The morning of 7th September 2017 was bustling with activity in almost every tween’s home in Mumbai. After all, the day had finally arrived when they were going to watch their favourite music duo in action live – The Chainsmokers. Around the same time, another set of enthusiastic EDM fans were getting ready to set foot at the first Ultra Music Festival hosted in India. Yes, it wasn’t the entire Ultra package, but it was a start. So you can imagine the level of expectations brimming on said Thursday morning.
But reality was a rude wake-up call. Because Road To Ultra: Mumbai was not a patch on Ultra Music Festival. Disappointing is an understatement. When one thinks of Ultra, they are immediately transported to its grandiose stages, larger than life sound systems and an experience that leaves attendees gasping for breath by the end of the show. Road To Ultra: Mumbai was… well… let’s say there is so much to be improved upon. We just hope the folks at Ultra give India another chance to up their game for the next edition.
“Gates open at 12pm sharp,” they said. So, we thought we should give it an hour as everything in India mandatorily runs on Indian Standard Time. But even after getting there more than an hour later, we were greeted to the sight of irritable teens and parents, huddled under the nearest shade while fanning themselves outside the entry gates. The security guards were still fidgeting with equipment well post 1:30 pm. After a point we could hear music playing from inside, which meant the show had started. But people outside the Platinum Zone were still stranded outside, thanks to God-knows-what reason.
Finally, at around 1:50 pm, they started letting people in, but not without a new set of surprises. The security team asked men and women to leave their bags outside, stating only cardboard-thin sling purses will be allowed. “So where do we leave the bags?” was the common cause of concern for all. This was met with just a shrug, a sign that meant we had to figure things out on our own. After nearly 15 minutes of drama, the security team changed its mind and started allowing people in, but backpacks were still prohibited. Shockingly, quite a few of attendees had no option but to leave their bags with cigarette/water sellers outside.
After that, there was drama over power banks. It’s not rocket science to understand that people will exhaust their battery over the long duration of the show. But the organisers weren’t letting them in and neither were they giving a good reason as to why it isn’t allowed inside. Had the organisers been a little more vocal about what could and couldn’t be carried inside, it would have saved many the inconvenience. Infact, the Sherp got a message from the event’s ticketing partner – BookMyShow – giving a list of what should and shouldn’t be carried inside WELL AFTER THE ENTRY WAS DONE. Talk about being efficient *eye roll*.
This had to be one of the biggest WTF moments. If there is one music festival that is known for its spectacular stage production, it is UMF. The Arcadia Resistance Spider Stage, in particular, can send shivers down the spine, especially when the laser show begins. So any Ultra fan walking into the venue would have had the shock of their life. The stage was a disaster!
We overheard several people at the venue talking about how it was nothing but a Sunburn Arena stage with the Ultra logo placed on top. We found the perfect meme to express exactly what we are talking about.
It wasn’t long before people took their frustration out on social media, berating the poor choice of venue that cramped thousands of attendees in an area no bigger than a small football ground.
Food and Beverages
After getting baked in the sun for a good hour, we went hunting for a system reboot – food. For starters, it was confusing as hell to find anything around the place. There weren’t enough signs leading people to the right direction. We found one sign in the centre that gave a little clue into things, but that was pretty much it.
We went hunting for the food stall, only to discover that it was divided into two sections that were nowhere close to each other. We understand the lack of space, but that doesn’t mean you make people work hard for their food. One of the food zones was conveniently placed by the Silver Zone entry gate but the other was all the way at the other end, right next to the gaming zone. And this wasn’t the biggest downfall. The stalls were still prepping up well past 2:15 pm.
The only food stall that was up and running was Faasos. This meant if people decided to skip an early lunch at home and buy themselves something at the venue, they were in for a bad time.
The food court, in general, had a decent mix of cuisines, with brands like Dominos, Wok Express, Faasos, Wraps and Rolls and more, treating people to a good variety.
