Imagine being an artist at the receiving end of a disturbing call, in which you’re informed you won’t be playing at a music festival for which you were booked. Imagine receiving such a call the morning of the gig itself. For the four artists on the Day 2 line-up of Campfire Music Festival in Ahmedabad (which was scheduled to take place on February 19), this was a very real situation.
Campfire Music Festival officially declared the cancellation of the fest, due to “unavoidable circumstances”, with an Instagram post around 12PM. According to anonymous sources, the fest’s organisers claimed that they were in financial loss due to a lack of ticket sales and decided to cancel the second day to avoid further losses.
It was Raag Sethi (who manages Meera Desai’s act) and Shashwat Bulusu who came together with organisers from Moonlight Events and Top Spin Club to put together a DIY surprise pop-up gig, on a ‘pay as you want’ basis, to happen on the same night they were supposed to play the fest. Shashwat, Raag, Meera, and the rest of their indie network announced the pop-up gig around 3PM.
The first act of the night was Meera Desai who was accompanied by Raag Sethi, Harmish Joshi, Tshering Bhutia and Jyotirmay Menon (who filled in at the last moment without immediate practice, but has played with the group before), together known as the Meera Desai quintet. Her setlist included jazzy renditions of songs from her debut EP “I’ve Never Been Happier To Be Lost”, with added improvised saxophone solos by Harmish. She also performed her latest singles: “Keys” and “Let’s”. Among her unreleased numbers, one of my favourites is Mango Season, which starts with a fun vocal melody gradually turning into a three-part vocal harmony as the guitar, bass and saxophone echo the lead part until the verse kicks in. The audience is encouraged to sing “mango!” during the song’s chorus.
Up next was Baroda-based Shashwat Bulusu, accompanied by bandmates Shrujal Patel, Uday Bhardwaj and Jyotirmay Menon (who played a 45 minute set for the previous act!). Shashwat’s ability to work a crowd was evidently demonstrated by his refusal to start his set until enough audience members got up from their seats and came to the front to listen; that and his dry humour. Compared to the more subtle and dreamy approach of his performances as a solo act, with his band, the act is an embodiment of alternative rock. From his released discography, he performed “Sunset By The Vembanad” and “Playground”. He also performed a song called “Naalayak” which was written specifically to be played at the 13th edition of NH7 weekender.
All in all, the event was a showcase of the solidarity of Ahmedabad’s indie music scene and its network. The venue was acceptably packed, mostly with people who were determined to catch Meera’s and Shashwat’s performances, among those who just happened to be at the venue. The audience was encouraged to pay as per their wish, to contribute to the expenses that went into setting up the gig.
I’m not saying that the last-minute cancellation of a music festival is a desirable scenario, but a last-minute pop up gig in its place is one hell of a silver lining.