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Great Indian Rock

My rock education continues. For the past couple of months the only songs I’ve listened on the iPod—whether I tune out the daily commute to and from work or wind down at night—have been from Metallica. From Death Magnetic to Kill ‘Em All, every single day has been an ear-busting cacophony of musical mayhem. One heck of a ride. Although I may not know the lyrics of their songs by heart, nor identify most of the tracks from their first riff, but I still count myself a Metallica fan.

It was only natural, what with my newfound affinity towards rock music (heavy metal, in particular), that I had to attend the Bangalore leg of Great Indian Rock 2009—the largest platform for the country’s leading rock bands to showcase their talent. But the event clashed with one of my passions: weekend football, and Manchester United’s irresistible Premiership encounter with Liverpool at Anfield. Choosing to attend the rock show over watching the football game wasn’t easy, but it turns out I made the right choice.

Palace Grounds was the venerable venue. I went with fellow metalheads, first to congregate outside the gates, arriving well over two hours before they opened. Apart from baking under the uncharacteristically hot Bangalore sun, and contemplating unlikely conditions invoking “force majeure” (as printed on the back of our entry tickets), we saw a bunch of security guards being taught how to frisk people (no kidding!). Slowly, as the minutes trickled past excruciatingly, the crowd started swelling. Black t-shirts proclaiming several band allegiances were everywhere.

We entered the ground at 5 o’clock and saw a mini-hangar of a stage in front of us. I am told it wasn’t even one-fifth the size of the stage Iron Maiden had for their gig in February. I had no idea what to expect, but from the lukewarm reception to Parachute XVI’s curtain raising performance, I had mixed feelings over the rest of the evening. I’m no authority on music but this three man band just didn’t cut it for me: their music was so-so, vocals were imperceptible, and the bespectacled lead singer-cum-lead guitarist looked out of place and lacked any semblance of stage presence.

Next in line were Inner Sanctum. In sharp contrast to the near-lethargic Parachute XVI, these guys just exploded on stage and resuscitated GIR 2009 back to life through their death metal. Inner Sanctum’s frenetic, no-nonsense music finally brought the crowd to their feet, inspired no doubt by their lead singer, a figure bursting with energy (one Red Bull too many, perhaps) and nothing short of a rampaging bull. He acted and sang like a man possessed. Although I didn’t comprehend much but I liked the guttural vocals, and how their 40-odd minute performance never dipped in mind-numbing, bone-crushing intensity. Inner Sanctum snapped me out of my daydream, took me by the scruff of the neck and compelled me to initiate the evening’s headbanging. I’ll never forget that performance.

I was slightly sad when they left the stage, unsure how the next band would fare. Up next were Kryptos, the flagbearers of Indian heavy metal, and I soon knew why. Smoke engulfed the stage, silhouetting the band members in a dim red glow. It resembled a ghost light amidst evil incarnates. And their music unleashed hell upon the captivated crowd, mosh pits erupted without warning, and everyone loved every moment of it. Any niggling doubt I had over the Indian heavy metal scene was laid to rest by Kryptos. Where Inner Sanctum bubbled over with raw energy, Kryptos had an accomplished veteran’s musical style and grace. I liked their structured song-play—every song had a beginning, middle and end. Their guitar play, solos, and drumming was best amongst the three Indian bands. And these guys knew they were good. One of their songs, Mask of Anubis, was strikingly similar to Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Memorable performance from a celebrated band.

Easily the best band of the night, Solstate (based in New Zealand) had a potent mixture of powerful vocals, engaging lyrics, and the ability to deliver a professional performance. Their genre was more of alternative rock, definitely more mainstream than the other bands. Lead singer and songwriter Troy McKrube did a nice job of belting the lyrics, while the puny bassist’s darting around on stage was also good to see.

The final act came from Benea Reach, a Norwegian heavy metal band. Their music was of the thrash-throb kind but distinctively different. The lead singer’s onstage appearance reminded me of Adam Gontier, and his lung-busting vocals were impressive. They were the only band at GIR 2009 who had some props on stage by erecting three towering mannequins—white masks, black cloaks, they reminded me of that monster from Hellraiser. Benea Reach gave a powerful performance to say the least, and also interacted quite a bit with the crowd.

By the time curtains fell on GIR 2009, and as we exited the premises, I was aware of the acute pain in my neck (one headbang too many), my calves and feet (over four hours of standing). But it didn’t take away anything from a great night out having witnessed my very first rock show.

Originally published: October 29, 2009

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