Metal music’s concert etiquette

There are some stereotypes surrounding heavy metal music that are usually true.

Long hair, unintelligible vocals and an unhealthy obsession with all things evil have become staples of metal music. But the most common misconception about the genre is their live performances are overtly hostile environments.

This sort of thing usually happens to me in a team building exercise. I’ll mention that I enjoy seeing live music, but I’ll lose my team members’ interest once I say “metal show.”

This misconception is understandable. Since its genesis, the genre has gained much negative attention. Whether it is through the demonic imagery portrayed in album covers, or the over-the-top grotesque lyrical themes on which more extreme metal groups pride themselves, parents and educators have been eager to discredit the music I’ve come to connect with. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but those who are quick to criticize metal shows have probably never even been to one.

Those who are unfamiliar with metal shows seem to be most concerned with the audience.

A metal audience is surely more aggressive, right? Not as much as you would think. Metal bands often write about death, but it doesn’t mean you’re walking into a room full of serial killers. The majority of the audience does what people typically do: stand around and bob their head, though the head bobbing may be more intense. Yes, alcohol is present, and a select few have probably done some drugs prior to entrance, but how many decent shows have you been to where everyone is stone cold sober?

Next, is everyone’s favorite: The pit.

Contrary to popular belief, we’re not going to punch you in the face. (Unless we’re talking about Slayer fans; they’re a totally different animal.) It’s just another way of letting off some steam in a controlled environment. The mentality in the pit is to roll with the punches, so to speak. If you fall, it is more than likely that at least three concertgoers will help you up.

If you don’t want to risk getting hit, stand to the side and watch. No one’s going to make you participate in a mosh pit.

Now, let’s compare this to another event where music of a different genre was playing: ASU’s Undie Run in 2010. About half an hour in, I was surprised to see a mosh pit form to some trendy techno song. Although I felt vulnerable in nothing more than sneakers and boxer shorts, I thought I’d have some fun. Sadly, no one knew what they were doing.

The guys who frequented the SRC more often than attending their classes were half-naked, drunk and looking to seriously injure others. As quickly as it started, people were piled on the ground and a buddy of mine and I were busy keeping bro No. 1 from knocking bro No. 2 out. No one got hurt — a few egos maybe, but nothing major.

What I am saying is that you can’t judge a live performance by what you see in the fans or what you hear through word of mouth. It’s all about experience. The effects of live music are something we can all share; the only difference is how we express it.

 

 

Reach the columnist at schergos@asu.edu or follow him @ShawnChergorsky

 

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