• Thu, Apr 18, 2024

How The Inclusion Of These 5 Artists Redefines The Identity of Supersonic

features Jan 21, 11:29am

VH1 Supersonic's 2018 line-up comes as a huge surprise for many, but looking at the gradual changes adopted in 2017, the festival has exactly delivered what the ecosystem demanded.
 Photo Courtesy: VH1 Supersonic

Over two months after guitar icon Steve Vai concluded his debut India gig with twin appearances at the NH7 Weekender, VH1 Supersonic announced the legend’s current musing – Plini – for its 2018 edition. Plini, the future of guitar music – as Vai calls him – will perform on one of the three Supersonic Days in Pune, a scenario that seemed highly unlikely for Supersonic’s setting only two editions ago. The festival’s last headliner, Macklemore, alluded to the image makeover that was due.


What looked like a challenging experiment to attract fans of the opposite spectrum (in mainstream popularity) and diverse styles (in sounds) under one roof has laid some interesting results, thanks to the approach adopted by one established music festival after another towards the curation of the line-up. And to say, Supersonic has ensured there's music for everyone at its upcoming edition wouldn't be an exaggeration, to say the least. 


Despite originally being an electronic music based festival, Supersonic's latest effort to announce the Australian guitar whiz's name right at the last – a practice usually reserved for mainstream headlining EDM name - acts as a further proof of its evolution and its push towards the community beyond one genre. There’s no unnecessary appeasement or imbalance that overpowers one sound over another. The constant comparisons with Sunburn may now finally come to an end as Supersonic outgrows beyond a bias towards a particular genre or community, and with the leap, the festival finds itself in the league of Weekenders where the line-up announcement usually feature a few surprises. 




Who would have thought that a widely celebrated alternative rock band that dominated the charts in 1990s and 2000s would headline at Supersonic one day? Two months ago, most of us would have laughed off at this scenario. But now the California based heavyweights, Incubus, is possibly the biggest name on the Supersonic roster, and also the driving factor for an impressive footfall at Laxmi Lawns, Pune. The venue, home to NH7 Weekender for a few seasons, will look forward to hosting another massive gathering, thanks to the announcement of bands like Incubus. And the timing couldn't have been better. The band will perform in India only two months short to its eight studio album's first anniversary, and while the band has been heavily touring promoting the same, the opportunity acts as win-win for the festival and the band. Incubus has been credited for its contribution to the alternative rock's evolution in the 1990s and their inclusion opens the door for a whole new demographic. What makes this transition into multi-genre delightful and challenging at the same time while compared to, let's say NH7 Weekender, is the obvious original identity that does not complement the on-going evolution and the effort to liberate from the same. And in efforts like these, it's essential to include heavyweights like Incubus on your side. It surely makes the process of transition a bit easier.





Historically, India has hosted guitar music or 'instrumentalist geniuses' - be it Guthrie Govan, Santana or Slash - at stand-alone gigs, concerts or clinics. Music festivals have traditionally stuck to a universally approved formula with a varying template. NH7 Weekender's announcement of Steve Vai to the line-up resulted into heavy ticket sales, however, Supersonic's feat to land Plini on the final line-up will go down in the festival's short yet successful history as its bravest move. Plini, unlike Vai, rose to fame only last year and to predict a musician's following on the basis of only a year-long activity would always result in either outcome. But the early reactions to the musician's announcement acts as a 'pat on the back' for the festival for not restricting itself to a generic template. Plini's Supersonic performance would be the third of his India tour, but wouldn't be his only performance in the sub-continent as the musician will be on tour in India and Nepal. He will be joined by Serbian guitarist David Maxim Micic.



Another band, heavily driven by guitars, joined the Supersonic line-up, and although Aswekeepsearching has created a presence through its remarkable touring strength and several appearances at music festivals in the country, a slot on Supersonic comes as a huge surprise. It's safe to say post-rock or ambient music could never count Supersonic as a familiar turf, but the festival plans to redefine that through the upcoming edition. The inclusion of Mumbai-based ambient music heavyweights Donn Bhat + Passenger Revelator, Shillong based Garage/Math Rock act Dossers Urge, Chennai-based powerhouse The F16s and the Delhi-based giants of experimental music Midival Punditz surely broaden the horizon further. In many ways, 2018 will act as a testing ground for further planning but the inevitable is here - the evolution of Supersonic is irreversible. And the festival's traditional followers have fewer concerns to worry about as the 'electronic music' emphasis is business as usual. 



The opportunity to host a heavyweight arrived from within the national community too for Supersonic. And once again, the timing could not have been better. Just over a month after announcing its comeback, Indian modern rock pioneers Pentagram will perform at the festival, its second since the comeback. What only looked like a brief comeback was busted with Supersonic's announcement of the band's intention to continue performing live on big stages, and quite literally, stages do not come bigger than the ones at Supersonic. With Pentagram, Supersonic would like its loyal fan-base to explore the sounds of the 2000s indie scene and the stories that helped shape the music movement of today. For an electronic music based festival, such deeds are usually reserved for comebacks of popular electronic acts, but similar to Plini. Supersonic has once again not shied away from providing equal (if not more) emphasis on sounds and genres beyond their bias. 


MC Manmeet Kaur (And Raja Kumari)

As Supersonic showed early glimpses of a 'multi-genre' approach, last year, with the addition of rapper Macklemore, the festival has advanced another step into announcing two rappers for the upcoming edition. Two female rappers will take the centre stage at Supersonic next month's edition featuring Sean Paul and Marshmello. 


MC Manmeet Kaur, one of the early pioneers of the hip-hop movement in India, rightfully earns a spot at a music festival that intends to challenge and recreate its own identity, edition after edition. And while the change is gradual, the curation has been nothing short of exciting. Joining her in the festival’s most diverse edition so far would be the fellow female songwriter and rapper Raja Kumari whose 2017 has been quite eventful, to say the least.


After enduring with more or less the same approach for the first four editions, Supersonic raises the bar for itself and the counterparts with gradually-increasing but equal emphasis on established sounds, emerging styles, beyond-the-template curation and women artists. What would be interesting to note is the traditional Supersonic ticket-buyers’ reaction to the elaborate experiment and while it’d be too early to make any prediction, but it’d be too naïve to believe a festival will execute a task way beyond its comfort without doing preliminary and basic homework and analysis of the same. 



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