metal in 2012

I've been lucky enough to get to two great metal shows in the last couple of months. More on that in a minute.

Here's the wonderful thing about being into metal in 2012, especially in a city like Seattle with an active music scene: no one goes to metal shows because it's cool. At too many shows I've been to in the last couple of years (off the top of my head: Bon Iver, Caribou, and Wild Flag* are great examples), there are just too damn many people there because they think that it's cool to be there. They are there because Pitchfork** said so-and-so was "important", because they want to have a certain cultural cache in saying they were there. They do not care about the music.

How do I know this, you ask?

People who care about the music that is being played live in front of them do not: 1) talk the entire fucking show with their friends, 2) hold up their dinky camera phones the entire show so that they can post shitty-sounding videos to Facebook and/or YouTube that no one will ever watch, including them,or 3) get falling down drunk before the show even starts, to the point that they spend the entire set bumping into other people, spilling beer, and likely forming no permanent memory of the show that they paid to see whatsoever. 

It would be easy to write this off as a "kids these days" phenomenon. Too easy, I think. I also think it happens to be wrong. Which brings me back to being a metal fan in 2012.

Metal was arguably never cool. Perhaps if you count the era bracketed roughly by the release of Motley Crue's Girls Girls Girls on one end and Nirvana's Nevermind on the other, metal--at least the subset that involved lots of makeup and spandex--had its moment in the sun. At a minimum, it shared the spotlight prominently with the rest of pop music and the explosion of hip-hop. But that's pretty much the extent of metal's coolness in the wider culture.

20 years after that, metal survives and thrives. The fan base is small, but dedicated. And (at least in Seattle) metal shows probably draw the most age-diverse crowd of anything I go to. At 34, I'm firmly in the middle of the age distribution of most shows. I'm used to being one of the old farts.

But what makes it great--if not, strictly speaking, cool--is that everyone at a metal show is there to hear the band that is playing. People don't talk through sets. They don't dance around drunkenly. In fact, for many modern subgenres of metal (black, ambient, shoegaze, folk, etc.) the accepted behavior at a concert these days is to stand there stoically and take it all in. And that suits me just fine.

It's not for everyone, I know. But that's always been the point.

Still, if you're still reading this far along maybe you want to check these guys out.

On the more melodic side, we have Alcest, from Paris. They played here a few weeks back and blew my mind. I lose myself in this stuff pretty regularly.

Next up is Agalloch, from Portland, OR. They killed it at the Crocodile last night. Here's their latest, an EP consisting of one, 22-minute(!) track:

*All of which were very fine performances by very talented bands, their shitty "fans" notwithstanding. Especially Wild Flag.

**Is Pitchfork still a thing? I don't know, I'm getting old, in case the general tone of this thing doesn't give it away.


Gino said...

alcest: i like it.

agalloch: about 1/2 of it.

the only issues i had with metal back in the day before your day:
-too much faux satanism made it look pretty stupid...
-leathered, spike-wearing longhairs would attempt to kick some punk ass in the lot as we lined up waiting for the doors to open (generally speaking... i never saw it work out well for them. dumbasses. the punks were tougher, by far, and didnt need spiked leather armbands to feel that way.)

metal itself, i like and appreciate.
its fans? they suck too often.

Brian said...

I guess one of the points I wanted to make (but didn't because this was running long as it was) was that metal fans now are different than they used to be. (Or at least, the median metal fan is.)

I'd be willing to bet the median metal fan now is 35-40, has a job in IT, and probably hasn't roughed up a punk in 20 years, if ever.

Mr. D said...

I'd be willing to bet the median metal fan now is 35-40, has a job in IT, and probably hasn't roughed up a punk in 20 years, if ever.

Sounds right to me. Although in the era that Gino is talking about, I was in neither camp, although I preferred the punks by a significant margin. That was because there were more punks than metal fans at my college, although we had more hippie holdouts than anything else. My hometown had plenty o' metal, though.