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Coming To You This February: The Clash of Music Festivals

We talk to organizers of SulaFest, Control ALT Delete, Mahindra Blues Festival and Vh1 Supersonic to understand why the events are in such close proximity with each other

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David Britto Jan 15, 2020

The main stage at Nashik's SulaFest. Photo: Courtesy of SulaFest

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In our January 2018 cover story, we traced India’s music festival boom and how the country went from tiny club gigs to multi-day events. While the more the merrier is a great feat for the music scene, we’ve also noticed that over the last couple of years music festivals taking place especially in February are either clashing with each other on the same dates or are only a week apart.

For instance, this year Nashik’s SulaFest and Mumbai’s crowdfunded festival Control ALT Delete (CAD) both take place on February 1st and 2nd while Vh1 Supersonic in Pune and Mahindra Blues Festival (also in Mumbai) are scheduled for the following weekend.

American musician Buddy Guy performing at Mumbai’s Mahindra Blues Festival in 2011. Photo: Bobin James

Although this will be the 10th edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival which has usually taken place in February, we ask festival organizer, co-founder of Oranjuice Entertainment and Fountainhead, V.G. Jairam why the first two weekends of February are so coveted for music festivals. He says, “January is a month that everyone is coming back from the New Year and we basically wanted to start the year in Feb with the first music festival. January is more of an easing down period and then the action starts in Feb. Also the weather is much better.” Control ALT Delete’s Nikhil Udupa also agrees with Jairam’s points about the New Year hangover and “decent weather.”

Vh1 Supersonic festival curator Nikhil Chinapa says, “Music festivals in February keep the celebratory spirit alive.” Gregoire Verdin, Brand Ambassador and Head of Tastings, Sula Vineyards, says, “The month of December and January are dedicated to family time or spirited vacations with friends. February with its moderate sun and cool evenings is the perfect month to host outdoor music festivals.”

While each music festival is unique in its own way and caters to different demographics, have there ever been any doubts about footfalls or lineups in any way due to event proximity? Udupa says, “I really don’t see it as a clash of ideologies or a clash of audiences. If you put Supersonic and [Bacardi NH7] Weekender on the same day then yes. If you look at a CAD, Sula and Mahindra Blues Festival and a Supersonic there is hardly any overlap.”

New Delhi hip-hop duo Seedhe Maut live at Control ALT Delete 11. Photo: Courtesy of Control ALT Delete/Swaraj Sriwastav

Chinapa says, “With the lineup, our experiences are what defines the spirit of the festival and bring the festival-goers to attend the festival through the years. We don’t doubt the footfall since our aim is to ensure an unmatched experience for the fans.”

With this not being the first time this clash is taking place, Jairam states that each festival has a “pretty targeted audience.” He adds, “There may be a slight amount of spillover but otherwise it’s pretty different because an EDM festival and blues festival is completely different from also Sula which is, I would say, more in the indie space.” Verdin on his part tells us that Sula is unlike any other festival with its world music focus, gourmet food options and wines.

Of course, it’s great that music lovers have so many options to choose from and that each year every festival gets bigger in some way. However is it too much when it comes to finances, traveling and even fatigue for people to pack in for one month, especially for those who would like to be at more than one event? Jairam says, “I think it is a double-edged sword.” He explains further, “One I would say is that we need more festivals because at the end of the day you are trying to create an entertainment economy which needs supply. Unless there is a regular supply of entertainment people do not get into the habit of it.”

Udupa likens it to going shopping, he says, “You go into a mall and want to buy clothes and there are 10 different types of clothes to choose from and you pick what you want. I can’t put it down as a problem; I think the more the merrier. And a person gets to choose.” 

Chinapa says the festival diehards may see the proximity of the dates as a constraint and calls it “unfortunate” that fans have to choose between them. “It would be great if they are more spaced out, so the audience gets to experience the vibe across different festivals,” says the DJ/curator. Verdin adds, “We do agree one can be spoilt for choice when it comes to music festivals, but that’s exactly when you need to make a smart decision and who said you can attend just one festival?”

U.K. artist TroyBoi performing at Vh1 Supersonic last year. Photo: Courtesy of Vh1 Supersonic

According to Jairam the promoters and organizers do talk to each other about the dates and schedules. He says, “You have to keep in mind exam schedules, you have to keep in mind other festivals, so there are a lot of things you have to keep in mind when you are organizing a festival.”

For CAD who does not rely on brands or sponsors to run the festival, Udupa explains that it is more “about growing the community.” He says, “There is no other festival like ours. We don’t view other people as competitions, I hope other festival organizers come and visit CAD and see new acts that they can program at their festivals.”

Chinapa chimes in and says, “We draw inspiration from other music festivals rather than seeing them as competition, it helps us analyze the likes of the audience and implement them for further enhancements to ensure an unprecedented music extravaganza.” He adds, “From an experience point of view, every festival brings out a unique aspect that I highly recommend being experienced by the fans so having them a few weeks apart too gives the fans an opportunity to partake and experience different kinds of festivals.”

So the choice is yours, maybe pick one festival you want to be at this February or shuttle between the fantastic indie music on show at CAD, soak in the feel-good vibes at Sula, revel in greatness as American blues legend Buddy Guy takes to the stage at Mahindra Blues and stage hop from techno to rock and K-Pop at Vh1 Supersonic.

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