Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kyle Meets Metallica - Part Three

The exciting conclusion to Kyle Meets Metallica - Part One and Part Two!

When we last left our hero, Kyle had just experienced the fire breathing beast that is Metallica in concert... and he and his parents were about to enter the dark void that is the backstage VIP Room!! What supernatural beast would Kyle encounter in that magical realm?! Would Kyle meet his Rock Star heroes??! Would Kyle smile???!

Cue 'Dyers Eve'..

Kyle’s Great Metallica Adventure, Final Chapter
by K.J. Doughton

OK. Let’s backtrack.

Kyle has toured Metallica’s HQ Master Control Center, setting foot inside recording studio, practice pad, and fan club center. He’s also seen the band live, in astonishingly peak form, even 28 years after Dad helmed their first fan club at seventeen years old.

Kyle is a bit overwhelmed, and getting tired. Most 12-year olds aren’t accustomed to the frantic, late-night cycle of extended encores and post-concert meet ‘n greets. But he’s willing to stick it out if it means meeting “The Guys” in person.

HP Pavilion ushers tell us that we need to move it. Bail. Get out of Dodge. We’re not sure about the VIP backstage arrangements. Ian Kallen cues us to follow him into a covert VIP room, packed with crowded tables full of various rock ‘n roll types. I don’t know who any of these people are… before spotting a very tall dude who can only be John Marshall (one-time band roadie and occasional fill-in guitarist following James’ various injuries). He and his wife invite us to join them at the table.

It’s the Marshalls, the Kallens, and the Doughtons. Pretty cool. We talk more about our kids than about metal. All of us agree that the band is still amazing.

We devour popcorn and sip soft drinks. We’re waiting, and waiting…and waiting for “The Guys.” Whispers of Kirk being too exhausted to come out start circulating. “Rob was already down here,” insists another VIP. We’re becoming discouraged, wondering if band members have concluded this hometown, end-of-tour show, fatigued and ragged, to collapse with their respective families.

It’s looking grim. Kyle had hoped to meet at least one musician from his favorite band. He’s sleep deprived and patient. It’s past midnight.

Then John Marshall comes up with an idea. “Follow me,” he suggests. We hastily comply. John converses with some woman I’ve never seen. She’s obviously Someone of Importance. Perhaps Lars’ personal assistant? We’re led down a white hallway with dressing rooms to the left and right. There’s a huge, black Metallica banner draping one wall. Those cool announcements that you see at every gig backstage, outlining the gig itinerary and catering arrangements, are taped on the wall next to each doorway. Mom dares Kyle to snatch one as a keepsake. He sneakily obliges.

John and Mrs. Marshall announce their need to leave. Before exiting the pavilion, John once again touches bases with the Pleasant Enigmatic Woman who seems to hold the key to Phase III of Kyle’s Metalli-Birthday extravaganza. We wait. And wait. And wait.


The energetic, hyper-alert force of nature has arrived. The legendary drummer is right here, right now. He’s wearing black. “Ian! KJ!” he exclaims, enthusiasm personified. He talks about having seen fellow Old School comrade Brian Lew at their recent Sacramento show. He suggests that Ian is probably the only one who knew the lyrics to “Helpless,” the night’s first encore. He talks about the chaotic world of parenting. “I feel like a taxi,” proclaims Lars, “always driving kids around.”

Ah, parenting. I can relate.

It’s been a chaotic journey to this wonderful reunion with one of Metallica’s two Alpha Males, and I introduce Lars to Kyle. My son, the Birthday Boy. Lars throws an arm around Kyle and poses for photos. He signs Kyle’s tour program. He tries to engage my monosyllabic son in some form of conversation. He fails.

However, I spot a glimmer of a shy smile.

Dad passes Lars a copy of the first fan club newsletter, from Fall of 1983. “Is this an original?” he asks. I have to confess that it’s only a copy. There probably aren’t any originals floating around after so much time has passed. But still a rare flashback to the band’s embryonic stage, nearly three decades ago.

Today, I’m still not completely convinced that we pulled this off. It’s that surreal, emotional Cleveland Hall Of Fame vibe creeping up, all over again. Two years ago, I was selling the last of my metal artifacts on Ebay, convinced that the era of crunching chords had ended for me. This year, Metallica kicked down the door, re-entered my life, and provided two profound experiences.

Who woulda thunk?

Mission accomplished. Thanks to Grandma, Grandpa, Vickie, John, Ian, and Lars for making it happen.

Happy Birthday, Kyle.


For Umlaut, I'm still misty-eyed after reading about Kyle's 12th birthday adventure... It reminded me how it feels to see the world through a 12-year old's eyes again... When I was his age my favorite band was KISS and dog only knows how I would have reacted if I had been invited to visit that band's inner sanctum or met ANY band member! Peter Criss? Yeah, Ace is my favorite... but I'll take it! All of you jaded old mofos reading this should chew on that for a moment...

Kyle's experience was also a profound continuation of something that was set into motion 27 (!) years ago... when a teenager in Roseburg, Oregon sent a teenager in Sunnyvale, California a cassette tape with some primitive recordings by a fledgling Metal band from Los Angeles on it... THIS cassette tape:

"No life 'til leather... we're gonna kick some ass tonight.."