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Festival Report: Day 2, Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune

Steven Wilson’s overwhelming “misery,” Jose Gonzalez’s mellow folk, Skyhabor’s celestial set, and much more

Anurag Tagat Dec 04, 2016
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UK-prog rock veteran Steven Wilson’s headlining set at Bacardi NH7 Weekender

If you were to look at which artists had the most hype by means of T-shirts one could spot on fans, UK prog rock artist Steven Wilson was a clear winner (it helped that his merchandize was sold by an Indian clothing label at a stall), as was American-Indian prog rock/metal band Skyharbor.

Of course, it’s a shame that these two bands, along with Mumbai alt metallers Goddess Gagged, was the heaviest that the Pune edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender would get. But that familiar metal-loving crowd still showed up, willing to take what’s on the table.

More stage, more choices

The second day threw open the Dewarists stage and the Insider.in Other stage, the former hosting a signature mix of fusion and folk acts such as UK bassist-composer Shri, Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson, Argentinian/Swedish folk artist Jose Gonzalez and singing star Papon. The Other Stage, set up adjacent to the Dewarists, hosted a total variety–including an opening opera performance by Sempre Libera, folk/indie singing trio RIVER, trailblazing guitarist Rhythm Shaw (with exceptional help from bassist Mohini Dey) and comedy duo Abish Mathew and Kenny Sebastian.

Shillong rock trio Dossers Urge powered up, opening proceedings at the Bacardi House Party stage, and as people trickled in and picked their stage of choice to laze around or take their photos at.

Over at the Bacardi Arena, South African rappers Aewon Wolf and Gigi Lamayne took turns to work the crowd, Lamayne asking for female Indian rappers for a future collab. Yes, right on stage, during her set. But their respective sets were more or less Americanized, while Goddess Gagged shook off some rustiness to deliver crowd-movers such as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Handmade Waterfalls” and “Visionary.”

Analog goodness courtesy Paraphoniks, Mosko

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Frontwoman Kavya Trehan of New Delhi electronica act Mosko

Surprisingly, the Breezer Vivid Village for electronica had a serious analog flavor to it, starting with Mumbai duo Paraphoniks, followed by New Delhi band Mosko who clearly had the most fun playing polyrhythmic guitar-led borderline electronic. There was also a secret set (that was rumored to be either of Weekender favorites–rockers Zero or, as some hoped, the return of electro-rockers Pentagram) by Reggae Rajahs and synth/darkpop artist Aqua Dominatrix.

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It wasn’t just sound engineers who were in high demand as they shuttled between stages; musicians had their own share of running around. Someone like drummer Suyash Gabriel, who played a set with Tarana Marwah’s electronic act Komorebi yesterday, had double duty with Marwah’s other band–the sublime RIVER at the Dewarists–before he was needed at the Breezer Vivid Village for Mosko.

There was also a vocalist in high demand in Pune–Chennai rockers The F16s’ frontman Josh Fernandez. After singing for New Delhi electronica artist Dualist Inquiry on day one, he jumped into his set at the Bacardi Arena and then joined Ahmedabad-Pune post-rock band Aswekeepsearching to add his touch on “We Sound Like Strangers.”

 

Skyharbor return to Pune after two years

As the post-rockers provided soundtrack to the sunset, the crowd swelled at the Bacardi Arena for Skyharbor’s hyped set–returning to Weekender after their last show in 2014. While that was the first time for drummer Aditya Ashok, this was the first big show for vocalist Eric Emery, who showed no nerves, if he had any, running through songs such as “Chemical Hands, “Blind Side,” “Patience,” “Celestial” and the moshpit-opener “Evolution.” The band, who had missed their soundcheck due to a cancelled flight in from Kolkata, showed very little signs of unease, even when they did muddle up a few times.

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Vocalist Eric Emery of prog band Skyhabor played his first Bacardi NH7 Weekender show

There was the toughest choice between Jose Gonzalez’s mellow, somewhat groovy set at the Dewarists and the roar of Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable. This is not a no-brainer. So we let Gonzalez’s trademark ability to use rhythms hook us, from songs like “What Will” to “Killing For Love” and his spin on songs like pop star Kylie Minogue’s “Hand On Your Heart,” trip-hop act Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” and synthpop artist The Knife’s “Heartbeats” (his most famous and cheered). With a band from Sweden, London and Los Angeles, Gonzalez even let his keyboardist Barbarossa take over on “Home.”

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After a suitable amount of folk, Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable at the Bacardi House Party stage were the best pick to get back into the party. The three-piece band drove into ginormous rhythms, even if a majority of the crowd were standing facing the Bacardi Arena, waiting for Wilson to take the stage. Singer-bassist Rhiannon Bryan was undoubtedly exuberant, another contrast to the melancholy music of Wilson who was up next, but had a lot of attention, playing songs such as the Welsh-language “Y Garreg Ateb” and closing with the psychedelic “Whirring.”

Steven Wilson casts a spell

If Bacardi Arena was packed to the rafters for desi bass producer Nucleya’s powerhouse set on day one, last night saw even more gathered for Steven Wilson’s headline act, which was quite different from his debut solo performance in Shillong in October. Yes, there was the surround sound that amazed a lot of ears, but Wilson skipped one of his set staples–“Routine”–to pick on a Porcupine Tree (hardcore) fan favorite like “Dark Matter.” He made the same old joke about playing depressing music at the Happiest Festival, adding, “Instead of happiness, we bring you misery.”

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Steven Wilson winning over crowds at the festival

Wilson presented a mind-expanding epic sound mixed to perfection, keyboard, bass, guitar and drum solos included. He also presented heavier material such as “Index” and “Vermillioncore” as well as Porcupine Tree’s “Sleep Together.” Displaying pomp with inexplicable stage movements, Wilson was more of a leader than a crowd-pleaser–quietening down the crowd that welcomed him back for an encore (the sing-along “Sound of Muzak” and the heart-breaking “The Raven That Refused to Sing”) by saying, “Listen, the teacher is speaking, so keep quiet.”

While another section might have been crowded around Assamese folk star Papon’s launch gig for his new album The Story Now, Weekender day two had most spoiled for choice, taking some pretty tough calls about which stage to park themselves at. With even more lined up to close the festival’s seventh edition tomorrow, there’ll be even more poring over schedules.

Photos by Bryan Jacob Daniel

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