I had no real reason to be nervous.
At least that's what I told myself as I headed to a death metal festival and goat roast in my town of Greeley.
Every metal concert I've attended, Megadeth, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, etc., etc., etc., was full of nice people. In fact, the only shows I've run into douchebags were concerts OTHER than metal shows. These people know how to take care of their aggression. They use music, not their fellow humans, for that.
Plus I was a metal guy. I mean, sure, I lacked a lot of the quantities, such as the long hair, a wardrobe of black T-shirts or tight ripped jeans. But that had as much to do with, well, a life, and a job, and a family, more than it did a personality. I loved the music and will always love it, and I wasn't just some dude who called himself a metal fan because I own a copy of Metallica's Black Album. I liked a lot of the newer bands, kept up with the older ones (I am liking Maiden's new release) and actually preferred the harder stuff, not just quasi-hard-rock bands like Linkin Park or the hair metal of the 80s.
Still, I was 38, and I was alone, and I changed out of my black Metallica T-shirt at the last second because it looked like I was trying too hard to fit in and settled on my usual "Colorado Outdoors Middle-Class Dad" look. You've seen it at the blogger gatherings. Thanks for not laughing.
I'll admit it, though, as I walked into the small Crabtree Brewery and Into The Pit (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite Testament songs), that I was instantly taken aback.
Out of the 250 or so standing around or waiting for the roasted goat, I was probably one of a half-dozen who was not wearing a black T-shirt, and almost all of them advertised a band named after some sort of impaling, scene in "Hostel" or, yes, a demonic ritual (though not as many as you think).
There were a few more girls than I expected, meaning there were girls there. They wore black T-shirts too, though a couple obviously there with their boyfriends wore mall outfits. There was the standard mosh pit, though most, probably worn down by the 2 p.m. start, just stood around and nodded their heads to the frantic drum beats, as if they were buzzed by the goat or dark beer with 11 percent alcohol (no shiola, and it was goood).
I hardly recognized any of the bands on those shirts. Not one person knew who I was, and that's unusual, too, given that I'm usually recognized by someone in a large crowd because my face is in the newspaper all the time. And I expected the music to be hardcore and rough around the edges, but this sounded like low, angry growls over a hyperactive beat, the kind of sound you'd hear from demons and a billion mosquitoes.
I felt completely out of place. I rarely feel that way. Maybe at really rich parties, right-wing, religious gatherings or country music concerts. That's about it.
I didn't expect to feel so strange. Again, I've been to metal shows. I wrote about this show, and I was excited about it and irritated when people expressed concerns about hosting metal music and a goat roast. I wrote in the article that they were serving goats, not sacrificing them, and most of the meal was intended to be a joke about the way people perceive death metal. It's not like we ripped off pieces of the goat with our teeth or sucked out the eyes from the heads stabbed on stakes. They looked like chunks of barbecued beef and, quite frankly, were pretty damn good (and this comes from a barbecue critic given that I'm a Kansas City native).
But, I have to admit, I could understand those feelings of dread as I stood in line for my goat. I was a little nervous myself. I wanted to yell "I like metal, I really do" to somehow clear my name. It's not like I couldn't take care of myself if I needed to - it looked to me that I could either outrun or outmuscle almost of all them - but I did wonder if I fought with one, I would fight with them all, as if they were a flock of vampires, crows or black wolves that would pounce without hesitation against unknown blood.
Still, I've been trained to enter uncomfortable situations and make people trust me, and so I grabbed my goat and my beer, found a seat and chowed down, enjoying the delicious people watching around me.
Sure enough, the guy in charge of the festival found me and thanked me for the story. He also admitted to me he liked Phil Collins. See? People eventually trust me. I could probably ensure his death with that kind of information.
Later, I was thrashing out to one of the two bands I really came to see, Allegaeon.
I wrote about the bass player, a Greeley guy, and it turns out the guys were just signed to Metal Blade Records.
I've grown to like the rough vocals that accompany much of today's metal music. I still prefer cleaner singing, and I like it better when the rough vocals have a clean chorus, but I appreciate some of the best and more unique growlers in the business. It just took me a while. Hey, a long time ago, I know of a certain junior high student who thought Metallica was only screaming.
Anyway, so Allegaeon, just like most of the bands, feature those vocals, so most of you may not like it. But the guys can PLAY, and I have always loved technical music, the kind played by Dream Theater, Helloween or Iron Maiden. I continue to make the case that metal musicians are the finest in the business, possibly equaled only by classical or jazz players (and this form of music owes a great debt to classical music and avant garde jazz), and a band like Allegaeon shows why. I know at least one person who might like them. Check em out, Blood .
I loved it, and the band that followed, led by another Greeley guy, Cryogen, was nearly as good.
When that set ended, I left, satisfied, full of goat and good, aggressive music. It was time to go home and be a Dad, a runner and a kind of geeky guy who wanted to revisit an old favorite video game, Myth.
There are some cultures that you may appreciate and even feel a kinship with, but ultimately, you just don't belong. But you don't have to belong to a culture to appreciate it, even sometimes hang around the edges for a couple hours before you slip back into the shadows.
I'll be back next year.