The trendiest music festival of India, Magnetic Fields that was born in the womb of the desert of Alsisar, right next to the regal portals of Alsisar Mahal returned with a bang with a lot more store in for the attendees who had convened from all the corners of the world. A pleasant medley of art, music, food infused with the spirit of sustainability kickstarted from December 15 and delivered an indelible weekend for all. Among that crowd was also me who had traversed six odd hours from Delhi to Alsisar, through the scenic Shikhawati region, soaking in the eye-pleasing glimpses of obscured sunlight behind the looming hills in all corners and verdant farm fields with sprinklers that nourished the plenteous soil of Rajasthan.

As a first time attendee, the cab ride set me up for the festival, since I shared it with Nayanika Kapoor(DJ Profanayty), a regular since the past few years. Her words aptly foreshadowed the sheer expanse of the festival and the enthusiasm induced by multiple Budweiser spaces. She was also not wrong when she told me that ‘Magnetic Fields has something for everyone’. Hence, the epilogue to the three day chapters had me partly wobbling with excitement and partly because of the bumpy roads into the hinterlands. But like they say, you don’t get Gold until you dig deeper.

On arrival at the desert reception of the music festival, I couldn’t help but feel like Joseph Cooper, from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Curious to know why? Because the venue stretched across the sandy dunes of the desert, leading up to the palatial Alsisar Mahal, that gave a dramatic spin to the entire backdrop. It was akin to a different planet, in a different universe, with people thronging through security checks, some dragging their luggage through the coarse sandy paths and others relying on on-ground crew. Having met with the Budweiser team, I was escorted to my bedwin tent no 115.

With doubts about the quality of the accommodation, I sauntered with anticipation, following my guide in the scorching desert heat. I clutched my jacket close to me and passed a host of majestic looking tents, with resting chairs arranged in the patio. However, as soon as I stepped inside my tent, all the skepticism dissipated into thin air. There were three separate beds neatly arranged, with rugs on the ground and cozy quilts to beat the nippy desert winters. The lavatory that came with the tent was clean and hygienic and it offered all the amenities one could hope for. With this, I was all set to spearhead into the celebration of music and art.

My real exploration began with the arrival of my tent-mate Anees Hussain, a journalist with the Indian Express. Together, we explored the desert oasis which had interesting installations in all directions. Wherever we would gyrate our heads, we’ll catch a glimpse of something enticing. From the Ray-Ban after-party stage to Dynamite Disco Club and Budweiser Beats Art Studio, we hopped from one place to another, taking in the gist of the magnificent setting. At the other side of the oasis, there were numerous food stalls catering to the palatable taste buds of the attendees. Sumptuous burgers, mouth-watering Galawati Kebabs, pizzas fresh out-of-over, they had it all. The desert oasis also had numerous shops selling trinkets, t-shirts, souvenirs to take back into the reality as well as Tatva tent, a safe, queer-friendly space where one can unwind when things get overwhelming.

Making our way to Alsisar Mahal, we came across shops, set up by local villagers, that served essential foods like Maggi and omelette. The assimilation of two disparate cultures was one of the many defining factors of Magnetic Fields 2023. Inside the regal palace, I got to witness the first performance at the Jameson South stage. Goya, delivered a praiseworthy performance and set everyone for the party that was to follow for the next three days.

Alsisar Mahal, just like the desert oasis was sprawling with intriguing spaces in all corners. The BudX yard that was next to the swimming pool became the most happening place after 9:30 PM, with a stellar lineup of artists from across the globe. Belgian DJ Nosedrip, Otik – the Bristol-born and London-based DJ and producer – and the enchanting Amsterdam based selector Orpheu the Wizard enthralled all with pulsating beats through the span of three days. Joining this lineup were also Beijing-born, Melbourne-based sound wizard Moopie, who closed out the stage on the final night with a stellar set, Miami-based DJ Coffintexts, and a cohort of rising DJs such as Girls Night Out, OX7GEN, and GoodMostlyBad. It became my ritual of sorts, to pad myself with layers and head to the BUDxYard to groove with the amazing crowd.

