Festival Report: Backdoors 2018 dazzled despite losing some of its sheen

When the line-up for Backdoors 2018 was announced December 7, 2017, it made sure that wary singles would have a reason to get out of their houses on Valentine’s Day. The idea of spending it watching Anderson Paak, Wolf Alice, and Watsky; accompanied by Indian acts like When Chai Met Toast, Prateek Kuhad, and Divine- music live was too enticing to pass up on.

Backdoors is no stranger to bringing big acts to the country. In their maiden effort in 2016, they brought Porcupine Tree lead Steven Wilson, indie-folk artist Jose Gonzalez from Sweden, and cabaret-pop singer Patrick Watson to India.

This time around, the festival was stripped of some of its sheen as pioneers of djent, Tesseract, had to withdraw a week before the event. Another artist that pulled out was Divine, who cited “unforeseen circumstances” but was present in Mumbai on the day of the gig.

However, the marathon gig, which started at 3 pm and concluded curtly at 10 pm, didn’t seem like it missed them. Mahesh Raghunandan, accompanied by Ramanan Chandramouli on guitar, was the first artist, followed by Charisma, a pop singer based in Los Angeles.

Akhil Gusain

When Chai Met Toast at Backdoors 2018, Mumbai

When Chai Met Toast was the first act that managed to warm up the crowd a little, with their catchy indie-folk tunes. However, the Indian acts’ stage seemed to be suffering from issues, as both Charisma and WCMT ended up facing technical issues during their respective gigs.

Danny Goffey, whose face seemed to have taken a beating from the city’s heat, turned back the time to 80s Britpop, as he performed with a pre-recorded drum beat.

Watsky was the first artist to really wake the crowd up, however. Interlacing his hip-hop music with spoken word (S For Lisp), the San Francisco native really primed the crowd with his performance before North London alt-rockers Wolf Alice took over.

“We’re all so very excited! I’m often surprised at the places Wolf Alice takes us, but to come to India and be given the chance to play our music in such an incredible place is a bit of a dream come true for me”, said Joel Amey, the drummer for Wolf Alice, speaking to AHH. The North Londoners, who got together in 2013, played an hour-long set, consisting of some of their biggest hits.

Akhil Gusain

Watsky (in picture) primed the crowd before Wolf Alice took over

The band have played over 70 shows all over the world since the launch of Visions of Life. “We really do love playing live but sometimes it’s good to switch off and maybe work on new music or make time to see the city you are in. We all relax in different ways and know each other so well that when someone needs space or time to do their thing they always can”, added Amey.

The night concluded with Anderson Paak mesmerising the nearly packed Jio Garden, accompanied by the Free Nationals. Initially singing, he moved to a drumkit and performed some of his hits while drumming and singing, interlacing his songs with constant praise for the crowd and Mumbai. At one point, he quipped, “Mumbai is such a great city, I can’t believe we didn’t come here sooner”, sending the already-smitten crowd into a greater frenzy.

On concluding their gig, the Free Nationals started packing their equipment and moved backstage, while Paak stuck around and signed some autographs for a handful of people standing in the front row to go with their musical high which was not going to come down anytime soon.