The beverage counter required you to buy a top-up card that required you to make a refill of 500 bucks in the start and in multiples of 100 after that. Fair enough, except that they charged you 50 bucks for the card! That meant you could only make purchases for 450 bucks in the beginning and have paid for a card that has no use to you after the show. Also, there were limited card reading machines, with two bartenders having to use one machine and wait their turn. This led to the formation of extra long lines at the bar that barely moved, because the security, once again, wasn’t efficient enough to keep people from breaking the line.
Furthermore, there were clear instructions that those over 21 and 25 years of age needed to get an LDA wrist band in order to drink. But people were not checked and absolutely anybody could be seen purchasing alcohol.
Water was charged 50 bucks at the bar counter and 10 bucks a glass elsewhere. A few bottle sellers were making rounds inside as well. In the light of festivals making water freely available to attendees, it seemed criminal to charge money for it.
Women’s safety is the need of the hour. In crowded areas like music festivals, it’s not uncommon to see uncomfortable scenarios like men trying to grope women or misbehave with them. Hence, a few music festivals in the country have taken a stand and made women’s safety a priority. Unfortunately the same could not be said about Road To Ultra: Mumbai. Forget keeping a woman’s cell, there were barely any women cops around the venue. Nor was there any way in which those in need could seek assistance.
The toilets were decently clean, with the exception of tissue paper and refilled hand wash. So those without a hand sanitizer were at a loss.
There were a couple of spots open for people to sit down and rest their feet for a while, so that was a benefit for plenty.
Waste management was pretty bad. There weren’t too many dustbins around and so people resorted to throwing their trash anywhere and everywhere. Existing bins were not cleared in time and the result of it was this:
At the end of the show, there was expected chaos in the parking area. This led to traffic pile-up even outside the venue.
The arena was divided into different zones – the prime ones being the Silver Zone, Platinum Zone, Mercedes-Benz Diamond Zone and other MIP zones. But, at the premium price that everyone except for the Silver Zone paid, people were not offered anything exclusive. The Sherp was present in the Platinum Zone and Silver Zone. All that the Platinum Zone ticket holders got was a barricaded rectangular area with a Beverage Zone that was as crowded as the one in the Silver Zone and priced the same.
Those who made it to the Silver Zone well in time, in fact, managed to get the best view as compared to any of the other zones – right in the middle of the arena.
We managed to speak to a group at the venue who told us that they had booked Platinum Zone tickets but were given Silver Zone tickets.
The only saving grace, in our opinion. The artists were world-class and the music they brought to us all day was beyond exceptional. Every artist brought something new to the stage with eye-catching backdrop visuals to support their music. The sets started on time and ended on time, so everything was running like clockwork. Thanks to security glitches outside, this Sherp could only get inside in time to watch Mykris. Right from there, leading on to Sam Feldt, Lost Kings, Getter, Rezz, Slushii and finally The Chainsmokers, it was an eargasmic show for EDM lovers. Mykris, Sam Feldt and Slushii brought an Indian flavour into their sets and had the crowd cheering on. Slushii surprised the crowd by playing Daler Mehndi’s’ Tunak Tunak’ track and then hit us with a crazy remix for it.
As for the big guys – The Chainsmokers, they had everybody’s undivided attention. They belted out their known and lesser known hits along with some interesting remixes. The light show during their set was pretty impressive and there wasn’t a dull moment throughout the set. Andrew Taggart kept teasing the arrival of their superhit track ‘Closer’ with the audience by telling them he’s performing a sound check and asking them to sing along. They ended the show with a remix of their track ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Last Resort’ by Papa Roach.
Overall, we were really disappointed that Road To Ultra: Mumbai was nothing like what one would expect from Ultra Music Festival. The organisers could have done so much more to make it an ‘Ultra’ experience rather than just a gig featuring The Chainsmokers. We don’t know how different the New Delhi show will be, but we can’t say we have too many hopes for it.