So close, no matter how far, couldn’t be much more from the heart of a deeply disgruntled fan, who returned disappointed from what was to be a night about the metal gods, Metallica, live in Delhi. Much has been spoken about it, much has already been written, much has been misinterpreted, a lot has been misreported, but the heart is somewhere lost.
For the many thousands who had gathered on the night of October 28 at Leisure Valley, Gurgaon, it was supposed to be a childhood dream waiting to be fulfilled. Instead it turned out to be a night that has created memories that shall remain forever. Unfortunately, these memories won’t be pleasant. They will be made up of a badly organised event, a sudden cancellation of the concert, a near stampede-like situation where 25,000 people were trapped inside the venue with the exits being shut off, a foreign management personnel insulting the crowd from the stage, and utter chaos with a complete lack of security.
The crowd was peaceful, very well-behaved, and evidently high on the adrenalin rush and the sheer excitement of watching the stage come alive with Metallica.
Needless to say, the enraged crowd went into a complete frenzy and did what they thought was the right thing to do. Some completely vandalised the venue, damaging expensive equipment, destroying the sound and light systems, putting banners on fire, while others chanted hate slogans and proceeded towards the nearest exit, only to find them cordoned off.
I have been to a lot of concerts, but this one by far was going to be the biggest that our country had seen in a long time. You would think that the organisers, who have been bringing international acts to us for a long time, would make the necessary arrangements. However, I don’t think I have ever been to a more unsafe event. Entrance gates were falling apart, entry barricades were on the floor. My own foot was stuck under it and had to take help from a friend to get it out while 10,000 people stood behind us. I practically walked in without being frisked; people were being allowed to walk in with bags and handbags, even though the tickets clearly said they weren’t allowed. There was mismanagement from the start. There were hardly any signs of the police being there—I only saw private security guards.
The gates opened at around four p.m. and within an hour a crowd of at least 10,000 had gathered at the venue. The crowd was peaceful, very well-behaved, and evidently high on the adrenalin rush and the sheer excitement of watching the stage come alive with Metallica. However, soon after, the management started making announcements about the barricades causing a problem and that the entire crowd would need to take a step back so that Metallica could perform. We were also told that until the barricades were repaired, the band wouldn’t be able to perform. By now, the crowd had already expanded to about 20,000 people, so to get all of them to move would have been nothing less than a daunting task. At this moment, a member of the band’s management conveniently came up on stage, took the mic and addressed the entire crowd as ‘buttheads’.
As if that wasn’t enough, another two hours later, it was finally announced that the event would be postponed to a later date. (Obviously, that never happened.) What happened afterwards is something that the Indian media has extensively covered and people have spoken enough about. Fingers have been pointed, arrests have been made, money has been lost (unless it is later refunded), dreams have been crushed, the country’s image has been hurt, and Delhi/N.C.R. has been put to shame—but no one will really know what exactly happened.
Many of us are expressing our angst against the vandals, many of us are also blaming the city in general and its inability to host a concert, while others have made it into a battleground for deciding which city is better. However, from someone who was present at the venue from the start; I believe that this was easily one of the most peaceful crowd gatherings that the city had ever seen.
People waited patiently for hours together, just to enjoy some good music. There were fans who had come from as far as the northeast, from the west, the south of India—some even from Nepal and Qatar. It was a motley crowd of fans, gathered between the ages of 16 to 60.
However, after having been insulted, having been forced to wait for hours, if you’re also going to seize a dream—that is a little too much. It was supposed to be a night to create some sweet memories, which instead left a strong, bitter taste in the mouth. I do not justify the vandalism, but I do justify the angst and the hurt. What happens next is for the law to decide as many fans have filed complaints. The police has already taken action. There are multiple debates on all social networking sites. Emotions are flying high and hearts have been broken.
As preachy as it sounds, this is really not about which city can host a better event. If going by the crowd that had gathered, the city had played a perfect host. Ask the many who were present and were not from Delhi or N.C.R. People were enraged, people were furious, but some had paid fortunes to fulfill just one small dream.
Something somewhere went terribly wrong and someone has a lot of questions to answer. Starting with: what does a fan have to do to just enjoy a concert peacefully? How is it our fault if the barricading was weak and faulty? Why were proper arrangements not made if the same was recognised? Why was the ‘safety’ of the bands and an expected crowd of 25,000 people not taken into consideration prior to the event?
Unfortunately, we may never know. Sad, but true.
The discussion is likely to carry on for a while and understandably so. Nevertheless, as a fan of Metallica and someone who has grown up listening to their music, I can only hope that this event does not turn many away from their music, and that this does not create any divide between metalheads in the country.