Why is December 2018 so far away! 

Enter a music lover’s den and you’re guaranteed to find a calendar with the first (or second) weekend of December marked as ‘NH7 Weekender’ weekend. This has been the drill for years now, with this year marking Pune’s 8th edition. The simple reason is that, over the years, Weekender has worked towards curating a line-up that will appeal to music lovers across genres. At which other festival in India will you find a metalhead bumming a cigarette off a classical music connoisseur? Though times are now changing and more festivals are adopting a multi-genre outlook towards their line-up, NH7 Weekender will also be known as a pioneer of this movement.

That being said, here’s a glimpse at another super-successful BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender Pune that took place from 8th to 10th of December, 2018:

Getting There

Unlike the previous edition, this year’s venue was conveniently located within the city. Held at Mahalaxmi Lawns, getting transport to the venue was no issue. An open-area parking lot was available in plenty for those who preferred to bring their cars, managed by ParkUpNow. You could even book a good parking spot in advance through insider.in. Big hoardings with directions to maneuver your way into the venue were present along the road leading up to the venue, and they were of great help. Anytime people had to leave the festival ground and couldn’t gain network to call for an Uber/Ola, they could seek assistance from an Uber personnel to book a cab. These procedures were seamless and efficient. And, as every year, there were shuttle buses arranged at a small price from different pickup points across the city. See, easy breezy!

The Venue

Once we got our bands (an additional drinking band for those over 25 years of age), we proceeded through a tight security and entered the venue. Though this venue did feel smaller than last year’s venue, we think it could also be the result of way too many people crowding together at certain places around the venue that gave the illusion of space constraint. We’re guessing by day 3 there were easily between 8k-10k people in attendance.

So taking a look into how things were placed around the venue, we had five ginormous stages, a sprawling food zone, the giant wheel ofcourse, the newest entrants – Camp Tinder and Google Pixel 2 Zone, the Bazaar, a food truck area (no, they weren’t located at the food zone), well-guarded alcohol zones, ‘Your Happy Place’ – the festival’s art & design showcase that curated by design and art studio ‘Design Fabric’, India’s first community radio station – boxout.fm x Levis where fans could catch special DJ sets and a The Story of Space – an area where fans could experience what ‘out of the world’ feels like. Quite a lot to keep people occupied over three days of festivities.

The Stages

We’re all familiar with the stages at BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender Pune. But for those who are yet to make their Weekender debut, here’s a quick guide. There’s the main stage a.k.a. BACARDÍ Arena stage, #BacardiHouseParty stage, The Dewarists stage, #BreezerVivid stage and the Insider.in Other Stage.

The stages were LIT at all times, thanks to the incredible light and sound display that charged up the crowd every time. A special mention to be made here. After a point, when it was too dark to make your way around the venue, there were guards standing with traffic lights sabers to show you the way. This was quite an innovative addition by the organisers, and a good way to make sure people did not lose their way in the crowd.

The Performers

With three days of intense music (and comedy) keeping attendees on their toes, it was tough to catch every act in action. But we did the best we could and here is a gist of the performances:

Day 1

May Island inaugurated the BACARDÍ Arena stage and were a great start to a night that was going to celebrate rock music in all its glory. aswekeepsearching were refreshing with their Hindi lyrics. The Dillinger Escape Plan were a delight to headbangers who crowded up right in front, while Textures played a memorable last show ever; a fitting farewell for an iconic band.

At the #BacardiHouseParty stage, Zokova and Kraken took the early sets and gave us a taste of some fresh sounds. And then stepped Zygnema, one of the biggest metal bands of our times. Finally, closing the night at the stage, were Scribe. Reunited at last (and thank God for that), the crowd were treated to Vishwesh’s famous humour, some all-too-familiar performances and a lot of joy.

The Dewarist stage first brought on singer-songwriter Aditi Ramesh, followed by Northern Ireland post-punk band ‘Girls Names’. The third act on stage was one to look out for – T.M. Krishna. People were thrilled with his classical performance and Vijay Nair even got on stage to give him a grand introduction, adding that he wanted to introduce the concept of having classical and metal rock on one platform and mess with people’s heads. Shillong band ‘Blue Temptation’ and Ankur and The Ghalat Family closed the performances for this stage for the night.

The Insider.in Other Stage brought on a few new faces like Aarya and Mahesh Raghunandan, both talented vocalists. Kamakshi Khanna Collective were their soulful best and The Magnets, the London-based a cappella outfit, wowed audiences with an unforgettable act.

#BreezerVivid stage hosted a first-time comedy line-up that included the likes of Anirban Dasgupta, Urooj Ashfaq, Vaibhav Sethia, Nishant Tanwar, Kautuk Srivastava, Sumukhi Suresh, Kunal Rao and Aisi Taisi Democracy with the talented Varun Grover, Rahul Ram and Sanjay Rajoura. Abish Mathew made a surprise entry and the crowd went crazy at the mere mention of his name.

Day 2

Bad Pop and The Local Train got the mood right on the second day at the BACARDÍ Arena stage. And then another much-awaited act took the stage – Blackstratblues All Stars. They were electrifying in every sense of the word. And then came the God himself, Steve Vai. His mental guitar skills have echoed inside every rock lover’s den, and this time he was right there for all to witness. Not to mention, he even got Joe Satriani and John Petrucci to join in through a video jam. Very very epic.

