Words and Illustrations by Kara Bodegón
“Metal music?! Why, that’s the work of the devil!” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that from very religious relatives and much older folk. Those were words I had to live with since I started listening to metal at the age of six. And to be honest, their distaste in metal just made me want to listen to it more (back to back with my daily dose of Disney soundtracks, of course). I’d chill the hell out to Korn, Greyhoundz, and Slapshock with my three older brothers in our Dad’s car and attempt to scat-sing the words to “Twist,” “Pigface,” and “Agent Orange” while doing groceries. We have fun.
Nowhere else did I find a sense of family outside of my own than what I found in the heavy music scene. Sure, it all looks like people striking fists at each other, bands getting fucked up on drugs and alcohol, and gods biting the heads off of bats—which is partially true. But from the inside, I don’t think there’s any place warmer than with people entranced by dark growls and heavy riffery. The reason why I believe that’s so is because almost everyone in this scene—in a certain point in their lives—were outcasted, pushed away for being different, and felt alone. In our scene, we hold on to each other because we only have each other.
I had the pleasure of catching one of my favorite metal bands, Monuments last year in Brooklyn. I dragged out my best friend (who isn’t even into metal) to the show with me, and we were possibly the two shortest people in the crowd taking on the tiny venue (which was about the same size as Saguijo) and breathing everyone’s bodily odors. I had my camera with me, but it was so hard to get a decent photo with everyone being giants and titans in height. But then there were these two gentlemen who noticed me and asked, “You wanna stand in front of us?” This went on and on until I was actually right in front of the stage. One of the funniest things about the show also was that the lighting was so bad, but there were people nice enough to help photographers by lighting up the band with flashlights from their phones. It was absolutely ridiculous. The sense of family they share is something I’d never seen outside the metal/hardcore/punk scene. And believe me, I’ve stepped into different concerts where the actions and attitudes of fans would make you question how people could be so rude. There are music fans out there who don’t give a shit if the person behind them can’t see the stage anymore, because of their stupid selfie sticks and iPads. There are fanatics who yell at bouncers after getting told off that standing on chairs is prohibited. They don’t care about their safety or that of others. They just care about their own enjoyment without thinking of the kid at the back.
Of course, large-scale shows and festivals are places where producers and suppliers earn their dough. In the US, most concert venues sell drinks, but water could go for at least $4 and lemonade could sell for $6. That does not exclude metal festivals. At Knotfest in San Bernardino, you’d find guys selling water for $4.50, slashing your wallets just so that you don’t get dehydrated. But what I found was that at the merch booths, some bands sold water under the table for only $2. I’m not gonna mention which bands did that (in case it wasn’t allowed), but helping people save $2.50 is a huge help especially since there was no other way to keep hydrated. See? Metalheads CARE.
It was also at Knotfest where I witnessed the greatest crowd interaction ever. It’s normal for Five Finger Death Punch to bring a fan up to the stage and sing “Burn MF” with them. Vocalist, Ivan Moody spotted an eight-year-old girl in the pit, and had her (and her dad) brought up to join him. With consent from her father, Moody had the little girl lead the chant to over 50,000 dudes in black, blessing them with an unforgettable memory between father and daughter.
But if I had to pick the greatest, most ultimate metal experience that has yet to be topped, it would have to be with Lamb of God. Now this is a band that spoils me to death. Their second visit to Manila was the first time I ever got to see them live, and vocalist, Randy Blythe gave me a shoutout on stage, sending me to tears. Three years later, he did the exact same thing, and I cried again. But the ultimate kicker there was that in between those times—clocking to 2013—Randy wrote to me, telling me that he just heard about Typhoon Haiyan, and wanted to know I was okay. I stared at my computer screen, thinking it was prank, because I’d never given him my email, but no one back then knew I called him my uncle as he did in his message. And with a comment on Instagram, he confirmed it was really him. It was insane. I cried at my desk, and it was then I knew that there was nowhere else I felt safer, where I knew that people really cared, and that nobody forgets.
There is so much love and compassion shared in the metal/hardcore/punk scene that no one who’s never been to a show would ever experience. I can’t deny the fact that there are dickheads in the pit tossing bottles filled with piss across the field, punching their brothers, and complaining that metal isn’t pure anymore, because they do exist. These are the sorts of people we welcome because our music is so damn good, but they would never know what it’s like to feel the warmth and safety of the metal scene. They fail to open up to what it’s really all about. It’s about family and finding yourself in this world. If this is what love really is, then we should give the devil some credit for that since metal is his finest work after all. See you in the pit!