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  • stephcurran

My Crazy Metallica 72 Seasons World Tour Experience: Connection, the Metallica Family, and More


WHERE IT STARTED


Many times in my life I have found myself cursing at the fact I was born in 1995 and not 1980.


So many of my interests in art, especially music, come out of an era that was well before my time, leaving baby Stef to pick up the pieces as I got older. From the grunge scene in the early nineties (it freaks me out that Kurt Cobain and I never walked this earth at the same time), to the punk revolution in the US, the artists who have influenced me as an artist have existed and developed a legacy well before I could even stand on my own two feet.


Throughout my life, I have always had a revolving door of musical tastes, most times becoming infatuated with certain genres or bands, consuming every bit of information or knowledge I can to make up for lost time. The first instance of this was when I discovered Michael Jackson when I was 6 years old. It may be silly to use the word “discovered” in reference to one of the world's biggest pop legends, but to me this was a discovery, and hearing You Rocked My World for the first time opened the door for my little brain to want to know everything that I could about the artist. I had a wall in my bedroom full of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a sign with my name on it that my mother had custom made for me in Florida.


When I love something, I have to love it all the way. Most of the time, fans never get the chance to experience a closeness or moment with the artists they love, but for some reason, in some sort of miracle, I would one day get that with Metallica.


My introduction to Metallica happened when I was around 11 years old. It’s a pretty embarrassing story, not one that was the birth of a metalhead or a revolutionary moment in my development, but it unlocked the door. During a season of Canadian Idol, Newfoundlander Rex Goudie performed Bob Segar's Turn the Page. As a young child with a crazy understanding of the internet, I went to YouTube the day after the episode aired and searched “Turn the Page”. Instead of finding Bob Segar's original, I found a lyric video for the Metallica cover from Garage Inc. I was under the assumption from that point on until I was about 13 that that was a Metallica original. When I heard it, I fell in love with how raw they sounded and how heavy it was in comparison to what music I had heard so far. I knew that this type of music was something I was interested in. I was, and still am, a huge fan of Canadian band Billy Talent, but I never explored heavy music further until a few years later.



Enter… Enter Sandman. Of course, to no one's surprise, Enter Sandman was my next introduction to Metallica, and this time it was an impactful moment. I had just entered junior high school and I was dealing with the repercussions of being a kid who was constantly bullied and who had been abandoned by her father. I struggled a lot with anger issues and being hateful towards the world. I didn’t know how to communicate or even deal with how I was feeling. That was until I discovered metal. My introduction to metal was what I knew as “screamo” bands such as Bullet for my Valentine, All that Remains, Pierce the Veil, and Avenged Sevenfold. Between my friend at school at the time who related a lot to how I felt and the incredible game Guitar Hero, I was able to develop my love for heavier music. The first time I heard Enter Sandman, I knew that this was exactly the music that I searched for; something that had a story, something that was heavy, and something that stuck in your head like old chewing gum stuck under a school desk. I would try to play it in the car with my mom, but she would say “this isn’t music, turn this off.” Obviously as a preteen that only made me want to listen to it more.

Even though I loved their music, I never did a deep dive into their whole discography, or their story for that matter, until I was in my 20’s. I found a copy of Ian Winwood and Paul Brannigan's Birth School Metallica Death at a local thrift store, and as I did with many other bands or artists I liked, I read the book while listening through their discography. Learning about Metallica’s story was just as influential to me as listening to their music. To know where they came from, what turmoil they faced, and how they overcame situations was like connecting pieces of a puzzle in my brain. I highlighted away, tabbing at moments of their journey that connected with me, and suddenly I found myself engulfed in the Metallica lore that I wish I had discovered when I first heard Turn the Page. But, as my life went on and my mental health took a serious decline, I moved away from heavy music and tried to fit in with the crowd. I feared that listening to metal or heavy rock would bring me back to a place when I was sickest, a place where I didn’t think I knew who I was. I realize now as an adult that my love for heavy music would only bring me more comfort, and that my love for it grew in a time where I was just finding out who I was, but I was more focused on being accepted by others than nourishing the girl inside me.


