Having lived up to its tagline, Bacardi NH7 Weekender has arguably been the ‘happiest music festival’. With other music festivals that were once ‘the place to be’ successfully disappointing attendees, mismanagement resulting in complete chaos, and people complaining about the experience not being worth their money or time, we have a chat with Vijay Nair, CEO and founder of OML Entertainment, to find out how this property has managed to satisfy the public year after year.
“I won’t comment on why other festivals weren’t as successful as they hoped to be, but I can talk about what we do at NH7 Weekender. In our case, we’ve never tried to go scaling it without keeping audience experience in mind. Upscaling is largely done keeping the safety and logistics in mind. We take safety very seriously. Another reason might be that unlike other music festivals, we are not dependent on headliners. People come to the festival for the experience. Having said that, we do make an effort to curate a good line-up,”says Nair.
BIGGER AUDIENCES, MORE CITIES
Born in Pune in 2010, the festival has a natural affinity towards the city. It was only in 2012 that the festival branched out to Delhi and Bengaluru, and has since been expanding its base trying to reach out to audiences in other cities too. This year, the full-fledged version of the festival will be held in Meghalaya and Pune and one-day express editions will be held in Kolkata, Bengaluru, Puducherry, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Indore and Kochi.
Though there have been festivals mushrooming all over the country, and crumbling as fast as they come up, Nair does not believe that India isn’t yet ready for these events. “The fact that fans want a better, greater experience is proof that India is ready to host festivals. But festivals need to be obsessed about customer experience in order to be successful. We have the infrastructure, but our biggest shortcomings are things like not enough public transport, lack of parking space — things we do not have any control over because we don’t run the city. However, we try to work things out as much as we can,” says Nair.
NO CAMPING THIS YEAR
Two years ago, during the closing act of the 2015 edition, Nair announced on stage that the festival might be a camping one next time. Last year, there was no camping arrangement, and neither is it this year. What happened to that plan? “The camping model is something we want to do and we will end up doing it as soon as we get partners to help execute the plan. It’s not something only the owners of the property can pull off, we need a scale of partners,”says Nair.
FRESH FACES, DIVERSE GENRES
A lot of effort is put into curating the line up for each edition of the festival. Nair and his team scout for talent not only from the nooks and corners of India but also from all across the world. This year, continuing a trend they’ve been doing over the past few editions, 29 out of 61 artists will be playing at the festival for the first time.
From metal to Carnatic, from hip-hop to singer-songwriter, from post-rock to Bollywood, from guitar-rock to electronic, from folk to comedy rock, there will be a large variety of genres packed into this year’s festival.
Nair lists the artists he is most excited to see on stage. “There’s Ali Saffudin from Kashmir, Madame Gandhi, who is a hip hop artist and used to be drummer of M.I.A, then there’s American musician Marky Ramone who has influenced two or three generations of listeners. After begging and pleading Vishal Bhardwaj for three years, he agreed to perform live this year. One of the best bookings this year is TN Krishna, who is not just a Carnatic musician but a legend,” says Nair, adding, “This is what our audiences stand for —free speech and expression and so on. Such diversity is important because I feel that young audiences don’t just follow EDM. When artists perform on the NH7 stages, they see that the audience appreciates other genres of music too, and the artists go back and tell their friends about the energy they see here and this encourages other artists to come and perform too.”
Nair explains that the idea behind the festival is to take independent music across the country.