Words and images by Mik Motala
Originally established in Candolim, Goa in 2013, VH1 Supersonic returned to its new home—the magnificent Laxmi Lawns in the middle of Pune city—for its fifth edition. The venue, conveniently located in Magarpatta City, is a mere thirty minute commute from all the major transportation hubs in the city, making it very easy to access.
Supersonic offered six multi-genre stages, Sonic Realm, Live Arena, Changeover Stage, Spectrum by Awakenings, Laboratoire Supersonique and 1000 Lions Sound System—catering to techno, live music, rock, hip hop, reggae, drum and bass over three days of pure musical bliss.
Laxmi Lawns was turned into a musical wonderland, a festival goers paradise. I immediately got a sense of nostalgia as we walked through the brightly coloured walkway with its secret garden, and left as if I was transported to a whole new world.
This lead to the SuperFlea market, which offered a wide variety of delicious food, from traditional Indian cuisine, festival fare, arts and crafts, to relaxing chill areas with a bohemian flavour throughout. Each section of the festival was masterfully laid out, guiding festival goers seamlessly from one stage and activation to the next.
DJ Gurbax from Bengaluru, India, opening proceedings on the Sonic Realm stage, followed by Su Real, Sound Avatar & DJ SA, hyping the crowd up into a frenzy with a selection of some of the best bass music around, pumping into the late afternoon. The Sonic Realm stage, designed by Atrageous Designs was reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with its giant teapots, mushrooms and castle spirals adorning the stage.
Next door, New Delhi natives, Komorebi opened up proceedings on the Live Arena with an amazing performance of downtempo electronic—blending soulful vocals, electric violin and drums seamlessly into the perfect sound track to kick off the weekend. The Live Arena showcased the very best live acts the festival had to offer, including headliners Alt-J, Incubus, Bombay Basement and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. A great addition to the live arena was the Changeover stage, giving a platform to new and exciting upcoming talent and a clever way to give fans in the Live Arena in between changeovers.
Adjacent to the SuperFlea Market is the Laboratoire Supersonique stage. Designed with shipping containers and walls of LED screens, the stage had a unique urban industrial warehouse feel in an outdoor setting, perfectly complimenting the music throughout the weekend which ranged from hip hop, break beats, garage, grime, trap to trance. DJ Spryk opened with a masterful trap set, getting the early-bird crowd bouncing in anticipation for the rest of the night.
India's bass master himself, Nucleya, was up next on the Sonic Realm with his unique blend of live visuals, animation, bollywood-style clips on screen, blending seamlessly into one stellar DJ set
UK Indie rockers and crowd pullers Alt-J headlined the Live Arena for opening night, enthralling rock fans in the crowd with a mixture of their radio hits and underground album tracks. They brought the crowd into raptures and cheers, as the catchy guitar riff of their hit-single ‘’Tessellate’’ belted through the Live Arena lawns.
By this point the crowd was fully revved up for international headliners Major Lazer. Kitted out in Indian cricket jerseys, the dynamic trio made up of Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire brought their unique blend of electronic dance music incorporating reggae, dancehall, reggaeton, house and moombahton all into a high energy showcase, complete with dancers, drummers, pyrotechnics and live visuals. This resulting in a one-of-a-kind audio visual spectacle, which only Major Lazer can deliver.
The highlight act for the day was Indian-American hip hop artist Raja Kumari, who kicked off proceedings at Laboratoire Sonique stage, displaying her Indian heritage through her music and stage presence. Fusing hip hop with her unique delivery and flow on the mic, she painted a picture of her dual heritage, which was evident in her LA west coast swag, blending seamlessly with traditional Indian dance.
DJs Ghastly and Ookay were the stand out acts on Day Two, warming up the crowd for the masked EDM maestro himself, Marshmello. He delivered an exhilarating and colourful performance with his white bucket helmet glowing in time with the visuals and flame throwers on stage. Paired with his groove oriented, synth and bass heavy style of electronic dance music, he threw the crowd into frenzy throughout the warm Pune spring evening. His distinct marshmallow mascot head was a clear favourite with festival goers, who boasted their own custom made helmets and masks, which stood out in the crowd.
