The first edition of The Secret Garden Weekend (TSGW) was a definite dip into Wonderland. Having been to its more famous namesake in England, I went in unsure of the vibe and setting; but came out happily drenched in music and colour (or was that sweat?). Pune’s music scene is on an absolute upswing and TSGW was a great reminder of that, right in time to kick off the – hopefully, cooler – monsoon season in India. The fest took place on the 7th and 8th of June, at the Irish Village Brewery in Koregaon Park, Pune. The location consisted of an outside lawn area and two inside sections. Personally, I thought it was a tad small for a festival, but it did the trick especially considering how accessible the site was for most visitors. The festival was loosely themed around stimulating all our 5 senses in hope that the sixth one (intuition, I’m assuming?) would have a chance to emerge. In aid of that a magical, fantastical land awaited us. Well, Alice was ready – bring it on Day 1! Day 1 We walked in on the first day, braving the sweltering heat, amidst a sea of other enthusiastic music freaks, all geared up to take in some sound. The guys at the gate were friendly and welcoming, a nice change from the intimidating security staff and bouncers that populate most festivals. Feeling hopeful, we pranced through the noisy, crowded gates to step into what seemed to be another world entirely.
Entranceway into the festival The organizers had succeeded in transforming the first indoor space we entered into a perfumed, floral cave of sorts. The air was scented with jasmine as I took in the darkened, air conditioned room lined with comfortable seating and wooden floors. The ceiling was adorned with a profusion of flowers trailing down to brush our faces. UV décor and a DJ console completed a cool, calming area – a welcome respite from the heat outside. The only bummer was that the quiet was disturbed by the thump of DnB from the adjoining area taking away from the peacefulness of the place. We walked through this ‘Dichotomy of Flowers’ room into the next section, where we encountered the only indoor stage – Ithaca. Although small, the acoustics in the room were great. It had a pub feel with the bar and wooden floors, but unfortunately we hardly spent any time there because of the intense heat, which hampered enjoyment of the acts. We quickly exited into the outside area towards the main stage – Zeitgeist.
The main stage Zeitgeist My initial reaction was – the décor is spectacular. It really was of international standard. The organizers had put their hearts into creating a psychedelic space decorated with every colour of the rainbow. Interestingly shaped objects created a walkway that turned into surreal neon lights at night. Ceiling spreads were bright, cheerful and graphically bold; dream-catchers dotted the landscape, adding an earthy native American vibe. Replete with bursts of fire by the stage, the décor was definitely a big highlight of the festival for me.
Festival decor The Krazy Electrons kicked off the main stage with a melodic DnB set accompanied by a live violin. This was the first time I saw this band perform live and I am definitely a fan. The marriage of live instruments with an electronic set can be tricky but they nailed it – very soulful, a great start to the weekend of musica.
The Krazy Electrons on stage A surprise package came in the form of Vivienne Pocha, who came onto stage with just a guitar in her hand and wowed everyone with her deep, powerful vocals. She sounded like a young Joss Stone with Amy Winehouse’s honest songwriting. Songs like Misunderstood gave us insight into her as a person – I do believe that only the best artists are brave enough to bare their souls to the world through their art. Superb solo performance.
Vivienne Pocha performing on the main stage A standout act for me on this stage was Run Pussy Run. Due to some technical glitches, they took ages to begin, but when they finally did, they played a groovy, up tempo electro-jazz set that got everyone’s feet tapping. Their keyboardist was outstanding and the vocalist, although slightly off key, had a beautiful voice.
Run Pussy Run performing The Family Cheese rounded off the daytime scene for me with some harder, blues-y rock. The vocals were slightly lacking, but the rest of the band was incredibly tight. The drummer played a mesmerizing solo – his hands were flying so fast, I could hardly see them!
Family cheese on stage In the midst of the musical madness on stage was a plethora of other entertainment to keep everyone amused. There was a lively drum circle situated towards the hardly-used Gulmarg stage. A row of people with a variety of percussion instruments – djembes, drums, tambourines etc – were thumping out some beats whilst offering passersby instruments, as well. Another group of people were doing a form of Brazilian martial art that combines dance and acrobatics – Capoeira – to the drum beat. Quite interesting (and funny) to watch – kind of like a flash mob, but more spontaneous.
Drum circle The Road of Thought was my first introduction to the festival’s attempt to awaken our sense of ‘touch’. The colourful maze decorated with random splotches of paint and handprints ended up in a tiny room dominated by a neon dream catcher. This space had a tepee feel and – more importantly – it was overflowing with thousands – and I mean literally thousands – of tiny thermocol balls. What a sensation! To be immersed in those balls, throw them around, play with them and just generally touch them. Lovely installation, I thought. Very creative and so simple – like most great ideas.
The Road of Thought, awakening the sense of touch The two acts I enjoyed indoors on Day 1 were DJ Nanok and Dj Pramz. Dance-worthy deep house that had everyone moving in sync. Like I said though, it was too hot inside and I couldn’t really enjoy the music till it moved further indoors later at night where the air conditioner kept the temperature bearable. I didn’t have too much time to eat or shop on the first day because I was so immersed in the music and activities, so I decided to leave that for Day 2. Tired and happy, we reached home post an after party at 4am. Reviewed by Radhika Pendse