Holy guacamole. Just when Mumbai had lost this fortnight’s big-ticket gig – French DJ David Guetta’s first India show – to Pune, a new outdoor electronic music festival pops up out of nowhere. Holi Moly, organised by event management company Shalom, kicks off on March 8 at the Royal Palms golf course on the edge of Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon. Shalom co-founder Rahul Grover said that the festival, with headlining performances by South African psy DJ Super Evil, California’s Cheb I Sabbah and the UK’s Nathan Flutebox Lee, will be a “mumbo jumbo” mix of music, Holi colour and Goan-style flea markets.
But music fans hope that Holi Moly is more than just a one-off invitation to shed all inhibitions while nodding to trance and going wild throwing colours. Can it also offer hope that outdoor music festivals have a future in the city? Currently, the state government’s high entertainment tax rate, set at 25 per cent of ticketing and sponsorship revenue, and a lack of venues in Mumbai has led most organisers to stage festivals in Nasik and Pune or in other states. So why is Shalom staging Holi Moly in Mumbai?
Sadly, it isn’t with the intent of making Holi Moly an annual event.
Shalom’s Grover and his team instead view Mumbai as more of a dress rehearsal where they can fine tune Holi Moly in familiar surroundings, before attempting to take it global. They hope to stage it in a new host country each year in the same way Global Gathering and other famous festivals travel. Grover is already in talks with Nepal tourist officials in the hope of holding Holi Moly in that country in 2013. To continue hosting Holi Moly in Mumbai wouldn’t be profitable, Grover said. “The entertainment tax kills us,” he said.
What might be interesting to future outdoor festival organisers, however, is Holi Moly’s choice of Royal Palms as a venue. Outdoor festival venues are scarcer in Mumbai than men at a screening of Pride and Prejudice. When Girish Talwar and the team behind David Guetta’s Eristoff Invasion tour were told they couldn’t serve alcohol at their planned venue the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority grounds in Bandra, they couldn’t find another space in Bandra or south Mumbai. Talwar instead chose to move the event to Pune. Sulafest and York Live in Nasik and NH7 in Pune have shown that good venues can make festivals viable even with the high entertainment tax, said York Live organiser Nevile Timbadia, adding that venues like York Winery don’t exist in Mumbai. “It already has the back end with a kitchen, toilets and bar,” Timbadia said. “So honestly, I only put in the sound, light and decor. Boom. Your festival is ready.”
We will only know if the Royal Palms golf course is a good festival site once Holi Moly wraps up. But Shalom’s Grover is optimistic. “Holi Moly will do wonders for encouraging future events including festivals and seminars at Royal Palms,” he saidGrover believes the key is that Royal Palms management is “very supportive” in the hope that these events will help increase traffic to its two hotels. In exchange for advertising space, Grover said Royal Palms are accommodating festival artists free of charge and offering their grounds at rates that are three times cheaper than Bandra Kurla Complex and Andhervenues. He also believes Royal Palms is one of the few places inside the city that feels like a weekend escape. “We are at the greenest patch, between Aarey and the National Park, in Mumbai,” Grover said. “When you enter the venue, you say ‘Wow, this does not feel like we are in Bombay.’”
For now, it is not even a guarantee that Holi Moly will unfold as planned. Among the issues the festival is grappling with is finding a flat patch on the undulating golf course to place the main stage. But if it does go through and Royal Palms hosts a fantastic party, we might be that bit closer to getting a city festival of our own.
A vibrant flea market was also part of the plan, with food stalls selling alcohol, thandai and organic Holi powder. Art and craft stalls will offer everything from instruments and paintings to Rajasthani junk jewellery by Symbolica and psychedelic sciencefiction wear made by some Russian designers that Grover met in Goa. Custom motorbike designer, GabrieZuzare, owner of Mumbai’s Road Rage Custom Builds, has even built a motorbike called the Holi Ride specially for the festival. Ride on.
By Ben Leahy on March 02 2012 2.07pm