December 9, 2013
Metallica broke through another barrier yesterday by becoming the first and only band in history to perform concerts on all seven continents in the same year!
Photos & Video + an in depth report from So What! Editor Steffan Chirazi below.
It was beautiful.
Awesome...and absolutely beyond what I tried to anticipate.
Yes, Antarctica was sensational, incredible and soul-expanding to a point where I really did have to find a quiet place, take some deep breaths and pinch myself. Was it happening?
Did Metallica really play a GIG at the Carlini base helipad in a transluscent dome?
Did I really walk around in a slow mosh-like circle air-guitaring to myself, looking at a massive series of glaciers, as Metallica jammed Killing Joke's "The Wait" through wireless headphones which transmitted perfect sound?
Did I really take a seat next to a skua (a cross between seagull and eagle about the size of a Yorkshire terrier) and check out a little more of the soundcheck?
Did I really look behind the 'venue' and see three elephant seals taking a nap about 100 yards away?
And did I really see a half dozen penguins come up within 50 feet to check out what all the fuss in their backyard was?
Did I really hike a glacier?
Were we really sitting in powered motor dinghies (or zodiacs) being playfully circled by THREE HUMPBACK WHALES?
Yeah it was all happening and it all happened.
Beautiful light which never gave in to darkness (as I said to James, there would be no exiting of light or entering of night!) and the absolutely bizarre, surreal sight of a plastic dome with Metallica in it playing a great mini-set.
In a place where there is no government, where cash won't buy you anything because there's nothing to buy, and where the animals and weather tell you what to do, setting up a show, let alone broadcasting it live, was an enormous achievement. Every stitch of gear was transported to and from our base, the ship Ortelius, via zodiacs. Every amp, every head, every guitar, all loaded into small zodiacs and sped across freezing waters to the ship. Put it this way, I'll bet if you spoke to the crew they won't have ever done (or imagine doing) a load-out quite like that again!
Ah yes, the Ortelius...our home for several days. All of us with roommates, bunking up together in dorm-like conditions (comfortable for sure, but not fancy) all of us eating excellent, hearty meals together in the cafeteria (egg, bacon, beans every morning!) and all of us sharing a refreshment or two together up in the bar during the 'off' hours (I suppose it was nighttime but again, there was no 'night'). It was like being at camp again, and everyone to a man had some fun with it. The competition winners were on board and (as you'd expect of such dedicated fans) were excited, ecstatic even, and supremely humble and respectful of everything being experienced.
We enjoyed several zodiac tours around icebergs and beautiful glacial coastline, all because we enjoyed the sort of luck with weather that you really could only have prayed for. Low winds, sunshine, calm seas...and with our crew containing some of the finest Antarctic expert expedition leaders (Delphine, Brent, James, Saskia, Victora and Anjali) we were treated to the sort of snippets of knowledge and in sight which gave everything we were seeing an even greater dimension...
...dimension indeed...look. No cellphones, no internet to speak of, no urban sprawl of bluetooth-infested airwaves and no city-stuffed electrical environment. No, it was pure air. Just air. No pollution, invisible or otherwise. And at the top of every glacier mountain was the knowledge that you didn't know what was beyond it. That people didn't hike over it. That in every sense of the word, this was 'remote'. A few bases, a few portakabins with some paint and supplies, but beyond that, nothing. And even though there was no-one telling you what to do, no-one telling you what 'the law' was, it was clear that the law was laid down by the penguins, the seals, the skuas and the weather. They told you how to behave. You approached them carefully and you stopped a few feet away because this was their home and you were a guest. Oh how liberating to get such pure excitement from being close to a penguin or few. Simple pleasures.
As I mentioned above, the gig was excellent, a raw, raucous and suitably feral affair which really carried the vibe and energy of a John Peel session (Peel was a BBC Radio 1 DJ who famously had bands come in and play live off the floor) or a Jools Holland Show performance, and I mean that in the very best sense. The whole headphone thing worked out fantastically well, and having thought I'd listen to half the gig without them, I listened to most of the gig with them on (the alternative was a drum clinic with some endearingly tone-deaf audience singers belting out their favorites!) and I cannot begin to explain how amazing the backdrop was. Put it this way, during "One" I wandered outside and soaked up the glacial surroundings, painting myself a whole new video for the song.
It's all still downloading in our heads to be honest... I ran into a few of the guys right after we got home late last week, and we all agreed that this is one which won't finish being processed for quite some time...certainly for me, every morning I seem to be waking up with a new reflection, a new 'take' on the whole trip. But for now, I'll leave you with this. Right now, I have an image. It is of the Carlini base helicopter pad. There is nothing there except for three 'domes', one with transluscent plastic, the other two smaller and orange. They sit empty. As I write and as you read. Perhaps the occasional scientist will wander by, but the main visitors will be inquisitive penguins and curious skuas...perhaps some elephant seals will make their way up for a more 'protected' nap. But there will be nothing except for them and the sound of the wind. And anyone who might happen to be visiting the Carlini base, any scientist arriving for a residency, might ask what those domes are...
...they will be told that Metallica played a gig in the main one.
And that scientist will giggle. Because it couldn't be true.
It's simply not possible.
That a Metallica gig happened there...in Antarctica. In the middle of nowhere.
Maybe it happened in a dream?
...and as I sign-off for the moment, do you understand why not only was this the greatest Metallica adventure I can remember, but one which still feels like a dream...
All photos by Ross Halfin