METALGF GOES TO SEE MESHUGGAH: ONE NON-METAL FAN’S OBSERVATIONS
Photo credit: SceneIntheDark, May 8th, Vancouver, BC
Although this was not my first metal show, it is one of very few that I’ve ever attended. I went to Sevendust once and The Metal Suckfest this fall (I saw Obscura and Cynic). I also maybe went to one or two local metal shows when Vince and I first started dating to see if this “metal” thing was even real. I won’t sugarcoat it for you: I really do not like metal. I respect it and all of you; I feel embraced by the metal community and have nothing but love for you guys, but the music just isn’t for me. I’m sure you have loved ones who feel similarly and I hope you won’t hold it against me. I do like to go to a metal show about once a year; seeing what everyone’s up to and getting to see Vince in his element is not something I want to miss entirely.
This year the choice was clear: Baroness and Meshuggah at Terminal 5.
When I first arrived I thought every guy was Vince. They all had his uniform on and I literally went to hug one or two bearded fellows before stopping myself just in time. I didn’t think Vince had a “Battlestar Galactica” t-shirt! Wait, I was right, he doesn’t have that shirt BECAUSE THAT’S NOT HIM! I just went to kiss a stranger who I now realize looks like a modern version of our 16th President. This is a sea of white men in black t-shirts like the (non-metal) world has never seen. There are no girls, no black people and no items of colored clothing in sight. I stick out like a sore thumb in my white bohemian top and blatant womanhood.
You know how at every show there is the one super psyched guy? He or she is always a row or two in front of me feeling the music in their deepest of souls and moving their bodies in a way only they understand. I remember I went to an Indigo Girls concert in the 1990s and there was a hundred pound girl dancing and singing and yelling with an enthusiasm known only to the superfan. Well, at Meshuggah superfans were everywhere. They are such a loved band. I had the feeling people had been waiting for this night for weeks, maybe months.
Meshugganah (from which the word Meshuggah derives) was a Yiddish word often used in my house growing up. My mom would say things like “she’s a little meshugganah” or “don’t be meshugganah“, which means “don’t be crazy or too neurotic,” a problem in our culture (see Larry David, Axl Rosenberg, et al). New York, its pace, and its culture, could make anyone a little meshugganah and everyone seems to be here at this show to let go of that. To headbang and sweat and mosh. It was such an un-self-conscious environment and it was both freeing and inspiring to be a part of.
To one extent, I felt I didn’t “understand” Meshuggah. Vince had told me beforehand that although all the musicians are off-beat, the drummer is the one who holds it together and this was a simple, perhaps obvious, observation but still one that I never would have come to on my own. The music sounded good and it was tolerable to me, which is the highest compliment a metal band can get from me at this point. But it was the physical connection that made much more sense to me. The lights and sounds and beat. I couldn’t help but bang my head and definitely felt the pulse and energy of it course through me and the people around me. This is how I knew the band was first-rate more than anything I can say about the music itself, which I find pretty much impossible to comprehend or speak about in any intellectual or artistic way. Were they heavy or brutal? Was the drummer sick? Was the bassist tight? I don’t know the answer to these questions and can say only that Meshuggah is undeniably powerful, dynamic and exciting to watch and experience.
When I was on the third floor balcony, I could see the fans from an aerial view including an amazing view of the huge mosh pit. It was like a chaotic but choreographed dance of release and it was unreal to watch as this mass of bodies collided and separated like a human kaleidoscope of metal. It was truly a sea of that one super-psyched fan letting go of their mishigas and getting meshugganah.
At one point, Vince and I battled the crowds to get closer to the stage. Although it was fun to be really immersed in the crowd, it was also scary being tousled and pushed in a swarm of guys bigger and stronger than me, not to mention being drenched in the sweat of other people, an experience I have rarely had if ever. I thought to myself that this may be a younger women’s game or perhaps not a women’s game at all. The physicality of it is not suited for the faint of heart, the small, the scrawny, the fearful or anyone not full of aggressive strength. Not to say women are scared little birds, but we do tend to be smaller and there is something to be said for feeling safe.
Two more notes:
1) The women’s bathroom: this may be reason enough for ladies to attend more metal shows. This is the only event I’ve ever been to where there are 12 empty women’s stalls while there’s a line for the men’s bathroom. This was truly amazing to me and is unheard of anywhere else (except maybe Comic-Con). Talking about freeing, I felt free to drink whatever liquids I chose knowing a bathroom trip would be quick as a lady could wish for.
2) Baroness were great. I would listen to their music now and not complain, and if I was high enough I could probably enjoy it as much as I did live. Vince and I have trouble finding music we both can tolerate on long car rides and we can easily add this to the list as something we can agree is beautiful music.
Until next year,