The biggest pull in my research on the band was the story of James Hetfield’s childhood and his struggle with addictions. When I read about Hetfield’s childhood life, especially his relationship with his father, I felt this instant understanding and connection with the lyrics he writes and why he writes them. To watch him move throughout his life slowly healing what was taken from him throughout his childhood was touching because I feel like I have been on a similar path emotionally. Now when I listen to songs from St. Anger, I understand where the anger comes from. I listen to Mama Said from Load (my favourite Metallica album) and I feel the pain and burden within Hetfield around the loss of his mother when he was young. I love 72 Seasons because we as fans get to hear the growth and healing he has found. To fully recognize that human side of Metallica puts a soul behind these metal legends. But it wasn’t just Hetfield’s story that I was drawn to, it was every story. From the tragic death of the amazing bassist Cliff Burton, the unaddressed trauma being projected on to Jason Newstead upon his entry into the band, to Lars Ulrich's fight with Napster (I am team Lars), these stories began to ignite a whole other perspective within me.



HEADING TO MONTREAL


Being from Newfoundland, Canada, I never really was able to attend many concerts growing up. There was a few from when I was younger, but being a small island at the most easternly point of Canada, we didn't really have a selection like folks in Montreal or Toronto have. You almost always have to travel to see the artist you love, which isn't always accessible.


When the 72 Seasons world tour was announced I knew I had to be there. Without worrying about the logistics, I bought the Frantic Package for early floor entry. I was a little worried about going by myself, but I knew that it would mean I was free to do everything on my own terms; I wasn’t going to be concerned about anyone else's experience but my own. I was free to headbang, scream, fangirl, you name it, all without worrying about judgment.



Friday, August 11th, I made my way down to Olympic Stadium and began my long day of standing and waiting. From the moment I bought the tickets, I always imagined I would get a barricade spot. There wasn’t anywhere else in the stadium for me. I knew that getting these tickets and taking on this trip wasn’t just to be in the stands or stand at the back of the pit. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it, full speed or nothing. When I got in the final line before entering the stadium, my hopes were low. There were a lot of people in front of me and I knew I wouldn’t be fast enough to outrun some of the others in the line behind me. To my surprise, I was able to walk into the stadium and position myself at the barricade, right in front of a microphone. This was the start of an insanely crazy night.


I met many amazing people who took me in and included me in their experience. Others who were alone and having their first Metallica experience, to a family from Montreal who basically "adopted" me for the two nights. I’ll get into this more later, but the Metallica family is real, and it's amazing. One new friend, I’ll call her Glam Queen, told me she was a good luck charm. I didn’t realize how true that would be until after the concert finished.


As I look back on the experience, I feel like it was like climbing a ladder, each step being more unbelievable than the last. The first step was getting that barricade spot right at the front. I felt like I won the lottery. Then, before the openers even started, Glam Queen turned to me and showed me that Metallica had shared a photo of me at the barricade that I posted on their Instagram story. I couldn’t believe it, barricade and a shoutout on their story? Surely this is the coolest thing that would happen to me that night, right?


Mammoth and Pantera started the show, and I loved both sets. Pantera being your first experience in the pit of a metal concert was like a crash course in moshing. At first I was scared, but it was only when I let go and became part of the moving creature of the pit that I felt like I was actually a part of something. The energy was wild, bodies being thrown from one side to the other, heat and sweat coming from all angles. It was a release. When Metallica finally came out, I entered a sort of state of shock. I watched as James Hetfield and Rob Trujillo walked past me to their stations, only a metal barrier in between us. When the music started, I went through wild waves of banging my head, screaming my lungs out (especially to Creeping Death taking on Jason Newstead's energy), to just being in awe of what music is capable of. During Nothing Else Matters, I watched lead guitarist Kirk Hammett solo'd directly in front of me and I just started to cry. I just stood there, mouth open, watching this person who lives and breathes music and art rip into what he was meant to do. It was like being in metal church.


You know when you go to concerts and you’re watching on a screen what the artist is doing on the stage, still not fully realizing that they are real people? This was not the case for me at Metallica. I was watching real people. Real people who love the art they create and love those who support them. I watched them feel the music in real time, make their guitar faces and move to what they played. This alone made the cost of my plane ticket and concert ticket worth it.


