On Friday, after our last full day of workshops, we planned a late night, knowing we’d be able to sleep in the next morning. We’d heard of a live outdoor concert by the Burmese all-star band Iron Cross, and we didn’t want to miss it.
Getting into the stadium for the concert was like passing through a cattle gate. We were squeezed into three entrances, felt up by the security people, and herded through at a trample-like pace.
Iron Cross features a rockin’ guitarist and five solo singers, each taking turns in front of the mic. Some of the singers were pretty "hard-core", some were more "top 40", but the whole thing had the air of a 1980s hair-metal concert, pretty cheesy in feel. The crowd loved them all, singing all the lyrics to all the songs, but clearly favored the heavier songs, which allowed them to "rock out" to greater ecstasy.
The relatively expensive $5.50 ticket prices made the concert all but unaffordable to any but the most wealthy — e.g. connected to the military or their political cronies, but you’d never have known it from the crowd. The concert was packed with thousands of adoring, exuberant fans, crushed together doing the Burmese version of slam dancing. The crowd was 90% sweaty young men, all in their teens or early twenties. Even thought there was a lot of testosterone-fueled energy, and empty water bottles were being tossed in all directions, I never felt threatened by their enthusiasm.
A lot of the men wanted to say hello to us and ask us where we’re from, and some particularly wanted to talk to our little blond French companion Fanny, but there was no ill-will in evidence. For her part, Fanny pulled us deep into the crowd, as close to the stage as possible, and within moments we were all completely drenched with sweat. Pushed in on all sides, it was an intense introduction to Burmese pop culture.
Iron Cross on stage
The adoring crowd
Émile and Badoux enjoying the experience