Right beside the BUDxYard was the path leading to another rousing and exhilarating space,

BUDx North Stage. The lane to that showcase was packed with activities and stalls not quite like what I envisioned prior to coming there. Folks chugging some of the finest Budweiser beers, indulging in freewheeling banter around artists they are excited to see andore. Then there were individuals munching on snacks, bobbing their heads to groovy reverberation emanating from the BUDxYard.

Having reigned as the crown jewel of the festival, the BUDx North Stage flawlessly melded a 17th-century setting with the pulsating rhythms of electronic music. With futuristic projection mapping lighting up the walls of the palace – courtesy Ocupus and Aural Eye -, the stage featured DJs and producers who are the pioneers of their sounds, introducing the audience to unique styles and contemporary tunes. This year, artists like I.Jordan, Milan-based Chilean DJ Paula Tape, and Glasgow-based inimitable selector Bake set the stage ablaze as did sets by Canadian sound wizard Deadbeat, London-based DJ ADHD and the versatile DJ and producer Mella Dee. Other acts on the stage included the Bahrain-based Dar Disku and Indian DJ Rishi Sippy. Sartorial outfits lit up the area on all three days.

Away from the hustle and bustle of Alsisar Mahal, the desert oasis near the tent area used to come alive at the din of the midnight. The most happening spots where people would frequent were the Dynamite Disco Club, the Peacock Club and my favourite Budweiser Beats Art Studio. While the Disco Club was mine and Anees’s go to place to beat the chilling temperatures outside, Budweiser Beats Studio used to be a haven for me, to chug my favourite cocktails and vibe to the retro tunes.

The space swathed in shades of red emerged as a unique space, seamlessly blending contemporary digital art and 90s-style hip hop music. Budweiser joined forces with Pagal Records, an independent Delhi-based record store, to curate a pop-up shop showcasing vinyl records and had them play 90s-style hip-hop tunes for attendees. Budweiser also partnered with New Delhi-based ‘Lair,’ known for its experimental concoctions, to set up a cocktail bar at the space.

Besides the legendary Budweiser stages, the Jameson showcases at the palace satiated by musical needs. From Goya and Raj to Jitwam and the Dualist Inquiry, the surreal presentation of genres kept the momentum alive throughout the three days of the festival and compelled everyone to submit themselves fully to the captivating force of music. For the fans of the sundowners, Corona had set up a space on Alsisar Palace rooftop, that usually used to kick off when the sun was about to set beyond the scanty silhouettes of the village structures.

Coming from a family of Hindustani Classical singers and ghazal singers, the PUQAAR showcase, personally helmed by Abhimanyu Alsisar stood as a highlight for me. From catching goosebumps-inducing electro-fusion performance by Field Lines comprising of Anuja Zokarkar, Apoorv Petkar, Vinay Ramadasan, Vaibhav Wavikar,

Rahul Giri aka _RHL_ in the confines of the scintillating Badal Mahal to immersing myself in the folk music of Rajasthan, it served as a pleasant auditory bridge from techno and EDM to something rooted and rustic.

As I was strolling the hallowed portals of Alsisar Mahal, I also stumbled upon Dragalactiq, in which a group of talented queer artists aced the stage by donning the most sartorial of costumes and putting up a show that one would remember for a lifetime. The Magnetic Fields 2023 experience couldn’t get more diverse than this.

The three day long festival concluded on a crescendo for me with the Ray-Ban after-party set, in near-chilling temperatures and with the fog looming over. The endless night vanished into the light of the dawn and signalled to the festival goers that it was the end of the road for now. As I sat in my cab and glanced at the magical place one last time, all the indelible moments that I witnessed there flashed sporadically in front of my eyes. My lips arched into a subtle smile and hoped that perhaps I could experience this again next year.

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