Monday, February 15, 2016

Home Field Advantage

AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
February 6, 2016

I know.. I know.. It's been almost 2 weeks since this show.. but better late than never.  Long story short since this is old news:  There were some who thought Metallica should have played the clusterfuck that is the Super Bowl halftime show since it was being hosted here in The Bay Area.  Yada yada...It didn't happen and instead they were booked into playing their own show at AT&T Park as part of the festivities surrounding the game.  It would be Metallica's first proper non-festival, non-fan club only, non-corporate event headlining show on their Bay Area home turf in 7 years.

The show sold out in 28 minutes.

Fast forward:  The band did their soundcheck the night before the show in front of around 300 friends and fan club members.  I've seen a couple of Metallica tour rehearsals in years past but it was interesting to attend this; Umlaut tends to geek out on the production side of concerts in his old age.  Obviously it was pretty cool to see a glimpse of the "nuts and bolts" side of a huge Lock 'N Loll show so intimately without thousands of drunk fans falling into me.  I arrived at the designated time and, long story short, found myself inside the stadium ahead of most of the guests.. which really didn't matter.. but it was still a nice experience.

The band ran through around an hour or so of songs here and there, but it was really about them working out stage cues and other entertainment details of the show.   Trivial: AT&T Park is only 2 miles from where the teenage me took the following photo back in the last century:

The Stone, San Francisco - March 5, 1983
[Photo by the teenage Umlaut - From the Umlaut Archives]

Every now and then I still trip out on how far Metallica have come from that homemade plywood drum riser.  Crazy, right?   Anyway, probably my favorite moment of the entire weekend was finding myself alone as the only non-crew person in The Snakepit directly in front of the stage as the sound was checked:

Umlaut View of the Stage

Stage View of Umlaut
[This photo courtesy of Jeff Yeager /]

How this happened I kind of have no idea.. but it was special.. and also kind of awkward when I made eye contact with the various members of the band as they made there way around the pit's ramp.  Cue 'One'.   This also happened:

Is it baseball yet?!

The next day was the big Rock Show and the area around AT&T was buzzing and crowded like a Giants game day on steroids.  As I approached the stadium it was surreal seeing thousands of people wearing Metallica t-shirts on the streets with thousands of people wearing various NFL team jerseys and gear.  It made me realize that San Francisco was literally the center of the professional sports world at that moment.  It's too bad the Niners suck so bad these days.

Anyway, long story short since this show is old news at this point, the evening for me was like a high school reunion as I saw friends old and new from near and far.  One thing led to another and I found myself in the deepest bowels of the stadium in the dressing room area... where there was a really amazing art piece on display that was a gift to the band from the promoter:

... but, aside from grabbing some cold water bottles from a 'fridge and some snack items from the catering table, this is pretty much as exciting as backstage got:

However, one exciting moment did happen when a trio of SFPD officers with a BOMB SNIFFING DOG entered the dressing room area to make sure our homeland security was secure.  After some tense moments of "searching" all they found was Sammy Hagar.. who posed for selfies with them and the dog.  Thank you for your service.

Fast forward:  One thing led to another (again) and I found myself back in The Snakepit in front of the stage.  This time there were around 300 other folks with me while another 45,000 or so packed the stadium behind and on either side of us.  Obviously, unlike the night before, I was not alone but it was once again special as I was standing with a half dozen or so old friends this time.  My favorite moment of a Metallica show is when the houselights go off after a traditional old school song from our salad days is played over the PA (that song tonight was 'The Boys Are Back In Town') and they start 'The Ecstasy Of Gold' intro tape accompanied by The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly footage on the screens.  The fact that they've used this same intro tape since literally Day One back in the clubs at their first shows still gets me emotional.  Tradition, man..  Then they stormed onstage with 'Creeping Death' and for the next 2 1/2 hours Metallica owned San Francisco lock, stock, and barrel as hometown heroes should.

Long story short since this show is old news at this point (you can read legit media outlet reviews about the show on The Internets.. Google it..), but my favorite song of the show was the first encore of 'Whiskey In The Jar' dedicated to Cliff that featured Kirk playing the iconic Greenie Les Paul onstage.

So cool... and the other highlight for Umlaut were the heartfelt things each band member said to the hometown crowd after the final encore ("I was born 5 miles from here!" - KRK).  I think it was smoke from the fireworks or something in my eyes... Home cooking always rules, man.

If you bought one of every Metallica merch item you would have spent around $500.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced football fans called me a fag.. but before I returned to the car this happened:   One thing led to another (again) and I found myself at the After Show party not far from the stadium at a restaurant called Tres with a couple of hundred other folks who had the required wristband.   The atmosphere was extremely bubbly given the open taco and alcohol bars and it was a nice way to end the weekend with the old friends in attendance.  Yes, band members were there but THE Rock Star moment of the weekend happened when my San Francisco Giants fanboy brothers and I worked up the courage to approach Larry Baer.

For the newbies:  Without Mr. Baer there would be not be an AT&T Park, 3 championships in 5 years, etc. etc. He is also a born and bred San Franciscan who knows all about and appreciates local roots.  The best part was being about to thank him for everything he's done... and despite our initial nervousness, Larry could not have been cooler!  He even said "I like your shirt.." when he noticed my bootleg Giants Misfits tee. He even adjusted his Giants World Series ring to make sure it showed in the photo.  

Honesty is my only excuse:  I care more about baseball than I do about Metal at this point in my life.   Is it baseball yet?!  This year's annual Metallica Night at the San Francisco Giants game is May 6th... and it cannot come soon enough.  Hit 'Em All!