Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kyle Meets Metallica - Part Two

The exciting sequel to Kyle Meets Metallica - Part One!

When we last left our hero, Kyle and his parents had just visited the secret Northern California headquarters of Metallica. Would Kyle make it to the big Metallica homecoming show??! Would Kyle meet his Rock Star heroes??! Would Kyle smile???!

Cue 'Dyers Eve'..

Kyle’s Great Metalli-Adventure, Part II
by K.J. Doughton

Still dazed from his visit to the Official Metallica HQ, including tours of band studio, rehearsal room, instruments, game room, merchandise center, etc., Kyle gears up for an actual Metalli-SHOW. The real deal. Arena rock nirvana.

Dad is nervous about some unforeseen event throwing a fly in the ointment. Hyper-vigilant about driving on San Jose streets, he wrestles with visions of flat tires, fender-benders, and over-heating radiators. But we push on.

It’s Saturday evening, December 12th, and Dad lets out a sigh of relief. The rental car has made it to San Jose’s massive HP Pavilion. Will call tickets and VIP passes have been claimed (Thanks, Vickie!!!). All is going as planned.

Photo by MetOnTour

From the venue’s parking lot, we are amused by dozens of tailgate parties taking form. A particularly lively group of forty-ish, balding men (I’m noticing that bald is becoming the equivalent of the mullet for New Millennium metalheads) are drinking heavily and taunting passers-by with comments like, “You look like you’re going to a Hanna Montana concert!” Leather-clad women too old to be exposing their cleavage mill around in too much make-up, too much hair, and too little clothing.

We enter the venue and find our seats. 11th row. Not bad.

Metal concerts can become unexpected reunions, especially if you’ve been around the headbanger block a few times. Kyle is oblivious to this history. So when I spot hulking Testament frontman Chuck Billy sitting one row ahead, it doesn’t mean much to my oblivious wife and son. But when some twenty-something metal chick approaches him and exclaims, “I bow down to you,” my family is intrigued. Even more so when another fan, armed with a tour program and sharpie, begs Chuck for an autograph. I explain the band’s lineage, and how they inhabited the same Bay Area metal frat house that spawned Metallica and other speed-metal successors.

Kyle and my wife thinks that Chuck looks like Hagrid from “Harry Potter.” Kyle says he’s heard their stuff on Youtube.

The nostalgic vibe intensifies when someone taps me on the shoulder from behind. It’s Ian Kallen, metal veteran from San Fran’s Rampage Radio and Metal Mania fanzine. After decades of going in separate life directions and being somewhat disconnected from the scene, both Ian and myself were privileged to be part of Metallica’s recent Hall of Fame induction ceremony/party in Cleveland.

Ian has brought his daughter to the show. Suddenly, there’s an emotional undercurrent to the reality that two one-time Metalheads are now passing the torch to a new generation. It’s an awesome thing. Gone are the long hair, denim, and leather, but here we are. Watching Metallica 25 years later. With our kids.

After Kyle critiques two opening bands as “okay,” Metallica takes the stage surrounded by electric laser beams of green and blue. My son quickly grapples for his cell phone, with which to generate a steady stream of digital pics and movies. He texts them to a buddy living back in Washington.

Metallica rules. Dad has never seen them so strong, even though the band members have reached their mid-forties, and this marks the final show of their exhausting U.S. “Death Magnetic” tour. In Cleveland, the band’s Hall of Fame inductor Flea said it best: “When that magic happens in a band, it’s not something that you can add up with regular math. It’s a cosmic chemistry, and it is inexplicable.”

He’s right. The band’s flawless performance seems almost superhuman. Maybe it is. “Fight Fire With Fire” has lost none of its furious, attack-mode thunder. In fact, it’s faster and more powerful than ever before.

It’s weird. Unlike my generation of music collectors, my son has the advantage of Youtube with which to sniff out and research rock bands. He also has Guitar Hero Metallica to fall back on.

At twelve years old, he can name every Metallica song on every Metallica album in perfect chronology. He can tell you what types of guitars Kirk plays, and which LP’s were produced by Bob Rock. He knows which unique sound effects on “Master of Puppets” were generated through Cliff Burton’s bass playing innovations. He knows more than I do, all because of the Internet (and the fact that he’s a genius, which has nothing to do with any parental bias).

Another thing that strikes me while watching Metallica live is the transforming power of parenting. These days, the band appears less pissed off and more fulfilled. Some of the rage is gone. But unlike most bands that lose their anger, Metallica has forfeited none of their charisma, vitality, or power. I notice a small, partitioned-off area stage left. Various kids view the show from this select vantage point. I’m sure they’re band family members.

I can’t help but sense a correlation between family life and the positive vibe emanating from the stage. Fewer F-bombs. James’ onstage proclamation that, “We’re here to make you feel better,” and his empowering question, “ARE YOU ALIVE!?!” This is music-as-fuel, sound-as-energy, communal rock-as-inspiration. It’s quite something.

Balls of fire. Flames erupting in shades of green, red, and yellow. A hundred black beach balls dropping from the rafters.

When it’s all over, Kyle is wiped out. I can’t begin to fathom what’s going on in his 12-year old head, now ringing with the residual hum of a truly potent rock show.

But he’s still not smiling.

Phase II of Kyle’s Metalli-Birthday bash has been realized. As the house lights come on and we rush to the backstage VIP room, two questions remain.

Will Kyle meet “The Guys”?

And will he EVER smile for the camera?

Stay tuned for Part III!!!

Click HERE for Part Three of "Kyle Meets Metallica"!