Music: How To Survive A Metal Gig
So you’ve decided you want to go to a metal gig, but you’re a little scared. It’s raw, sweaty, hairy and loud. You’ve seen bikers and rock bars in movies, and nobody ‘normal’ makes it out alive unless they duck a punch to the face which hits the guy behind them and a brawl ensues. Don’t worry. I’ve got it all covered. Here’s your guide to the type of person you can expect to see at your average screamfest, should you ever wish to venture down into the Satanic Pits of Hell. You don’t need to know the music, you just need to know the creatures moving around the habitat. Go forth and explore this much-maligned (and wrongly-feared) group of hard-working, hard-studying, music-loving civilians.
Let’s just cut to the chase here. EVERYONE at a metal gig is more than likely a musician. Male or female, they have all picked up some sort of a sound-making instrument during their life-span. If you’re a girl looking for a hairy burly metaller husband, you could do a lot worse than wear a wrist support and tell anyone who asks that you’re a drummer and you sprained it ‘tuning your snare’. It’s not how it sounds, I promise. Its true meaning will turn them on far more than the innuendo it presents. Female musicianship among a male-dominated genre such as this is welcomed with open arms by most every metal gent I know. So get on that.
This bit’s for the (straight) ladies. At every metal gig, there will be a scattering of absolutely gorgeous long-haired Adonis-type guys who are part of some sort of band setup. This writer’s intense and flawlessly accurate research suggests that the ratio of ordinary-looking metaller bloke to movie-star rock god virtuoso is generally five to one, so it’s nice to see someone who looks like they stepped off the set of ‘Almost Famous’ wandering through the bar.
However, be advised. They will always have girlfriends. The girlfriends will be tall, skinny, willowy, with interestingly-dyed long hair and amazing eyebrows…and they will always look utterly, utterly miserable. Don’t ask me why, but they always do. Maybe it’s a metal thing I don’t know about. As both an insider and an observer of all things metal, I’ve never understood why. Maybe their black lacy vest is the wrong shade of noir next to their jet-black leather skinny jeans. Maybe they’ve attempted a trip to the loo in said leather trousers and endured an embarrassment of epic proportions akin to Ross in that episode of Friends. Who knows? I sure don’t. I’m too intimidated by their height and depressing, ethereal beauty. That’s what makes ME miserable at metal gigs. But that’s another issue. I digress.
Every genre of music has them, Metal is no exception. Once you’ve gone to one or two gigs, you’ll spot them a mile off. Armed with their brand-new black liquid eyeliner and ‘alternative’ t-shirts (Some sequinned Rolling Stone or Ramones logo from a mainstream chain store of choice), they stalk the first three feet in front of the stage, boobies thrust out, Bacardi Breezers at the ready, three girls abreast at any given time … they’re ready to worship. They’re nervous because they feel out of place, they know they’re getting snorts of derision from the ‘real’ fans, the true metaller girls have no time for them, so they’re going to give it socks, irony-style. They start whipping their hair like they’re in a Whitesnake-themed stripper’s home video, and they just don’t care. THEY DON’T CARE, OKAY?
Train your ears to these creatures’ mating call (Wooooo!) to avoid standing next to them by accident and getting caught in the evil death stares of a hundred heavy metal fans trying to use The Force to get these insipid eejits to dissolve into the floorboards. They send mind bullets to inspire them to leave the band alone to get on with the serious business of raising their goblet of rock without the distraction of readily available bouncing cleavage. Funny how the band never objects, though…
In short, there is a way to distinguish: Groupies ‘wooo’, girlfriends nod and clap.
The True Fans
These are serious people. They wear the t-shirts of local bands, they’ve got all the CDs (“I buy ALL the lads’ stuff. I support my local artists, like.”) and they man the merchandise stands come hail, rain or snow. Male and female alike, they are dedicated and devoted, and will cry and hug you with unbridled joy should you deign to make a purchase at their little makeshift exhibition – which invariably looks amazing and has been put together with the dedication of a final year degree Art show. These guys LOVE their local metal band … and they want you to love them too.
To ensure a warm welcome, walk up to the merch stand and ask “What would YOU buy first if you’d never heard Dead Puppy Giblets before?”. Watch as their eyes light up and allow yourself to be led by the hand over to their album of choice. Throw a T-Shirt into your purchase as well and you’ve given them a shot of Christmas right into the soul. Congratulations, you’re in.
So there you have it, folks. A short summary of some of the essentials you might need to know to be accepted into this most misunderstood of musical subcultures. I can guarantee that even if the music is never going to be your cupán tae, the men and women who love it sure will be. A nicer, friendlier group you will never meet of a night out. Beyond the tattoos, piercings, abundance of facial hair, screaming gory vocals and back-snapping mosh pits lie a bunch of people with chivalry, manners and hearts of a very precious Metal indeed. Rock on, Rookies.
Photographs courtesy of Ken Coleman.