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News |  19 Dec 2016 21:01 |  By Suhas Thobbi

Bollywood headliners fetched the mass as underdogs shone at EVC 4.0

MUMBAI: The brains behind Enchanted Valley Carnival continued with their quest to transform the property into – a) festival with the biggest campsite experience; b) recreate the 'Glastonbury' vibe for the Indian audience; and c) simply, become the largest (by size and response) Indian music festival ever. And while the festival heads have managed to achieve the first goal with an impressive margin, the fourth edition simply opened the doors for the organisers to now deal with the next two.

On 17 December 2016, when American rapper Tramar Lacel Dillard, also known as Flo Rida, opened the headlining set at the Cosmos Stage at EVC’s turf (actually, an air strip), many doubts were answered concerning the singer’s inclusion in the final line-up for the recently concluded edition. Flo Rida’s set attracted most of the dispersed crowd to the Cosmos Stage, despite India’s most talked-about rapper Badshah concluding the first day of the newest EVC Stage dedicated to Bollywood. The ‘Right Round’ songwriter performed the usual chartbusters, including ‘Low’ (where he invited unsuspecting women from the audience on the stage), 2016 released ‘Zillionaire’, ‘Let it Roll’ and several other party anthems across his discography. At one point, Flo Rida put on his dancing shoes before announcing that ‘I do not like India, I love India’, creating a proper introductory to the 2015 album My House’s ‘I Don’t Like It, I Love It’.

[Flo Rida at Cosmos Stage]

The rapper had promised back in 2010 of a possible return to the country, and not only did he return, the songwriter thanked the fans for the turnout personally - quite literally. The 38-year-old joined the crowd at the pit near the stage, and provided an exclusive meet-and-greet of sorts for the VIP audience during the performance. Flo Rida flashed some hip-hop moves trying to turn up the visual game for the revelers, however, the guitarist and bassist had a few tricks up their sleeves to raise the entire musicality of what turned out to be neither a mind-blowing-ly unique display of talent and live performance, nor a dull, uninitiated and casual execution of commercial dance songs for the sake of it.

The best performance on the first day, however, arrived through an unsuspecting name of the line-up. Swedish DJ Jeremy Olander took to the Akva Stage an hour before headliners of the respective stages began their sets. Olander followed German producer Juliet Sikora’s set (one of the four female acts in EVC’s lineup; also features Candice Redding, Shirley Setia and duo Hard Candies) and paved the way for arguably the most impressive performances from the two-day festival. Olander proved why his brand of music continues to be labeled under ‘progressive house’, however, Olander added a few mixes of techno – understandably his second preference. Olander also performs as ‘Dhillon’ for techno music, and Olander provided enough reasons for fans to not regret missing out on Farhan Akhtar and Blasterjaxx (performing on Terra and Cosmos stage respectively). Olander belongs to the rare breed of musicians who do not shout ‘jump jump’ or ‘India, are you ready’ between the two tracks and the seamless transition from one track to another allowed the fans to not stop till the DJ ended his hour-long set. With at least 15 EPs to his name, Olander had too much to offer, and considering the two biggies performing at the other stages, the Swedish DJ turned out to be the underdog who claimed the throne on Day 1.

Despite the early skepticism revolving around the addition of Bollywood stage at a music festival that began as another platform for emerging and established electronic music producers (to a large extent), EVC stuck to its plan and let the figures do the talking. There lies not a single doubt that most attendees on day 2 turned up for Arijit Singh who’s gradually becoming a regular Bollywood musician at music festivals (after Papon and Farhan Akhtar), and as thousands flocked to the Terra Stage to witness Singh with the scaled down orchestra accompanying him for over an hour set featuring almost every song that steered Singh’s identity to an unparalleled fame that currently does not have any competition whatsoever.

