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The Bacardi NH7 Weekender - NCR, Nov 30 - Dec 1

gig Reviews Dec 09, 12:52pm

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender hit Greater Noida again this year for the NCR edition of the festival. Meshuggah, Nucleya, Mutemath, Scribe, And So I Watch You From Afar, the lineup had it all. The festival also had hot air balloons, gallons of alcohol, a Ferris Wheel, and so much more. Akhil Sood with the full report. Click here for stray observations from the festival.  
 Photo Courtesy: Shekhar Das

The Dualist Inquiry Band is playing on the Red Bull Tour Bus. It’s a bus. And they’re playing on the roof. Takes me all the way back to Shah Rukh Khan grooving on a moving train when some of the cheesier bits hit. In any case, so there I am, watching Dualist Inquiry Band and sitting on those red beanbag-type things filled only with air, which you’re allowed to take home. I see Jivraj Singh, the prodigious drummer from Calcutta. I notice that there’s something very aesthetic about a side-view of the drum kit – it’s a necessity here because the bus doesn’t have enough space for a frontal setup, but it just looks so much better to view the drummer from the side. Mutemath does it, Incubus does it. This bus does too. He’s got electronic triggers on his drum kit, and the drums sound exactly like drums in EDM normally do, even though he’s playing live, not pushing spacebar. The guy can seemingly do anything, with drum stool or without.  Sandunes is playing the keys, triggering sounds, running things through a laptop – I’m not exactly sure what she’s doing since there are so many electronic samples that are assaulting the airwaves that it becomes hard for me to separate individual sounds. Dualist Inquiry is playing the guitar and working the keys and a laptop, most likely a Mac. The music is arranged well, the production is fantastic, the performance excellent. It’s meant to make you groove. But it lacks soul. All I can think of is Plastic. Almost (but not quite) as if they’re playing to the gallery. There are about 800 bouncing people in the crowd who would beg to differ, but everything just sounds so over-processed. So heartless. So rehearsed. Maybe so manufactured. So perfect, too perfect.

(I'm open to [but not partial to] the possibility that it's just not my thing and I don't 'get it'. And I do hear the words “bangin’ set” being tossed around in my vicinity.)

And then those guys broke into Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’. Why is everyone covering that song? The next day, the Karsh Kale Collectiv [sic] and the “NH7 All-Stars” also played a version of ‘Get Lucky’. Most artists over at the electronic music stages covered the song too, I’m assuming. Enough already – there are over seven billion songs that exist in the universe – if you must cover a song, maybe pick a different one. It’s fast turning into the Maiden-Metallica-Megadeth trilogy.  Aka a farce. Never though a song would turn into a farce; oh, well.

Not that a minor degree of cynicism should taint an entire festival. In a nutshell, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, NCR edition, held on November 30 and December 1 in the distant locales of the Buddh International Circuit, all the way in Greater Noida, some 60+ kilometers away from any given place in Delhi, was an experience. It was a music festival where the “music” was at par with the “festival”. So fans could check out tons of artists, from Meshuggah for the guys in the black T-shirts to Benga, Michael Menert, or Shiva Soundsystem for, you know, the guys in the Day-Glo T-shirts.

But it was cold there, even colder than Delhi since it was a huge open air festival a fair few miles away from any kind of civilization, so I can’t decisively state the colour of people’s shirts, or indeed, their skin.    


(Photo by Nitin Pant)

And for the casual attendees, they could just as easily get lost in the massive flea market located bang centre of the festival. That’s how they designed the festival – a centre space with the bazaar and the food court, around which the stages were placed in a circular structure, a bit like Connaught Place. I believe this was done to prevent any sound spillage while also making sure people didn’t have to walk as much as they did last year. (It was also incredibly confusing, although that’s more due to my lack of any discernible sense of direction – they had maps and boards directing crowds every 50-100 metres or so.) A huge Ferris wheel was transporting excited festival-goers into the upper realms of the atmosphere, for a small price, I think, and then back down, and repeat. Very fancy, very cool – lots of novelty there, I thought. People were lining up. Soon enough, I noticed an actual massive hot air balloon, and people could actually take rides in the hot air balloon to get a bird’s eye view of the festival. In layman terms, that’s called upping your game, and the Weekender is fast becoming one of the foremost indie music festivals in the country, especially in terms of production, execution, experience, and scale. Although I’m not 100 % certain it’s an “indie festival”, so let’s just call it a non-mainstream music festival catering to (mostly) indie audiences and tagalongs. Moving on, there was also a flying remote-controlled mini-drone (/flying robot) patrolling the area at the bazaar. For some reason, people were trying to throw stuff at it. Nevertheless, there was a happy vibe.


