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Oh my God, I rode the lightning

Oh my God, I rode the lightning
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First Published: Fri, Nov 04 2011. 08 45 PM IST

Fans at the Metallica concert on 30 October. By Anantha Subramanyam
Fans at the Metallica concert on 30 October. By Anantha Subramanyam
Updated: Fri, Nov 04 2011. 08 45 PM IST
It is only fitting that months of planning, excitement, long-distance travel and pre-show jitters came to fruition with a very satisfactory attendance of the Metallica concert, followed by temporary deafness in the left ear. Yes. Metallica. I was there.
Fans at the Metallica concert on 30 October. By Anantha Subramanyam
The magic of attending any live gig lies mostly in its tremendous build-up. What goes down at the concert is only the culmination of everything up to that point—scrambling to get initial information, shrieky high-five behaviour with other fanboys and fangirls, huddling with friends to plan attendance and logistics, procuring tickets, travelling to concert city, rendezvous, make-up, costume, emotions, excitement, and… BAM! Final body frisk at the venue.
Anyway. Here is the full personal account.
A few days ago, in my village in the mountains of Doda, Jammu and Kashmir, a full day’s travel away from the nearest city, I sheepishly told the parents I had to head to Bangalore.
“Why? It’s very far away.”
“I know. Music concert.”
“Whose?”
“Metallica.” (awkward silence followed by quick exit stage right)
Early next morning, I was packed and ready to leave for the city. Downhill walk for a couple of hours, then on horseback for some time till we got to a motorable road, and finally, the highway to Jammu. Overnight on a near-empty train to Delhi, then the last easy bit—a plane hop to Bangalore. Two full days of travel (nearly 2,900km) concluded, I was there.
Bangalore has rock concert vintage. We have had the best of the best there over the years (and we have also had the other sort). When jokes are made about the city’s “knowledgeable crowd”, it’s not all jokes, let me tell you. More than anything else, Bangalore is known for its rock. From school and college level up, you get a good schooling in indigenous and global rock music. The underground scene is booming. Teenagers and their coolth infest garages and makeshift studios across the city. High-quality local bands like Thermal And A Quarter, Galeej Gurus, Kryptos, Synapse have made it big across the country. Let us look proudly at the city’s modern concert history, in no particular order: Mr Big, Scorpions, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Sting, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Mark Knopfler, Roger Waters, Megadeth, Lamb of God, and IRON MAIDEN for the love of God (phraseology to be noted)—have all played there. Big-ticket organizer DNA Networks says Bangalore has hosted the majority of their concerts and it will always be the most favoured venue. And so, on a hot July afternoon in Jammu, this writer purchased concert tickets for 30 October at the Palace Grounds, Bangalore.
Lead vocalist James Hetfield. By Gireesh GV/AP
Cometh the hour, cometh the band. With great trepidation one watched news of the Gurgaon fiasco and Metallica’s cancellation there. Bangalore waited. The gig was still on! Celebrations! By the morning of the 30th, the interwebs resounded with many variations of: “In Bangalore, Metallican.”
One knows that good people from all over India had descended there to see the band perform. The most obvious travelling fans were identifiable across the city by their unique appearance—grungy tees, dirty jeans, long, greasy hair and a certain look—thronging MG Road, loafing in malls, being sullen in pubs. Complete strangers would glance at one another, exchange a slight nod, or alternatively, show the finger affectionately in a spirit of oneness with Metallica. It was almost spiritual.
By noon on the 30th, we were ready to leave. We had decided we’d watch India’s first F1 race before heading to the concert venue. Popular craft brewery The Biere Club was packed with other Metallicans, and smug, knowing looks were being thrown around like it was someone’s coming-out party. It was all quite silly, and quite beautiful.
By midday, well before the gates opened at 3pm, an ocean of black T-shirts, jeans and otherwise comfortable attire was slowly making its way across to the Palace Grounds. “No drinks at the venue” was the rule for this heavy metal gig, so enterprising concert goers planned an early start and tanked up at various watering holes across the city before staggering to the concert.
At 5pm we pushed out towards the Palace Grounds. Nodding and grinning at all fellow concert goers in other vehicles headed the same way. What a sight. Thousands of black T-shirts inching their way along roads and in vehicles, and streaming in through the gates. A crush at the beginning where tickets were being checked, and then the final walk towards the stage grounds.
