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Festival Report: Day 1, Bacardi NH7 Weekender Pune

A handful of singer-songwriters/bands, an army of electronica acts, and a glitchy power cut

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David Britto Dec 03, 2016
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Headliner Nucleya during his set at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune

After a slew of editions and mini editions across India, Bacardi NH7 Weekender returned to the city where it all began six years ago–Pune. The seventh leg of India’s ”˜Happiest Music Festival’ saw a change of venue from the Laxmi Lawns in Magarpatta to the more spacious Life Republic in Hinjewadi, owing to the growing number of attendees each year.

Electronic music lovers were in for a treat on day one, with the lineup showcasing both the biggest and most promising names in the scene. As expected, the one gig everyone looked forward to was the headlining set by Goa-based DJ/producer Nucleya.

Gumbal start the show, Func turns up the volume

Kicking off proceedings was Mumbai-based alternative rock outfit Gumbal, at the Bacardi House Party Stage. The four-piece band–comprising guitarist and vocalist Arjun Iyer, Spud in the Box guitarist Siddharth Talwar, bassist Satish Sridhar and former Blek drummer Varoon Aiyer–might have taken the stage under the sun, pulling in no more than 300 people, but they gave their set their all. The best part about their feisty show was Talwar’s guitar solos which stood out throughout.

Up next at the Bacardi Arena was Func. Sporting a Slayer T-shirt, the former Pentagram guitarist owned the stage as he teased the audience with electronica mixed with heavy rock riffs and samples. He played around with the tempo, moving from bass-heavy sounds to ambient electro.

 Zoya soothes the senses, Underground Authority question politics

Back at Bacardi House Party Stage, folk-rock singer-songwriter Zoya was up, backed by a stellar cast of musicians. Her pleasant voice, easy-listening songs and the overall chilled-out vibe provided a perfect setting as the sun went down.

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New Delhi electronica act Komorebi

On the other hand, New Delhi-based duo Komorebi were working the crowd at the Breezer Vivid Village Stage with their alternative electronica sounds. Vocalist and pianist Tarana Marwah and drummer Suyash Gabriel flitted between jazz, rock and everything in between, with Marwah’s sampled vocal harmonies particularly shining bright. A massive crowd turned up at the Bacardi Arena Stage to watch Kolkata-based rock-rap group Underground Authority. The band’s music went from reggae to hip-hop to metal even as the politically charged lyrics questioned war and world policies.

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After a dose of electronica, it was refreshing to hear some blues courtesy Mumbai blues-rock band Kanchan Daniel & the Beards. Daniel’s soaring wails and guitarist Kush Upadhyay’s guitar solos attracted quite a crowd at their set at the Bacardi House Party Stage.

Nicholson face unexpected power cut

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Mumbai electronica project Nicholson encountered a sudden power cut at the start of their performance

Over at the Breezer Vivid Village stage, electronica project Nicholson experienced a power outage at the start of their set. This was something unexpected at a festival where things rarely mess up. Although the 10-minute power cut was probably the most off-putting part of the day, things were back up and running and Nicholson started from scratch, wooing everyone with their ambient electro compositions.

New Delhi-based producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Sahej Bakshi aka Dualist Inquiry was up next at the Bacardi Arena. His euphoric rock-influenced electronica sounds sent the audience into a tizzy””there was a lot of fist-pumping in the air, head-bobbing and mad dancing. Bakshi brought back memories of British rockers Coldplay’s epic show in Mumbai last month by playing a snippet of a remix of “Paradise.” He was also joined on stage by Chennai rockers Skrat’s drummer Tapass Naresh, The F16s’ Josh Fernandes and Sid Vashi, who busted out an outstanding saxophone solo.

The penultimate act of the evening was electronica duo Sapta closing the Bacardi House Party Stage. Comprising Marti Bharath and Naresh (who just wrapped up a set with Dualist Inquiry), the duo played a tight rhythm-oriented set and executed drops and technical parts exceptionally well. Naresh really drove home this performance with his heavy hitting, timing and syncopation.

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Apart from hosting excellent music, the organizers also addressed the issue of women’s safety at the festival: a video emphasizing a zero-tolerance policy for any sort of harassment on venue was screened””clearly a welcome move that was a long time coming.

Nucleya the Pied Piper steals the show

The time had arrived for day one headliner Nucleya. Bacardi NH7 Weekender founder and Only Much Louder CEO Vijay Nair came out to the Bacardi Arena Stage to thank attendees for their support throughout the years. Nair was only to be interrupted by comedian Varun Thakur and his alter ego, the struggling actor Vicky Malhotra. The comedian got the crowd laughing with his ”˜Yourself, Myself’ routine, before introducing the day’s showstopper.

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The crowd went a little wild during Nucleya’s headlining set

The party started the moment Nucleya launched into his set, enthralling a crowd of over 10,000 fans with his catchy desi beats. Joined by backup dancers on stage, Nucleya powered through the gig like a pro; the stunning stage production that saw fireworks confetti showers only added to his headliner status. Nucleya even incorporated Malhotra’s ”˜Yourself, Myself’ bit into one of his mixes. On a couple of songs, he shared the stage with desi rapper Divine, as well as New Delhi act Reggae Rajahs, followed by singer-songwriter Kavya Trehan. Blasting material from his breakout albums Bass Rani and Raja Baja, Nucleya gave the crowd everything they wanted and some. After his performance he was joined by everyone who collaborated with him as well as his wife who he credits for his song “Fuck That Shit.”

It would have been nice to see more singer-songwriters and bands on the bill rather than what seemed like an army of electronica acts. Maybe the festival is saving the best for later. Stay tuned for more updates.

Photos by Bryan Jacob Daniel

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