. This was the main reason why a number of people chose to stay away from Pune and head towards Bengaluru instead.
We seemed to have missed the fashion bulletin that must have gone out earlier about midriffs on display. Crop tops and tied up T-shirts were this season’s top choice for most women. The floral wreathed head gear continued made a frequent citing. If you needed a hug all you needed to do was find someone sporting a “free hugs” cardboard pendant. We did cynically wonder about it especially when it was the fashionistas wearing them but heard no complaints so assume it was a happy success.
After attending the festival for three years in a row it is a little difficult to say with certainty that we’ll be heading to Pune next year as well. With the number of other editions being organised there’s so much more to choose from now and if we do, it’ll probably be more for sentimental reasons and buckets than the music itself.
Here are some pictures: