From the great music to the transcendental vibes, here’s a glimpse of the very first Bacardi NH7 Shillong.
A music festival that’s spread across five cities already, it was only a matter of time until it would unfold in the rock capital of India, the ‘abode of the clouds’. It did on October 23 with a spectacular lineup of artists and an audience whose spirits did not dampen even at the end of the show. Here’s an overview of the festival.
1. The congruence of Shillong as a venue
The heritage rock capital of India has more to offer than its rich musical vibrancy, or their doting love of rock culture and music. The humble beginnings of artists such as Lou Majaw, Soulmate and The Great Society (which lay the foundations in the late 70s) were from this very hill-station. Here, the local cabs play rock and it is believed that every household has a guitar or some musical instrument. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the tickets were sold out in the first edition itself. Also, Shillong has great accessibility and is well connected by roads from most of the other north-eastern states.
Whether you are driving from Guwahati (which is a 3 hour drive) or from Shillong (which is a mere 1 hour drive), you’d have to cross the Umiam Lake at Ri-Bhoi district and then go onto the Shillong bypass to reach the venue of the show at Bhoirymbong. Lined by mostly picturesque pine trees, the drive that proves to be an overall smooth experience. Once you head to BDSA complex at Bhoirymbong and on collecting your entry bands, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to walk through a lane with grassy meadows on either side leading to the main venue which is only a five minute walk.
2. The weather
The only place free of the ‘Indian summer’, Shillong was a chilly nest with a bright ultramarine sky and a trail of autumnal drifting clouds, ready to announce a sudden downpour any minute and the unpredictable hide and seek of the sun behind these thick clouds. An otherwise typical October day in Shillong. This weather blended beautifully with the music and the vigor of the fans. When scintillating musical performances are set in this climate, the takeaways are only good vibes and happy memories.
3. The music
With five stages, a mix of blues, reggae/hip-hop, indie, metal, rock and electronic music as well as artists such as Megadeth, The Wailers, Kailasa, Soulmate, The Raghu Dixit Project, Parikrama, Dualist Inquiry, Sandunes, Madboy/Mink and EZ Riser and many more, this debut edition of Weekender Shillong was a vastly eclectic one, in terms of the lineup. While the quality of sound was somewhat substandard, it was made-up for by the music itself.
While The F16s (Bacardi Arena) won over the crowd with their alternative prowess and high energy, Raxit Tewari of Your Chin/Sky Rabbit (Breezer Beat Camp) performed a more soothing set, with influxes of upbeat electronic riffs. At the Moto Spotlight dais, Madboy/Mink introduced their pop/funk style to a fairly new audience which thoroughly welcomed the funk and swing with unbelievable vigour and enthusiasm. After the pleasant sets of Indus Creed and Parikrama, came on Mumbai-based Sohrab Nicholson’s solo project, Nicholson, known for his synths, loops of electronic music with jazz-like sensibilities. Dualist Inquiry and Sandunes did a great job on the electronic front. The day ended with the fans singing along to The Wailers right till the end.
Day two saw near-flawless sets by Swarathma, Soulmate and Kailasa at The Dewarists stage; Undying Inc and Bhayanak Maut at the Bacardi Arena; Akummika and Sound Avtar at the Breezer Beat Camp; Lucid Recess, Scribe and Pangea at the Moto Spotlight stage, and Blackstratblues and Lou Majaw at the Jack n Jones stage.
Warren Mendonsa of Blackstratblues distinguished for his musical prowess navigated through varying musical terrains and wowed the audience with his music. Meanwhile, at the Breezer Beat Camp, the fans reached a fever pitch with consecutive acts by EZ Riser, Sound Avtar and Nucleya. At The Dewarist platform, the stirring voice of Tipriti Kharbangar of Soulmate reverberated through the open ground. The pioneers of American thrash metal – Megadeth brought the show to a successful end with die-hard fans headbanging to numbers such as ‘Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?’ and ‘Tornado of Souls’.
4. The people
The humble attendees of Weekender were as amicable as can be, maybe it’s something in the Shillong air. There was no overwhelming crowd or typical douchebaggery seen at city-based live events these days. And for that we are thankful.
5. Worth every penny
Unlike the ticket prices in the other cities of the festival, the pass rates here were relatively cheap. 2000 INR for a 2-day pass and 1250 INR for a single day was a pretty sweet deal, buying you a weekend full of live music, surrounded by the untameable spirit of music enthusiasts.
6. Almost as good as the music: the food, fun & art
The festival featured a fine range of Northeastern street food amongst the market-like stalls. Khasi food stall for jadoh (prepared in pig blood) and Garo dishes. The Naga food stall served a delicious bamboo shoot dish widely loved and enjoyed among the tribe. Besides the local cuisine, there were stalls selling Chinese delicacies, fast food and of course, a Weekender staple, shawarma rolls.
Being a great platform for DIY enthusiasts and artists to showcase and advertise their work, a myriad array of kiosks were set up. Limited edition T-shirts, band merchandise, stickers, badges, dreamcatchers, hand-woven baskets, beaten metalware, fashionable accessories, jewellery, bags, art, home décor and much more caught the eye of the festival goers. The Game of Jones area by Jack n Jones was also a quirky touch to the festival, encouraging friendly games of Twister on giant inflated mats.
Click here to view the gorgeous photographs from the festival.
(Words by Meghali Deb Roy)