The smartest thing the minds behind the Bacardi NH7 Weekender do is to cut the festival up into bite-sized pieces: instead of a single, vast, dust-ridden field, you get six manageable, more or less isolated gigs running all at once. This works for a number of reasons. When the programmers at NH7 book their acts, they do it from across the board: you have everything from acoustic balladry to dancehall, from indie to novelty fusion. Separating it by theme is not only a bit of clever space management, it also weeds the neo-hippies from the scrappy indie kids, the EDM bum-wigglers from the weepy folk-music waifs, and the metalheads from everybody else. As a punter, you get to make up your own listing as you go along. As a performer, you aren’t burdened with having to pull a whole stadium’s worth of crowd. The fact of it is, few of bands the bands on the roll have any particularly sizeable following: the Weekender turns this marvellously to its advantage, and gives you six cosy, tidily done festivals for the price of one.
Okay, this is the perfect song. It’s the best song ever written, and the best take on it ever done, and you lot can’t see it because you’re such a bunch of sad-faced dullards, whining and moaning all the time about how nothing works etc. etc.; the fact of it is, none of you recognise class when you see it, which is why you’ll always be unlaid and miserable.
This is a photograph from last Friday night. The occasion is a “pre-party” event for the NH7 Weekender, which happens in Bangalore this coming weekend. The four people you see on stage are Adam & the Fish-Eyed Poets, who are responsible for one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. The three others are the crowd.
I knew this would be bad; as it happens, it’s worse. Half a year ago, groups and their managers, self-appointed local music pundits, and all manner of alt-culture hangers-on swooned in grateful joy as that pillar of the international music press, the NME, washed up on these shores to start an Indian website. A perfect match, you’d think: a scene full of insecure dickheads dying to have their existence acknowledged, and a brand that’s willing to sell what credibility it has left down the river to stay in business. The presence of a name magazine does wonders to preserve the cosy delusion that Indian pop is “thriving”, never mind that no one in the outside world has taken that magazine seriously in the last twenty years: the NME knows what you don’t, that the natives are desperate, and any crumb will do.
Right, everyone: it’s time for all your secrets to be aired. I’ve spent an entire year slaving my arse off to keep you lot on your toes, but Slayer’s recent show still sold out, and the metropolitan phonies in Bangalore continue to grow goatees at the ends of their chins, so all this has obviously not been a thumping success. But – in the spirit of lighting a little candle – I intend to go on trying to hammer the correct way of thinking into your unreceptive skulls, even if cool of any kind seems terminally beyond you.
The new Adam & the Fish-Eyed Poets record talks itself into a corner. By definition, it couldn’t have sprung from anywhere but here – it is a concept album built around a ruinous “arranged” marriage, and is therefore, like the entrance exams, and lying to your wife about your cigarette habit, automatically very Indian – and yet, it will never meet this version of the country. The lads’ vocabulary consists of efficient two minute popcraft, reverb-heavy new-wave guitar, and drums and bass which crackle and snap all over the shop; this is an idiom that the people they paint wouldn’t know or care less about; thus, simply through choice of lexicon, the record and the world it describes will always be forced to stare at each other from a distance, in mutual incomprehension.