Nerd vs. the Death Metal Concert
by RM Peavy
When does garbage eventually become art? I think this is a question a lot of people ask when talking about “art” itself. Human expression is never garbage. If there is any connection between the expression and an audience, then it becomes art.
My type of music is mainstream, not extreme. I like anything that tickles my fancy or I feel connected with. I can’t really explain it other than that. I love musicals, the White Stripes, the Beatles, classical, Disney Soundtracks, old school gangster rap, country, techno—you get the point. But I have never felt a connection with hard-core death metal music. It’s probably because the content of it was always so violent and morbid for me to stomach.
Death metal is also called “Cookie Monster rock” because of the way it sounds. The vocals never appealed to me with its guttural growling and what sounds like a cat in heat. I always thought the kids who listened to it were angry at their parents or grandmas, their life situations, and were just bitter and dark; which might be the case for some, and if so, great. I realize now that this form of self-expression is just that, another form of self-expression–no different from performance art of that woman that sits still in a chair for fourteen hours, laying out 5000 bedpans across a small town, or even writing a book about sparkling vampires. The point is that there is a connection between the viewer of the art and the artist.
After we had our fill of wings from Hooters, my husband and I headed out to a venue called Brick by Brick in San Diego to see the band Godhammered. It’s in a district where you can buy paint, get your chair upholstered, or buy BBQ behind this giant paper-mache bull. The Morena Blvd. District is not an artsy part of town, it’s just confused. We get there around 9:30 p.m., which is early for death metal heads apparently.
There were three bands before Godhammered, and they all sounded the same to me: a blurry mess. Like Lincoln Park, Soundgarden, and anything else they play on “Top 40” radio stations. So, you know, Oasis. I ordered an icy beer, then I saw him–the emcee. He was tall, drinking out of a tin cup, and wore a long cloak and a top hat.
Now, if you have been going to San Diego Comic-Con as many years as I have, you might know “The Wizard” if you saw him. He is in charge of the fulfillment room where nerds go to get their swag after panels.
One year, there was a problem with one of our panels, and we weren’t getting our free tee shirt (or something) on our way out. Another Con-goer saw we had the “failed” swag ticket, and whispered to us (looking around) “Go in there with that ticket and go see ‘the wizard.’ Just ask for him and he will hook you up, but don’t tell anyone I told you this.” The nerd ninja disappeared as fast as he appeared.
When we got to the fulfillment room, the usual swag tables were set up, but there was a back room with curtains up. My husband stammered as I pushed him forward to one of the volunteers. “We are looking for the Wizard.” The guy did an audible gasp, looked around the way the ninja did, and whispered to some girl with glasses who was sitting in front of the Twilight swag table. She came up to us, looked at our tickets before taking them without saying anything, and walked to the back curtains. Out came The Wizard himself with our tickets, a matchbox car of a van, and a compact with a light on it. He looked at us and whispered, “How did you hear about me?” I am going to recall him as not having a tin cup in his hand like he did at the music venue, but I am pretty sure he was wearing the same clothes, a velvety long old-fashioned coat, long pointy beard, and his top hat.
You ever have one of those moments when two worlds collide and you stare into space for a good five minutes to process the situation? Death metal concert and Comic-Con. I realized these people are not much different. We’re all passionate about different things, and if some of those things are singing about beheading cattle, then so be it. I am sure there were gamers, writers, comic book nerds, Star Wars cosplayers there, and no joke; there was a Ninja Turtle.
Everyone seemed to have a beard and a scowl in the band. The sound that came out of the singer’s throat was something I had never heard before, and it sounded like something wounded, but fighting to come back up from the underworld.
It was more of an experience than a normal concert. The emotional response—and pounding in my chest—that the music triggered inside me was a complete surprise and I realized I had been jailed by my own notions of what society led me to believe. It wasn’t like listening to music; it was as if I was “experiencing” it. Music has always triggered a mental and emotional response, but never enacted a physical response from me. I didn’t understand what he was singing about, and he probably was singing about sacrificing a Norwegian Goat, but I didn’t care, it felt right. I got caught up in the moment, which is what I was looking for. Afterwards, my ears were ringing, although surprisingly, not bleeding.
This nerd had a successful night out and learned something new about the world in the process!