MojoJojo kicked off the day at the #BacardiHouseParty stage, followed by Alluri who gave us a taste of Telugu lyrics mixed with some funky beats. French band Colt Silvers, who were on a long and busy India tour, made sure they had enough energy left for their final destination. Skrat, another iconic Indian band, were a power house.

Easy Wanderlings and Pune-local Bhrigu Sahni kick-started activity on The Dewarist stage. Special mention made here for Bhrigu’s performance, clearly one of the stand-out performances for us at the festival. Veterans Indian Ocean came on next and we really don’t have words to describe their set. The Ram Sampath Experience treated us to some of our favourite Coke Studio tracks live, and that was an experience in itself.

The Insider.in Other Stage had three great performances to get people to sit up and take notice. Short Round were a fun group to tune in to, with the inclusion of upcoming songstress Mali. Ali Saffudin’s performance would have certainly earned him a lot of fans. Hip-hop stars Bombay Bassment were their delightful selves, with MC Bobkat’s infectious energy making its rounds among the audience.

On Day 2, #BreezerVivid stage was going to host more than just the comedy stars. Sumaira Shaikh, Gaurav Kapoor, Sonali Thakker, Anuvab Pal, Azeem Banatwalla, Navin Richards, Rohan Joshi and Kanan Gill completed the comedy line-up for the day while Ape Echoes, Kumail Live, Sid Vashi and Oceantied gave us some great sounds to groove to.

Day 3

Formally known as Superfuzz (yea, those guys who won Channel V LaunchPad), Indigo Children were in total form with their funky tunes and foot-tapping beats. And UK-band Honey Lung, who followed them next, were equally fascinating. Up next was Marky Ramone, a man who needs to introduction. His surname says it all and his music brought back some fond memories among the older gen at the festival. Cigarettes After Sex were our personal favourite, giving us a set that required one to just lie back on the grass and stare up into the night sky. Pentagram, arguably the biggest rock band in the country, closed the festival at the BACARDÍ Arena stage with an energy-fuelled set.

At the #BacardiHouseParty stage, Canadian band ‘Youngblood’, who are also on an India tour, took us on a retro trip with their dreamy electronic grooves. LANDS and Vir Das’ Alien Chutney followed next, with the latter giving quite an ROFL performance with their witty lyrics. Prateek Kuhad, the latest Indian sensation, concluded performances on this stage with a swoon-worthy set.

Mame Khan and Parvaaz were the musical geniuses that we know them to be, both putting up an unforgettable set. The Raghu Dixit Project were their groovy selves, with Raghu playing his tracks from the recent movie ‘Chef’ and, ofcourse, his multi-lingual compositions. He loves to get the crowd to sing along. Vishal Bhardwaj closed the festival at The Dewarist stage, singing his own hit compositions and making sure the crowd knew that he was there to “Gaane nahi, dil sunane aaya hoon”.

Insider.in Other Stage had a great show with Hriday Gattani, The Ska Vengers, Nooran Sisters and Madame Gandhi. Each act was different from the one that preceded it, giving people a great variety in music.

The #BreezerVivid stage was packed with activity, starting with a host of stand-up comics and then transitioning into a DJ set, followed by hip-hop artists putting up a great finale act. Rahul Subramanian, Kaneez Surka, Neville Shah, Ashish Shakya, Aadar Malik, Atul Khatri, Kunal Kamra and Biswa Kalyan Rath brought on their comedy game and delivered in style. Malfnktion, Ritviz and DJ MoCity dropped some sick beats for people to shake a leg too. Post that, Prabh Deep, Nh7 Hip-Hop Collective and Divine took the stage to show us exactly why hip-hop in India is at its peak right now.

With every set playing right on time, people could catch their favourite act and plan out their time well. So that’s a big cheer to the organisers to making things run like clockwork!

Food & Beverage

It was close to impossible to starve at festival. The reason being that options in food and beverage were so much, you could satisfy your little and big cravings in a jiffy. We’re talking burgers, pizzas, pastas, Tandoori, Lebanese, Chinese, Desserts and many varieties in the same. There were food trucks stationed by the Insider.in Other Stage, so people all the way there did not have to walk all the way to the food zone for a quick bite. Alcohol was catered to the masses by the veterans – Bar Solutions. Did you get yourself the iconic Weekender mug/bucket?

Notable Mentions

The Giant Wheel – With a waiting line that never seemed to end, the Giant Wheel, with BACARDI’s logo projections on its front, was definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

Tinder Camp – Ahhh… the perfect setting for some love. With fairy-lit tents, soft cushions and acoustic strumming, this was the place to be to fall in love for the first time, or all over again.

Google Pixel 2 Zone – The best place to revisit the child in you. With neon swings, slides and see-saws to get you squealing like a little kid, it also served as a great place to take selfies and have a photo-op with a few performing artists.

The Pet-Friendly Festival – This year, the Sherp was armed with a new recruit, Shadow the Labrador. And boy, did he have a ball of a time. Showered with love at every given moment, it further reinforced what a great difference pets can make at a festival. Joining Shadow were also Dexter the Cocker Spaniel and Kenji the Pug, though the three couldn’t stand to be in each other’s radar. But good fun for the attendees.

As it is with every edition, we are totally stumped by how well OML manages to bring the right artists on board for an experience that trumps the previous edition. Until next year!

(Images Courtesy – Bacardi NH7 Weekender Facebook, Maanas Singh, Madhurjya Saikia, Prashin Jagger, The Clique Photography)