How does one make an already epic festival even more epic? Take notes right here.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender concluded it’s year’s tour with the Pune edition that went down on 2nd 3rd and 4th of December. This time, the festival took on a new venue (Life Republic in Hinjewadi) but brought back a lot of familiar faces (rumour goes that once you’ve attended an NH7 gig, you have to go back). You would think that after seven editions, people would give it a miss. But no, not the fan-following that NH7 Weekender has garnered. And the best bit is, the fandom gets crazier and crazier year after year. Let me tell you how crazy. This year, the Pune edition saw 60,000 attendees scuttle around from stage to stage. 60,000! I mean, we aren’t really surprised by the number considering we were pretty much a part of it and saw the inflow of pumped-up newbies and oldies making their way through those broad corridors and, for a change, humble security guards.

So let’s start from the very beginning. Because this experience needs to be spelled out to the T.

The gates have opened.

You have to give OML (Only Much Louder) for this; they are never late. If they say the event starts at 3, that means the event will start at 3. So, as we have previously experienced this on-time routine, we ensured we had reached the festival gates right on schedule. The new venue was a little outskirty, but nothing an Ola or Uber couldn’t cater to. Right from the very start, there were attendants guiding cars/taxis/rickshaws to the right spots. That was the beauty of the festival’s organisation; leave no stone unturned. We collected our wrist-bands with ease and passed through security with no hiccups (we’re festival pros now). But, the one thing that caught our attention was a little stand right after security, where an crew-member was handing out ear-plugs. Anybody could pick one up, but they were arranged for, keeping in mind, the little kids who would be attending the event. So thoughtful, right!

First look inside, and here’s where we say – WOW!

People were sceptical when the new venue was announced. The old venue had a nostalgic feel to it, and we get how important that can be. But the new venue carried its own charm. It was massive, for starters. The five stages were spaced out so comfortably, it was actually quite a walk from one end to another (also with a food court right in the middle for a quick pit-stop :D). There were alcoholic and non-alcoholic counters at every turn, decor that made you stop and scream “Selfie time!”, the NH7 Periphery Art Project, soft green grass that looked even more welcoming than our bed on a winter night, and wait, is that the Bacardi Ferris Wheel? Wheeee!!!

Five stages to choose from. None to be missed.

Five stages. 50 performances. One you. How do you do this? Well, it was cake walk (ask anybody who attended the fest). For starters, four of the stages were clubbed together in pairs, peacefully residing side-by-side without intruding into the other’s vibe. The main stage a.k.a. Bacardi Arena stood right beside the #BacardiHouseParty stage while #TheDewarists stage and Other Stage (we love the name) got cozy together. The #BreezerVivid Village stage was parked pretty close too and was the first stage you come across on entering. Trippy AF, this stage hosted some major electronica and hip-hop goodness through the fest. As rapper Divine said, this is the first time that Indian hip-hop has received a stage of its own and the opportunity to close a festival. Good show, Weekender. Bacardi Arena, being the main stage, hosted the biggest names and pulled in the largest crowd at the festival. #BacardiHouseParty was no less of an attraction. It brought on local favourites from around the country and Paul Dempsey *heart flutter*. Now moving on to the most iconic stage of them all, #TheDewarists stage, music was at it melodious best over the weekend. While the Other Stage brought on the best variety acts that were, indeed, a fresh addition.

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Let the music begin.

With three days of an assortment of genres to pick from, what can you expect complete mayhem (in the good sense, of course). We were going bat-shit crazy trying to keep up with the artists, because frankly, none of them could be missed.

Day 1: Usually you would think they would keep all the star entertainers for the weekend. But, that wasn’t happening here. Nucleya was closing the night and that says a lot. Friday was as power-packed as the weekend line-up. Two stages weren’t open to the public, but the three stages that were, hosted quite a party each.

The Bacardi Arena pulled out the big guns with Func setting the mood and Underground Authority throwing you into a headbanging fit. Dualist Inquiry, well, need I even describe? Nucleya has, till date, never given a disappointing performance. Which is why he is the reigning king of live gigs in India.

Gumbal, Zoya, Kanchan Daniel & The Beards and Sapta brought their A-game to the #BacardiHouseParty stage.

The #BreezerVividVillage was THE place to unwind that day, with Sid Vashi, Komorebi and Nicholson sending you into electronica wonderland. RAC ended the night, in true party style.

