A teenager, primed for rebellion, fights conformity in the search for identity. Some find it riding the consumer driven mall escalator, works hard to afford a fix to eventually discard it for a newly ordained 6s that now defines a preferred social status. There are those who find themselves in the thrill of experiences.Unadulterated and unfiltered,the power of experiencing the work of hand and mind yield sound, light, motion and emotion right before your eyes is exhilarating. It’s perplexing in the way that as you watch a universally stubborn lot scream, sing, shout, push, shove, jump and tip toe their way to the sky, you yourself are moved, black fleeced sheep at home among others of a similar hue.
Eleven years ago, at my first live experience, I got to watch Finnish band, The Rasmus perform their hit album, Dead Letters at the MMRDA grounds. The tickets cost Rs 500, an amount that my father hand me with a good deal of concern and advice. The characteristic endeavour of us five college boys in our best black T-Shirts and denim, got us to the gate four hours early to hear the band’s sound check. The elation of the band finally taking sage after six hours of waiting, made me realize why incurable emptiness filled me when I was once dragged to a college event just to get a glimpse of a popular Bollywood actress. Apart from the novelty of a famed international act visiting little ol’ Mumbai, I found it curious that I was more impressed withthe opening band, Prestorika. They played an impressive and a relatively technically diverse set. The Delhi based band were the reigning champions of The Campus Rock Idolsat the time.Two years later, when an impatient hoard of eager metalheads were at their limit after waiting hours for Iron Maiden toperform, the opening band NerveRek had to face a couple of poorly aimed water bottles. Indifferent to the wait, Mayank and I were busy figuring out the time-signatures of their riffs. I remember Arjun Dhanraj’s silky black locks sway as he played music that wasn’t anything like the NWBHMwe were there for. I found my love for prog-rock that day.
Whether you’re an aspiring musician, a writer, or just a fan that loves the hell out watching gigs (especially one that doesn’t blow a hole in your pocket) immersing yourself in the soul of the local circle is a way to relate to all those who are a part of the same friendly system, and are happy about the same things as you.
At a recent show, headlined by Chennai based band Skrat, I was particularly curious about one enthusiastic member of the crowd. It was a Thursday night, and everyone was dressed like the weekend had arrived early. The person I’m referring to didn’t bother changing out of his office formals or leaving his heavy bag at a friend’s place; considering that he was instigating much of the mosh pitrage, doing so wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. None the less, I walked up to him and in the commotion told him to go to town with his manic display of enthusiasm so that I could photograph him in his element. Ever since I took time off from the 9 to 5 routine, I have been reminiscing about those evenings after work where the euphoria of having to push my way through a crowded pub instead of a train was a welcome relief.
The idea that you can rise above the race to the biometric scanner, to either entertain or be entertained, isn’t very different for a curious teenager.He’s not at his friend’s place studying the night away, but running incessantly as if possessed by the whirlpool of a mosh pit. Much of my college gig experiences were like this, although I stayed clear of the mosh pit, I had to negotiate and then flout my night time deadlines. A stiff neck and a sore throat were my battle scars. I would grin about the memory of how I got them while hunched over my laboratory table, calculating the molarity of a 15% NaOH solution. After I began working, I was entitled to a lot more fun, hence I had to master working through a hangover along with enduring the residual stiff neck and sore throat.
In the 1960’s when the world was going through radical change, the culture that was born out of progressive thought was supplemented by music that till today is held as characteristic to the decade.When it came to The Beetles, mania is often a word used to describe the behaviour and dedication that their fan’s displayed. Dorian Lynskey in his article Beatlemania: ‘the screamers’ and other tales of fandom referred to how the four of them with their distinct personalities and charisma, seemed almost ‘attainable’ to fans; ‘which Beatle will you marry?’Through their music they mirrored the desires and dreams of youngsters and were overwhelmed with they love they were given in return. In criticism of the massive scale of the band’s fan following, writers and academicians have often taken a condescending tone by calling the craze pathological and labelling fans as brainwashed consumers. People were far deeply involved with the music than what was apparent in the sight of screaming fans. According to him, their performances were defined by the screaming, it was a ‘celebration of freedom, youth and their power.’
At a Chanel [V] Launch Pad gig in 2007, after Bhayanak Maut’s power packed set, one of the show’s judges asked them where their anger, their metal come from. The band’s former bass player Vinit Bharucha responded saying, “You know, academics, parents, Mumbai Locals.” When you’re at a metal gig and the singer encourages a bold display of profanity, the familiar sound of the crowd yelling in chorus, “Bhenc**d! Madarc**d!” you realise that our celebration of liberty is unique and full of potential.
I have fun attending gigs and I love capturing the energy and emotion of performers as well as fans. I feel at home. I wonder what it would be like to do this in another city.
Photo Credits: Jason Rasquinha