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Fade To Black: Metallica, Machine Head, Volbeat @ HP Pavilion (the Shark Tank) 12/12/09

December 13, 2009

It was at about 2pm when I got the call.

As soon as the caller ID popped up that it was my mom, I knew. Mom doesn’t randomly call me on a Saturday afternoon. My grandfather had just passed away.

It wasn’t a surprise. In fact, when I first heard the words, I felt very relieved. But then the usual cocktail of emotions hit: I’ll never see him again, hear his voice, did I visit him enough, why do I live far away from my family, what am I doing, etc. My grandfather is where I get my crazy from- he was an ex-military oil man who’s life was a series of jaw dropping stories of murders, suicides, squandering small fortunes, keeping runners up to Miss Universe on the payroll as escorts for visiting oil executives, flying his plane illegally, bar brawls and overnight jail visits, and of course, the thing that comes along with all of that- alcohol. But even if he wasn’t always fun, he was definitely always interesting, and is probably the reason why I like to surround myself with crazy people.

I wasn’t going to go to the show, but honestly, I had nothing else to do. I did not want to sit home alone all night. I have no family or even close friends here in SF, so I ran to the one constant in my life for comfort- the cold embrace of music.

The time it takes to get from my apartment to the HP Pavilion is exactly the length of Crack the Skye. Luckily the rain had subsided as there was a monstrous line to get in. I keep saying that I’m not going to do these big shows by myself anymore, but somehow I keep finding myself amongst the families, groups of kids, and couples. I am alone.

After grabbing a beer- in a plastic cup with a lid no less- I made my way down to the floor. I made a circle around the entire stage, nodding at the security guards I recognized, before settling on a spot by the Machine Head drumset. It’s funny to look at the rail and see it lined with all older men or father/son combos with the occasional couple mixed in.

Volbeat came on before it was even 7pm. This time it hit me- Volbeat are from Denmark…Lars is from Denmark….duhhh. The band moves about the stage, maneuvering various piles of covered up equipment like they are playing in an old abandoned house. I’d have to say I only enjoyed their set marginally more than last Saturday’s…the lead singer’s voice really doesn’t do it for me.

The rest of the show would be laced with the magic of seeing two bands play their final show of the year to a sold out crowd on a huge stage in what is essentially their hometown.


Machine Head’s set was great; so good in fact that it made me forget about everything else. I had never watched someone drum from this perspective, so that was very interesting. Guitarist Phil Demmel’s mom must have been sitting in the section behind me, because he kept coming up to the mic and going, “hi, mom!”, which was funny. And then there is Robb Flynn, who just has ‘it’. I can never describe ‘it’ but I know ‘it’ when I see ‘it’. He’s a very intense performer whose gratitude for what he is doing up there comes through. He throws cups of beer for the crowd to catch, he motions for a circle pit, he mimes for everyone to bang their heads. ‘Now I Lay Thee Down’ was absolutely amazing.


I was really happy to get to see them do their tribute to Dimebag- ‘Fucking Hostile’. I was watching Demmel play Dimebag’s part wondering how that must feel. As they were wrapping up the set with ‘Davidian’, the drum tech came out and did some fun stuff with the drummer- he played a couple of beats and they tossed some drumsticks back and forth…..some of those little last show things you can catch if you are paying attention. After the set, Demmel came over with a red plastic cup, and I thought he was dousing my area with beer but he actually showered us with picks….so I luckily got one.


“Do you feel free, San Jose?”


A blow up doll with ‘Metal Up Your Ass’ scrawled across her greeted Metallica as they ran out to the stage. “There they are!” screeches the guy next to me…..he can’t even see them, but just knowing they are rightthere was enough to incite that kind of reaction. The loud roar of the crowd gets even louder when Lars darts across the stage to his drum set.

This was the first time that I’ve been able to really watch Lars drum. He’s a funny drummer….he just can’t stay behind his set, can he? He’s standing and playing, he’s in front of it, he’s running out to the crowd or over to his tech. He struts around in what look like the most expensive pair of sweatpants known to man, gulping liquids and spitting them out, mostly all over himself.

Whenever Hetfield made his visits to my corner of the stage, it became an interesting study in a rock star’s effect on crowd dynamic. There would be a little rush of people trying to get closer, a father would lift his young son in the air as if to have him blessed by Father Hetfield, and the girls would scream (myself excluded….sorry). Hetfield, in turn, would act like a dad trying to get his kid to laugh. Approving nods go to those who were losing their minds….and a funny sneer stare would go to the mellower ones until they lit up, then they would get the nod, too.


When it came time for ‘Fade to Black’, I choked back tears. It was especially hard because Kirk Hammett was standing right in front of me playing the beginning notes. I almost grabbed the guy’s hand next to me, just to feel some sort of human connection, but I thought better of it. Everyone around me was so happy, I didn’t want to be the goth girl pity party.



They thanked Volbeat and Machine Head for a great tour, and dedicated ‘Sad But True’ to their Machine Head brothers. A surprising number of people raised their hands when Hetfield asked who was at their first Metallica concert, welcoming them into the Metallica family along with the rest who had seen them upwards of 100 times. Later on Lars would give special thanks to the people who had been following them around for the past few months, pointing to them in the front row. It’s great to see that Metallica still notice and care about things like that.


‘The Day That Never Comes’ would be the song that I’ve found myself listening to after these two shows that didn’t get any attention from me before….great song.


At the end of the set when the black Metallica branded beach balls dropped from the ceiling, the manageable crowd around me suddenly became….fucking hostile. A deflated ball was involved in a tug of war. Then when the set was over and the guys went around throwing loads of picks into the crowd, I was taken down not once but twice by groups of guys. Luckily, I covered one with my shoe and was able to bend down and snatch up one bass pick before being dog piled.


And that was it. Unfortunately my two Metallica shows were under less than ideal circumstances, but I’m still glad I was able to have the hometown heroes as some of my final shows of the year.

R.I.P. Papa.

“Yesterday seems as though
It never existed
Death greets me warm
Now I will just say goodbye”

-Fade To Black

See Photo Ray’s amazing Metallica pics. Just a little better than my iPhone, no?

Read about the Sacramento show from the person who knows Metallica best.


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