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Day 2: Weekend is here! The crowd got bigger and bigger (judging by the line for that Ferris Wheel). People flocked the stages, dressed in their festival best and the#TheDewarists stage and Other Stage opened up to the mass.

Aewon Wolf and Gigi Lamayne, The F16s and Skyharbor brought three completely different sounds to the Bacardi Arena stage. But the star act of the stage, or should we say the festival, was Steven Wilson. We heard someone actually say that people were lining up at the front from the very start just to watch the Porcupine Tree legend. And he rewarded all with the performance of a lifetime.

Dossers Urge, Goddess Gagged, Aswekeepsearching and The Joy Formidable brought rock back into the festival at the#BacardiHouseParty stage. For this Sherp, it was as refreshing as things could get.

#TheDewarists stage hosted the biggest names of the evening (not counting Steven Wilson) and didn’t really give a chance for people to shuffle around to the other stages. Would you, if you had Patrick Watson, Jose Gonzales and Papon playing back-to-back? Let’s not forget Shri, who had the honour of inaugurating the iconic stage.

The Other Stage kicked off with Sempre Libera giving us the opera experience and Abish+Kenny ending the night with the necessary comic relief. River and Rhythm Shaw were delightful additions to the stage.

Once again, #BreezerVividVillage pulled out its eletronica cards with Paraphoniks, Mosko and Aqua Dominatrix. There was a ‘Secret Set’ that left every one playing the guessing game before it was revealed to be the Reggae Rajahs. We <3 the surprise!

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Day 3: What? Last day, already? But we just got started! This was the standard reaction doing the rounds on Sunday. Two days had built such an intense energy within each of us and we didn’t want that feeling to go away.

The Bacardi Arena stage brought out the biggest acts from the very start of the day. Spud In The Box and The Ganesh Talkies are no strangers to live performances. Let’s just say, they killed it. Thaikkudam Bridge were a big surprise to the unaware audience. When Vijay Nair (OML CEO) walks up on stage to describe the rush he felt after their performance, you know it was mind-numbingly brilliant. They were followed by an even-bigger live act, a man who has cemented his name as one of the best live performances to catch in India – none other than Shankar Mahadevan.

Soulful songstress, Mali, took the stage as the first act on the #BacardiHouseParty stage. She was followed by When Chai Met Toast (they sang Scooby Doo!!!), Eagulls and Paul Dempsey (my heart he stole).

The #TheDewarists brought Manipuri boys Imphal Talkies, Rosie Lowe, Karsh Kale Collective (what a collective they were!) and ended the night with Anoushka Shankar who proved why she’s a Grammy favourite.

Easy Wanderlings, Parekh & Singh (remember the Wes Anderson video), Gordi and NAFS (a-capella to the max) were the star performers at The Other Stage.

The #BreezerVividVillage celebrated the growing Indian hip-hop scene on Day 3 and it was unforgettable. Mumbai boys Naezy and Divine showed us why it’s cool to be in their Gully. Prabh joined Naezy and Raja Kumari joined Divine for collaborations from hip-hop heaven! Borkung Hrangkhwal showed us why hip-hop is quite the scene in the north-east as well and DJ Premier ended the night with some nostalgic tracks.

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It was so much more than just the music.

This year, there was so much more to Bacardi NH7 Weekender Pune than its predecessors. The team put together a series of women’s safety videos and other videos (hosted by stand-up comics and performing acts) that put across a strong message in a fun fashion (take notes, you no-smoking theatre ads). They also tied up with SheSays, an NGO that looks after women’s safety in public places. The team also built an ‘NH7 Weekender Pune’ App that made it easier for attendees to navigate their way around and share their schedule with friends (it was easy to get lost in there. 60,000 people yo!). Food and beverages could be collected at the several coupon counters using cash, card or even PayTM! Food stalls (and let’s not forget the food truck) provided such a delightful variety that we couldn’t help but binge every few hours. There were wet and dry waste bins around the venue so waste could be segregated (we hope you weren’t drunk enough to notice that). Shopping stalls were as attractive as the gaming sections, and they were buzzing till the very end.

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All good things must come to end.

All in all, the seventh Bacardi NH7 Weekender Pune did not step down but instead took thing up a notch. Can’t believe we have to wait an entire year for the next edition! *opens calendar tab on phone to ask chutti from boss in advance*

Photo credits:

Himanshu Rohilla
Parizad D
Maanas Singh
The Clique Photography