• Fri, Jul 20, 2018
Features

Yeh Fangirl Kya Hai?

features Mar 07, 01:56pm

A special editorial about the inception, evolution and the resulting experience revolving around the newest music festival entrant - Fangirl Live.  From the Horse's Mouth...Meet Bhatt.

"This was our first festival. It's Day 2 and we have not slept in 3 days. Skrat was closing the festival and it was the first band I could watch without worrying about anything else. Exhausted after a few songs, I lied down on the field and passed out. There comes this elderly couple with their daughter who wakes me up and tells me that they need to leave but before they did, the couple added that they absolutely loved everything about the festival, and how we should book Prateek Kuhad for the next one. They must have been in their late 50s yet so ecstatic about something like this coming to their city - quite unreal.

 

Cut to year two - we were looking for an opening act for Prateek and come across this amazing new singer-songwriter called Meera and we just had to book her. Later I would find out that the elderly couple were Meera’s parents and it was Meera who I had met at the festival last year! Talk about full circles. The entire family have come to all our shows this year as well (music, comedy, films, everything)! Definitely my most favorite story about the festival." - Meet Bhatt, co-founder, Fangirl Live.

 

 

What Fangirl Live - the country's newest musical festival added to the growing list of properties initiated in cities outside the usual metropolitan scene - failed to achieve with the conclusion of its first edition two years ago, managed to overturn the picture with its evolution in second year. That includes the volume of shows, the diversifiation of genres via comedy and music and the resulting fanfare and media attention. And similar to every music festival born out of sheer desire to construct a concrete 'scene', the co-founder of Meet Bhatt - had an ideology to embark upon, some initial challenges to overcome, a few myths to bust and certainly offer yet another destination for touring professional music acts to consider.

 

In this special feature, Bhatt shares the experience from the founder's perspective. 

 

 

The Inception

 

"Fangirl was conceived as an online zine in 2016 (http://fangirl.in). Utsav (Chadha) and Palashi (Vaghela) and I were pretty bummed by how little we were all talking about independent music in India. Albums were being released by the day but it was akin to shooting music into the space. We, also, felt most existing publications weren’t accessible to a large section of audiences who won’t mind discovering new music if not bombed with jargons and technicalities. The voice of Fangirl is loud, goofy and on the verge of being slightly annoying - not very different from that over-excited friend who wouldn’t stop shoving their latest discovery down your throat.

 

While we all moved to different continents, some more friends joined me in Ahmedabad - we had long been discussing plans of making gigs happen in Ahmedabad. Hiren is a designer and was then dabbling into visual arts - projection mapping and such. Along with my other 2 partners - Chirag and Amardeep - we started making small gigs happen in the city with the handful of original-music-playing local bands. Hiren would make sure we tried something cool with the stage every single time."

 

Fangirl Live did not begin as an idea for a music festival. House gigs, intimate sessions, independent gigs snowballed into a movement that logically led to the birth of a music festival. What started as a platform for voices like singer-songwriter Aayushi Karnik gradually collected more and more interest and along with the Aayushis and Meeras, came the usual festival darlings - the Tejas Menons, Tajdar Junaids and, as the latest edition suggested, international acts like Plini. Similar to other concepts, local acts played an impressive role in the eventual growth of Fangirl Live.

 

Madboy/Mink from the 2017 edition

 

The Initial Challenges

 

"Ahmedabad doesn’t have dedicated gig venues. Which means you will almost always need to spend on outdoor production (that costs a bomb). Since we didn’t have a lot of options - we decided to use it to our advantage and hunt for unorthodox spaces. We’ve hosted gigs at farmhouses, junkyards, terraces and in one case - a car modification workshop.

 

We had amassed a small fund from our savings to last us for a couple of gigs. We had been scouting for sponsors but not many would pay attention to ‘independent music’ and most would confuse the festival with college band competitions. However, while looking for a particular gig venue, I was put in touch with Amit Gupta, who I was told owned a really cosy farmhouse on the outskirts. We met and instantly hit it off with conversations on Tajdar Junaid and Susmit Sen. He showed us the really pretty space and he joked about how it’d be really nice to get Tajdar to perform there. Later, he would also mention that he wouldn’t mind supporting the festival since he really resonates with the cause. And so it happened.

 

Amit Gupta heads InfoAnalytica - a market research intelligence firm in Ahmedabad and they decided to support the festival whole-heartedly. Together we made a Tajdar gig happen at his farmhouse and later Gujarat’s first full-scale indie music festival with 20 bands and 2 stages (over 2 days)! The lineup for the season included the likes of Prateek Kuhad, Parvaaz, Skrat, The F16s, Madboy/Mink, Aswekeepsearching and many more."

