CRUSH YOU: Rob Halford, I Love You and Your Goddamn Amazing Instagram Account
Hey everybody: Welcome to our new column CRUSH YOU, where Cat Jones will gush to you about whatever latest thing she has a crush on in the metal world right now. In last week’s inaugural edition, Cat waxed ecstatic about Monster Magnet’s surprising self-awareness. This week she sings the praises of Rob Halford and his incredible Instagram account.
When I initially sat down to write this week’s column, it was going to be all about how obsessed I am with the greatest Instagram account on Earth, belonging to the legendary cat-loving, desert-dwelling Metal God himself: the frontman of Judas Priest, Mr. Rob Halford. And it’s true: I could easily use up several thousand words explaining just how much joy it brings me to see his sweet face pop up on my feed several times a week, doing things like…
…hanging out with Lemmy:
…headbanging to musical kitten Christmas cards:
…gazing longingly into Marilyn Manson’s eyes:
…or going to the grocery store with a riding crop between his teeth:
I could tell you about how he adorably hashtags every photo with #heavymetal #ink #tattoo, or the fact that the real beauty is in the captions (which he always adds AFTER the hashtags) like the time he casually sat with a meerkat on a leash and wrote, “Back off or else!”
…or the time he took a selfie with some cows and referred to them as “mootal gods”:
I could gush to you all day about how he genuinely seems like the kindest, most gracious, down-to-Earth dude who uses his platform for things like talking about LGBT youth homelessness. Getting to have even a shred of his personality inserted into our digital lives every week makes the world seem a little better.
Hell, I could probably write 1,000 words just on this photo alone, in which he is mowing the lawn and throwing up the horns… with a boner(?!):
But the truth is, last week I saw Judas Priest live for the first time in my life, and to merely gush about Rob Halford’s Instagram account and not the man himself would be doing a terrible disservice.
All of my Portland friends purchased tickets to the show months in advance, but I’ve been so busy lately that it completely slipped my mind. I was standing in line at the deli counter at the grocery store two days before the show when it hit me that if I didn’t get my shit together I might lose my chance. I put my basket down, pulled up the StubHub app on my phone, looked at the inquisitive man in a beard-net behind the array of freshly butchered meats, and said, “Hold on, I’m literally ordering Judas Priest tickets right now.” He laughed, made a hand gesture as if to say, “Don’t let me stop you from such an important task” and said, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous!” You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone — metalhead or not — who doesn’t understand the gravity of the world’s love for Priest. I pulled the trigger on a pair of nosebleed seats, placed my order for some boneless chicken breasts, and carried on my merry way with a little extra firepower in my step.
Upon arriving at my seat on the day of the show, and emphatically singing along to Saxon’s “Denim and Leather,” I had a momentary pang of, “Maybe I should have shelled out the extra 30 bucks for better seats.” But that immediately vanished when the lights went out and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” came on over the PA to amp everyone up for the main event. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a full view of 7,500 loved-up metalheads all singing in unison to Sabbath, but I’m getting a little emotional even as I type this. In a move that felt like a sorcerer’s cape swooshing, the curtain vanished, and from where I sat, I could see an ant-sized Rob Halford entering side-stage, flanked by a team of roadies, and for the first time in my life, I burst into tears at the sight of a rock star. I’m not here to give you a show review, so before I get too carried away I’ll just say the show was incredible, Halford wore nine different stage jackets — three of which were sparkly — and an entire arena’s love for him was felt with every sense.
After that night, I haven’t been able to get the weight of Rob Halford’s star quality out of my head. He’s 66 years old, as fabulous as ever, and has a lot to be happy about right now. In the past year, he not only celebrated his 32nd year of sobriety, but February marked the 20th anniversary of the day he accidentally came out to the world as a gay man during an interview with MTV News. I say “accidentally” because he didn’t go into the interview thinking, “I’m going to come out today,” but rather it just sort of slipped out when he answered a question. The producer of MTV News was so shocked — not by the admission, most likely, but the fact that they’d be the first to publicize it — that he dropped the clipboard he was holding and it clattered to the ground. This was in 1998 when the world, and certainly heavy metal, was a lot less open about and accepting of homosexuality. Yet a beautiful thing happened: the entire world of heavy metal just sort of collectively went, “Ok, great, but when’s the next Priest record gonna be out?”
Last year, in an interview with FOX radio, of all places, Halford looked back on that experience and remembered panicking that “outing” himself would somehow reflect badly on his band, or that metal would somehow reject him. The opposite happened:
“I’d never seen such an outpouring of love from people in all my life — the letters, the faxes, the phone calls from everybody in the metal community: ‘Rob, we just don’t care. We want you to be who you are. We want you to sing those songs. We wanna come see you.’ And that was a tremendously uplifting moment for me. And it was also a tremendously uplifting moment for metal. Because, for the longest time, metal was the underdog in rock and roll, metal was never getting any respect, metal was always at the back of the line. And so I thought, ‘Well, isn’t this great?’ This just goes to show you that we in the metal community, as we call ourselves — probably because of the pushback that we felt because of the music that we love — we are the most tolerant, if you wanna say, the most open-minded, the most loving, the most accepting of all the kinds of music that we know in rock and roll.”
To come from writing “Breaking The Law” about the fact that it used to be illegal to be gay in England to having arenas full of people cheering you on for being exactly who you are, nine stage jackets and all, must be an incredible feeling.
From what I experienced at that show, and from every conversation I’ve had all week from fellow fans who are still riding high from that night, it is clear to me that Judas Priest’s fans, and metal fans in general (the ones who matter, anyway), are still upholding those values.
Rob Halford, if you’re reading this, thank you for giving us music that defines our lives, and carving out a world where we can be the unabashed weirdos we are — sparkles and all — where people just shrug and go, “Yeah, cool, so when are we gonna crush some beers and go to a show?”
Oh, and please, never stop posting in that goddamn perfect Instagram account of yours.