Metallica came down to India for the first time last week, and many hopes were fulfilled/shattered, depending on which venue they went to. Presented to you below are accounts by two people who attended the Gurgaon (yes, NOT Delhi) and Bangalore concerts respectively.
…And Justice For All?
Metallica was coming to India and there was no way I was going to miss them. Years of “Kaash India aa jate” and fervent prayers had paid off. I’m not even going to bother getting into what a big fan of Metallica I am. Anyone who knows me, knows of my love, my devotion towards them.
I picked up tickets for both the gigs but had to cancel my Bangaore trip (terrible decision, in hindsight). I packed my bags and headed to Delhi being unable to believe Metallica would be playing in Haryana, of all the places on their maiden trip here.
After having parked in the dustiest, makeshift parking lot outside a circus, we made our way through the sea of black to the gate. Obviously, I should have expected there wouldn’t be a queue to get inside the venue. Just 5k odd people, on each of the 4 gates tearing down security barricades rushing inside.
There were metal detectors, but switched off. There were security people, but they were busy saving their own lives in the stampede than frisk people. Not to forget, there wasn’t a single lady security personnel to handle women, who formed at least 25% of the audience.
I did not walk into the venue of my own will but like everyone else, I was pushed inside by the millions other behind me. Once inside, I jumped for joy, partly because it was only a matter of time before I saw my gods play and partly because I was happy to be alive and not molested.
Everyone scampered to get the best possible view of the stage before we realised that a portion of the security barricade between the stage and the audience had broken, even before the venue was full. Also the less said the better about the venue. I’ve attended weddings in Delhi that were spread across more area.
The stage crew tried to fix that broken barricade for hours. Every 15 minutes someone would come on stage to request, beg and even abuse us, asking us to take one step behind so that the show could begin on time “Listen up assholes, I want you buttheads to take one step behind.”There was only a small issue, it isn’t easy for 25,000 people to take a step behind like some kind of trained army men.
The sun set over Gurgaon and the stage lights shone right into our eyes. Some crew members started to dismantle the drum kit, evidently meant for the opening bands. News trickled in that the opening acts had been shelved and only Metallica was to perform. Great. I hadn’t come to see Biffy Clyro anyway.
The audience though, were getting agitated, fearing the worst. Yet another PA came on stage to brief us about what was happening. The band was in a press conference in the neighboring hotel but they were not to arrive at the venue. “Due to some technical problems, the show has been cancelled today, please come tomorrow.”
My heart sank, my mind was flustered. “Come tomorrow?” Are you serious? What is this? A doctor’s clinic? Ripples of disbelief ran through the crowd as we hooted and booed. My friends started to pull me towards the exit fearing the worst.
Another announcement. “Don’t take panic, don’t take panic! Come tomorrow at 4 ‘o clock!” I’d have put a bullet between his eyes just for his grammar. Clearly, people at the barricades were not taking this well. As heated words were exchanged, the same fellow howls into the mic. “Kaunsi badi baat hai? Kal aa jana na 4 baje!”
WHAT? I’ve paid you nearly 3k, came through a stampede, stood under the blazing sun for hours for you to tell me “Kaunsi badi baat hai?” The fellow was pelted with well aimed plastic bottles. Frustrated he screamed again “Agar aise karte rahoge toh kal bhi show nahin hoga.”
Barricades that were already down were broken as a handful of people jumped on stage and chased the fucker down. He yelled “Jai Bajrangbali!” one last time into the mic before beefed up ‘butthead’ and the rest of the crew ran for their dear lives backstage and switched the lights off.
I watched horrified as amps and monitors were thrown down, merchandise and banners set on fire. I’d waited for years for this gig, one more day would’ve made no difference to me then. Refusing to believe that it was logistically impossible for them to reschedule the gig, I just wanted to hear that the gig would indeed happen the next day. I blamed the vandals for the inevitable.
Back home I was dazed as people actually poked fun at our situation, thinking it was funny to ask “So, how was the gig?” Metallica released an official statement the next day and not once did the blame the vandals. Four DNA officials were arrested. It was hardly a consolation.
Now, before I start my rant, I want to make one thing very clear. I have never and will never stand for mindless violence that destroys peace of mind and property.
What got my goat was the ugly face of people I respected, online. Respected names in the Indian metal circuit blaming the fans with their holier than thou attitudes, not for one minute considering what we must’ve been through. “You’ve ruined the name of India and killed the nascent metal scene in India.” Sure, fuckers.
Taking potshots on Delhi was another turn off. There were people from all over India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Iran and even Finland in the crowd.
