Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Metallica, the Meltdown in Delhi

Photo Courtesy: Zabeeh Afaque/ Hindustan Times

Writer's Note: This piece comes more than two weeks too late following the cancellation of Metallica concert in Gurgaon, Haryana (India). 

There is an uncanny resemblance between the flow of music and material goods from the hierarchy of the First World to the Third. Sarojini Nagar Market & the Western Music scene in India are two cases in point. Both sell market rejects.

Bear with me oh self proclaimed metal head (with the claim of knowing all discographies; also easily available in Wikipedia), for I have nothing against metal and certainly am a bigger junkie for shopping outside of showrooms. But it does eat away at my soul when mostly the ‘Has Beens’ of the music industry come and ‘grace’ us with their presence. When Prodigy successfully performed in Gurgaon earlier this year, I was just puzzled why a Coldplay, System of a Down or an Adele won’t play in town. Furthermore, I was bewildered by the number of “dedicated” Prodigy fans that cropped up as if they all decided to come out of the closet after all these years once the show was announced.

They say it takes 10 years for masses in India to catch up with international music acts and in another ten, once the act wears off from the contemporary scene of the Billboards and the Grammys, its time to relive their past glory in the land of ashrams, spirituality and suckers who call music by Aqua evergreen.

Now I won’t go into some fourfold analysis into why and how the concert was a success in Bangalore, known to host more and better rock acts than the NCR region ever has. For a deeper analysis on the factors that failed in Delhi, you may like to refer to Abhiroop Datta’s, a disgruntled yet hopeful fan, detailed account of the event, pre and post.

Sanya Rai Gupta, who attended the shows in both cities, said, I felt that the Bangalore gig was way more organized, in terms of the waiting time, the crowds and the timing. Metallica played for about two hours, and there was a short gap between when they started playing and the opening bands stopped...but the crowds were pretty enthusiastic and patient.” Yet, no one can assume with confidence if the audience in Bangalore would have reacted the same, if the management had subjected them to the same debacle that Delhiites faced.  

There have been multiple observations and commentaries on the mobs and the vandalism, some sympathizing with their frustration, others delineating via dialects how they were, in fact, not from around town. Amongst all the arguments in the debate whether it was the management versus the crowd to be blamed or the Delhi against Bangalore rock culture, the words of Blogger Rahul Sarin most strongly agreed with me, when he said:

You on the other hand, dear band members, were sitting in your hotel room, comfortably. You did not have the courtesy to apologize to your fans. Your crew treated the audience like dogs by hurling abuses at them and insulting them. Had this been USA, UK or any other nation for that matter, you’d have not dare messed with the audience by way of insults. 

Given my apparent prejudice towards Delhiites, the failure of a Metallica concert turning into mob madness would have normally amused the sadist in me. However, in the spirit of justice and value for entertainment, I personally (despite my physical absence from the scene) felt ragged by the unapologetic attitude of the management, the band and the crew. Media reports claimed that the band refused to play out of concern for the safety and security of the audience. Accepted but in a better PR exercise, they should have issued a more consolatory press statement and reached out to their fans via Twitter. Lady Gaga, another visiting artist in India for the Formula 1, does not have the largest Twitter followers for no reason!

Photo Courtesy: Zabeeh Afaque/ Hindustan Times

We no longer inhabit a world where artists, celebrities or even the Government can maintain a snooty distance from the public and remain inaccessible to their fans. Thanks to Social Media, Jasmine revolution for democracy in the Middle East and rising fuel prices, voices don’t just come out in small circles but explode in the World Wide Web.

The NCR region has held many events on a much larger scale than any other metro in the country combined. The Metallica mishap came in an unfortunate series of events that is more of an isolated incident than routine and the culprits have been brought to task. True that such follies being committed in a Pandit Ravi Shankar concert or a ‘Daler Mehendi Live’ is less imaginable and a band like Metallica is but once in a lifetime opportunity. For all such reasons, the sentiments of the crowd are more understandable than the excuses made by the management.    

*All images are under the copyright ownership of Zabeeh Afaque

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