My blog post in Mint Lounge a couple of days after the Metallica concert.
Basically, it was fantastic, and Shro and I were doing silly shit like this before we headed out for the gig that day:
The complete, unedited, much longer version follows:
It is only fitting that months of planning, excitement, long-distance travels 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.
The magic of attending any live gig lies mostly in the tremendous buildup to it. 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 fanbois 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 as one walks into the venue.
Anyway. Here is a full personal account of travels on my noble Metallicause [apologies in advance, this sort of word play will be rampant throughout the piece].
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 down to Bangalore.
‘Why? It’s very far away.’
‘I know. Music concert.’
‘Metallica.’ [*awkward silence followed by quick exit stage right*]
Early next morning, I was packed and ready to leave for the city from the village. Downhill walk for a couple of hours, then on horseback for some time till we got to a motorable road, and finally the highway whence I traveled to Jammu at day’s end. Final packing, more shrieky behaviour and expensive last-minute ticket-booking later, I was ready to begin the final leg of the journey. Overnight on a near-empty train to Delhi – it was Diwali - with phosphoric celebrations in the night sky outside through the lands of Jammu, Punjab and finally, the capital. And the last easy bit - plane hop to Bangalore and its naturally-chilled climes. Two full days of travel concluded, I was here.
Preparations for this had begun back in April 2011, when the first vague rumblings of a possible Metallica gig in India were doing the rounds. As soon as a confirmation came in that Metallica [oh, my God, METALLICA!] was playing in India, one knew one would attend somehow, come what may. By the time tickets were up online in July 2011, with dual options of Gurgaon or Bangalore, I had decided on attending the latter gig [fortuitous?].
Forget about everything else; Bangalore has rock concert vintage. We have had the best of the best here over the years [and we have also had the other sort]. When jokes are made about ‘Bangalore’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 international rock music. The underground rock scene is booming. Teenagers and their coolth infest garages and makeshift studios across the city. High quality Bangalore bands like Thermal and a Quarter, Galeej Gurus, Kryptos, Synaps have made it big across the country. Let us look proudly on Bangalore’s modern concert history, in no particular order: Mr Big, the Scorpions, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Sting, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Mark Knopfler, Roger Waters, Megadeath, Lamb of God, and IRON MAIDEN for the love of God [phraseology to be noted] – they have all played here. It thusly followed that Metallica would too, and that I would witness the event in my home away from home in ‘Luru. And so, on a hot July afternoon in Jammu, this writer purchased concert tickets for October 30, 2011 at the Palace Grounds, Bangalore.
Cometh the hour, cometh the band. With great trepidation one watched news of the Gurgaon fiasco and Metallica’s cancellation there. Bangalore was on the edge of its seat. We waited. And waited. The gig was still on! Celebrations! By the morning of the 30th, the interwebs resounded with many variations of: ‘In Bangalore, Metallican.’ Ha. Ha ha. Precious.
One knows that good people from all over India [and maybe abroad?] had descended on Bangalore to see the band perform. The most obvious travelling fans were identifiable across the city by their unique appearance – in their grungy tees, dirty jeans, long, greasy hair and a certain look - thronging M G 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.
The morning of the 30th. Comfortable shoes had been purchased just for the event. Attire selected carefully. Rain predictions in [it would rain], we were prepared. Metallica merchandise and jeans for them as had it, and mostly black for the rest. By noon, we were ready to leave. We had decided we’d watch India’s first F1 race after lunching somewhere and then head to the venue. We zeroed in on The Biere Club, renowned for its, well, beeru, and as for my teetotalling sort, I recommend their fresh lime soda [sweet and salt] also. Heady mixture. The flat screen TVs served our F1-viewing motives and it was a most pleasant interlude. The Biere Club was packed to the rafters 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 on the 30th, well before the gates opened at three, 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 weird rule for this heavy metal gig, so enterprising concert-goers planned an early start to the day and tanked up at various watering holes across the city before staggering in to Palace Grounds. All the contraband that need be smuggled in *wink*nudge* was arranged for also, with bags and pouches concealed artfully in hair, inner garments and footwear.
At five in the evening we pushed out towards the Palace Grounds. Nodding and grinning at all fellow concert goers in other vehicles headed the same way. In a pre-planned maneuver, we parked the car at a friend’s house, quite a ways from the entry at Gayatri Vihar. Hopped an auto and oh-my-God, crazy traffic as we neared the grounds. What a sight. Thousands of black tee shirts inching their way along roads and in vehicles, and streaming in through the gates. We were borderline manic happy. A crush at the beginning where tickets were being checked, and then the final walk towards the stage grounds.
The high-level security at the entrance has to be mentioned specially, and appreciated, and giggled over. We had the faintest of pat downs, and the lady checking one would ask apologetically, ‘Cigarette toh nahin hai?’ [You’re not carrying in cigarettes, right?’] ‘Maachis?’ [‘Matches?’] All one had to do was shake head in the negative, and they would take our word for it and we’d be politely passed on without so much as a ‘But-wait-let-me-check-properly-anyway’. I suppose the men had it easy as well. Let me tell you, a LOT of stuff got in. *grin*
There we were. After decades of fandom and adoration, we were going to watch Metallica [oh, my God, Metallica!] live, in front of our eyes. Right there. Ah, but we could have peed our collective pants. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was ready, all tens of thousands of us.
And so into the crush of bodies, in the rain, trying to home in on the most suitable location to settle down into for the rest of the concert. A few moves and attempts later we found 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. Apparently two other acts, Guillotine and Inner Sanctum had gone up before, but we missed that lot. 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 cops chasing down people from the scaffolding and sound towers. We waited.
|The Black Album or 'Metallica'|
And just past eight, 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 two plus hours they played, IT-WAS-ON. Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammet 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, head banging, 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 eight till about ten thirty, 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 – Bangaloreans and guests of Bangalore - with our once-in-a-lifetime experience. Metallica’s first ever gig in India. 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 very few restaurant chains it knew would still be open – the most popular being Empire. We headed to the Infantry Road joint and one hears that all the Empires were hit alike. So also those comfortable eats in the heart of Shivajinagar that know how to care for the nocturnals. It was like a spillover from the concert. Hundreds of hungry rock fans laid siege to the restaurant, 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. A good day. Completely worth the long pilgrimage here from my mountains. As the deafness in my left ear wanes, let me end the narrative with a suitable smarmy something I read online: ‘If you like Metallica, raise your hand. If you don’t, raise your standards.’ Such Metallicads we be. And well done, Bangalore, you do us proud again and again.