Review: Enchanted Valley Carnival
The newest festival on the block set some really high standards
About a decade ago, raves were as ubiquitous as gigs are today. The music was a big draw, but it was also the journey to get to the music that did the trick. Back in 2000 up until 2003, EDM fans in Delhi would have to travel outside city limits, often to remote fields or farmhouses for raves. Getting to the Enchanted Valley Carnival, this weekend brought those very welcome memories back.
Day One: Sheer Nostalgia
The carnival took place over three days in Aamby Valley, beyond Lonavala, and the drive up to the area, was a long, winding, quiet journey through the hills. Festivals these days are mostly on familiar territory, whether in Goa or in city arenas, so this ride was a much-needed break. The festival was spread across the Aamby Valley airfield, complete with a beautiful, clean campsite. If camping didn’t do it for you, cottages within the gated Aamby Valley community, just over a five-minute drive from the main festival entrance, were also on offer.
The size of the festival was almost daunting, but after three days there, it was welcome, and worth the workout, because you didn’t have to step over people’s heads to get somewhere. There was space to breathe, to run around, and not have drinks dropped on your head; we’ve all had the latter happen to us. The décor took its cues from the festival name – enchanting, but not overdone. Mini windmills that looked like they were straight out of the sets of Moulin Rouge lit up at night, wide tents made entirely of colourful cloth streamers provided shelter from the heat, and best of all, two massive hot air balloons were parked right in the middle of the festival. As the sun went down, the canisters fired up and took off just about 40 feet off the ground. For those who wanted a panoramic view of the festival site, the balloons were a joy ride.
The most important component of any festival – the music – didn’t disappoint either. The three stages had music stretched between early afternoon to 10 pm on all three days. The after parties took over from then with a lineup that was as good as the main festival. Progressive techno and deep house Kay Mikado must get special mention for his incredible techno set at the after party.
Day one had Myon and Shane 54, the Hungarian trance duo closing the main stage, Sound Avtar on stage three and Umek on stage two. The party started early on, though, with standout sets by familiar faces, namely the Delhi-based underground DJ-producer Kohra, electro pop rock group Shkabang! from Mumbai and Mumbai-based tech house DJ Ankytrixx. Kohra’s deep, groovy bass lines and Shkabang’s hi-energy set packed in a crowd despite the sun beating down on EVC. By the time Ankytrixx kicked in, stage two was a bonafide throwdown, as was stage three with India’s d ‘n’b, dubstep maestro Sound Avtar’s incredible drum and bass, which brought in the biggest crowd.
The surprise set of the day was a progressive, tech-y sundowner by Slovenian tech-house DJ, Mike Vale. Stage two and three were in the same area, and there was the issue of sound being carried over, especially evident during Kohra’s set, as the UK-based singer, songwriter DJ Rae’s vocals kept filtering in. But the tech crews stepped in and fixed the glitch by day two.
Day Two: Coming Home
The crowd swelled on day two. Stage two, for us, felt a little bit like home, with Brit progressive house DJ Jody Wisternoff holding fort. Most memorably, Wisternoff played a mix of “Music Sounds Better With You” that completely won the audience over. Goa-based progressive trance Anish Sood and Mumbai-based Rishabh Joshi, of Lost Stories, of the same genre, also performed on the main stage and we walked in right in time for a mashup of Shakedown’s “At Night” and the classic house tune, “Man with a Red Face.”
The live stage was packed with Mumbai-based Sandunes, Delhi Sultanate and Begum X, and Reggae Rajahs from Delhi, but since it was across the festival site, away from the main stage, we made it in time for the juggernaut that is Mumbai electronica group Shaair + Func, with Monica Dogra’s voice sounding better than it ever has. Indian Ocean was closing that day, but it was hard to resist the main stage, which was completely packed, thanks to Cosmic Gate and Emma Hewitt followed by ATB, who also delivered a spectacular set.
Stage two was no slouch either, closing with a live set by the UK-based producer Chicane who, in case you were wondering, did play his track with Bryan Adams, “Don’t Give Up.” Day two’s after party lineup was hefty with Vishal Shetty, BLOT!, Ankytrixx and Bullseye. The night belonged to BLOT who, of late have been playing a lot of deep nu-disco. This set was all about their roots, starting off with minimal techno that layered into big-room techno, which blew the roof off the Aamby Valley auditorium.
Day Three: After Party Wins Again
Brit DJ Taio Cruz was the big name on Day 3. While his commercial sound is not our cup of tea at all, a sea of heads were bobbing to his music at the main stage. Personally, we think Martin Garrix followed by the Bassjackers (pure electro territory that is ideal on a leviathan stage), upstaged him. The live stage (number three) was a bit neglected even though Bengaluru folk rock acts Swarathma and The Raghu Dixit Project were performing. EVC does get props for providing options for an alternative sound, though. Stage two, again, did it for us, with Swedish superstar Eric Prydz’s two tech-house protégés, the half Swedish-half Indian Jeremy Olander and Norwegian producer Fehrplay. Aussie progressive house DJ Jaytech, who is an Indian favorite here, played right before them drawing an impressive crowd as well. With Finnish trance duo Super 8 and Tab with US-based club and progressive house duo Gabriel and Dresden closing the fest, no one was going anywhere.
It was the after party, again though, that really provided that underground hit of music, which wasn’t really available at the festival. Not that we’re complaining, because after parties need to have a different sound, something which people haven’t heard all the day at a festival. The real stars there were acid house and techno producer Anil Chawla and techno artist Arjun Vagale, who as we know, bring acid and techno in equal, devastating measure.
Given that this was EVC’s first run, the production was shockingly smooth. There were coded bands for every category: white for those staying within Aamby Valley, orange for the campsite, red for VIP, for instance. Security was strict, but polite. We can’t even complain about the portable bathrooms because they were impeccable, which we all know, is never the case at festivals. Party Hard drivers were stationed outside the gate everyday, so getting stranded (or having to worry about driving after hitting the bar) was not an issue. If you look at Twitter or Facebook, you’ll also see updates from most DJs who performed, and they’re all full of praise.
Enchanted Valley Carnival ticked all the boxes. Their second run is going to have some big footsteps to follow.
All photos courtesy of Enchanted Valley Carnival