It’s mid-February and the sun beats down in plush Amanora Park Town in Pune’s Magarpatta area. A group of men and women who work with concert organisers Only Much Louder (OML) are surveying a dusty ground.
It has mounds of dirt, tufts of grass and overhead electrical wires, all of which will be levelled, covered and re-routed by the time the Eristoff Invasion festival takes place there. The annual music festival, organised by OML, shall feature French house music producer and DJ David Guetta as the headlining act, in three cities: Gurgaon on March 9, Pune on March 10 and Bangalore on March 11. Indian DJs and electronica artistes will also be playing.
Nair, 28, the company’s founder-director, is talking to a group of production specialists about where the stage should go and how far the sound booth should be from it.
But a more pressing issue is parking. “We need to find a place that’s close by and will allow people to exit the venue smoothly,” he tells the others. “I don’t want people to spend half an hour just trying to get out of this place.”
Guetta, who will be performing in India for the first time, regularly churns out number one singles in collaboration with pop artistes such as Akon, Fergie and Kelly Rowland. In February, he was voted the world’s number one DJ by British magazine DJ Mag, a huge honour in the electronic dance music world.
Guetta regularly plays to massive crowds abroad. Two months ago, he played to an audience of two million at a New Year’s Eve party on Copacabana beach, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. But Nair says that he plans to cap ticket sales for Invasion at between 8,000 and 10,000 tickets, depending on the venue.
“This is just the right amount of people, given the size of the venues,” he says. “We could probably pack in 15,000 people, but that would end up being a miserable experience for at least half of them.”
This is a remarkable statement coming from a concert organiser, given that 2011 saw two high-profile shows — Bryan Adams and Metallica, which were to be held in Delhi and Gurgaon respectively — being cancelled at the last minute due to licensing and safety issues, with the latter leading to angry fans damaging equipment worth nearly R1 crore. Both these concerts left a total of approximately 40,000 fans disappointed, and the reputation of the Indian live music industry dented.
With Guetta slated to perform his first in Gurgaon’s Huda Grounds, adjacent to the venue where the Metallica fiasco occurred last October, Nair is understandably concerned about security arrangements at all venues. “We will have two layers of barricading welded together, then an additional layer of poles behind them.”
Moreover, the venues will have multiple exits for emergencies and for those who feel overwhelmed by the crowd. All licences for Gurgaon and Pune have already been acquired.
Nair walks around with the rest of his team and discovers a ground nearby that appears to be a perfect spot for parking. “You need to make sure that everyone who buys a ticket goes home satisfied with the overall experience,” he says. “We aren’t in this for short-term profits. This is what we do.”