Music Monday: A Metal Show

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WHAT? Hold on, you’ll have to speak louder. My ears are still ringing.

About once or maybe twice a year, I find myself packed into a small venue around sweaty people tense with anticipation. We all know why we’re there. We know what’s at stake.

Like last night, when a friend and I headed to Asheville to see the first show in a spring tour by the prog metal band Between the Buried and Me. We had a young padawan in tow, a show newbie. Showing him the ropes.

The house lights dim. A soft blue-red glow illuminates instruments on a stage. The crowd roars as 5 men walk to the front (and once in a while, a woman – still too rare a sight in live performance) to pick up their tools of creativity and violence.

A pause. A coiled spring of anticipation.

A hand plucks a string, a man grabs the microphone and growls.

And sound explodes from two dozen speakers hanging from the ceiling or stacked on the sides of the stage, the crowd explodes with them.

Arms flailing, heads flailing, bodies crashing into one another. The chords throb with energy and passion. Someone shoves into his neighbor in a friendly, universal gesture of “let’s open up a mosh pit!”

Join in our get out of the way. The room writhes with fans bouncing into each other like overenergized molecules in a beaker. No chemist can illustrate atoms’ movement as well as a 15-year old flinging himself again and again into the pile of moshers in the pit. 

Call me crazy if you want, and there are days when I think, “Man, I’m really getting to old for this,” but nothing beats the experience of hearing music live, loud, and smashed into the dozen people around you all jumping up and down at the same time.

It’s loud, sweaty, hot, a little gross (byproduct of “sweaty”), a little dangerous (but not really – people are actually quite nice). You’ll reach for the Advil when it’s over, and if you’re smart, you’ll reach for a set of earplugs before you head in. (I never remember mine.)

Most of all, it’s an experience inaccessible if your music stays locked into your headphones, if every concert experience you enjoy involves sitting in a chair reservedly nodding your head.

Yup, that's us last night at The Orange Peel before the show. So no one looks too exhausted yet from all the prog awesomeness of hearing BTBAM in person
Yup, that’s us last night at The Orange Peel before the show. So no one looks too exhausted yet from all the prog awesomeness of hearing BTBAM in person

I often do a concert review after I’ve been to a show. Here’s the compressed version from last night:

Opening band: The Atlas Moth.  Garden variety Scandinavian-style death metal. *yawns*  They were good at what they do. Just not my thing.

Headline band: Between the Buried and Me.  Setlist opened with Selkies (omg! omg! omg! still love hearing that 7/4 introduction live) and also included Sun of Nothing (Colors), Disease, Injury, Madness (from The Great Misdirect) and several songs from the newest pair of albums (Parallax I & II), plus a new single from the upcoming album.  Encore was White Walls, of course.   A little disappointed that they don’t play anything from their first 3 albums anymore, really, but that’s what CDs are for.

Postscript:  It may be that a live concert featuring metal bands is the perfect activity for a teen boy. There’s energy, lots of noise, socialization, and plenty of aggression (but not directed at other people.)  Violence without harm or anger. Intense emotional release, a communal sacrifice of calories and sweat and joy. Is your kid into metal? Calm down. It’ll be ok. 🙂

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