Fans were identifiable across the city by their unique appearance. By Gireesh GV/AP
The high-level security at the entrance deserves special mention (organizers say there were 700-800 police personnel, 550 private security types and 150 bouncers that day). We had the faintest of pat-downs, and the lady checking asked apologetically, “Cigarette toh nahin hai? (You’re not carrying cigarettes, right?)”. “Maachis? (Matches?)”. All we had to do was shake head in the negative, and we were politely allowed entry. Let me tell you, a LOT of stuff got in.
There we were. After decades of fandom and adoration, we were going to watch Metallica live. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was ready, all 28,000 of us.
And so into the crush of bodies, in the rain, trying to find our sweet spot. By this time the opening acts had kicked in. We walked in on Biffy Clyro, a Scottish rock band, warming the crowd up. It was past 6 now, lightly raining and everything was most enjoyable, even the minor scuffles and shoving that is natural in huge crowds of very drunk, quite stoned people. Biffy Clyro were tight, impressive and did not get booed off stage. That is saying a lot when you’re opening for Metallica.
Then. A lull. Tense moments in between as organizers asked the crowd near the stage to move back a little. “We need you to move back so the security can move in.” “Come on, guys, cooperate.” “Safety first.” What, after the opening acts they realized this needed to be done? I can tell you we were pretty nervous about things turning fugly again. Obviously it took a while, but the knowledgeable Bangalore crowd worked it out in time, much to the chagrin of many people who were hoping for a second cancellation. Ha to you! Ha!
For almost an hour there was nothing except music playing on the speakers. And amusing incidents, with policemen chasing down people from the scaffoldings and sound towers. We waited.
And just past 8, the lights went out, the crowd roared, drums and a familiar riff screamed through the air… AND METALLICA TOOK THE STAGE! Starting their set with Creeping Death and right through the 2-plus hours they played, IT-WAS-ON. Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Trujillo (My heroes! My heroes!) blazed through a mix of their best songs from all albums—Fuel, Ride the Lightning, Sanitarium, Sad but True, One, Master of Puppets, The Memory Remains, Cyanide, Nothing Else Matters and the performance of the evening —Enter Sandman—pyrotechnics and all. The encore closed with Battery and Seek and Destroy. The older music definitely took it, especially songs from The Black Album, because people of a certain vintage (like me) know that music better.
So the kids enjoyed the newer numbers more, but the classics were for everyone. The opening riff of Enter Sandman caused a near-frenzy, and the crowd sang as one. Roaring, headbanging, smoking, drinking—it was a true-blue concert. Great sound on the speakers (though we lost audio on one set for a couple of numbers in the beginning—fixed soon) and enough big-screen projectors for those who couldn’t see the stage that well. From just past 8 till about 10.30, Metallica gave us heavy. For me, Hetfield’s clear vocals, Ulrich’s crazy drumming and Hammett’s guitars-from-the-gut always win it. The gig of the year wound up with the band thanking us, us thanking them, them throwing souvenirs into the crowd, emotions running high and overall awesomeness.
As the band disappeared, we hung around on the grounds taking it all in. Thousands of happy fans with our once-in-a-lifetime experience. Metallica’s first-ever gig in India. In Hetfield’s words, “Bangalore you’re beautiful.” With the promise of more as they left. All of us were mud-stained, tired and happy. Feet killing us. Many smiles. The throng moved out slowly. There was the long trudge out to the gates, and then the horror of exiting the car park. By the time we worked our way out it was well past midnight.
As always after a late night, Bangalore headed to the few restaurant chains it knew would still be open—the most popular being Empire. We picked the Infantry Road outlet and one hears that all the Empires were hit alike. So also those comfortable eats in the heart of Shivajinagar that value nocturnal life. It was like a spillover from the concert. Hundreds of hungry rock fans laid siege to these restaurants, some eating outside on the street, some seated, some waiting. Everyone was served, the entire black sea of concert goers—it was slightly surreal.
That was a special day. Completely worth the long pilgrimage from my mountains. As the deafness in my left ear wanes, let me end with a suitable smarmy something I read online: “If you like Metallica, raise your hand. If you don’t, raise your standards.”
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Nov 04 2011. 08 45 PM IST
More Topics: Bangalore | Concert | Metallica | Show | Music |
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