A plethora of music from various genres, food and gift stalls, and loads and loads of fun marked the third edition of the NH7 Weekender Festival held in Meghalaya last month. One of the most anticipated live music experiences in India, this year's edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender was held at 'Wenfield' - The Festive Hills, Lad Mukhla, Jaintia Hills, where it took place for the very first time. Spanning across two days, the festival witnessed a spirited response at its third edition, drawing a crowd of over 25,000 fans from across the Northeast.
With the likes of Megadeth and Steven Wilson performing in the previous editions, music lovers were expecting a major headliner this year too. The wait was finally over when the organizers declared that the great American guitarist Steve Vai will be performing in this edition. For music lovers and guitar enthusiasts, watching Steve Vai perform live was like a surreal dream which had come true. Indian music sensation Amit Trivedi along with a plethora of other stage acts provided a perfect mix of various genres of music.
Discovery of a New Venue
The change in the venue of the festival initially created some confusion among the people. But it was a blessing in disguise. 'Thadlaskein', a small village located in Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya hosted this year's edition of the festival. Located around 150 kms from Guwahati and 50 kms from Shillong, it provided the perfect ambience for hosting a music festival. Reaching the spot was in itself a delight. Impeccable road condition, brilliant picturesque and access to delicious local cuisine, made the 4 hours journey from Guwahati to Thadlaskein a memorable one. The actual venue was surrounded by pine forests and a number of campsites accommodating the festival goers. The campsites too had their own after-event acoustic set performances.
The festival grounds also included a vibrant Bazaar with shops displaying and selling fashion and accessories. Food stalls catered to various tastes and were a great way to check out a lot of local cuisine, especially for fans travelling from outside the region. The setting of the festival and the proximity to the photogenic Thadlaskein Lake added to the atmosphere of the festival.
The Coming Together of the Guitar Legends
This year's NH7 Weekender also had something unique in store. The Northeast is well known for its love for the six-stringed guitar, and festival fans were in for something big. For the first time in the history of live music performances in the region, the event organizers brought together three legendary guitarists to perform at the same festival. Yes, you are right. We are talking about Steve Vai, the Rudy Wallang Guitar Jamboree and Warren Mendosa. Watching three guitar gods perform live is a dream for any music lover and NH7 Weekender provided fans from the Northeast with that very opportunity.
As expected, the presence of American guitar virtuoso Steve Vai elevated the festival to an altogether different league. Vai, who played his first ever show in India, was given a rousing reception by guitar and rock-crazy fans who had made their way from different nooks and crannies of the region for this special performance.
Celebrated guitarist and local hero Rudy Wallang brought a special music set to the festival, The Rudy Wallang Guitar Jamboree, collaborating with multiple guitarists from across the Northeast. And just like Rudy Wallang does every time, the Rudy Wallang Guitar Jamboree mesmerised all those present at the venue.
Warren Mendonsa of Blackstratblues, the artist who is often recognised as the Indian Guitar God, also performed with guest artists for a curated Blackstratblues All Stars set. Besides these amazing guitarists, Dutch metal band, Textures, performed at the festival as part of their 'Last Miles to the Moon' farewell tour.
Stars Galore: Music for every Mood
Besides these legends, the festival also witnessed performances by some of the biggest names of the music industry. A number of celebrated artists, spanning across musical genres and age, travelled across the breadth and width of the country to perform for the music lovers of the region.
This was the first time that Bollywood music composer Amit Trivedi performed live in Meghalaya. His high-energy performance at the festival included some of his biggest hits such as Nayan Tarse (Dev D), Manja (Kai Po Che), Zinda (Lootera), Dilli Dilli (No One Killed Jessica), Iktara (Wake Up Sid!) alongside music from newer releases such as Udta Punjab & Queen.
BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender, Meghalaya also saw festival performances by some of the most loved artists in the country including fusion icons Indian Ocean, world music group Karsh Kale Collective, hiphop artist Divine, progressive metal outfit, Skyharbor and multi-genre Kerala band Thaikkudam Bridge.
Several home-grown artists from the Northeast also performed at the event and their performance too met with an enthusiastic reception. The Andrea Tariang Band, Dewdrops, Triau Trackx, Sarahlee, Khasi Bloodz (all from Meghalaya), Polar Lights, Tali Angh (Nagaland), Avora Records (Mizoram) and Lateral (Assam) played across the festival's four stages.
After the day's music at the festival stages wrapped up, Bengaluru Urdu rock outfit Parvaaz and Faridkot put up special after-hours acoustic sets at Camp Tinder at the festival. Fans spent their time digging into delicious food options and checking out merchandise and art at the festival's vibrant Bazaar.
The Festival is Here to Stay
“Every year, fans from the Northeast justify our decision to set up a festival in Meghalaya." said Vijay Nair, CEO and founder of OML Entertainment, who organizes the festival. "If the 2015 edition was an experiment and the 2016 edition was the confirmation that things could be here to stay, this year's edition will be remembered as the year where the Meghalaya edition will be cemented into our calendar."
Nair said that their attempts to upgrade the festival this year met with positive results. "We've tried to take things up a notch this year - with the artist line-up, the spectacular new venue, and more. And we were rewarded with some of the most passionate fans in the country. While this year's edition was successful, we are already starting to think about how we can make 2018 special for fans."
Only Much Louder (OML) is a versatile and wide-ranging media and entertainment firm based in Mumbai which produces and promotes some of India's biggest entertainment properties, cutting-edge content and experiences for fans and consumers. With over a decade's experience in live events, artist management, digital and television properties, OML has been an integral part of the burgeoning music, comedy and alternative culture scene in the country. The BACARDÍ NH7 Weekender (described by The Guardian as "India's answer to Glastonbury") is one of India's most exciting live properties. Besides NH7 Weekender, the other properties of OML include a diverse comedy-centric festival - Stage42, and the flagship creative entrepreneurial gathering - The Coalition. It has promoted and presented tours in India for David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, Norah Jones, Russell Peters, The Prodigy, Mumford & Sons, Eddie Izzard and a number of other artists.
The NH& Weekender Festival now travels to the city where it all started - Pune (Dec 08-10), where Steve Vai, Textures, Indian Ocean, Blackstratblues All Stars and The Local Train will also play. There will also be highly anticipated sets by American dreampop band Cigarettes After Sex, American metal act The Dillinger Escape Plan (who, like Textures, are also playing on their farewell tour), punk legend Marky Ramone, Bollywood composers Vishal Bhardwaj (who will be playing his first ever live show) and Ram Sampath, Indian classical musician TM Krishna, folk-rock veterans The Raghu Dixit Project, and more.
However, fans from the Northeast are still celebrating the festive spirit ushered in by NH7 Weekender, and are eagerly waiting for the happy mood to hit them again next year! Truly, this is one big and happy music festival!