Since 2012, over 50 acres of the lush green Fernhills Palace campus in Ooty plays host to a very different brand of tourist. The palace shows its largesse by way of accommodating over a thousand people in a music festival that spans over three long days and nights.

GoMAD 2013 upped the number of artists from 32 to 51 as compared to last year, which meant the two stages were occupied from 11:30 am till 11.30 pm, leaving a nice little path through the forest between the two stages. Even here, there were local flea markets, accessory and artifact shops, and tiny bars serving cocktails and beer.

You wouldn’t realize this was only the second year of the festival. Day 1 proceeded as smoothly as it could with the gigs starting right on time. While Chennai-based alternative group The F16s kicked off proceedings from one end with smooth, fresh electro-rock sounds, Sikkim’s classic rock heirs Girish and the Chronicles belted out Zeppelin and AC/DC and a few originals from the other end. Any chances of a mid-noon stupor was erased when Bangalore-based Parvaaz took stage and roared its way through 30 minutes of its most intense, psychedelic tracks. However, the more fascinating acts of the day for me were Carnatic classical musician Sean Roldan and his group who fused classical with blues and country music, and thus found good calling amongst both the Indian and non Indian parts of the crowd; and later in the night, 1001 Ways, that sounds like a band, but which is really a single man by the name of Tobias Huber, a violinist, who makes music to spread peace. This global musician, in the true sense of the word, wore a yellow turban and an electric warm smile throughout the fest, and along with playing a beautiful set, interacted with and became part of the crowd during other gigs too.

Scheduling such a huge dearth of artists is no mean feat, but the GoMAD organizing team handled it well – people did not have had a hard time choosing which stage to cheer, since the genres were well-distributed.

Day 2 was highlighted with power packed performances by the biggies of Indian rock – Parikrama and Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate, who literally had the entire crowd to themselves. Bali-based, culturally diverse Nasi Campur was an image of the multi-cultural festival itself, and provided a pleasant, funky start to the day. And then there was Noori which had a crowd settled in right from sound check. The band that got noticed through Coke Studio and which has since then become a cult favourite was one of the most anticipated acts this time, this being their first ever performance in India and it did not fail to deliver, as they played all the popular numbers along with Kedar and Saari Raat. Tired and lazy legs gave in to audio-visual act BLOT who played out visuals to a crowd wearing 3-D glasses and to the background of electronic music.

Virginia Martinez, a blues singer from South America turned out to be quite a performer on the morning of day 3 as she sang through Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and B.B. King among others with ever so much grace. And this, accompanied by the flawless instrumentation, coming from the same band that assisted Radha Thomas during her performance, was one of the most stand-out performances of the festival.

Fusion group Lagori, and Carnatic rock act Agam took it upon themselves to maintain high energy levels amidst the crowd with their adrenaline-driven performances. A big disappointment was the white scratch on the name of PCRC, as they cancelled their performance; another highly anticipated act, whose gypsy jazz and Bollywood influenced sound seemed a perfect recipe for the hills. Brazilian acoustic duo Veronica Nunes and Ricardo Vogt stumped the crowd with their lyrics, but the acoustic guitar and the ukulele sounded nice together and the music was quite hummable.

Those who came for the music left more than satisfied. As did those who came to enjoy the sights and the oodles of experiences such a festival provides. There were many other things to look forward to, with the flea markets, bars, artifact shops, and the ease with which you could strike up conversations with anybody. A really good band could warm you up in the chilly Ooty evenings, whereas the nights were kept alive with the warm tents and bonfires at various places.

GoMAD 2013, in only its second year, has already become one of the most looked forward to music festivals in the country, as it can slowly look to matching to the international festivals of this kind.

(Written by Vishal Shah)