It’s 7:30pm and The Express Tribune’s reporters are in line at a security check behind three ambulances. “Has something gone wrong already?” One asks; but no, it hasn’t. Standby ambulances are standard practice at concerts abroad, the other assures.
After moving through a series of checkpoints, the reporters enter The Rock Musicarium, immediately impressed by the lighting and sound which has just been set up. The crowd is thin, seemingly only teenagers from other cities. The organisers are giving final instructions to the ushers on crowd management and area access. Ticketholders continue to trickle in, some of them very young — unsurprising, given that it is an all-ages event.
The opening act, Database, takes the stage, without being introduced. Many in the crowd don’t realise live performances have started, but the high energy, one-hour set, featuring mixes of Major Lazer’s Lean On, Eric Prydz’s Generate and How Deep is Your Love by Calvin Harris and Disciples initiates head-bobbing in the crowd. Yet, it is only when they drop the SomeWhatSuper track Bandook that the crowd really gets into it.
While not as polished or nuanced as the acts that followed, particularly in terms of transitions, the duo was an effective opening act, charging the crowd and getting them warmed up for the feverish dancing to follow. Talal Qureshi, wearing a waistcoat over a kurta-shalwar, walks on to the stage. The uber-talented DJ-cum-producer starts solo, before being joined by Adil Omar and later, QB. The upbeat intro to the boys’ most notable collaboration, Nighat and Paras, spreads an aggressive strain of the ‘hopping virus’ through the crowd, with more skilful dancers busting some impressive moves and those with a spare left foot doing something like jumping jacks.
During the set, a minor scuffle broke out in the audience, which was immediately resolved when Qureshi killed the music and angrily said, “no one’s fighting here.” He then directed security to escort the would-be brawlers out.
Talal later shortened his set to make way for the Swedish duo, Elliphant and Pellegrosso. By now, the crowd is on its feet awaiting the main act. Outside their line-of-sight, Diplo is also on his feet, ready to take control of the turntables from Pellegrosso. And with a roar from the crowd, the Grammy winner takes the stage.
The explosive reaction that follows is greeted by mixes of Sorry by Justin Bieber and Get Low by Dillon Francis. In a break, the Grammy winner says, “I was really nervous playing [here] but you guys are really cool I swear!”
A few more Major Lazer and Jack Ü tracks and Punjabi numbers follow, before the DJ teases the crowd with Lean On. The music lowers and he speaks again. “Thank you Pakistan. It’s an honour to play with you, to party with you and dance with you while we’re young,” he says, referring to the lyrics of the hit song. Waving a Pakistani flag, he adds, “All you music lovers in Pakistan, I’m here for you guys” and shares his desire to hear more music from this part of the world.
Diplo’s set is about to end and although he has played most of his biggest hits, one song has been overlooked. Scratch that, it’s coming in. It is the Jack Ü collaboration with Skrillex, Where Are Ü Now — a Grammy-winner from just two weeks ago. The crowd goes wild.
As the song ends, the other performers assemble nearby. Diplo says thanks once again. The performers assemble — Pakistani flags in hand — to thank the crowd.
Diplo, you are most welcome!
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2016.
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