It had faced stiff opposition from local residents, political parties and multiple court cases that were later dismissed, but none of them could stop Sunburn, India’s biggest electronic dance music festival, from taking off at Oxford Golf Country Resort, Lavale, on Thursday, albeit amid strict security arrangements.
Last week, the Bombay High Court had asked the Maharashtra government to take measures to prevent underage drinking at the venue, where anyone above 15 years of age is allowed to enter. And on Day 1 of the festival, nearly 250 police officials were deployed at various points to keep a check on the proceedings.
The organisers had also hired several security agencies and placed a host of measures in place for the festival, which attracts thousands of visitors.
Neerav Chayya, who had come all the way from Indore with his friends to attend the festival, said, “We took a taxi from the hotel to come here but once we reached the road leading up to the venue, we found that the organisers had installed their own toll area. We understand parking charges… but we had to pay Rs 100 just because we were being dropped off by a taxi. We refused to pay, so they asked us to get off and walk. We had to walk for about 2 km, on an uphill road, before we reached the point where a shuttle bus had been arranged to take people to the venue… this is not right… the organisers are forcing people to either pay up or walk. The ticket prices are already so high… these basic facilities should be provided, especially since the venue is located on a hill,” he said.
Another decision by organisers that considerably irked visitors, especially women, was not allowing large handbags or purses inside the venue. Several visitors were seen arguing with security staffers; they were later asked to step out of the venue and leave their bags in their vehicles.
Along with complaints about the security arrangements, the first day of the festival was riddled with a number of issues. It ran behind schedule by at least two hours and until 6.30 pm, the information counter was closed. Neither a map of the venue nor a schedule of the programmes was anywhere to be found.
Vishakha Sharma, who came from Odisha with three friends to attend the festival, said she was “happy with the vibe, but disappointed with the lack of information”. “The information counter is closed. Unlike other music festivals where we get a printed map and day schedule at the time of entry, here, nothing was given to us. There are supposed to be four stages at the venue… I could find only two and now we will search for the other two. Even volunteers don’t know much,” she complained.
Teething problems aside, the festival did deliver in terms of a complete musical experience, with a line-up that included Grammy winner Afrojack, internationally renowned dance music acts like Infected Mushrooms and artistes like DJ Snake. But the highlight of Day 1 were Belgian duo Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike, who had bagged the second rank on DJ Mag’s 2017 ‘Top 100 DJs list’.
The festival also offered innumerable selfie points, art installations at every nook and corner, gaming points and experience zones. Other attractions included a ferris wheel, lounges to laze around in, tents for those who wanted the ‘live-in’ experience, jam sessions, yoga and volleyball matches. Those willing to shell out a large amount could even enjoy helicopter rides.
Sunburn also had quite a few treats for foodies, with food trucks lined up near the stages, a food zone where everything from finger bites to main courses were available, and, finally, a coconut-seller. Inside the venue, a variety of knick knacks like themed T-shirts and festive jewellery were sold at a flea market, and outside the venue, locals sold fancy headgear like crowns, hairbands and horns.