Not once did we feel that we belonged to different cities, to different societies and worlds as we stood there waiting for the greatest Heavy Metal band in the world. The love for good music united us, but I’m guessing arm chair critics will just not get it.
If anyone that night stuck to the stereotype of Delhi laxity, it was the organisers, the security staff and the crew.
Consider this, tickets worth 3k, hours worth of wait, years of anticipation, braving weather, crossing borders and “kal aa jana, kaunsi badi baat hai!“
What would you feel? What would you do? What would Jaymz Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burton do?
Think about it.
The God That Didn’t Fail Us
Since April this year, when one of the ‘Big Fours of Heavy Metal’ confirmed their maiden tour to India, I had been panicking. For once the anxiety felt like I was about to get married. From booking the tickets, to the panic of not receiving the tickets, from panicking on the extra kilos of weight that left me in no condition to slip into my black St. Anger tee to panicking about whether we could get the best view of the stage amidst 30,000 people, it was just a rush of blood to the head every time I thought about the D-Day.
I ardently followed almost all Metallica communities on Facebook and for the last 6 months www.metallica.com had been my home; its blog posts kept on auto refresh every 10 minutes. My wallpapers and screensavers changed to James Hetfield/Kirk Hammet and all play list libraries (Windows Media player, VLC, iPod) were realigned to belt out Seek and Destroy at the highest possible volume.
If the first two paragraphs makes you think – “OMG, and only I thought I was being a nut case” then go on. If it makes you think something on the lines of – “OMG, I’m glad I have not been such a nut case”, don’t bother reading any further.
I would not go into precursors to the D-Day. I’ll chicken out using the tried and tested method of denial. What happened in Delhi was not my fault. I hope I’m not expected to give my unwise opinion on what I think on whose fault it was after that excuse. One thing I can say is that I felt bad for the Metallica fans who had been anticipating the concert for years together, as much as I did.
Okay I’ll be honest. It was not all that much a ‘feeling bad’ for my fellow Metallicans but an unexpected gush of panic all over again. It culminated into a huge wave of emotional eruption. I reached out for the nearest bar, ordered three neat Old Monks and gulped them down almost at a go. More followed.
We are talking Saturday night. The pre-concert gathering happened at my place with as many as 30 people (mostly cousins and friends from all over the country) crammed in a dimly lit room , the guitarists in the group belting out their versions of our fav Metallica numbers. I am not quite sure about how the events of the night followed as vision and short term memory faded some 2 hours later, partly due to the booze and partly because of the thick fog stinking like marijuana in my house.
So it would be pretty okay to say I banged into D-Day like Alice fallen into the rabbit hole, only this time Alice woke up not in Wonderland but amidst a mess of bottles, cigarette ash and stubs, and Alice in Chains playing on a laptop somewhere in the house.
People washed off the dryness in their mouths with the leftover beer and decided that now since we were awake we might as well head to the venue. Early entry. Early? I said – “Guys it’s like 3 pm. Gates open at 4.” Everyone looked at me. I shut the f$%# up.
We started. Around Mekhri Circle the feeling started sinking in… Fellow Metallicans in black t-shirts on bikes, in cars, getting out of autos and buses, a gentle nod here, a beer stained grin there and brotherhood (okay, sisterhood for all you feminists) was established . If rock was made religion there would be no riots. Damn sure!
We reached the venue by 4.30 (No, no makeup or bath and getting dressed shit.) Someone woke up with a throbbing head, jumped out of the bed, bumped into a broken beer bottle and ran headlong into trouble. Hence the delay. We took him to the hospital? Hell No! We used him as bait to ask the guys at the security gates to let us pass in the bottle of water (70% vodka), some painkillers (ummm, actually N10 pills) and Danish cookies, the inner linings of the boxes lined with rolled up tokes (the cookies were yuck but the boxes looked good and sturdy).
If you are getting revolting ideas about our moral and ethical code, then I would seriously ask you to reconsider. The minor wound had been minor-ly attended to at home and my wounded friend volunteered to put up the show (he likes Freddie Mercury and apparently belongs to a zamindar family he said. What’s the connection you ask me – honestly, I have no clue.)
Okay, so I guess we had reached the venue two paragraphs earlier. It would be more than enough to say that almost 30,000 people in the usual I-don’t-give-a-damn look was some relief from the guys and girls dressed like Barbie characters that you would come across, day in and day out – on the street, in the malls, almost everywhere.
Black t-shirts, dirty denims, unkempt hair, a bloodshot red eye peeping out from fancy pair of sun-glasses. We could hear the opening band Inner Sanctum singing something, the sound of which was lost in the collective roar of the crowd every time the single gate opened to let a few people in. A wait for some 45 minutes and some smart wriggling and viola! We were in!
