Goa. Probably the closest thing to Vegas in India. Boy oh boy! It was just amazing. But I’m not here to write about the joys of Goa, you would readily find truckloads of data with a single web search, but rather, I am here to talk about my experience of getting Sunburnt in the largest music festival in Asia, and probably one of the largest in the world.
I know this is a little delayed, but then again I was savoring the time of my life that I had there. Followed by some of the most hectic months, till finally I took a break from work.
On the face of it is another music festival, where loads of artists come and perform, and people – as they say – live, love and dance.
But when we peel the layers off, then we realize it is a lot more than just a fest. It is the hardwork, grit and determination of a lot of people that make it possible. And it is massive. I could write truckloads about Sunburn, but then you have an aftermovie that would show you more than I saw there. I just want to tell you about my experience as a member of the team.
It seems like just another event, perhaps like a huge party or something, but in essence it it a massive feat of management – people, time and resources. When you work with a highly creative and skilled team of people, they might not always have the same ideas and perspectives as you – to mitigate the differences, come to conclusions and move forward is a lot harder than it appears. Also, the timelines are razor thin. And the hardware setup freakishly expensive. Let me give you an example – we in IT, have a timeline of 8-10 weeks minimal to prepare for a go-live, with loads of iterations and testing, whereas here all you get is 2 days (and nights) to prepare and setup for a 3 day long festival where thousands of people turn up. There are no iterations, no stage wise plans, just the big bang – and it can go either way.
3 days, in an completely new location, on a beach, where building stages is a helluva task (sand keeps going down! and the stage keeps tilting one way or the other), getting the audio-visual stuff from another city (you can’t pop into the store next door and order a couple of Bass units), setting it up, taking into consideration that majority of the people working there might be unfamiliar with the stuff, with a good chance of them causing a blow out. 3 days of utter chaos, of trying to get everything right, but things never going strictly as per plan. 3 days of thinking on your feet, organizing things dynamically, changing course, detouring, re-routing every moment, hoping it shall be the last time, but expecting it not to be. And till the last moment, it is not. Something or the other seems to happen, something that you haven’t prepared for.
I had the chance to work with some of the best people in the industry. The stage I was given to handle the sound console had some serious talent – the Darkroom team
(Lookup the stage called Cubezoid in Sunburn 2012, and you’ll see what they can do), Modern Sound (some of the best sound equipment out there in India), Vijay Bhai handling the Sound and Lights (literally owns the sound), Sam – one of the best sound engineers you’ll ever see (and perhaps the coolest one I have ever come across), Amit Bhai – who taught me sound, Jaskaran – the eccentric stage manager, Dimple helping us with the hospitality, Ashir – from Red Bull who of course was single-handedly responsible for me being high on Red Bull, Babloo Bhai from Absolut – whose job was to diffuse any tension, and there was a lot of that pre-start and Tara, being the absolutely amazing host for our stage when Nik wasn’t around. And of course Nik.
There are things that money can buy – like equipment, and contracts, and RedBull (albeit buying it is sort of a sore point for Jaskaran and me – we love that drink, but still). And there are somethings that can never be bought – like the passion and dedication and attention to detail.
There was this incident when Nik came up to Vijay Bhai and asked him to run a sound check. Now we were doing sound checks all the while – playing music we loved on the badass sound system we could never own – at a point, we played Punjabi music (something Nik would never allow, so we made sure it happened before he woke up) – but I’m digressing. So we did the sound check, went to random points – one right up to the sound system, one at the back, one in the middle, and a couple on the extremes. And it sounded pretty mighty. Then Nik waltzed in (wearing his trademark red cap) and asked us to run the sound check again. Now this was the first day, and he made us run the longest sound check I know. He literally went to almost every point on the ground, and found that at one point – somewhere around 8 feet diagonally from the sound console – he couldn’t feel the “punch”. I mean it was one point in a half an acre area catered by that stage – but he still found it. And implored Sam and Vijay bhai to fix the same. Sam did some sound software magic that I probably am too lame to understand, and Nik ran the whole goddamn sound check again! This guy is crazy – for music, and he wanted the perfect experience for each and every person, on each and every square inch.
Nik is passionate about music, and probably that’s why despite being quite a good DJ he allows other DJs play the headliners (albeit he rocked the AfterBurn with Albin Myers) – he just wants to spread good noise. And that is one thing I took away from my experience – look at the bigger picture.
He’s passionate about what he does, and though I don’t know what happened to Sunburn and Submerge – I do think that it would be missing that little bit. And #AAA seems to be the place where music lovers, and purists should head to, knowing how much Nik and Pearl love their music, they’re there to share it with you. Because there are somethings money can’t buy – and passion is right up that list.