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Call of the mosh pit

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Slamming and diving into the crowd of rock fanatics is part of the experience

Even as you read this, four busloads of boys and girls in customised black T-shirts are screaming their way to Bangalore. Largely, of course, this is because they will finally get to watch the band responsible for their initiation into the adrenaline-pumping world of thrash metal live. But these Metallica fans are also screaming because they can. The four private buses plying out of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai are meant only for metalheads so they can shout, cheer and even indulge in that exclusive metalhead activity called headbanging without the fear of jostling disapproving aunties or uncles. It was to provide this comfort that Vikram Varma, a 39-year-old advertising professional and metalhead who "was sick of travelling alone to concerts", came up with forwhomthebusrolls - a private bus service for Metallica fans. "Some people are even planning to tie up with guitarists and drummers on the bus, so that they can form a band, " says Varma.

Such in-transit experiences building up to a gig, after all, are as crucial as the final gig, for anyone who calls himself a metal junkie - a rock fan addicted to the adrenaline of pilgrimages across the country, stacks of blasting speakers, tall lights and breathless swearing. That is why Mumbai's Nikhil Udupa, who has attended over seven concerts including the recent Prodigy gig, is planning a road trip to the IT city with 12 of his friends. "Earlier, as students, we could not afford private transport, but now we'll be freely discussing and playing music in our cars and on our bikes, " says Udupa, who credits Metallica with changing the way he perceived music. "All our conversations will, in all probability, be about music and band trivia. " Udupa has already starting listening to Metallica songs in the run-up to that trip.

These road trips are invariably a smorgasbord of dinner table anecdotes such as the time when a fellow rock fan got drunk and threw up during transit or the time a boy brought his frightened mother along to the Iron Maiden concert - stories they would happily regale friends with for years to come. And with a bevy of international bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Sepultura, Lamb of God and Prodigy now stopping by Indian shores, these stories will stack up.

Three years ago, for instance, Ram Krishnan was in the Coimbatore Express that left from Mumbai a couple of days prior to the Iron Maiden concert in Bangalore. It could have easily been called the Maiden special, he says, given the sheer number of guitar-toting young boys in black T-shirts and hairstyles on the train. All they needed was a sly smirk and the iconic sign of the horns to break the ice with complete strangers, and 28-year-old Krishnan even recalls obliging a fellow metalhead who took a picture of Krishnan's T-shirt on his phone and posted it on the Iron Maiden fan forum. It's not easy to qualify as a metal junkie, though.
You have to be willing to borrow money for tickets that could be as expensive as Rs 3, 000 (the price of Roger Waters concert tickets), practise extensive bladder control while camping outside the venue the previous night, and like 28-yearold Saurabh Sapale, be prepared for Olympic-level dives to get the guitar plectrums of legends such as Dave Mustane and Joe Satriani.

Sapale, who has attended more than 300 concerts (of both local and international bands) so far, saw "people fainting like nine pins" out of sheer exhaustion at the Iron Maiden concert. "It was impossible to move for food, water or to go to the loo. And this was at 3 pm while the concert was scheduled to begin at 8 pm, " recalls Sapale, whose friend once jumped two barricades during a Roger Waters show to join him, "though it is not allowed". Although technical defects such as tickets that arrive at the last minute and sometimes even cops dampen their spirits (" Independence Rock, which used to happen at the Gateway of India, no longer happens on the 15th of August, " laments a fan), they rock on undeterred. Ashita Bhatia, a doctor based in Mumbai who sports a Metallica tattoo on her arm, looks forward to mosh pits - the dance in which participants slam into each other to live music. Also, there is a set of unspoken dos and don'ts that distinguishes a hardcore fan from the first-timer. Bhatia, who has come across many first-timers who only know Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters", believes no one should pretend to be a big fan of the band if s/he isn't. At an Aerosmith concert, for instance, a TV reporter asked a boy what his favourite Aerosmith song was. He replied "Living on a Prayer", which, in fact, is a Bon Jovi song.

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