Back in 2010, when they announced the first NH7 Weekender in Pune, none could’ve been as excited as me. Cos [A] – it was less than 10 mins from my house in Pune, so woooo afterpartieeees and [B] – they announced Asian Dub Foundation as the headliners.
Now this was going to be the first real Music Festival many in India would experience, and 8 years down, it’s still pretty much the biggest festival.
My own history with NH7 goes back to 2001-02 when Vijay, the founder started managing bands as a 17 year old college dropout, and my brother’s band Acquired Funk Syndrome was his first ever signing (and i may have rolled him his first ever joint); Later in 2008-09, through some strange stroke of luck and utter boredom with the radio job, I took up the tour manager role on weekends for one of NH7’s in-house artists and probably India’s greatest act – Pentagram. The rock n roll life, I don’t think i can ever get bored of.
I also spent a lot of time in cars with big amplifiers and bass tubes deafening oncoming traffic with RATM and Asian Dub F and Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy and the likes back in the day. Loud, very loud. The ex drummer of Prodigy now plays for Asian Dub Foundation.
‘A good song should make you wanna tap your foot and get with your girl. A great song should destroy cop cars and set fire to the suburbs’, Tom Morello said. I never got around to burning a cop car cos Indian cop cars are pretty much the worst cars on the road, you kinda feel bad for them.
Much has changed now but those bands and their tunes still give me goosebumps on the rare occasion that i listen to them.
But that day in December 2010 I had got to Pune for this from the Press job in Delhi. On the way i made a pit-stop at Pushkar with a friend and scored some of the best hashish for my homies, many of whom would gather in Pune for the festival. Two amazing days have passed by with some amazing bands and acts so far including my old boys (and early band mates) Scribe, Bhayanak Maut, Blackstratblues, Faridkot, Indian Ocean, Susheela Raman, Zero (of course) and even The Magic Numbers, and everyone, EVERYONE is excited about the final day. I don’t think anyone’s ever dreamed they’d catch Asian Dub Foundation live. Everyone’s waiting for the moment, headrush, alcohol, dancing, singing, jumping.
We were in the parking lot, a small group of us testing the new stuff I bought with me, not disturbing anyone at all just having our own sweet little calm before the storm, when a festival security dude came up, grabbed Zico’s hand (which had the joint) and dragged him to the head of security. Festival security in India is very strict about drugs.
As a good friend would do, you know, i went up to where the security was gathered, and told them – let him be guys, it’s a music festival, relax, what’s the big deal?
The head of security goes ‘Usko chhod, isko search kar’ (leave him, search this guy). And damn, they found everything in my pockets. Zico just coolly walked away. I stare at him like ‘FUCK YOU ZICO’.
Wow. What luck. Fuck me.
In 2 minutes, there’s 5 huge guys surrounding me, they’ve cut my festival wristband, torn up my ticket, they’ve taken all the stash, and they’re threatening to send me to the cops.
I can hear the speakers blaring, the second last band (the same band i used to manage) is about to wrap up. The vocalist announces that there’s 15 minutes until Asian Dub Foundation starts. There’s loud screaming and howling from the fans. This is a strange miserable way to not catch a childhood favourite band.. i’m just about to feel like absolute shit and then.
I take a deep breath, I smile.
‘See man, I’m going in to the festival with or without my wristband, one way or another. And after I’m done, i’ll be back here for my stash. You can keep it till then. You can smoke some if you want. But I AM going in, brother. Legally, you have no right to take away what we were smoking in the parking lot – it’s not within the festival premises, but i have no time to argue with you right now. Asian Dub starts in 10 minutes.’
The head of security, he actually walked with me to the gates to let me in cos i didn’t have a wristband and ticket anymore.
Then i caught them live. Something just like this.
And after the festival, he came to me in the parking lot and gave me back my stash. All of it.
Every year at the fest since that opening NH7 Weekender, he and i have shared a hug. It’s always nice to be in the good books of the Head of Security. Three years later I made my own festival debut at NH7 Weekender.