 

The challenges were converted into opportunities, and mere conversations blossomed into partnerships and associations. Meet Bhatt's experience at OML surely came to play when the logistics and branding of the festival was concerned, and one piece after another, Fangirl Live's most ambitious project yet started taking shape.

 

 

The Support

 

"One very important factor in making these festivals happen has definitely been really good volunteering. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have friends who pour in their blood, sweat and tears (read - long hours after day jobs) to make sure we don’t put out a half-assed product just because we might be falling short of funds on some manpower. Fangirl has always been a DIY effort despite however big it might have gotten, and that to me has been the heart of it. Talk about an 8-week festival with a 10-member team doing everything, with some of them juggling their day jobs with it."

 

 

 

The Line-up

 

"Artists-wise it has never really been too difficult. I had known some artists from my days back at OML. Most would be more than happy to be playing in Ahmedabad and would be considerate of the fact that alcohol revenues don’t come into play here. And once they would play at our shows, almost everyone would be really elated with the experience and with the fact that people come down to listen to their music and that only - no socialising or drinking incentives come into the picture. Uddipan (from aswekeepsearching and Bluetree) also helped me get in touch with artists I otherwise didn’t have access to. He is from Ahmedabad himself and helped us massively in convincing more artists that we otherwise didn’t have access to.

I wouldn’t say anyone has outright rejected the opportunity to perform at Fangirl Live (of the musicians that we approached) - but we had a slightly hard time in figuring out finances for Soulmate. Flights from Guwahati and back wouldn’t go down well with our humble budgets. That said, we’re still on it and can’t wait to have them play at our festival."

 

Aswekeepsearching

 

 

The Execution

 

"Well of course, I’d probably be just as worried about doing an indie music festival in a non-dry state. Finances have not been the easiest for us. However we have been on our toes innovating on our business models. This year, the festival is an 8 week long one - instead of the 2-day, 2-stage one we put up last year. The long-format helps us ensure people pay for one artist rather than all of them at once, whereas the truth of the matter is - audiences would primarily be coming for one or two artists only even if its 20 artists on a single day. We’ve also had friends who helped with their apartments where most artists wouldn’t mind staying. We pick up artists in our own cars to help cut costs on cabs (and in turn we get to receive them and strike a good artist-promoter chord almost immediately). Music festivals are mammoth investments that need enough nurturing, and any promoter who aims to make back their money in the very first year is fooling himself. One has to be in this for the long haul."

 

Ioish Live

 

The Result

 

"From the last year, I’d say we have come leaps and bounds as far as our production is concerned. Very few gigs have not started on time, which used to be a big problem in the first year. I’d say the serene sense would be when the band gets on stage - not off it. We make sure all of us catch one full song of every band at least - at the end of the day we’re all (shameless plug incoming) fangirls!"

 

The Myth

 

"This is one thing we’ve got it easy here. You have the fire safety, sound and parking permissions in place, and there’s very little possibility of any harassment from the authorities. Sometimes it has been so smooth (its funny how) I can’t help but think it’s probably because nobody really cares about what we’re doing here. If it was anything but independent music playing, maybe we’d have been worried more about the authorities! Contrary to what people might think, Ahmedabad has always thrived with massive Bollywood concerts - sometimes more than most other cities. Most of them have been packed to the brim and the culture of concert-going isn’t something new. Although, there hasn’t been a single independent music festival here apart from us, barring some crude efforts from certain promoters - most of whom would never return to do another one - or worse, move the Bollywood way."

 

Plini Live [Dated Feb 14] Photo: Dhrupal

 

 

The Next Move

 

"It might be too early to say if we have changed things around, however I’ve seen some really good efforts come by in the past year and I really hope more people pick up the mantle of promoting strictly alternative. Currently, we’re focussing on making the festival venue a full-fledged, year-long food+arts venue. Apart from that, some multi-city tours with certain bands might be on the cards."

 

 

Fangirl's Live creatives quickly became viral. Exhibit A.

 

 

[Meet Bhatt is one of the founders of Fangirl Live and a former product developer at OML. Bhatt associated with Rock Street Journal for the special editorial, the first of its series wherein the publication will focus on extra-ordinary efforts initiated and executed by musicians, organisers, promoters and other important players of the music community]

Meet Bhatt, co-founder.

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