[Arijit Singh at EVC]

Taking nothing away from Singh’s knowledge of his own music and the collective outreach of the same, for obvious reasons, Singh did not feel like an ideal headlining fit for a festival like Enchanted Valley Carnival. May be it’s the reputation of the festival since its inception or maybe it’s the nature of Singh’s compositions that push him as an ideal act for a concert-like setting, inside a massive indoor venue with or without an orchestra. Despite trying his best to recreate intros for every song (including the cover of AR Rahman’s ‘Dil Se’), the funky guitar tunes, groovy bass-lines and additional vocals pushed the entire outcome of his performance only to a certain extent. Singh sells, and promoters and organisers are aware of the following Singh produces with every song in the studio (Bollywood Music Project serves the perfect example of the same). Singh’s set-up featured the latest hits like ‘Channa Mereya’ and ‘Gerua’ as well as some of his chartbusters from Hate Story 2 ‘Aaj Phir’ and Aashiqui 2’s ‘Tum Hi Ho’.

[ Alan Walker at Cosmos Stage]

On a day that featured Papon, Arijit Singh and Alan Walker, yet again it was an underdog act from the Akva stage that stole the limelight as British DJ Daley Padley’s music avatar ‘Hot Since 82’ unleashed what gradually turned out to be a massively refreshing set coupled with some brilliant unreleased tracks, once again restoring EVC to its identity of a consistent electronic music promoting annual event in the country. Hot Since 82 helped the fans prepare for Alan Walker’s set at the Cosmos stage (to the left of Akva) through sonic elements that hopped between psy-trance, progressive house and borderline elements of techno in his collective set-up. Although Alan Walker was technically the headlining performer of the fourth edition, the 19-year-old – for reasons yet to be known – turned up to the console a bit late to the expected schedule, however, did churn up some of the biggest dance hits as soon as possible. But he made it up with a few surprise elements, one including a quick collaborative effort on the stage with the Lost Stories.

What We Liked:

The talent and the stage production at Akva Stage. (Ankur Sood, Jeremy Olander, Hot Since 82)

[Ankur Sood at Akva Stage]

Enchanted Village: The camping area continues to be one of EVC’s biggest reasons behind consistent increase in the ticket sales.

[Camping area]

Culinarium: The dedicated food zone accompanied by independent food trucks right at the beginning of the venue (or towards the exit when leaving) can easily be counted as the most sorted food zones amongst all the music festivals in 2016.

ATMs: The demonetisation may have created a lot of hassles for the regular citizens, and although it has shown no signs of improving, EVC handled the situation in a more effective manner. After NH7 Weekender Pune, EVC was one of the biggest live events in India, and both festivals managed to provide ‘cash’ to its attendees with no complications whatsoever. Oh, and the ATMs also had notes of 100s in abundance.

Digitised bands: While several music festivals are still figuring out a way to get rid of the obstacles that arrive with coupons, EVC once again entrusted its transaction duties on the digitised brands that once activated and recharged (through multiple top-up stations throughout the venue) ensured ease in purchases. The bands, however, turned of little use for the purchase of water bottles and merchandise.  

Fans at Enchanted Valley Carnival
[Fans at Enchanted Valley Carnival]

What We Didn’t Like:
Stage positioning: The distance between the Cosmos and Akva stage resulted into a bit of an issue for fans at both stages as the sounds clashed quite often. In fact, Flo Rida between his songs stopped and noticed how loud Victor Ruiz’s (at Akva stage) set was turning out to be. Although it seems, on Day 2, the issue seemed less predominant, however, with the growing popularity and footfall with every passing edition, EVC might have to re-strategise on its positions of respective stages for the fifth edition, next year.

If the responses to the Sean Paul and Jay Z’s performances at their respective concerts, earlier this year, are taken into consideration, there seems to be a growing need among Indian audiences to watch international hip-hop stars to perform more often in India – the commercial and the underground acts. While Flo Rida fits the former category, the rapper did surely enthrall the audiences with the help of his band, featuring a guitarist, bassist, drummer, a DJ and four supporting dancers, six years after his debut performance in India. Multi-genre festivals do invite the concerns revolving the stages, it would still be too premature to predict if EVC is on its way to achieve the ‘Glastonbury’ goal, but the success (at least 25000 footfalls for the two-day event) surely must have helped the organisers decide on providing more emphasis on Bollywood and the hip hop genre.