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  • R.L. Merrill

Metalli-Weekend 2016


AKA My Bucket List is complete!

Can you remember the day, hour and time that you heard a song that changed your life? Okay, I'm not that fortunate, although I do have a pretty darn good memory. For past occurrences anyway... What was I saying? Oh! The time was summer 1989. I'd landed a pretty sweet gig as a dance teacher at my studio making really good money for a sixteen year-old at the time. I decided the best use of my earnings needed to go toward the household. We'd been deprived of something crucial to all teenagers in the 80s... MTV. That's right. My parents refused to get cable. I told my mom, "I want my MTV," and so it was done. I paid the cable bill so I could watch as much as I wanted. At this time I'd moved into my Classic Rock phase and adored the radio station 92.3 KSJO. I listened to their Zep Set at 7:00 every night and recorded my favorite songs on cassettes in my bedroom late into the night. But one Saturday night I was up late and, of course, watching MTV. On came the most glorious noise... A sound so inspiring I couldn't turn away. The video playing was dark and filled with violent images. The musicians had so much hair and so much aggression... I remember leaning closer, almost touching the screen so I could get close enough to soak up all the energy. That video, of course, was One, a video that had a lasting effect on many a child of rock 'n' roll.

I continued to watch and I eventually recorded the video on a VHS tape so I could watch it again and again. When I left for college in 1990 I took that very VHS tape with me, along with my mixtapes. But I had yet to purchase a Metallica cassette, or CD even. Along came BMG Music Club. Anyone remember those days? Buy one CD and get 10 free, or something ridiculous like that? You only had to purchase three more in five years and remember to cancel the monthly choice if you didn't want it. BMG had a much heavier selection for a blossoming rocker like myself than Columbia House, which my mother belonged to. When I finally got my hands on And Justice For All, it became a mainstay of my CD collection.

I followed Metallica's career over the decades, watching as they went from young rebels to successful business men, and found myself leaning as close as possible to whichever music source I'd hear them on to continue soaking up that energy. I watched the documentary A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica repeatedly and found myself intrigued by their writing process and what it was like to create something as amazing as the Black album. I finally saw them in concert in 1998, nearly ten years after hearing them for the first time, and I remember it being a religious experience of sorts, even though my friends and I were at the back of the lawn at Shoreline and couldn't hear or see very well. I didn't need to. I raised my horns in the air with thousands of other fans and knew I'd found my tribe. The album released at that time was ReLoad, not one of their most popular, but one of my all-time favorites. Songs like Devil's Dance, Where the Wild Things Are, Fixxer, and Prince Charming played on repeat in my car. I loved all of their offerings... Until St. Anger. I'll admit I didn't get it at first. It took years before I was able to appreciate it for it's unique sound and their attempt to go somewhere new with their art. Now I blare it regularly. I've come to see it for what it is and appreciate the departure from their signature sounds.

It's now 2016. I'm still a teacher. I'm a fairly new self-published author who has a great appreciation for Metallica's suit against Napster, since pirating of art is stealing, period, and I've already had my books pirated on sites. Imagine what life would be like for artists had the band never put their foot down? I saw them twice on their Death Magnetic tour and introduced my children to their music. My son has a rendition of the Ride The Lightning cover on his bedroom wall. My daughter proudly wears Metallica gear to school and regularly educates her friends on what "real music" is all about. We've attended the Metallica-themed nights at SF Giants games and enjoyed the mashup of baseball and metal. Then the announcement came that they'd be playing AT&T Park. I was grateful I'd be able to take my kids to see them. I wanted them to have the opportunity to experience that spiritual communion of headbanging with thousands of like-minded folks. Little did I know that my communion this time would be up close and sort of personal.

After buying tickets through the fan club, of which I've been a member for years, I received an email saying there were some contests for the upcoming event. Meet and Greet. Sound Check. Awesome! Sign me up! I never win, though, right? So when I'm driving my daughter around in the Metallica Mustang, I see an email pop up on my notifications on my phone. "Read that to me," I ask her, seeing as she's my unofficial secretary.

"It says here you won a pass to the meet and greet the night before the night before."

"Shut UP! It does not! That's fake. There's no way."

Like a responsible driver (okay, most of the time) I wait until we've stopped and pick up the phone. She's hit the button for trash. FUCK! Okay, I find it. Holy shitballs. It's for real. I respond that yes, of course I will be there, and receive a response saying I'll receive another response four days before the show with my instructions. So I spend a week floating around and thinking there's no way this is real.

February 5, 2016. The Night Before the Night Before (going off the theme for their show, which was a fantastic alternative to them appearing in the SF by way of Santa Clara-based Super Bowl.) My faithful and patient husband takes off work early, rides B.A.R.T. with me into the chaos, and we walk over a mile to the stadium, which shouldn't be a big deal but since we're both out of shape, it turned out to be a night of leg cramps and sore feet. NO matter, I was going to potentially meet The Four Horsemen. We find a group of super cool folks decked out in Metalli-gear and sharing stories of traveling from all over the globe to see their heroes. Shortly thereafter we are scolded for not following the directions of the MetClub representative. He was totally right. We were in the wrong place. The teacher in me cringed thinking, "this is what I go through daily. You'd think I'd know better." So those of us fortunate enough to have won Meet and Greet passes (about 30 maybe?) followed the rep to the correct location, listened to directions, received our stickers and arm bands, and said good-bye to our Plus Ones, who would join us for sound check, and descended into the bowels of the stadium for our meet.

To make a long story short, or at least give you a break after living this metal fan's fantasy with her, the Meet and Greet was intense. We were all trying our best to not faint, make total dorks out of ourselves (too late in my case) or break any of the carefully explained rules. I was incredibly pleased to meet Lars, Kirk, and Rob, take pictures and receive autographs. But the guys went above and beyond, especially Lars. The man was genuinely interested in knowing just who had come out to see his band play and was very engaged in each and every conversation. I learned that he actually knew where my little nothing hometown was and that he had, in fact, graduated from a continuation high school, meaning he was just like the kids I work with every day and have worked with the majority of my teaching career. That fact filled me with so much joy. Here's yet another fantastic example to share with my students about how you are not defined by where you get your diploma, and that you, too, can become a mega-star, financially successful person, talented artist, and all-around amazing person no matter where you started from. I can't wait to tell my colleagues at work tomorrow morning...At our staff meeting... At which I will be wearing my "Too Heavy for Halftime" t-shirt with the giant Metalli-bolt demolishing Levi Stadium. Quite apropo if I do say so myself since their show slayed whatever the Super Bowl hoped to accomplish with their super lame halftime (okay, Bruno and Beyonce rocked, but that's all I'll say on the matter.)

What else can I say about Metalli-weekend? That being on the field of the greatest ball park in the world watching the greatest rock band ever prepare for an epic concert was one of the moments I will treasure for my entire life? That watching my kids' faces light up while they headbanged along to classic tunes was even better than hearing them myself? That this morning my son sat in his dad's chair playing on the Xbox live with his friends while blaring Battery from his iPod and schooling them on real music? Too many moments to go into... Just let it be known that this Metal Mom has had one of the best weekends of her life and will be a die-hard Metalli-fan, a Fifth Member of Metallica, until the day she no longer breathes air into this body. Actually, that's not true. I will carry my love of the art they've created into my afterlife.

For a playlist with some of my favorite tunes, here's a spotify playlist I created before the show. https://play.spotify.com/user/rlmerrillauthor/playlist/6UdwwlMubFQeT5XHyBevfF

#Metallica #MetClub #ATTPark #TooHeavyforHalftime #rockshow #LarsUlrich

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