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Festival Review: Bacardi NH7 Weekender Bengaluru 2015

A few management glitches aside, the fourth edition of the music festival in Bengaluru scaled up a notch this year, but it needs to go higher

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Anurag Tagat Dec 11, 2015
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A.R. Rahman at his headline set at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Bengaluru. Photo: Rohith Sarcar

A.R. Rahman at his headline set at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Bengaluru. Photo: Rohith Sarcar

When you look at it on paper, finding violin maestro Dr. L. Subramaniam and composer/producer A.R. Rahman at the same festival doesn’t seem so farfetched for the regular Bangalorean. But for those attending the music festival’s fourth year in the garden city, we’re pretty sure those names drew more bewildered eyes than the inclusion Scottish instrumental rock band Mogwai or Los Angeles electronic/hip hop producer Flying Lotus.

It’s tough to say whether there were kids dragging their parents around or vice versa at the venue, Embassy International Riding School, which is located closer to the airport than to the city.  With the city’s conversation-starter pleasant weather, two days of Weekender shuttled acts from Pune to Bengaluru and the other way around. As was the case with the Delhi edition, the first-timers who impressed straight off the bat included Melbourne indie twins The Pierce Brothers, Brighton’s electronica group Hidden Orchestra and Auckland pop duo The Map Room.

While Chennai electronic act Sapta had to call off their Pune performance, both scheduled bands from the recently flood-hit city ”“ hard rockers Tails on Fire and electro-rock act The F16s ”“ made it to Bengaluru with a few stories and stronger resolve to rock out. But even then, there were sound issues and management problems that had both audiences and artists complaining. While some local bands got soundcheck slots that we thought still only existed at college competitions, others were down on their luck. Bengaluru rock act Mad Orange Fireworks ”“ who just released their second album Under The Orange Sky ”“ had to call off their set at the Bacardi Arena due to bassist Kaushik Kumar suffering a panic attack on the day of the show, while Dr. L. Subramaniam’s set at the Dewarists was pushed back to later in the day. By the end of it, festival-goers had to take their pick among classical music, hip hop and electronica spun by producer Mark Ronson and Mogwai’s cinematic closing set.

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Fusion was definitely a good formula for Weekender to bet on, with the crowd nodding along to rapper Brodha V’s occasional devotional song-sampling choruses, dancing to Dhruv Voyage at the Bacardi Arena or raising the horns to Kochi collective Thaikkudam Bridge’s heavy set drawn from their debut album Navarasam. While the Raghu Dixit Project tested hit-or-miss new material, fellow folk rockers Swarathma called on producer/composer Clinton Cerejo and his fusion band Ananthaal’s vocalist Bianca Gomes for a new song. That was probably as good as things got for them, when a decision to invite fans on stage to dance along to “Pyaar Ke Rang” led to one of them tripping a few wires on stage, leading to sound issues that made the band call their set to an early end.

But you know who knows how to end a set early? A.R. Rahman, of course. He spent most of his set letting his proteges take the lead, or allowing drummer Ranjit Barot and Mohini Dey to jam. He even decided he had enough time to open up his phone, log in to livestreaming app Periscope and record a message from Bengaluru to Chennai. Five minutes before the official deadline of 10 pm [which hasn’t been so strictly enforced at previous editions], Rahman replied to calls for an encore, “There’ll be a ”˜one more’ [song], next time.” And with that masterclass of a line, he closed day one’s proceedings to fans who were either more than happy singing way too loudly over the words to even care about how good it sounded, or those who walked away feeling they didn’t get their ticket’s worth.

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There is still something for everyone at Weekender, but the truth is, it’s just that they’re not playing all the time. But that’s where the fun is of a festival ”“ to lend an ear to new artists who might just make a mark. If Bacardi NH7 Weekender really does count Glastonbury as an inspiration, it’s about time it scaled up the number of stages and programmed a lot more artists than just five areas. After all, if your audience is growing, it’s only fair that the festival grows to accommodate more.

Photos by Rohith Sarcar

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