Recently a friend of mine named William asked me to go to a concert with him. I like William a lot, so I said that I would go. And who doesn't want a free concert? Now, I must admit that I was pretty ignorant on the bands I was seeing. This particular show was a SevenDust and Black Label Society concert. Let me first say that I've played in a rock band for 7 years and have seen hundreds on concerts - everything from country to glam metal. I don't bring earplugs to shows, I don't sit in the back, and I love loud music. Now that you know I'm not some old guy who hates those blasphemous, squealy electric guitars, I have to say that what I experienced last night at this concert was unsettling.
William and I left for Atlanta pretty early, and when we arrived at the venue there were already a few metalheads out in the parking lot drinking and listening to their music. This is a rock and roll culture thing - it's just what people do before a rock show. Nothing new. However, I could tell this crowd was a little different from what I'd experienced before. Still, nothing unsettling so far.
We ate at an Applebee's and then headed back to the venue to stand in line. I was at a heavy metal show, so I totally expected a crowd that I'm not used to, simply because I don't usually go to heavy metal shows. This crowd, however, started to get violent while we were standing in line to get in. People started shattering beer bottles on the pavement and kicking the glass on people. I was starting to think that the mosh pit inside would be crazy.
We finally got inside and I got a better look at the crowd. Now, the stuff I'm about to say is mostly generalization, and doesn't apply to everyone. Nonetheless, there were plenty of trends that I noticed, and some stereotypes become stereotypes because they are true. That being said, most of the men were dresssed in biker attire - cut off sleeves, denim jackets, clothes that were purposefully "manly" or "strong." Again, nothing I didn't expect and there's not a thing wrong with that. The men were there to look dangerous. The women, however, had a different thing going on. They wore as little as possible. Now maybe that's just a thing that most people do when they go out - they dress up a bit more, they make themselves more flashy. This was different. Some were literally wearing shreds of fabric covering up the essentials. My point is this: when the bands starting playing and I began to hear the lyrics to their songs, it became clear to me that there was no respect for women in that room at all. If I was a woman, I wouldn't have shown up to that concert to save my life. As a bystander, I could feel the women being belittled, and it seemed to me that they were perpetuating it by dressing like the men wanted them to and supporting the sorts of things that were being sung. In one song, a woman was compared to "cocaine, heroine, alcohol, and vicodin." And it was a positive simile. All I'm saying is, women deserve more respect than that, but it didn't even seem that any of them there wanted it.
Next, I started to really see the culture of violence that this particular music condoned and even supported. How does it support it? By asking for it. I heard three songs in a row that were truly frightening. The first was called, "What About Tomorrow? F*** Tomorrow." The singer encouraged the crowd to get as drunk as they could and party as hard as they could, even if they died. Next, the band played "Die Motherf***** Die," where they basically just described killing a man for glory. They wrapped up this part of the set with "Burn Burn Burn Motherf*****," where the singer encouraged the audience to hold their hands up like guns and mime shooting someone in the head. I know you may be thinking that they were just songs, not meant to be taken literally and only written for fun. Having witnessed the crowd's reaction to these lyrics, their reveling in the violence of it, I'm not sure I would agree. Even the idea of a mosh pit promotes violence. In a mosh pit, people just slam into each as hard they can, hoping to knock someone down, give someone a black eye, maybe make them bleed. This is a type of communal violence, a brotherhood of brutality that is completely accepted and was even asked for by the singers of the bands.
Some people here may point out this rock music has always supported violence. You may bring to light the Guns N Roses lyric, "I wanna watch you bleed," etc. In that specific instance I'd say that rather than Axl Rose saying that he wanted to watch someone bleed, he was expressing the way the big city, or the jungle, was a dog-eat-dog sort of world. In the music that I witnessed last night, there was no metaphor, no comparison. It was simply, "I want to shoot you in the head so that you will die."
Here's the strangest thing about the night. The people I was standing around were actually extremely polite and nice. They introduced themselves (Nice to meet you, Steve, by the way), made sure they remembered my name, struck up conversation, and tried to make me have a good time. Steve and "his girl," as he called her may have been extremely friendly, but as soon as the music started they jumped up and starting bashing into each other like a couple of lineman in the Super Bowl. It was kind of weird, actually. They'd back up and ram each other (Steve didn't show his girl any mercy, and I'm serious) and then laugh and kiss. This didn't last, however. At some point Steve offended her. She rared back and hit him. Hard. He seemed confused. He asked her what was wrong. She shoved him out the way, yelled obscenities at him, punched him, then ran off. He bolted after her, knocking people out of the way as he went. I just sat there, watching. Finally, Steve came back in to talk to me and I guess apologize. I asked him what he did to make her so mad, to which he replied, "I grabbed her booby in front of everyone." Honestly, this cracked me up so bad that I had a hard time not laughing in his face, and I just replied, "That'll do it." He grabbed his cigarettes off the table, gave me a fist pound, and ran out.
Let me finish by saying this. Metal music is not inherently evil or bad. The people who listen to metal are not necessarily violent or mean. William, my friend who took me to the show, is a really cool, nice guy that doesn't have a bit of meanness in him. He's a great guy and is very musically knowledgable, and he simply enjoys metal. I can fairly conclusively say, however, that this is not true of all of the demographic that listens to metal. The lyrics, at least of some of the bands I saw (the opening band of which I didn't catch the name, and Dope, in particular) incite violence and sexism. They are not metaphors. The lyrics work more like a political pamphlet that's goal is to raise up an army. It was a scary place to be.
So, what's the point? This is making me examine the music I listen to. When I support an artist by buying tickets to their show or purchasing their album on iTunes, am I in turn condoning beliefs and sentiments that I don't agree with myself? It doesn't mean I have to hold the same religious or political beliefs of the bands I listen to. It does mean, however, that I need to be knowledgable of the themes of the songs I like. Are they truly objetionable and against what I stand for? The whole experience just made me think, and I thought I would share it with you guys. I am writing this only hours after the concert, so I hope I haven't been too hasty in my judgments. The last thing I want to be is judgmental. But, the whole experienced just really concerned me.
I hope all is well with everyone! Sorry for the hiatus in postings - more to come soon.