Perhaps hard to believe, it’s been a full week(+1) since 80s thrash ambassadors Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax invaded the Bronx for The New York Yankees and Metallica Present: The Big Four at Yankee Stadium, sure to be remembered as the high-watermark of heavy metal-based millennial false nostalgia for nanocycles to come. To celebrate the anniversary(+1), we sat down with bloggers (well, Tumblrers) Brad Nelson, Josh Gallaway, and Matt Ealer, all at one point at least tangentially related to some web site (well, Tumblr) that had Megadeth in the title at some point, Marge Schott Gato-blog, to get the official hipster Manhattan preening striver view of the show. Fellas?
Matt Ealer: AYO what if we really did try to write a stupid Big 4 back and forth?
We actually played a game to see how many Rush t-shirts we could spot. I made it to like 5.
Josh Gallaway: The thing about the fans at the Big 4 show is that some were standard metal dudes, but the overwhelming (overwhelming) majority were Metallica fans, which is a category unto itself. Metal dudes define themselves by the black tee-shirt they wear, and this was a pretty vanilla crowd, judging by just how many standard Metallica shirts there were.
Matt Ealer: All the Slayer fans left after Slayer.
Josh Gallaway: I was wearing a Destruction shirt, and while we were in the parking lot standing still while a great Hudson River of metal dudes flowed around us, one dude suddenly appeared throwing the horns and going “DEEEEEEE-STRUUUUUUUU-CTIOOOOOOOOON” wearing a Death shirt. I didn’t know what he was talking about till he was gone. I’d say the ratio of that dude was low.
Brad Nelson: The Death death meme.
Pre-show, a dude, a tall dude, wearing a Control Denied shirt, band of the late Chuck Schuldiner who therein tried to unite death metal with Iron Maiden, but who also lead Death, a death metal band, some say the first death metal band. The Control Denied record was the last music Chuck Schuldiner released before he succumbed to cancer in 2001. Death meme.
Matt Ealer: Well I mean that just totally explained the joke, yes.
Brad Nelson: What aren’t we supposed to be explaining jokes.
Matt Ealer: What about straight-edge Taxi Driver guy.
Josh Gallaway: I mean seriously, a metal show usually has a billion South American dudes, and this had more fat white guys. Maybe because it cost an arm and leg?
Matt Ealer: It’s funny you say this, Josh, because I was joking with Maura that this was the real 9/11 Celebration, because what do you think every NYPD/FD guy who wasn’t on the job that night was doing? Cops on crowd control outside were literally headbanging during Anthrax’s set (I saw this, I was in line, this experience was authentic, to me).
Josh Gallaway: BTW an iPad is like 4 fucking iPhones. Fuck the Yankees.
Matt Ealer: Right. Well, it was funny that the most vocal and ‘authentic’ ‘metal’ of the fans (used the word authentic twice so far) were the Slayer fans and that a good many of us came away from the Metallica set saying, “Wow, not bad. They played a lot of Ride the Lightning songs at least?” Anthrax pretty much could have played Among the Living all the way through and it wouldn’t have been that much different.
As ever, it was Megadeth that confounded. Dave Mustaine — playing the martyr and reminding the audience that he was there, suffering, for us while he should have been in surgery — paradoxically led the band through a middle finger of a set. He was the only one prepared to recognize that the late-90s even happened for any of these bands, opening with Cryptic Writings’ “Trust” and wasting an up-tempo thrash number on that album’s “She-Wolf” (Maura had to ask me what song was being played as she wrote up the set-list, “You know, like Shakira,” I said) and weighing down the last half by actually playing “A Tout le Monde.”
So, in playing songs probably no one cares about (although it’s worth noting that they were at one point something of radio hits on terrestrial rock radio, a thing that existed at the time), Dave bucked the trend of the rest of them basking in their way, way past glory days (gory days? Ha, ha) as has become the custom for all nerd culture: to take the ‘objective best’ and refine it into a smooth, boring melange of ‘untouchable’ ‘classics’. It’s a bunch of nerds in middle school striving for respectability, pleading not to be beat up for their cowlicks or the shoes their mothers picked out for them from Payless Shoe Source.
Josh Gallaway: Wish I could have heard Dave acknowledge the 90s. I was on a stalled 4 train. Or on a bench outside trying to hide my iPad.
Matt Ealer: Fair. All I’m saying is that I always end up checking my watch in the middle of an hour-long Slayer set. I went and got a stadium pretzel, the absolute cheapest thing you can buy.
Brad Nelson: Think the other thing about the show was the general fatigue that set in right around the middle of Slayer’s set. Love Slayer, watching them demonstrate that thing they do is completely arresting, I just think they would be more effective if, like their records, they played for 30 minutes and then exploded.
Did they play for more than 30 minutes or is that just my degraded perception? Didn’t help that Metallica played for 2 days.
Matt Ealer: My feet really hurt by the end of it.
Josh Gallaway: [Metallica front man] James [Hetfield] hugged Anthrax.
Matt Ealer: It was a Metallica show with special guests and Metallica completely treated it like that, they hugged Anthrax like a pat on the head. “THERE, THERE, GUYS. SO GLAD YOU COULD BASK IN OUR FLAMING FIREBALL GLORY WITH US.”
And the crowd was filled with people with just-off-the-Target-rack Master of Puppets shirts to prove it. Which is fine? (!) People need something to believe in? It’s just funny that this has all the underground legitimacy of a monster truck rally at this point.
Brad Nelson: I have a lot of complaints about Metallica’s set but it should be said that “Creeping Death” is the best opener ever.
Josh Gallaway: I mean seriously though, have Metallica open and put Anthrax at top billing. They’re a New York band, and they’re the best on the list. Tell me I’m wrong.
Matt Ealer: Dude you know that’s impossible, I’m not going to look at the ‘numbers’ or anything but I’m pretty sure Metallica has sold more records than the rest of them combined, for better or for (probably) worse.
Josh Gallaway: Well, they all murdered [Motörhead’s] “Overkill” together, but I was just happy to see Anthrax on the stage.
When they shut down the beer line and I was zoning out and wishing I could get a beer, I realized just how alike Metallica plays everything. Like rockabilly metal.
At a Maiden show, can they shut down the beer line and you can still tell all the songs apart? I think so. Up the irons.
Matt Ealer: It saddens me that, even as metal dudes, our most damning criticism of any metal band, musically, is ‘their shit all sounds the same’. Maybe everyone’s right, guess it’s back to Lil B for me.
Josh Gallaway: I think you have to play stadium metal in a stadium. Maiden plus Blue Öyster Cult. Now THAT would be a show.
Brad Nelson: Setting definitely matters; ideally I should not be able to talk over Slayer.
Matt Ealer: ‘Context’.
Josh Gallaway: Did you see all the little mosh pits down below? Maybe we shoulda got the $350 tickets.
Matt Ealer: ‘CLASS’.
What a bunch of dicks. Hope nobody got paid for this.