NH7 at Bhoirymbong – fest review and a few suggestions

Asheen’s PR busting look at the NH7 music fest at Bhoirymbong, Ri Bhoi, Meghalaya

The venue for the weekender, like last year and hopefully the years to come, was a sports complex in Bhoirymbong.  A huge patch of land, with a basketball court and football field, in the middle of nowhere but the highway. A picturesque setting thronged by this pulsating, surging mass of humanity, it was a nicely lit up affair in all senses of the term. They even had a ferris wheel this time. I don’t think it was meant for human occupancy though, solely judging from the fact that I see no #ferriswheel pictures on social media yet.

It is inarguably impossible to follow up a festival which had The Wailers and Megadeth as the headline acts. However NH7 attempted to do that this year by bringing Steven Wilson, formerly of Porcupine Tree, to Shillong. The progressive/alternate messiah. The tripper of minds. The maestro of melancholia.

The Englishman had a magical set, playing mostly songs he’s produced post-Porcupine Tree. However he did manage to give the crowd one of the all time favourites in Lazarus. Keeping in tune with the other international act (Vertical Horizon played the previous day), Wilson was amused at the fact that he was performing at ‘the happiest’ music festival.

However there were already people overdosed on the ‘happiness’ from the Nucleya show and Wilson didn’t seem to be getting through to them. Despite ending his act with ‘The Raven that refused to sing’, which is a heartwrenching song about loss and the pain of loneliness, there were many cheers and some dancing even. The masses wanted more. Mr. Wilson’s mission to spread despair had failed. Mostly because of alcohol, Nucleya and the human need to be loud at events like these.

While Wilson was the best international act and Nucleya was the best electronic music act, the NH7 ‘Metal fucking metal’ award goes to Undying inc. Just like last year, these lads from Delhi provoked the biggest adrenaline rush of the festival. An energetic and powerful set led to some hardcore moshing and headbanging. The aftereffects of NH7 were felt most powerfully by people at the Undying stage. I thought I needed hip surgery the next day. Long story short, it was some brutal shit.

One of the biggest bands of Shillong in Soulmate was another of the top acts of the second day. Surprisingly though they played a tribute to the history of Blues. This is the sort of set that deserves a stand alone show. It’s surprising that the band chose to play this at a multi-genre festival with the bass from some other stage permeating the atmosphere above their own chords from time to time. It was a great gig though. That’s what you expect from one of the best Blues band in India. They win the NH7 ‘Kiad local’ award, in honor of Shillong’s favourite local beverages. The runners up are progressive/experimental groove metal band Aberrant, who made their NH7 debuts this time around.

Angarag Mahanata wins the key to Assam, because half of the state descended on Bhoirymbong to cheer on one of their favorite sons. Apart from his mantra ‘Banao Banao’, Papon played some folk and reggae tracks. Perhaps the portent of a change in musical direction.

The performances and organization of the event was pretty great. However there are still some things that people need to introspect on. Farhan Akhtar had to stop his show at one point to warn people in the crowd to stop groping women. This is a terrible thing that happens at many music festivals, and it shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet after everything goes down. Desperate men go around trying to sexually harass women in this digusting act of stupidity. One suggestion would be to have some proactive bouncers rather than dozens of men with guns walking around. Another suggestion would be for these desperate men everywhere to stop being such thirsty bitches.

Another big issue coming up after the event is VIP (Very Impertinent People) culture. Vijay Nair, who works with organizers Only Much Louder, has brought to everyone’s attention that bureaucrats, influential people and security personnel basically wanted freebies. Give a man a position of power and he instantly believes that he is better than everyone else and entitled to the world at his feet. This is exemplified by this parsimonious act by, ironically, some of the richest people in Assam and Megahalaya. Kudos to the organizers for not giving two shits about VIP access.

Last but not least, a small suggestion to the organizers is that they should get some low cost booze at the venue. 900 bucks for 180 ml of booze is a bit much. They should come up with a bulk order scheme, maybe a bottle of bacardi for a decent price. NH7 could also partner up with India’s national drink ‘Old Monk’ so people don’t have to get completely smashed before even reaching the venue.

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