The Delhi chapter of what is now unofficially but appropriately known as ‘the happiest music festival’ in the country recently wrapped its shop up. As every subsequent edition, this year’s Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Delhi turned out to be everything we were so impatiently waiting the whole year for, and then some.
Armed with nothing but a keen eye and a really strong drink, we went around the premises partially drunk and scoured through the various events and other stalls at the festival over two days. Keeping up with our tradition of keeping you up to date with the most prominent festivals around the world, here is a quick lowdown on what all made the news at this year’s Delhi Weekender.
(Words by Himanshu Sharma)
1. The build up
We tend to get carried away by the star lineup and miss the other, “lesser” acts to make way for the headliners. Here’s an overview of some of the performers who killed it regardless of their placement on the schedule :
The first day saw some stellar performances all throughout, with Dhruv Viswanath’s ridiculously hummable melodies, followed by Reggae Rajahs’ old school, dub-influenced set.
The fusion band Noori, playing Weekender for the second time in two years, enchanted the crowd with no visible effort at all. The crowd could be seen humming most of the lyrics verbatim, as the band from across the border spun some of their biggest hits on stage like ‘Saari raat’, as well as a cover of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s classic ‘Kitna Sona Tenu’.
2. The headliners who weren’t the headliners
It was no surprise that the headliners at this year’s Weekender were going to be amazing, but as the festival progressed, it was apparent that some of the acts who couldn’t make it to the headlining slots actually performed better than some of those who did.
Being one of the legendary violin maestros of India, Dr. Subramaniam’s trippy and multi-layered blend of Indian Carnatic with Western Classical didn’t disappoint by a long shot. Accompanied by his son on violin, his daughter occasionally joining on vocals, and his crew, his 40-minute set proved to be the perfect fusion of the east with the west. Personally, we’d rate his performance to be the headlining act of the day, even though it wasn’t placed in the schedule as such.
Hidden Orchestra, with his powerful and mesmerizing set, pretty much set the bar for all the performances to come that night. Playing with two drummers, his songs drew influence from an impossibly wide genre spectrum, with a mix of Ambient, Minimal, Post-Rock, Jazz, Electronica, as well as hints of Dub in the later stages of the set.
With their unique blend of Flamenco and Rock, Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Mexican acoustic guitar duo might as well have been the grooviest performance of the festival. Having fun throughout their set, they even invited some fans on the stage to shake a leg or two.
3. The Big Guns – Flying Lotus, SBTRKT, Mogwai and Rahman KILLED
Despite the unexpected hits of the weekend, the headlining acts were why most of the fans were there. The headliners are, after all, the headliners for a reason. While a few of them exceeded our expectations with their sets, the others didn’t.
One of the most anticipated acts of the first day, Mark Ronson’s popular remixes of songs like Lean On had the packed crowd going in no time. It was, however, somewhere during his unsuspecting transition towards Punjabi tunes like ‘Mundiyan Tu Bach Ke’ that we realized Dr. L. Subramaniam was about to start in a while. Hungrier for a quick bite followed by L. Subramaniam than the bad Desi remixes, we were faced with perhaps the easiest choice of the whole festival.
A.R. Rahman had the crowd shouting for him even before he had even arrived on the stage. Once he did, he played quite a few of his hit compositions over an hour, including songs from movies like Dil Se, Rockstar and Highway. Though we were expecting him to revisit some of his older compositions, especially the instrumentals, there wasn’t one moment during the whole set that the crowd wasn’t going absolutely crazy.
Things started heating up when SBTRKT appeared on the stage with his signature mask as the opening headliner of Day 2. Playing a DJ set for the first time in India, he wasted no time in getting right down to business, and pretty much destroyed the dance floor with his experimental, bass-laden tunes.
Once SBTRKT got done with his set, we checked the schedule for the next performance, only to realize that there was something very wrong with it. Flying Lotus was scheduled to overlap with an hour of Mogwai, and all of Mogwai was going to overlap with Vishal Dadlani’s tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Even if it was clear that there was a rather difficult choice to be made there, many people at the festival were not happy about making it.
