Weekend at the Wine Festival

Indie’s best and brightest held sway at Nashik’s SulaFest 2017

If you’ve often found yourself asking what happens when an amphitheatre full of tippled crowd begins to dance to whatever’s on, the answer was seen in plenty iterations at the recently-concluded SulaFest 2017 at Sula Vineyards in Nashik, between February 3 and 5.

The festival, now in its 10th edition, scaled up to include an extra day, which was quite well-populated for an Indian artists-specific line-up – and an extra stage, which was the live electronic Tropical stage, decked up in psychedelic hues.

Some things never change at SulaFest. For one, they had their preference for world and fusion music and the can’t-fail party-starter reggae, dub and ska bands performing across three days. Plus, the affinity towards hardcore electronic music – that ranges from jungle to house and techno.

EDM star Nucleya took over with his South Indian-influenced bass music, a mix of dubstep, trap and more, proving why he’s one of the best of the lot right now. And on the closing day, German act Jan Blomqvist and Band brought an even-tempered set of what they call “concert-techno”. The jam-centric Tropical Stage, though small, had ample seating that convinced attendees it’s a better idea to lounge around to techno and house music rather than dance. Certainly an odd sight for musicians from across the world who’ve got a lot of bodies moving at clubs, but perhaps the stage started too early in the day (12 noon) for anyone to really get into it.

The action, then, was at the Amphitheatre main stage. While day one was dominated by folk stars such as Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Café, Nashik-born Raghu Dixit and his band doling out energetic new material and Delhi veterans Indian Ocean, who were all soul. That way, Mumbai electro-rock band Donn Bhat + Passenger Revelator seemed to stick out, even with their flourishes of fusion.

On day two, everyone wanted to stay put at the main stage as well, although other top draws included Indian American songstress Zoya and Irish techno duo Loco & Jam. What started out with the trip-hop, horn-section led jams of Sax Machine from France, turned into a much more streamlined curation of music you could mindlessly dance to, when Delhi reggae band The Ska Vengers, Italy’s electro-swing act Swingrowers and Bosnia party-starters Dubioza Kolektive came in. Sure, the Ska Vengers and Dubioza Kolektive had their own socio-political messages embedded, but it seemed like the crowd wasn’t really paying too much attention.

But that kind of high energy turned into something much more moody and refined when headliners Bloc Party took the stage. The London indie rock band, best known for a dance rock sound, stuck to new material off their 2016 album Hymns, but gave the crowd a happy high nonetheless.

By day three, everyone was familiar with the drill – while producers such as M.Mat, Dada Disco and Baba Robijn spun tracks at the Tropical Stage, Ibiza-famous names such as Igor Marijuan from Spain was playing booming, trippy electronic music at a somewhat empty Atmasphere stage. People seemed to be happier engaging with all things outside music – a football challenge, numerous stalls selling everything from dreamcatchers to candy bras, grape-stomping or just chomping down a lot of food. Mumbai electro-pop artist Your Chin somewhat backhandedly thanked the crowd for “sitting and shaking their heads” to his music, while his city reggae counterparts the Fanculos had much better luck in getting people up and moving.

World act Dhruv Voyage had that distinct genre-jumping sound, from rap to Baul to Malian folk all wrapped in rock riffs and jazz signatures, while the Afro-Celt Soundsystem delved into a set of varied tempo – going from quiet flute-led Celtic folk to percussionist Johnny Kalsi bringing out the dhol, much to the crowd’s screams. French percussion-led act Hilight Tribe, too, were relentless in their energy, but Israeli electronica band Infected Mushroom took SulaFest to a new level.

SulaFest definitely doesn’t feel much if you don’t have a wine glass or two in hand, but after 10 editions, it does manage to showcase great music, even if few are genuinely interested.

That puts it among annual events that will be looked forward to by the fanboys and girls of indie’s best and brightest.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 12:34:10 PM |

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