10 Reasons Why Metal Is Cool

By Ralph Greco, Jr.

I’ve just survived a fully loaded, four-band strong summer metal show. Testament, Motorhead, Heaven and Hell and Judas Priest took and shook an outdoor shed in the wilds of NJ suburbia last weekend (if they haven’t been down your way I’m sure they soon will be). I’m old enough to have heard my share of Lemmy and his boys, know well the greatness that is Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, marvel at Dio’s pipes and love all those Priest hits, but I’d never seen any of these band live before.

I left the show not only with a consistent whooshing in my ears (it was so loud my ears weren’t ringing, they were whooshing) but a new respect for these bands and their fans. What I saw and heard amazed me, not only the sparkling musicianship of the players and the fan’s devotion, but the entire experience that is an all out, balls-to-the-wall metal show left me with a new respect for this genre of music. I walked to my car exhausted yet satiated, another one of those lists swirling round my head, this time it came down to 10 reasons why metal is cool…

1) The Fans. First and foremost, metal has always been about the fans. True devotees of this music have been lambasted and mocked, parodied and vilified for decades. They have had to weather the ‘big hair’ invasion, MTV’s scorn (while the ‘music’ station played metal videos of course!) and ridicule of ‘real’ music fans who see metal as nothing more than leather, posing and distorted guitars. Like no other genre of rock, metal fans adore, fight, bolster and champion their bands, and it was a joy to see thousands of people singing along, thrashing their heads and screaming for each band, from opener Testament to headliner Judas Priest. And in a crowd this high on testosterone (it’s 80% males at this kind of a wingding), I saw no incident. When I went to buy an overpriced cheeseburger and water, I simply noticed leather-clad youths hanging, maybe having a smoke or lining up for the Porta John. There wasn’t even a scuffle as we filed out of the place and the crowd got tight.

2) The Volume. OK, so the show was loud, but man, this is what rock and roll is about: Volume. Earth-shaking, ear-splitting decibels! So many of the bands I used to think were really rock bands are now so lightweight, such MOR fodder, I can’t even bring myself to listen to them. I used to marvel at how my ears rang after shows at Madison Square Garden, walking through my high school halls the next day, remnants of feedback still buzzing in my ear. I was wonderfully reminded of those days of loudness walking out of this show the other night.

3) Rob Halford is Gay. Not that it comes as any surprise when you see the man’s videos; the short hair cuts, the leather and spandex, the posing across motorcycles, but when Rob came out, as it were, Priest didn’t lose one fan. Amazing as it is, with this much maligned fan base of teenaged boys unfairly tagged to be sporting aggressive tendencies. Maybe metals critics got it wrong all along…nah, couldn’t be?! We could all learn a little from metal fans. All they care about is that the music delivers…and bands like Priest have always delivered. Who cares who anybody is sleeping with just as long as the music keeps rocking?

4) Eddie Trunk. New Jersey’s own ET was at the show I saw, announcing, exciting the crowd, reiterating what we all knew: that we were seeing an amazing lineup of bands this night. I love Trunk’s free-format radio show; I’ve followed the guy from midnight grave shifts on FM to his current stint on XM. From the New York Yankees as guest DJ to spinning the most unusual cuts from forgotten metal bands to interviews with every single metal God you can name, Eddie Trunk is the champion of metal. You just feel with a guy like him out there — a regular dude like us all — metal will live forever.

5) Stage Sets. When Heaven and Hell came on, there were gargoyles flanking the stage, balls of colored lights, chain curtains and fleshpots. Judas Priest sported risers, faux battlements, flags, banners and — yes — the motorcycle (not to mention Halford’s amazing leather and mirror wardrobe). You gotta love any show with this much attention lauded on stage sets and props, and where the roadies are breaking down and setting up four bands all in one night!

6) Fashion. Mostly everyone was wearing black, leather (or both) and some various other form of clothing not fit for a muggy NJ summer night! I love the way with metal there is a uniform but at the same time each person who passed me looked wholly different than the other.

7) Value. While I am constantly complaining about ticket prices, this show, featuring four bands cost as much as a show at the same venue, featuring only one band.

8) T-shirts. OK, this is an odd reason to love the show, but, no one band had more T-shirts for sale than the other. Though Judas Priest was headlining, when my buddy Mike and I walked to the T-shirt booth, I saw an equal number of types of shirts being sold for each band. Equality right down to product!

9) Metal Chicks. OK, so the crowd was heavy on dudes, still there were still a good amount of chicks too. Now this is coming straight from my ‘straight’ guy POV I know, but it did my heart good to see girls of every age and stripe walking around the shed. I mean, if you saw Bon Jovi or Rod Stewart back in the day, there were usually a beautiful bevy of bodacious babes filling the arena to the rafters, but being a died-in-the-wool prog head, it’s not so so often I see a ton of girls at the concerts I attend. This show was different and it was a welcomed sight to my old lecherous eyes.

10) Community. At this show I really felt that every single person — from band to audience member — was there for one purpose: To celebrate the gathering. I have seen plenty of shows in my time — have been in the audience of, or sat through countless performances where there is a definite separation between performer and fan, where the players are exalted in a kind of ‘well-here-we-are-on-the-stage-you-sit-and-stare-and-whorship-us-since-we-are-on-stage’ attitude (sorry to say I have felt this witnessing some of the bands I love). At a metal concert, or at least the show I saw, you don’t feel a separation between us and them. Everyone was there to celebrate being there. I have only ever felt this feeling of community at a country show actually, when I saw Garth Brooks during his complete annihilation of radio airwaves. Metal and country — strange bedfellows, huh? But the performers and fans seem connected in a way that is surely lacking in other music genres these days.

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