As NH7 turns 10, a look at the gig that grew
It was a first-of-its-kind festival for indie music. The line-up may not be stellar every year, but the good news is, it’s still evolving.Updated: Nov 08, 2019 21:25 IST
Do you remember what gigs were like 10 years ago? Those one-offs that charged eye-popping prices for a cramped venue and bile-churning toilets? In many ways, NH7 Weekender changed the game.
The festival kicked off in 2010 in Pune, with a crowd of 2,000. There are currently editions in six cities, about 60,000 attend each. International performers have included Steven Wilson, Megadeth and Imogen Heap. Here’s a look back at the festival’s evolution.
The time was right: In 2010, India’s independent music scene was hotting up but lacked structure. Younger people were getting interested in new sounds. But many believed they wouldn’t pay to attend a non-Bollywood music event. Surprise: They did.
The template worked: Vijay Nair, who founded the event and the event management company Only Much Louder (OML), and has since left the company over #MeToo allegations, had visited concerts abroad and knew there was talent back home. “He wanted something similar to UK’s Glastonbury festival,” says Supreet Kaur, festival director.
The location was new: Mumbai was too cramped and expen- sive. OML’s pick of cooler, roomier Pune meant a festival could stretch and after-parties could get crazier – perfect to build gig culture.
“Attendees were gig regulars who you’d have bumped into at Mumbai’s Blue Frog,” says music writer Amit Gurbaxani. “In its early years, people would turn up with placards that read ‘Free Hugs’,” says Deepti Ronghe from Nagpur, who attended in 2013. On stage were artists like Soulmate, Midival Punditz, Indian Ocean, Pentagram, Shaa’ir & Func.
The logistics worked: No confusion at the gates. Shuttles at pick-up points in Pune. And there were efforts to minimise waste (remember their metal mugs).
The curation, at least for most of the 10 years, was carefully thought out: The line-ups matched India’s fragmenting music tastes. You could of course see some big names live, but also discover new artistes at smaller venues a few steps away – and the sounds smartly didn’t overlap. It was a mix of bands you knew, bands you should know and bands you’d always wanted to see live.
It’s still changing:Since 2014, the festival has included stand-up and spoken-word acts. India has more music festivals now. “But in some way, it all started with NH7,” says Gurbaxani.