For the lazy me, concerts are rarely a scene. Though I love the energy of stage performances, music for me is best in the quietness of my room. That’s the reason I resisted when my friend Victor Mukherjee, a music fanatic, asked me to accompany him to the NH7 Weekender in Pune. I tried giving all sorts of reasons – from work to money. None worked out. As fate could have it, I got an off on the last day of the music fest. And I found myself making way to Pune with another friend Jigar, early on Sunday the 20th of November, 2011.
After some initial hiccups I reached Pune, a far quieter city than the boisterous Mumbai. I grudgingly made way to the location… Damn! The heat burnt my skin!
More than half an hour of queuing after shelling out Rs 750 for the day’s pass we were into the venue. It was a funny sight at first. People wearing strangest of clothes in name of haute couture, and of course weirdest of wigs! And there were also the ones who were figuring out ways of smuggling in their joints and hash, which were not allowed inside the heavily guarded place.
Victor, who attended the fest the day before too showed us around from stage to stage. We decided to stick to the Dewarists stage. It was where The East India Company was to perform – my only interest in the entire fest. Angaraag Mahanta, now known as Papon, who is the lead singer of the band happens to be a personal favourite.
As we walked in a Swedish band was already performing. But the fun started after that. Swarathma took the stage and belted out some cool numbers, including one from the new album Topiwale. Midway through the song lead singer Vashu Dixt walked off the song into the crowd, and interacted with people as he continued singing. The crowed was suddenly alive as the sun slowly gave way to dusk.
After Swarthma, it was time for Dhruv Ghanekar. With his band members he played out some awesome numbers. Dhruv happens to be the founding members of the famous Blue Frog in Mumbai. Mid-way through the performance though we decided to check out what’s happening at other stages. And given Victor’s love for Rock and Metal, I found myself following him into the Death metal den. Oh… whoever defined noise as music! As you see, I am prejudiced. Never found someone making weird vocal noise and deafening drum beats to be a part of music. Ages back Mohd. Rafi had very beautifully sung ‘teen kanaster peet peet kar, gala phar ke chillana… na gana hai na bajana hai’. And I still find myself singing the song when someone talks about Death Metal.
We quickly made our way back to the Dewarists stage as Dhruv was finishing off his gig. Interestingly as I entered the arena I could smell the whiff of ganja. Where there is a will there is way. Without a doubt some smart chaps had managed to smuggle in their material into the campus. Of course most others had glasses filled with Bacardi – the official sponsors. I have never been able to fathom why getting inebriated is so necessary to enjoy a good evening. Nothing to complain though; each to his own!
Now was the time for The East India Company to take to stage. Though I have met Papon in person and shared an evening of two in his musical company, this was the first time I got to witness him on stage. And I realized why people love him. Charmer, that’s what he is. Easily the singer who bagged most number of female cheers that evening. That was not all. After belting out a number from their forthcoming album Papon sung a new song Dine Dine, which was earlier meant to be a part of Coke Studio. The assamese folk song caught everyone off guard. While some complained, most loved it. And then was his smartest move. Sensing the environment of dope and alcohol, Papon unleashed Banao Banao. He added small anecdotes in between keeping it lively. People sung un chorus. Couple of songs later he had to give up the stage to the most awaited performance of the weekend – Indian Ocean!
Indian Ocean was introduced as the country’s biggest band right now. And their first song justified the tag. As bass guitarist and vocalist Rahul Ram sung out the first line of their most famous track Bandeh the energy in the crowd suddenly grew in magnitude. Each of us screamed in unison at the top of our voices… an untrained chorus. The campus was alive. Indian Ocean performed for close to an hour and by the end we were all drained. The crowed had performed too!
The last bit was to be where all artists were to perform one number each. But by then we were fairly out of energy. As we walked out I heard Papon singing another version of Banao and the crowed singing along.
The comfort of the car was awesome. As we drove through the streets of Pune towards the highway, there was hardly much to be said. The experience was just sinking in. The lazy me had no option but to thank Victor. Yes it was worth all the trouble. Waking up at 4 am in the morning on my day off, heading to Dadar station, a four-hour bus journey to Pune, and the queue in heat… it was well worth it. NH7 weekender at least gave me a new band to listen to. Maybe next year too…
However, there was this one word of caution. Regardless of the fact that I agree kids should be opened up to all such experience, I wonder if parents should taken toddlers to such an event where dope is so much in the air! But then, that’s life… Kabhi Khushi, Kabhi Gham!
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