Live Arena stage favourites The Ska Vengers from New Delhi, got the crowd bouncing with their blend of ska, dub, punk, rap and jazz. The perfect transition into Bombay Bassment—the four piece eclectic outfit straight out of, you guessed it, Mumbai— infused an upbeat dose of hip hop, rap, Reggae, Funk and Drum n Bass for the crowd. And just when you thought their can't possibly be any more musical goodness left for the night, The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble reminded the crowd that things were only getting started.
Living up to their name, the eight piece ensemble from Chicago hypnotized the crowd. Consisting of the sons of renowned Jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran, the octet performed a solid mixture of hip hop, jazz, funk, rock, calypso and gypsy music. Each musician owned the stage in their own right while working in unison, with artful precision from each instrument, keeping the crowd engaged from start to finish, and staying true to their own “now music" ethos.
Legendary UK electronic DJ Krafty Kuts and the charismatic Dynamite MC made for one dynamic duo as they closed the Laboratoire Sonique stage in style. Their energetic style of breakbeats, UK bass and grime made for a perfect addition to the already jam packed, multi-genre lineup. Keeping the remaining crowd bouncing with Dynamite MC's high-energy delivery on the mic, Krafty Kuts’ performance transitioned from one driving bass-fueled genre to the next—getting the crowd going from start to finish until the encore.
The Melodic sounds of As We Keep Searching wafted through Laxmi Lawns on the Live Arena at the start of the final day of the festival. The trio from from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, effortlessly blended ambient, instrumental, post-rock music with Hindi vocals.
Seven Lions from the U.S.A amped up the crowd with his diverse take on trance, melodic dubstep, drum and bass, glitch hop and electro house.
Legendary Indian hard rock band Pentagram, lead by Vishal Adlani, made a brilliant comeback performance on a festival stage after a brief hiatus. They were one of the crowd favourites, whose die hard fans stuck it out until the final day to see their homegrown heroes live once again. Hearing the entire crowd sing the chorus to their hit single “Nocturne” in unison was quite a sight to behold.
At this stage the crowd were already geared up for American rockers, Incubus to make their Indian festival debut. Well known for their ‘90s alternative rock sound, they pleased the loyal fans and ‘90s kids in the crowd with renditions of their greatest hits such as “Anna Molly”, “Stellar”, “Drive”, “Megalomaniac” with a surprise cover of Pink Floyd's “Wish You Were Here” perfectly transitioning into their own chart topping hit with the same name. Not forgetting tracks from their latest album titled 8 with tracks ''Glitter Bomb and ''Nimble Bastard”. Frontman Brandon Boyd, a master of his craft, dove right in and delivered a solid, driving performance, ending off with an encore of “Warning”.
English trance DJ, producer extraordinaire Oliver Smith enthralled trance music lovers on the Laboratoire Sonique stage with his unique style of uplifting and progressive trance from the renowned Anjunabeats record label. The 10,000 Lions Sound System was an amazing addition to the festival throughout the weekend, but really kicked off on the final day with the perfect Sunday afternoon soundtrack of pure reggae, dub, mcee and beatbox performances.
India's techno pioneer Arjun Vagale completely dominated the magnificent Spectrum by Awakenings stage on the closing night of the festival. With his high energy driving techno beats, he masterfully built the crowd up with a live audio visual and lazer show, making his one of the stand out performances of the festival.
The moment the crowd had been waiting in anticipation for the entire weekend, Jamaican dancehall superstar Sean Paul closing the festival off with a bang with his chart topping hits “Get Busy”, “Got 2 Luv U”, his latest hit single “Rockabye” alongside Clean Bandit, a reggae cover of Ed Sheeran's “Shape of You”, and ending off with the nostalgic 2005 single “Temperature”.
All in all, VH1 Supersonic 2018 was extremely well organised and the attention to detail was superb. All the stages, activities, branded activations and the overall layout was done brilliantly—resulting in an easy flow of festival goers throughout each area the entire weekend.
Hats off to the Super Crew and all the organisers, we cannot wait to see what next year has in store.
VH1 Supersonic takes place at Laxmi Lawns in Pune, India this weekend. Tickets available here.