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Gig review: KoЯn On The Kob

GuЯgaon may not come to mind when you think of a KoЯn concert. Yet, it’s here that INDRAJIT HAZRA witnessed hardcore good ol’ nu metal

Rolling Stone India Sep 08, 2012
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Korn performing in Gurgaon. Photo: Shiv Ahuja

KoЯn, Leisure Valley Grounds, Gurgaon, September 5th: She didn’t look like a KoЯn fan. Sitting on a plush red sofa inside the Platinum Lounge of Gurgaon’s Leisure Valley Grounds and surrounded by chatting, drinking, eating folks who also didn’t seem to be Korn fans ”“ but un-Korny in a very different manner ”“ Auntie-ji could have passed off as Mama Cass… Were it not for the red polyster sari wrapped around her ample personal space. As Boomarang, the rockers from Aizawl, warmed the stage for the rollers from California, Auntie-ji, protected by the glass sheet in front of her that kept the air-conditioned air from seeping out into the warm Haryana air, looked curiously out at the crowd outside as she popped a few more kung pao chicken pieces into her mouth.

An hour later, sitting now outside with Uncle-ji, a thin elderly gentleman who looked like a retired accounts teacher, Auntie-ji was getting the full force of the shockwaves emanating from the stage as Korn frontman Jonathan Davis launched their evening’s proceedings with “Divine,” a track from their 1994 eponymous debut album. I looked at Auntie-ji’s face as Davis, pushed by the sheer sonic rage of the music, scowled, “Fuck you! I’m fed up with you/ I’m not as good as you/ Fuck no, I’m better than you!” No, nothing. She continued staring at the roar and lights below.

The crowd was small, around 2,500. Photo: Shiv Ahuja

Things down at the pit below were thankfully far less serene. How could it be anything but? We were in Jat country where bubbling testosterone predates nu metal or KoЯn. Even before KoЯn had started their list at the not-so-witching hour of 7.30 pm, guys in KoЯn t-shirts and KoЯn hair were swaying to keep straight, perhaps deciding to come out of their bends once the real show started. The crowd was small, somewhere around 2,500.

But even as the caterpillar riff of guitarman James ”˜Munky’ Schaffer heralded the arrival of  “Predictable,” the second number in the evening’s set-list, the small army jostling, headbanging and surging as one, sang out, “Who are you to say/ that I can’t speak what’s on my mind?” like Leonides’ army of 300, Gurgaon’s Spartans were hardcore KoЯn-flakers.

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It was clear by the first half hour that KoЯn was laying out a no-nonsense old-nu metal repertoire for their first Indian gig. The heavy dub and electronica-dripping sound from their latest album The Path of Totality would come later and in dribbles. This was going to be Life Is Peachy-Follow the Leader Nineties Klassic KoЯn night. Davis, his earlier dreadlocks un-double-helixed, looks half-Gary Oldham’s Dracula, half-Akal Takht high-priest as he rules from the stage.

By the time the boys do enter The Path of Totality and releases “Narcissistic Cannibal” from their silo, the crowds are buzzing like flies on a week-old slice of pizza in a Nuremberg rally.

One man who’s still shaking his d-locks as if he needs to bring the temporal lobe in his brain back to its intended position is bassist Reginald ”˜Fieldy’ Arvizu, who cracks his fingers over the lines over and over again, especially in “Kill Mercy Within” that has the arena kick into a contained bull run. He breaks out the funk in “Thoughtless” and you suddenly realise how claustrophobic a term like ”˜nu metal’ or ”˜alternative metal’ must have been to KoЯn before they stopped caring a fuck.

Even the “Hotel California” homeys are out after a point from the creature comforts of the Platinum Lounge ”“ they must have been intensely following the proceedings on the flat-screen near the bar, right? ”“ to taste the electric buzz-thump in the air.

And then comes the roar that accompanies “Freak On A Leash.” You can’t bring the roof down in an open arena. While controlled chaos streams from all angles of the stage speakers, I fix my eyes briefly on to a couple of planes that have taken off from the nearby airport. If their passengers felt turbulence while up in the clear skies of Gurgaon that night, I know where its source was.

The audience at the concert in Gurgaon approved of the Nineties Korn special Photo: Shiv Ahuja

Some one minute of amazing beatboxing-and-bass jugalbandhi by singer and bassist turns the gig into a boom’n’bass’n’metal party. That sequence ended with Munky Schaffer producing a low-long sarangi-sound that sounds like the cry of the last dinosaur just before getting wiped out by the last meteorite hit. Which segues and bursts into the grinding bomp of “Falling Away From Me” from the 1999 album Issues. In the crowd, now a lassi-churn, the shirts are off — as are the bets about whether KoЯn still has it in them to rock 19 years after they were first planted.

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KoЯn clearly did their homework before coming over to India. As soon as I hear the guitar going into helicopter-blade mode, I knew it’s their school building-destroying cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”  Middle-aged men who had forgotten that they’d chopped off their hair quite a while ago were suddenly flicking their heads as if to get a clear line of vision. Instead of ra-ra-ing on with the guys, the women started jiving ”“ headjiving? ”“ as the thunder and crash accompanied Davis as he growled with the force of a detained man-child, “All in all you’re justa/ fucking brick in the wall.”

As the first encore, Davis came out on the stage alone blowing into a bagpipe ”“ the rest of the crew joining him as he broke into the metalhead’s nursery rhyme blizzard-medley of  “Shoots and Ladders” from Life is Peachy. I’m sure by now that the affable KoЯn frontman has a split tongue that allows him to trip out words as if they were being shot from an automatic.

Drummer Ray Luzier breaks the evening’s beat with a dolomite solo, after which the rest of the band surfaces and joins him with the rousing “Blind” from their debut album. As Davis insists that “I can see/I can see/I can see/I’m not blind,” building up to a bludgeoning end to the evening, I can see Auntie-ji, still sitting next to a by-now tight-lipped Uncle-ji, tapping her feet ever so slightly. “Good night,” Davis ends with genuine warmth after a 90-minute set.

I can just see KoЯn return to India and whip up a bigger crowd perhaps at the Ram Lila Grounds in Delhi during Dussehra when the burning idols come crashing down. Or even better, at the Kumbh Mela with Naga sadhus looking quite the children of KoЯn.

Indrajit Hazra is a Delhi-based novelist and journalist.

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