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Festival Review: Bacardi NH7 Weekender Shillong Day 1

The first edition of the music festival in Shillong saw crowds pick rock over electronica, while the reggae biggies Wailers won over the people with their upbeat music

Nabeela Shaikh Oct 24, 2015
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“Shillong Shillong Shillong Shillong Shillong. Rastafaraayye!” chanted the Wailers frontman Dwayne Anglin no less than 20 times throughout their headlining set. Shillong’s very first NH7 Weekender music festival was now drawing to a close, but the audience was still in the best of spirits, with a Jamaican flag flying high, and about 900  people singing the “Redemption Song” in unison.

The crowd had been building up throughout the day, beginning with a modest audience for the Moto Spotlight winners Press Select from Guwahati performing progressive rock, or folk rockers Imphal Talkies raising political and social awareness through their set. And while frontman Ronid Chingangbam himself had a few pitchy moments, it didn’t help that the sound at the stage experienced several glitches later that day as well.

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The Wailers performed an enthralling set at the festival. Photo: Ron Bezbaruah

A short walk from the adjacent Moto Spotlight Stage and Bacardi Arena, and one instantly heard dizzying beats courtesy of Tripura rapper BK, raising the energy with his hip hop-meets-dubstep set. In stark contrast were Mumbai-based Ankur and the Ghalat Famiy, immediately following up BK’s set on the Dewarist stage with their warm pop rock sound. “We’re so grateful to be here, we feel to blessed to be stressed,” said frontman Ankur Tewari before the five-member band dove into their set, playing upbeat tracks like “Bekhabar” and “Khamoshi Hai,” the latter being cheekily dedicated to ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and “all those girls who see your messages late at night but don’t reply.”

Back at the Bacardi Arena, The F16s were in top shape, playing a mix of crowd favorites and newer songs from their upcoming album Triggerpunkte. The Chennai rockers performed reverb-laden tracks like “Plastic Bags,” the riff-heavy “Ausenberg,” and ended with an equally massive sounding “Nuke.”

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Up next were Mumbai-based electronica act Madboy/Mink, who roped in drummer Jehangir Jehangir [of Hindi pop band Mauj Maharaja] for their live set. Although guitarist Imaad Shah and frontwoman Saba Azad seemed to having their own fun little dance party, the audience seemed more like left-footed onlookers reluctant to join in. The duo ended their set with the Bollywood-inspired “Sharaabi,” while a passerby commented on the irony of the song title on a dry day.

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Singer Saba Azad of electro-disco duo Madboy/Mink. Photo: Ron Bezbaruah

And while the fuzzy-haired duo put up an energetic show, majority of the crowd seemed to be cheering on the colorful Bengaluru folk-rockers The Raghu Dixit Project, who probably hosted one of the most enthused audiences. In between some of their most cheerful songs, bassist Gaurav Vaz revealed that the project had almost played Shillong in 2008. “But Raghu dislocated his shoulder a week before the gig, and we had to wait almost seven years to come back and play for y’all,” he said, winning the crowd over once more, before ending with “Mysore Se Aayi.”

A shower of rain took over as Mumbai rock heavyweights Indus Creed hit the Bacardi stage as the band churned out some of their biggest hits from over the years, right from “Trapped” [from their 1994 self-titled debut album], to the more recent “Dissolve” and the anthemic “Take it Harder” right up to a brand new song titled “Still in Flight.”

A short walk to the Beat Camp revealed that the Dualist Inquiry Live band was still setting up their equipment even though they were running 10 minutes behind schedule. Around 15 minutes into their set, producer Sahej Bakshi, along with fellow musician Sandunes [who had performed earlier that evening,] managed to pull in a decent crowd dancing to their tunes.

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Simultaneously at the Dewarist Stage, Guwahati folk-rock band Papon and the East India Company were joined by ace guitarist Kalyan Baruah, and another surprise guest who stole the limelight to perform a track from his 2008 Bollywood film Rock On!! Actor/musician Farhan Akhtar, who was shooting for the film’s sequel in the city the previous day, made a brief appearance to a star-struck crowd before handing back the mic to Papon.

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Actor Farhan Akhtar made a suprise appearance during the performance by Papon & the East India Company. Photo: Ron Bezbaruah

Despite a lukewarm audience, Delhi ska reggae band The Ska Vengers followed up with a grand performance on the Jack and Jones stage, as vocalists Begum X and Delhi Sultanate owned the stage with their theatrics. Known for their politically-driven lyrics and rocksteady beats, their set included everything from the set regular “Rude Boy Skank” to a fierce cover of Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You” to their own take of The Velvet Underground’s “Waitin’ For My Man” that took a shot at illicit drug peddling. The eight-piece band continued to finish their last song even as their sound was shut in anticipation of the headlining act, with Begum X raising a middle finger to the organizers.

The Wailers took stage next as the headlining act for the day, and held a crowd of almost 900 throughout their 90-minute set as they sailed through songs like “Buffalo Soldier” “Could You Be Loved” and “Africa United,” with a more or less stoned audience swaying to their steady reggae beats. As the Jamaican reggae pioneers came back on stage for their encore, they appealed to the people: “Shillong, do not be embarrassed about your economic condition. If you are poor, be proud.” As a chorus of voices joined in singing “Redemption Song” that followed, it was clear that the Wailers had won over the hearts of the people.

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