(Photo by Shalaka Pai)

Moving on further, Mutemath played at the massive Bacardi Arena on Day Two. I was expecting fireworks – I’m not a huge fan, but I was excited to catch their live set, and I love ‘Reset’ – but their set was just a little subdued in terms of volume and maybe even theatrics. They did play ‘Reset’, and ‘Typical’ too, but (as much as I’m loathe to point out sound issues) the sound levels seemed far lower than what they should have been. At one point, Paul Meany, the vocalist, did a stage dive. Well, actually there was an air mattress with Diwali lights around it that was tossed into the crowd and then Meany jumped on to it. Why was there a mattress for him to jump on to? Was he carrying a lot of American dollars in his pocket? Soon enough, he fell off the mattress and on to the crowd, as he attempted crowd surfing. It was hilarious – the people in the front just couldn’t get the hang of it; he covered a distance of a handful of metres and then he went back on stage. The mattress, though, had the time of its life, being turfed around from one end to the other. All said and done, Mutemath’s set was one of the highlights of the festival, as far as crowd response and showmanship is concerned, as was Meshuggah’s – they had a quite fantastic 1.5 hour long set and I heard about hundreds of elbows to the back, knees to the head, bruised joints, bloody noses, but not a single complaint. For better or worse, it was yet another testament to the spirit and the brotherhood of metalheads that metalheads are so quick to point out all the time (read our interview with Marten Hagstrom of Meshuggah here). Another really spectacular set was by Nucleya, who really managed to capture the crowd’s imaginations with his bass-heavy, ethno-tinged EDM – he sounded massive. And the thing is, Nucleya isn’t just one of those trendhoppers playing bass-heavy music because that’s what the cool kids with lots of cash listen to these days. He was actually instrumental in setting up the movement well before it became hip, and he has constantly been evolving and experimenting with his sound – in other words, he’s the anti-electronica DJ. And the music is really very good (even if not always my bucket of tea.)


(Photo by Shekhar Das)

Although, oddly enough, I did notice at one point that the electronic stage, the Wolves Den, was practically empty. There were some 50 odd people behaving all drunk and that’s it. Which is really strange because, in Pune, that same stage is almost never empty – people get there before the festival begins and leave well after it’s over (if at all). But in Delhi, the two electronica stages weren’t always packed. Instead, people thronged to the two main stages – either the Bacardi Arena, which had the aforementioned bus as a changeover stage, or the Dewarists stage, which had the Other Stage accompanying it. Lucky Ali played on the same Dewarists stage on Day One, and people loved him. They really did. So much so that he sang ‘O Sanam’ twice. He also played the song from the Dewarists, and that other really popular Lucky Ali song, and some others. And he had an army of musicians accompanying him on stage.

As far as personal highlights go, though, Northern Irish instrumental four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) has to rank at the very top (read our interview with Rory Friers of ASIWYFA here). They were punk rock in the most honest way possible – sure, one wouldn’t call their music “punk rock”, but the energy, the integrity with which they played their soulful, drifting instrumental passages driven by a fundamentally restless energy, and oh that live act, it all had this aggressive and straight up sensibility about it. They managed to make a couple of thousand fans in the audience watch their entire set with only a couple of vocal-driven songs – even cops in the crowd were busy taking videos of the band from their cell-phones: “What are these loony white boys up to?” I could hear their inner voices say. Their fast-paced, guitar-heavy, and purposeful sound lends itself perfectly to a live setting, as does their roving carefree presence on stage, and sure enough, they didn’t disappoint, winning this reviewer’s “best act at festival” award. Their drummer was playing without a shirt, so I’m guessing he carried a nasty cold back with him.


(Photo by Nitin Pant)

Delhi’s SundogProject were quite fantastic too, as they played songs off their debut, Hex 1/Visions. There was a fear that their murky, experimental, guitar/electro-driven sound might not quite translate into a live setting. And on top of that, they have some three guitars, four laptops, keys, drum triggers, hundreds of backing layers, all playing together. People in the industry call that a logistical nightmare or a trainwreck or something. But no such issues; they whipped out an excellent performance on the day, actually sounding and appearing like a very solid band playing on stage, not just a bunch of musicians playing at a festival. That coherence is what stuck out the most. It’s a pity that it wasn’t dark when they played – the ominous sections of their music would really work well in the scary city of Noida after dark – anything (literally) could happen. Oh, and they played right after MoonDogs; is that what they call serendipity? Or perfect harmony or something. Just like the sun follows the moon, and just like clockwork, the moon follows the sun.

Click here to read Odds and Ends - Bacardi NH7 Weekender, NCR, a collection of stray observations and thoughts about the festival.

Click to read our review of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender Festival 2013, Pune

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