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Metal Lost Its Growl At BOA

When Kreator wound up at 10.30 pm, liberal estimates put the total figure at 2,000

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Darshan Manakkal Jun 18, 2012
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Far too few metalheads at BOA for a full blown wall of death Photo: Darshan Manakkal

Bangalore Open Air 2012, Sat, Jun 16, Acharya Institute of Technology

The difference between a true metalhead and a poseur cannot simply be put down to the T-shirt he is wearing, or the length of his beard, or the degree of his disregard for table manners. Of course, if you have “Limp Bizkit” emblazoned across your torso at an old school metal fest, you’re certainly asking for trouble. But perhaps what really sets a bonafide metalhead apart from the pretenders, is his thick hide. A member of this stock thrives on the bustle of a mosh pit, doesn’t mind the occasional thunderstorm and certainly doesn’t think twice before braving 25 kilometers of bumper-to-bumper traffic to watch his favorite metal gods in the flesh. Last weekend, Bangalore Open Air (BOA), a 12-hour metal riot held at Acharya Institute of Technology, proved to be an invaluable exercise in separating such men from the boys.

On the day, the city’s Met department forecast heavy precipitation. The tickets for the fest were pegged at a prohibitive Rs 1,500. The venue for the gig was well and truly beyond city limits, and if you didn’t have your own wheels, you would have had to change as many as three buses to make it from the city center to the engineering college, where the festival was being held. Some wisecracking metalheads likened the journey to crossing the river Styx. Most folks, like resident of Imphal, Abow Aarkay made the pilgrimage for Kreator. Aarkay endured 10 hours of flying time and endless jibes from local policemen who were amused at his very long dread locks, to watch the German classic thrash metal band he’d grown up listening to. “It took me 12 years to grow my dreads,” he offered, before trundling off to assume position up front. Others, like local techie Prithvi Sharma had showed up in support of melodic death metal mongers SuidAkrA. “I’d watched them the last time they came to Bangalore and I didn’t get enough of them. So, I’m back for more ”˜War Tunes’,” he said.

SuidAkrA began their set with a Celtic-inspired tune on the bagpipe Photo: Darshan Manakkal

Proceedings kicked off at 10.30 am and early on, Bangalore’s claim to being metal capital of the country came under serious threat. With Palace Grounds being the chosen venue for all large concerts in the city for decades, this far flung venue was always going to be a trial by fire for its promoters. Concert organizers had argued with sunny optimism that fans wouldn’t mind the miles. They had for their part thrown the entire kitchen sink in ”“ the stage was awesomely huge, sound and lights were impeccable and the grounds were large enough to accommodate 10,000  fully grown metal heads and then some more. Eventually, the promoters’ ambitions were grossly disproportionate to the actual turnout. For most of the first half of the fest, Wacken Metal Battle, where bands from different parts of the country slugged it out for tickets to Wacken Open Air 2012, you could actually count the number of black T-shirts in attendance, on your fingers. (Zygnema from Mumbai eventually won those tickets). By the time stoner doom act Bevar Sea wrapped up, a few hundred metalheads were screaming for an encore of their anthem “Abhistu”. When Kreator wound up at 10.30 pm, liberal estimates put the total figure at 2,000 ”“ a far cry from the 40,000 people who’d come to watch Iron Maiden in 2007.

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But what they lacked in numbers, the assembled crowd certainly made up for in enthusiasm. Swaroop Pilli, a drummer with Hyderabad band Perpetual Void, had made the trip because “metal is dead inHyderabad.” Pilli was the initiator of a frenzied mosh pit during a furious set by Bangalore band Kryptos. Shortly after, he was seen nursing a twisted ankle though he promised to be back in action later, and true to his word, while Kreator ripped through “Pleasure to Kill,” Pilli was in the thick of things, hobbling about on one foot. Midway through a set by Dying Embrace, Michael MK, all the way from Aizawl, ambled onto stage and offered the band members a large reefer.

While SuidAkrA did their sound check, Avinash R Menon, bassist of Bevar Sea decided to kick a football around, despite the concert organizers’ fervent pleas not to do so. Menon was soon joined by a large contingent of metalheads, teams were quickly drawn up and some furious kicking ensued, even though everybody was in agreement that there were too many black T-shirts around and it was impossible to tell one team from the other in the fading light. As the first shrill notes of the bagpipe from SuidAkrA’s opening track “Over Nine Waves” emerged from the speaker stack, the football was forgotten and both teams returned to headbanging duties. Soon after, a heavy downpour threatened to drown the crowd, yet not a soul moved till Kreator had finished their set with “Tormentor.” At the end of the day, everybody mostly behaved, there were no untoward incidents and even the ill-advised woman who’d turned up in preppy red pants wasn’t jeered at.

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When the post mortem for BOA is drawn up, it will undoubtedly say that the organizers got it wrong on many different fronts ”“ the venue was too big, too far, they’d promised a giant inflatable mascot, water guns and a slush pit and none of that was anywhere to be seen.

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