Event mismanagement

Published: 05 November, 2011 07:52 IST | Rohan Joshi |

First, a joke; What do people in Gurgaon have in common with people at a Metallica concert?

First, a joke; What do people in Gurgaon have in common with people at a Metallica concert?  Nothing. This is because the Metallica concert in Gurgaon was cancelled at what is commonly known as the 11th hour.

As a result, ticket-holders spent most of the 12th, 13th and 14th hours tearing the venue to pieces, lobbing LED screens into the air, and setting things on fire.

This behaviour elicited responses ranging from "What vandalism! Us Indians should be ashamed!" (everyone) to "Couldn't you have the good sense to steal the LED screen instead of breaking it?" (me).

Consider the facts of the case; you have a venue that can hold about 15,000 people. You proceed to fill said venue with close to 25,000 people, each of whom have paid a minimum of Rs 1,650 for the privilege of experiencing what is essentially a Mumbai local train, but with guitars.

MEtalheads: Excited fans of Metallica wait for their idols to take the
stage in Bangalore

Also, most of these 25,000 people are young, think black is a mood, not a colour, and listen to a genre of music that shares its name with a material that can be used to bludgeon people to death. And then you tell them they can't have a show. I'm sorry, but if you told me I couldn't have a show, under those circumstances, I'd grab an LED screen and attempt some left-arm medium fast with it.

And as for the "You shamed India" rubbish, put a lid on it. In 1992, fans at a Metallica and Guns 'N' Roses show in Montreal, Canada, rioted because Metallica left the stage early. Even though the reason they left stage was because (I kid you not) their frontman accidentally caught fire.

At Woodstock '99 in New York, crowds lit bonfires that set an entire audio-tower ablaze, and then, for added fun, rioted.  Point being, concert vandalism isn't an Indian thing. Mobs have moods, and with a little provocation, those moods turn violent. Those are the rules.

If you're going to be mad at anyone, be mad at the organisers, the people who severely underestimated everything. And fret not Gurgaon, because I did attend a Metallica concert, just two days later. It was in Bangalore, and it was organised with all the efficiency of a 16 year-old's first ever house-party. In fact, I'm convinced that the only reason Metallica even took to the stage was because they didn't want to be the guys that flubbed two shows in a row. 

We got to the venue at 4 pm, and were immediately launched into a sea of black and body-odour. The sea was about 20,000 strong, and it was being managed by three terrified looking men at a barricade. I felt like I was in a Kannada version of 300. When we eventually made it through, we went into an enclosure that nobody was monitoring. And so, people poured into it until it could take no more. And then more poured in anyway. As a result, I found myself watching the opening act with an unusual pressure on my, um, lower back region, most of which came from a man named Sandy, who looked like he had been drunk since the day before.

By the time the opening band was done and Metallica was ready to come on, we'd already been there four hours. Before Metallica came on, their security-team spent half an hour on stage asking people to make sure "we have a safe show." Following which Metallica took to the stage and asked people to make sure "we have a safe show." One of the world's best metal bands on stage, and because the organisers couldn't do it, they had to ask for safety. I felt cheated. It was like going to a terrorist-cell meeting only to find them all discussing the latest novel in Oprah's book-club.

At the end of the show, all we had were "My phone is gone" and "I think someone stole my kidney". It just felt odd that the band (and their phenomenal performance,) became the tiniest part of the concert experience. The organisation, or lack of it thereof, was the real story.

On the bright side, at least it was better than the show in Gurgaon. 

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo

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