Hordes of blank-eyed, lurching, shuffling black-clad zombies churn the field into a swamp, thick red mud oozing up around the feet. That's how I'll recognize them the next day at the airport - that caked layer of loam - the tshirts are off, but that clay - and the stiff, awkward walk, and the slowly-returning-to-reality stare, doesn't wash off so easily.
Welcome to Metallica's Bangalore.
The previous day, it was a sea of black - not just the concert, but the city. Metallica, Sepultra, Pantera, Maiden, Slayer, right down to corporate brands and Angry Birds - you can wear any design you want, as long as it's on black.
(Henry Ford smiles in the grave, momentarily discomfiting his graveworms.)
Humanity's herd instinct never ceases to amaze - a gigantic flock of lost sheep desperately searching for a shepherd, any shepherd, and it doesn't matter if he's from the dark and calling you in. We follow and obey, blind and deaf, uncaring and unheeding - all we want is the freedom from that insistent little voice in our heads that asks what you want to do, and all the responsibility it implies... easier to care for what they care, do what they do. Ironic, isn't it?
Smoke roils through the crowd, thick, glowing white in the glare, redolent with the sweetsour tang of weed, mixed with the tamer and lighter, blue-tinged streams of tobacco, clove & cardamom, and menthol, contrasting against the warm earthy brown smell of humanity, sharp green of crushed grass and drifting grey rain-is-coming scent of the clouds on the wind.
Camera LCDs hover over the heads of the twenty-five thousand, high tech stars in dark galaxy swaying in obeisance to the glaring suns of the stage floodlights. Beyond them, shockingly white and surreal against the orange-glared dark clouds, a flight of herons wheels silently through the sky, starkly pristine, a ghost squadron that vanishes almost as soon as you see them.
The bass reaches through the mass of humanity, through clothes and flesh, through ear and mind, and settles straight at the bone. Your skeleton resonates, ribs rattling and joints humming to the drums... this is what you don't get at home however expensive and powerful your music system might be, the way the music can take your body and strum it, the deepest connect you can have not just with the player, but with every one person in that mass of humanity around you.
It's not as loud as it could have been, though. After Iron Maiden 2007, silence, for a week after, had a tinny, subconscious whine.
Sweat and hysteria, the crush of the crowd - warm breath on your face and neck, hair tickling the skin, the press of bodies... an audience is an organism, and you never feel it as much as at times like these. Some briefly rise above, climbing barricades, the shoulders of friends and random strangers, crowdsurfing, silhouettes against the blinding white. Sudden cool breezes, and brief little patters of rain never felt, never tasted so damned good.
After six hours of standing still, straight, craning upwards, neck, shoulders, spine, knees ankles and toes fuse into one continuous solid cramped pillar of pain. You don't feel it while the music washes through you, but once it's over, that first step, that joint-cracking, bone-creaking movement to bend a knee, loosen shoulder, flex backbone is a sweet, stumbling agony, and you can barely stagger forward through the churned slush of the grounds, like an undead swarm emerging from a epic cataclysm.
It's all worth it. Worth the safety lecture from a paranoid manager who spoke to us like retarded preschoolers, driving us batshit; worth the entire album-and-a-half from Biffy Clyro who made the maximum use they could from the hours-long wait, knowing they'll never get an opportunity like this again.
Leaving the grounds, the crowd's remarkably well-behaved; the Bangalore Police rolls along the road in a gypsy and loudhailer, asking us 'Dear friends' to please walk the footpath, and obediently, we do. Even during the concert, there are very few people crushed or passing out, nobody ODing on either substance or hysteria, and a few half-hearted attempts to start a mosh pit peter out fairly quickly.
Hm, interesting train of thought - the nature of the crowd depends not just on the music, but everything they believe the music stands for. Iron Maiden was clearly wilder, louder, more extreme... this was almost mellow in comparison, though I refuse to believe the crowd was significantly different.
And now, all too soon, it's time to go home.