When we last saw the Weekender venue late on Saturday night, the ground was a wet sludge of mud and grass. The rain had started getting irritating, clothes were splattered with filth and everyone was generally miffed that they had to miss some great artists.
The atmosphere in the bus to the venue on Sunday was rather subdued. People kept glancing up at the menacing grey clouds seemingly speeding along with us to the venue. A couple of people behind us were grumbling that this wasn’t a cheap festival; washed out stages won’t get you your money back, whether you saw artists or not. And we were quite inclined to agree with them.
Dance music greeted us upon entry into the venue, but it wasn’t as enticing as Dakta Dub yesterday so we moved on to the Bacardi Arena area. To our pleasant surprise, we found that the Red Bull Tour Bus stage was functional, and protected with a thick tarpaulin roof to boot. The show, it seemed, will go on.
The first artist up was a dreamy post-rock band from Bangalore called Until We Last. More than a little reminiscent of God Is An Astronaut, the band filled the stage and our heads with deep, complex and emotive music. After the rather harrowing experience on Saturday, it felt great to lounge on the grass on a Sunday afternoon, listening to atmospheric, thoughtful music. Perfect!
Now, it’s important to note here that the Bacardi Area and the Red Bull Tour Bus stages faced each other; to get from one to the other, you only had to cross a small stretch of ground. This turned out to be a stroke of logistical genius, we soon realized.
Ten seconds after the beautiful dream of Until We Last faded away, classic rock started pouring out of the speakers at the Bacardi Arena, where The Fender Benders had just begun their set. With true Indian legends like Amyt Dutta and Sanjay Divecha mesmerizing us with their Fender fretwork, it seemed impossible for the jazzy blues jam to get any better – until, of course, Mr. Warren Mendonsa himself stepped on stage. Jayanta Dasgupta’s Clapton-like swagger, Jai Row Kavi’s immaculate drumming, and Mendonsa’s mindblowing solos added to an atmosphere at the Arena that is impossible to put into words.
In one fell swoop, everyone present felt that the Weekender already paid its dues for a washed-out Saturday, and then some. The most magical moment of the set by far was when the whole ensemble performed the blues standard “Let the Good Times Roll” even as rain clouds rolled in. Whether it was a heaven-sent sign, a spirited directive or just a plain coincidence, it does not matter; that one minute became the Weekender’s Moment to Beat.
Needless to say, it is not an easy task to follow an act like the Fender Benders. And few bands can live up to the challenge quite like Skrat, a spunky grunge/garage rock band from Chennai. Sriram TT and his boys wowed the crowd from atop the Red Bull Tour Bus with their wild songs and unstoppable energy. Favorites like “Tin Can Man” crazed old fans and created new fans, while newer songs like “Samurai Badass” left everyone in awe of the young band’s raw talent. Props to Skrat for rousing up an enthusiastic and wholly unpretentious crew, too!
The second Skrat ended their tight, killer set, it was time to run back across the lawns to the Bacardi Arena, where the Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate began their set. The ex-Motherjane guitarist, self-styled as a Carnatic Guitar Maestro, led the audience into a mystical light and sound extravaganza that seemed to end all too quickly. If there was a negative about the act, it was the presence of the Syndicate’s rather douchey singer who tended to overpower Baiju’s soaring, poignant guitar.
Finally, at around 6 pm, we caught our breath at Maria’s Goan Kitchen, located right near the now-hallowed Bacardi Arena and the Tour Bus stages. And not a drop of rain so far! Papon & the East India Company, headed by the talented Papon, were already setting up at the Bacardi Arena, but I rushed to the Other Stage for a promising set by my new favorite singer-songwriter Nischay Parekh. The Calcutta lad shot to fame during the festival A Summer’s Day, helped along by his phenomenal love song, “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”. Nischay’s colorful stage presence and beautiful voice was the icing on the cake of the unforgettable three hours so far.
After Nischay’s short and sweet set, I headed back to the Bacardi Arena, where I found the crowd in a sort of frenzy. And for good reason – Papon was singing “Banao”, his famous ode to Ms. Mary Jane! He closed off his set with a spectacular Assamese folk song about the Baisakhi festival, managing to get everyone (and I mean everyone) on their feet. Papon really has it all: grace, humility, stage presence, and a killer voice. I felt almost honored to see such a great artist live!
After 5 busy – and completely dry – hours, the crowd seemed to be trying to get rid of the ‘dry’ness in a different sort of way. By the time Australian indie rockers Hey Geronimo took over the Red Bull Tour Bus, only a handful of people managed to stay on their feet. The rest were plopped on the grass, finishing the last drops in their Bacardi buckets, and stayed that way through most of Swarathma’s set too.
Hunger coupled with tiredness from hours of non-stop excitement kept me away for nearly all of Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All-Stars but I’d already got my money’s worth. And no, it didn’t rain a single drop on Sunday.
So there you have it. Day 2 certainly filled us with music-induced happiness, but also left us with a sort of wistfulness of what Saturday might’ve been, had the heavens not opened up. Overall, the Weekender was a great, if not grand, success, and I’m certainly going to be back next year.
A look back: Day 1 at the Bacardi Weekender 2013, Bengaluru