I’m not sure when I first noticed that I’d become the old guy at heavy metal shows. There was no Ah-ha moment when I walked into a music venue and said to myself, “Wow, Brad, you are the oldest person in here.” It was more of a gradual thing, a culmination of small realizations that snowballed into a sense of elder statesmanship (which is a nice way of saying that I became a curmudgeonly old fart).
Was it when I realized that I no longer wanted to mosh? Not really. In fact, thinking back on days past, I’m not sure I ever liked it to begin with. I did my share of sweaty circle pit slamming, but it was probably more out of a sense of obligation than anything. Hey, it’s a Pantera show, and this is what you do. But I’m not sure I ever would have jumped in of my own accord. I certainly never started a pit. Maybe it was because I fancied myself a musician, and I was more interested in watching the band play. These days—after back surgery and physical therapy—the only way you could get me into a mosh pit is at gunpoint. And truth be told, it sort of annoys me that most of the prime real estate at shows is taken up by people who are more interested in some sweaty male bonding than music. If I could wave my magic want (a Rush reference—not the most metal thing, I admit), I’d make a law that kept mosh pits in the back of the venue, so that the people who are actually there for the music and the performance could get their money’s worth as well. Then again, I’m the old guy at the concert. I just don’t get it, dude.
Perhaps I become too old when I realized that perhaps knowing all the lyrics to “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” or “Pedigree Butchery” wasn’t something to trumpet from the hilltops. I remember the time I bought a t-shirt at a Strapping Young Lad Concert, a shirt that I wore once before donating to a younger, brasher metal brother. The back of the shirt proclaimed, in bold print, “Get It in Gear, Motherfucker” (or something similar—it’s been a while). I was closing in on my third decade on this earth, and it just felt…juvenile. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Strapping Young Lad, and I still sing right along with Cannibal Corpse and Carcass. Hell, I’d still rock a t-shirt for either band. But it won’t be one with the big MF on the back, and it probably won’t be one featuring the uncensored Tomb of the Mutilated artwork. I can’t see myself dropping my daughter off at Montessori school while wearing that shirt.
I know that, like any self-respecting old fart, I worry about my hearing. I wear ear plugs at every show louder than a coffee shop acoustic act. I rejoiced at the smoking ban at most music venues—I hated coming home smelling like an ashtray. And it no longer makes me raise my fist in triumph when I find out that the bar serves PBR for a dollar or two-for-one Jagermeister shots. Like I said: Boring Old Fart.
I’m the guy with the grey hair who doesn’t understand what metalcore is. Djent sounds like a dish I’d order at an Indian restaurant. I’ll gladly tell you that music was better before the age of file-sharing. And while I love my iPhone for music on the go, when I’m at home and I want to do some serious music appreciation, I fire up my turntable. I like singers who can sing, guitarists who understand phrasing, drummers who don’t trigger their kits to sound like popcorn machines, band logos that are at least vaguely legible, and legit album covers. My wife understands that I make time with the other ladies in my life: Abigail and Melissa. My five year-old can spot the difference between the Derek Riggs version of Eddie and the Melvyn Grant update (she prefers the latter—kids these days). My cats no longer run for cover when Halford hits that note in “Victim of Changes.” I own a photo of me standing next to Dee Snider while holding a photo of me standing next to Dee Snider (one day I hope to take another photo with Dee Snider, and in that one I’ll hold the photo of me holding the photo—I’m pretty sure I could keep that one going for a while). I take vacation days from work when Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and King Diamond release new music, and I’m shocked that more people don’t do the same. And I carry my Iron Maiden Fan Club card right behind my driver’s license in my wallet.
If you go to metal shows, you’ve either seen me or you are me. I’m the grey-haired dude in the battle jacket who knows the word to every Maiden song and chooses to believe that Sepultura disbanded after Chaos A.D.
Wait, did I just say battle jacket?
I may be too old for my Cradle of Filth t-shirts, but I refuse to mothball my trusty denim vest. For one thing, it’s functional. Worn over a long-sleeve flannel shirt, it is the perfect garment for those late fall days when it’s past t-shirt weather but not quite time to bust out the winter coat. And besides that, it says something. It says, for one thing, that I may be old, but I’m not that old. And you know what else it says? That I can sew.
With concert season right around the corner (I have two King Diamond shows in one week on the docket, as well as a birthday week Iron Maiden concert), I pulled out the old battle jacket and assessed its current state. My 1982-era Maiden back patch has seen better days, but for something that is nearly as old as its owner, it looks pretty damn good. But it was looking a bit lonely, so I gathered the patches I’ve acquired over the past couple years and commenced sewing. I’m not very good at it. I make uneven, primitive whip stitches with a large needle designed for leather. Despite having a thimble, I manage to poke holes in just about every finger. But I do have a certain amount of pride in having done it myself. In the past, I’ve relied on my mom or my wife to take care of the sewing. These days, I figure a man should make his own battle jacket. That has the feel of an unwritten code.
So I’m making progress. I’ve put on a Queensryche patch. Now that they’ve booted that douche Geoff Tate (a douche with awesome pipes, but a douche nonetheless), I feel okay repping that band. At the Gates included a patch with the deluxe version of At War with Reality, so I slapped that one on as well. My friend recently returned from a trip to London, and he brought me a patch from The Crowbar in Soho. That one now lives right across from my Motorhead patch. That feels appropriate. All in all, my old faithful is looking pretty damn good.
I have a few more pieces to sew on, all of them proclaiming my love for the good old stuff: Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Kreator, Bathory, Dio, and Scorpions. I’ll probably lose a pint of blood affixing them. Ah, what price beauty
My daughter has decided that she’d like to carry on the tradition. Little Bit, after gazing upon the fruits of my labor, proclaimed, “I wish I had a battle jacket.” And I thought, why the hell not? The kid sings along to Manowar and Judas Priest. She’s more metal than your average mascara-wearing scene kid. Her mother bought the denim jacket, and I ordered the raw materials. And it will fit Little Bit’s personality: snugged up alongside Iron Maiden and Guns n’ Roses will be My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, and Disney Princesses. There’s a Motorhead button for the front, but also a pink heart badge. It won’t be easy. Those My Little Pony patches are much more intricate than the square or circle patches I favor. But you know what? Seeing her smile as she puts on her first battle jacket will be worth the bloodshed. Because if I’m never too old to wave the heavy metal flag, then she’s never too young. No Cannibal Corpse patches for her, though. Even I have to draw the line somewhere.
If you have a battle jacket you’ve made, send me some pictures. I’ll post them here along with shots of my denim projects, including Little Bit’s cute/metal mashup.