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Under New Management, Bacardi NH7 Weekender Finally Returns This Week

NODWIN Gaming’s Akshat Rathee says another edition of the long-running music festival is slated for December

Anurag Tagat Mar 26, 2022

Swedish prog band Opeth live at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune in 2019. Photo: Jishnu Chakraborty

In September last year, the indie music world got a glimpse into the commerce behind Bacardi NH7 Weekender, the Pune-headquartered music festival which has been running since 2010. NODWIN Gaming, the esports company and subsidiary of Nazara Technologies Limited, stepped in to buy the festival – and adjacent IPs including the gaming business – from Only Much Louder (OML) for a total of ₹73 crores.

Since then, the music festival has been biding its time in the pandemic. Although a virtual edition was held in December last year, they plotted out a multi-city iteration in January and February this year. That was thwarted due to the spread of the Omicron variant and now, on March 26th and 27th, Bacardi NH7 Weekender makes its comeback with an on-ground event featuring a fully Indian line-up of music and comedy. Held at Mahalakshmi Lawns in Pune, there are still pandemic-related safety measures we’re looking forward to seeing enforced (entry is only for fully vaccinated ticket holders), but also newer activations like a gaming den.

Akshat Rathee, co-founder and managing director at NODWIN Gaming spoke to Rolling Stone India about the festival navigating the pandemic and now that they’re in the clear, everything that’s in store. Excerpts:

What has it been like navigating the pandemic for an established festival like BACARDI NH7 Weekender, now being set up under NODWIN Gaming?

The BACARDI NH7 Weekender festival has focused on the community it has created, giving audiences unique and safe experiences for the past 11 years. With the pandemic putting a halt on all outdoor activities, the festival has kept the safety of our audiences and crew at the forefront of all our decision-making. The re-launch of the festival in March, following its cancellation in February due to the third wave, was taken only after multiple rounds of conversations and discussions with the local authorities and relevant stakeholders. The team has been diligently monitoring the cases and will continue doing so right till the last moment. We are also restricting access to the festival to only fully vaccinated audiences. At all entry points, there will be thermal checks to ensure complete safety for everyone inside the venue. 

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Given the journey it’s taken this time around, like postponements, are there sort of insurances/fail-safe measures you have to take to ensure the festival runs despite complications from the pandemic? For example, the new dates were announced with just a month’s notice.

With the third wave just about weaning off, we are keeping the safety of our audiences in mind, which is why we have made the conscious decision to host the on-ground festival only in Pune and not in Delhi and Kolkata as we had initially planned. We have strict COVID protocols in place that all attendees will mandatorily need to maintain throughout the festival to ensure a safe environment for everyone. The festival’s new dates were announced keeping in mind the government guidelines, and yes, while we had just a month’s notice, the team is working round the clock to ensure that the audiences’ experience remains uninterrupted and the festival plays on.

This is also the first time Weekender takes place in March and only as a two-day edition, but it doesn’t seem like it would reduce enthusiasm. Would you agree?

Absolutely! We are extremely grateful to have the support of our audience year-on-year and this edition isn’t any different. Fans have come out in thousands to purchase tickets despite the festival being hosted in March for the first time. We are also aware that the audience has been craving the live music festival experience that they can enjoy with friends and family for the past two years now, and we aim to give them this memorable experience that will unite them with a feeling of community and joy.

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How much of a challenge was it for Weekender to not look at international artists (apart from Singaporean hip-hop artist Yung Raja) this time?

The artist line-up has always been one of the most awaited announcements at the festival. The artist management team has been working on curating the perfect lineup for the past four to five months now and while the efforts to bring an international artist to the festival are active, the line-up at the festival has been curated with great effort and thought behind every aspect.

May we see another edition of Weekender later this year around the usual dates or is the shift going to take place now, where the festival might take place around this time (the first quarter) each year?

All efforts will be put into hosting the festival in December as well. We will keep you all updated on our plans shortly.  

Get tickets for Bacardi NH7 Weekender here.


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