FlyLo’s dramatic and bass-heavy entrance into the set combined with the all-encompassing visuals flooding the stage and beyond was enough to drive even the most sober crowd over the edge. From the moment he started to his closing beats about an hour later, FlyLo‘s pumped-up onslaught, effortlessly alternating amongst Drum and Bass, Dubstep, Jazz, Hip Hop, Experimental and a slew of other genres, had the crowd continuously bouncing. It was sweaty, it was grimy, and it wasn’t going to be easily forgotten. Even though we had to leave in the middle of the set to catch Mogwai (because Mogwai), FlyLo gets our vote for the best performance of the festival.
Mogwai gave the crowd exactly what they wanted; pure, unadulterated Mogwai. Even with their lead guitarist of about twenty years having recently quit the band, their sound was as good as ever. Playing a set of some of their classic anthems like Auto Rock and I’m Jim Morrison I’m Dead, as well as stuff from their newer albums like Remurdered, their mellow yet tragic brand of post-rock marked the best end to the night.
4. Between the stages
Other than the electrifying live performances, NH7 had also sprinkled a liberal dose of filler attractions across the venue for the breaks. Wanted to shop for some creatively designed products? The Maker’s Market had a wide variety of unique stuff on sale by many indie and DIY brands. You could also head to the Breezer Gaming Arcade and try your hands at some interestingly designed variations of popular games, like Giant Jenga and Breezer Pong (beer pong with Bacardi buckets instead of cups).
The musicians could pick up the instruments and jam their asses off any time at The Stray Dog’s Jam room. Combine those with a 7D roller-coaster Virtual Reality tour of the whole venue called the BACARDÍ OCULUS, Human Foosball at Game of Jones, and snazzy DIY t-shirt designs stall at Roposo, and we all had plenty to keep ourselves occupied with between performances.
5. The highlights we could have done without
This year marked the first time Weekender actually happened in Delhi and not NCR, due to the Delhi government finally relaxing the strict laws on city events. While it sounded like a good idea to some because of the Delhi metro connectivity to Dwarka, not everybody was happy about it, primarily because Dwarka is also as far from most places in Delhi as Greater Noida.
Another prominent grievance a lot of people seemed to have with the new venue was its lack of space and fancy decor, especially after being spoilt by the extravagant decorations of the last year’s edition. To be honest, we were kind of okay with the smaller venue, but those huge air balloons and some more space to sit around would have been nice.
As mentioned in detail above, the scheduling of headliners on the second day could, rather should, have been worked upon. Mogwai vs FlyLo vs Dadlani’s tribute to a maestro; no one should have had to make that choice.
6. The things they got right
Apart from Bacardi Arena and The Dewarists, all the other stages got rechristened this year, with Moto Spotlight, Jack & Jones All Starr Jamm and Breezer Beat Camp making up the rest of them. The setup of the stages, despite being a small venue, was successful in keeping the sounds from one area overflowing into the other.
OML visibly spent quite some effort on beefing up the security of the venue as well, judging by the large number of police personnel around the venue. Delhi may be known for being one of the most unsafe cities in the country, but those cops sure weren’t in any mood to further add to that reputation. Well, atleast not for those two days anyway.
It’s not advisable to run from one stage to the other on an empty stomach, though we were glad to see Swiggy have us covered. From steaming Kathi Rolls to scrumptious Burgers, the Swiggy Food Bazaar had all the gastronomical ammo we could ask for. Pro-tip for the attendees at the Pune and Bangalore Weekenders: Having a heavy meal and two huge ice-cream cones right before FlyLo’s set is really not a good idea. Trust us on this one.
Now for the important part; alcohol. As every year, all the sections of the venue were equipped with their own Bacardi bars with their signature Bacardi buckets. Fortunately, there were other, more specialized ones as well, The Pina Colada Bar being one of them. As we were already starting to love their whole tropical vibe and refreshingly loud colours, it only took one tiny sip from one of their delish cocktails for it to become a one-stop-shop of alcohol for most people at the venue.
(All Images Courtesy : Bacardi NH7 Weekender/Facebook)