Kunal headed to Rajasthan struggling with a quarter life crisis and wondering whether there was any point to it all.
I found the week leading up to Magnetic Fields Festival bizarrely confusing. It should have been the most exciting time of the year, but I found myself mired in a bit of a quarter-life crisis.
Exactly six days prior to MFF, my colleagues at Oranjuice and I had successfully pulled off arguably the best show of the year in Mumbai, with Tycho, Explosions in the Sky, and Giorgio Moroder all performing in India for the first time.
But I felt, well, weird. I’ve been working in the music industry since I was 19, but I’d begun to wonder whether I’d have been better off becoming an engineer or an architect — you know, something useful.
Elon Musk is sending rockets to the moon and creating solar-powered cities. VICE is sending crews to Antarctica to report on the alarming rapidity with which the ice sheet is melting. People are out there, in the world, doing things.
I, on the other hand, spend 10 months a year planning events that last three hours, providing entertainment for an audience primarily consisting of young people too drunk to remember the occasion. “What’s the point,” I found myself thinking. “Is there one? Why on earth am I doing this for a living?”
Luckily, my time in Alsisar helped me discover the answers I’d been seeking. Those ethereal, blissfully escapist three days reiterated what I’d forgotten: that festivals do in fact have their purpose.
Festivals exist, they must exist, to restore the bonds of community that have been eroded by the anonymity of urban life and the superficiality of digital relationships. Festivals teach us how to relate to one another in these confusing postmodern times.
I believe that community is built from shared experiences — in my case, from looking out at a dance floor and seeing my people.
Here are the performances at Magnetic Fields that restored my faith:
To me, the best musical experiences are greater than the sum of their parts. The music is what matters most, but the audio quality, the setting, and the crowd all play important roles. The best sets, the best memories, come when these four ingredients interact in just the right way, creating an effect that is both confounding and sublime.
The final set of Magnetic Fields Festival was the best: a surreal sunrise performance by a man who I’ll have to call India’s finest DJ: Gaurav Malaker.
What began as a 4:30AM audiovisual performance dissolved into something purer and more intimate; the festival in its most distilled form. No fancy visuals, no pretentious trainspotters: just the festival’s most devoted fans, dancing together, beneath a desert sunrise.
Malaker’s DJ set explored everything that dance music can and should be: impossibly deep, irresistibly groovy, occasionally dark, frequently euphoric. Moving, in every sense of the word.
The Detroit-based beat maker’s unique musical upbringing make his live sets captivating, eclectic, and just, well, magnetic.
Shigeto delivered what I believe was the standout live performance of the festival, a captivating blend of syncopated rhythms, chiming melodies, and futuristic bleeps.
It is testament to Shigeto’s masterfully jazz-tinged sound that his performance confused the hell out of me: my ears begged me to stand still so that I might hear the music better; my feet flatly refused. The truly great electronic artists marry the visceral with the beautiful. Shigeto is one of them.
The final act on the live stage delivered everything I needed on a Sunday evening: gorgeously husky vocals tempered by beats just propulsive enough to remind me that the party wasn’t quite over.
Anna Müllers soothing performance added a refreshingly human touch to a festival dominated by forward looking electronic music, while deftly composed LED visuals added a touch of drama and tension to the experience.
If you’re looking for an act that can get absolutely anyone into dance music, HVOB is it.
4. DJ Koze
I bought my festival ticket the minute I learned that DJ Koze would be performing — the idea of watching him perform in a centuries old palace was too enticing to refuse.
Perhaps on another weekend, at another festival, Stefan Kozalla’s majestic three hour house opus would have been the standout performance. After much reflection and soul-searching, I begrudgingly had to consign him to fourth place on my list -- not through any fault of his -- but because the three acts above him were just that special.
On a Saturday night where stripped-back, dark, and grimy beats dominated the Red Bull Music Academy Stage, the Pampa Records boss brought the love and joy back into the festival, his glossy, candy floss productions reminding me not to be so serious about this whole thing. DJ Koze reminded me that this experience was meant to be fun, and not an study in social anthropology.
A DJ who clearly enjoys himself behind the decks, Kozalla never does anything without adding his own special twist, whether he’s playing hands in the air anthems or deliciously dark bangers.
DJ Koze belongs in that special category of selector: someone who can expand your musical horizons by helping you dance to music you’d never have imagined enjoying.
5. Garden City Movement
Garden City Movement’s expertly executed Sunday evening set showed me that synth pop has a bright future in 2016 and beyond. Their carefree, unabashedly romantic performance was rich in lush melodies, pitched up vocal samples, and immensely watchable live percussion.
Vocalist and percussionist Johnny Sharoni was the star of the show, dispensing infectiously bouncy enthusiasm that was sorely needed after my exertions over the previous two days and nights. On stage, the irrepressible frontman resembled a sort of genial, bearded, Israeli Energiser Bunny who, by the end, had somehow become my new best friend.
Garden City Movement
Honorable mentions (in no particular order):
Ratatat, Kutmah, Hunee vs. Antal, Palms Trax, Don Bhatt + Passenger Revelator, Kutmah, Kumail, The Sine Painter, Perfect Timing.
After waiting in line for 40 minutes, I decided to skip the Saturday night dungeon party featuring Soulspace and Soul Clap.
By Kunal Bambawale
Photography: Magnetic Fields Festival | Artfoto Studios & Neville Sukhia http://www.facebook.com