While the recently concluded Escape Festival was a valiant effort, the event had its share of bloopers and mismanagement. We’ve got an attendee’s view, along with more great pics from Shiv Ahuja.
A picture-perfect setting can only get you through the weekend, but making it a memorable experience takes a lot more. Anuj Gupta brings us an attendee’s view of the recently concluded Escape Festival in Naukuchiatal.
Advertised as “3 Days. 3 Stages. Over 200 Artists,” the Escape Festival’s claims were much larger than reality. The festival wasn’t exactly a multi-stage festival, but instead, each stage ran for a part of the day before all programming moved to another stage. The total number of artists performing was approximately 30, a sum total of not even 200 individuals, if that’s what their artist count was based on. Other false advertisements included “adventure sports” – unless a nearby paddle boat rental counts, and a “tattoo convention” that was reduced to a PA announcement saying, ”Look for the guy with a lot of tattoos and feel free to ask him questions!” The photography and guitar workshops never happened either.
Among the various cancelled (but not announced to the public in advance) artists were lineup highlights like HFT, Ranjit Barot, Dualist Inquiry, Alisha Batth, and Adil & Vasundhara. Opening day one at the Soul Garden was Tonuj, a forgettable cover artist who’s setlist included Chris Isaak’s ’Wicked Game’. Tonuj was followed by a U2-”inspired” Hindi rock band called Astitva. Singer-songwriter Arjun Verman from Delhi played a short set next, joined by Brian who provided textures on an electric guitar. Verman set was one of the highlights of the event; he played a beautiful original set closed by a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.
Next up was the Magic Forest stage, the setting was unappealing after the beautiful vibe of the lake-view Soul Garden. The stage and crowd were divided by a large ditch in the ground. Emo rockers from Kolkata, Turf played to a small but enthusiastic audience that demanded an encore. A music trivia contest followed giving away free drinks to winners, while the next band on stage waited patiently to begin. Barefaced Liar had planned to play a two-part set including their slower/acoustic songs followed by their riff-heavy rock tunes. Before the second part of their set could begin it began raining heavily, pausing all proceedings immediately. After the rain had calmed down, the night moved on to the Rabbit Hole where all musicians present were invited to an open jam.
On day two, the festival was reduced to one stage since the Magic Forest was washed away by the rains the previous night. Performing on the day were artists like Big Bang Blues playing a classic rock “best of” covers setlist, Phobia – the lone metal band at Escape (a band member was overheard saying, “We don’t make music for Indian audiences”), Five8, Voodoo Child, and an “in-house” band called A Boat that had debuted at Escape last year playing some cheesy Hindi and English tunes. A personal favourite discovery on the second day was Antoine, a Delhi-based French singer-songwriter and funnyman. Manoushka, a beautiful firedancer from Kolkata performed on the stage-side while the artists performed.
New Delhi garage punksters Indigo Children made their live comeback at Escape. Their set included a few new tunes along with regulars ‘Four Times and Once After’, a redone version of ‘Sing To Me’, a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Sweet Leaf’, and a The Beatles medley of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows/Within You Without You’. A welcome comeback, but lacking the identity they once had.
menwhopause‘s set was clearly a favourite for most. As original vocalist Sarabjeet was unwell, bassist Randeep filled in on vocals. They were joined by Antoine and a fan providing backing vocals for two songs. A chilly breeze blew through their set followed by a slight rain – which meant the next act Half Step Down would go back home with no performance, as the stage was once again shut down early.
Day three started with a few movie screenings while some of the bands soundchecked. A packed room saw various short films including a documentary on the Bishnupur Gharana, followed by a screening of Gandu, the story of a Bengali rapper growing up in a poor household with a mother who is a prostitute.
The day’s lineup included performances by Peter Cat Recording Co, PINKNOISE, and Space. Five Little Indians aka The Gandu Circus, the band who scored the soundtrack to the film Gandu were reduced to performing as a two-piece with Neel and film director Q, since the band recently announced their split. Performances went on till 5am, with sets by Reggae Rajahs, a live set by Teddy Boy Kill experimenting with live drums, Kohra, and Ashvin of Jalebee Cartel.
Photos by Shiv Ahuja