Security check was a sordid story for many but we sneaked in. Bags, cameras, cigarettes, edibles and water were not allowed. But no one among the organisers had the foresight to think of a ‘bleeding, wounded’ fan.
Once we were in, it all started sinking in. Maybe the entire magic of attending a concert of this magnitude is the theatrical trailer. It’s all about the tremendous build-up – the Facebook posts, getting the tickets, speculations and hiccups, travel arrangements and the rest. What goes down at the concert is only the culmination of everything up to that point (Proof: I wrote 1000 words to reach the opening act of the concert) Once you are in, two extreme feelings start sinking in. If you are an optimist you’d be elated that you finally made it. If you are a sadist like me, the mood would somber down to the realisation that it’s all gonna be over, in about two hours from now.
The familiar smell of marijuana and the after taste of burning filter ushered the lost me from my sad little haven of morbid philosophy to a world where an opening act band can perform for 45 minutes. 5 songs down the performance of Scottish band Biffy Clyro, the crowd started to get impatient. It saved Biffy some trouble as they were okay enough not to be booed off the stage. Wouldn’t blame them as they must have been asked to fill in some predetermined time slot, but come on, you don’t play for 45 minutes if you are opening for a band like Metallica in a country in utter dearth and starvation for some metal for soul.
The incessant rains helped Biffy make people give in and enjoy the moment. Then a lull of another 45 minutes before the stage could be set for the gods. Some time to look around. Turn, look, smile and take drag. There is not much you can see because the entire place is cloaked in thick mist of cold damp air, thickened and turned almost translucent with the smoke emoting from hundred maybe thousands of cigarettes and marijuana/hash tokes.
Someone in the backstage is playing Crazy Train by Black Sabbath. Ozzy’s voice comes floating from somewhere far away.
Then suddenly the lights go off and the crowds fold the fists to the devil. The Ecstasy Of Gold theme plays followed by Enter Sandman. The set list gives a Déjà vu of the Mosters of Rock Concert at the Tushino Airfield in Moscow in 1991. The only difference was the energy level of the 30,000 fans in Bangalore could give the 5,00,000 fans at Tushino a run for their money. The crowd sang the chorus to Memory Remains for five minutes, long after all the band members had stopped playing and listened enraptured to the 30,000 voices, all Metallicad. Hetfield was not very wrong in saying after all “Bangalore – you are beautiful.”
What followed was almost two hours of bliss. I rode the lightening to fade to black all nightmare long. There was Fuel, Creeping Death, Cyanide, For Whom the Bell Tolls, One, Master of Puppets, Welcome Home, Blackened. A cover version of Am I Evil from the fathers of British Heavy Metal, Diamond Head was next. The show wrapped up with Battery and Seek and Destroy. It seemed like everything was over before it started. Sad But True.
The crowds’ demand for more was fulfilled as a seemingly overwhelmed Ulrich promised to come back soon and soon it was raining picks and drum sticks and souvenirs, from the band to the crowd that worshipped them.
The crowd was moving slow on its way out. Everyone wanted it to sink in slow that the concert was over. I turned to look at two big burly men hugging each other, crying. Now that the kind of PDE you don’t expect from hard core metal fans on a concert venue. But I guess I can understand. People had traveled all the way from Nepal and Bangladesh to catch a glimpse of Kirk’s figures on the strings, a soul wrenching, gutted sound so wrapped in indignation and anger that it would make you want to die.
I turned to the gates 30 minutes later. The crowd had considerably thinned out and we were drenched, cold, tired and baked out. While walking out I happened to look at an elderly policeman and met his eye. I can’t say I could fathom was he was thinking of at that time. He was on duty in the rain, on a Sunday night when his family would be deep asleep, all evening watching girls and boys of his kids’ age smoke, drink and jump up and down on some loud thrash growling that sounded anything but music to him. I smiled at him silently saying, “Yeah, I know you are thinking how we assholes ruined your Sunday. But how could I explain that nothing else could have mattered more.” Someone walking behind me just screamed – “Oye, isn’t he the cop who got one of Ulrich’s drumsticks?” I don’t know, I thought, but then what an irony!
Haggling with the Bangalore autowalla to come a distance of 15 kilometers at 12 in the night is another story altogether.
P.S.: Cigarettes, hash, marijuana, vodka, N10 are all injurious to health. So are Danish Cookies in sturdy boxes from the local supermarket. Also when a friend gets injured, take him to a doctor (even if he insists on you knowing his ancestry first). And yes, if you love music, you can always enjoy it without any of these deterrents around.
Written by Rhea Roy.