The best thing about being at the front is the connection that can be made with the artists on stage. I made eye contact with every member of the band, singing their words (or guitar solos) back to them, connecting with them in a way that you never think is really possible. Making eye contact with James during Sad But True, one of my favourites, ignited a fire inside of me to try to scream even louder than my lungs were capable of. Lar Ulrich’s last drum kit emerged right in front of me and I got to connect with him as he played. At one point, he came out and said he recognized me in the front, which I assume was in reference to the Instagram story. It was so weird to have him acknowledge me as a person. All of these connections made me feel warm and validated in my love for their music.


After the last song, the band took to the stage with cups full of guitar picks. I was lucky enough to get two of Rob’s bass picks (as a bassist, I loved this). I held the pick in my hand, thankful for just a piece of memorabilia from this moment.


That’s when James Hetfield walked over to me.


ME...? ME?


You always want to have a special moment with the band when you go to a concert, and sure, I thought well maybe if I tweet them asking them to play Bleeding Me, my favourite song, every day for 3 months they will acknowledge it, but I knew that probably wasn't going to happen. I never for one second thought that what was about to happen to me was at all a possibility.


There are no words to really describe what it feels like to have someone who you admire and are inspired by walk up to you and single you out in a crowd of people. For some reason that I will never know, James chose me to give his bandana to after the concert. When he walked across the stage and over to my section, I stopped breathing for a moment, holding my breath in anticipation of what was happening. Keeping eye contact with me, he knelt down, pointed at me, and mimed glasses to the security guard indicating that I was the one to receive it. When the security guard handed it to me, I truly blacked out. How do you prepare for a moment like that? There aren’t enough words to say thank you, there aren't enough words to express the gratitude and love I have for him and his vulnerability, especially after researching his life story in such heavy detail over the past two years. I remember taking the bandana in my hands, looking up with tears running down my face at James smiling at me. I had a moment where I could have said anything to him, but I said nothing. No words could come out. Even without words, I am sure my face said everything as he smiled at me and mouthed "love you" before getting up and walking over to the band to take a bow.



The new friends around me congratulated me, shaking my shoulders to pull me from whatever trance I was in. There was no jealousy or anger, but rather happiness and excitement. One of my new friends told me to put it away in my fanny pack and not take it out until I got home. I felt like Charlie Bucket getting the last Golden Ticket. I instantly texted my mom and my brother Matthew, both of which were instrumental in getting me to Montreal and paying for my plane ticket. I took the bus, hand gripped on my fanny pack for safety. Nothing felt real. The pain in my body from standing for over 10 hours without water or food just dissipated. Nothing could touch me. When I got into the apartment I was staying in, I took out the bandana and just looked at it. Truthfully, if I didn’t have the physical evidence, I would have made myself believe it wasn't real. But holding the bandana in my hands, I could acknowledge that I just had an experience of a lifetime. On Sunday, the family I stood with said that all I was just repeating "me?" under my breath, in shock that I was the one to have this moment.


That was just night one. Sunday night was just as amazing. Obviously there was no beating my Friday night experience, but I got to high five James’ hand, and he remembered me from Friday. While he was making faces at me during No Leaf Clover, my new friends were shaking my shoulders in validation of what was going on, knowing I wouldn’t believe it. After the last note was played on Sunday night's show, I just felt this surge of emotion. It was healing in so many ways, and not just because of the connections I got to make with the band, but from the connection I made with my new friends and the love for music that we shared.


METALLICA FAMILY


Metallica, like any other band or artist, has a fandom that can be toxic at times. Many people feel protective over the music that has been with them through many phases and moments in their life. I get the jealousy or anger that may come, but I didn't fully understand the negativity until I posted my story on Tik Tok and had many people start to go after me online. From "you're not a true fan" to "you don't deserve this", the trolls came out in droves to comment on the special moment I had. In the end, I decided to take down the video of my moment of pure happiness and keep it for myself. Many fans tend to focus on the conflict, but that's not what I am in it for. I don't like reading hate comments towards Las Ulrich, and especially after seeing him in action, I think the majority of it is unwarranted. I don't like talking about the Dave Mustaine drama, especially 40 years after he was booted from the band and had a successful career with Megadeth. What I focus on when it comes to music and fandom is what brings us together, not what separates us.


I always heard the "Metallica Family" stories of fans meeting at concerts, in online forums, on social media, and I always wondered what exactly it was that made these connections so strong. On the Sunday night show, I finally realized how palpable the love between fans can be. When I bought a ticket to go by myself, I joked with friends saying I would meet other friends there. It's not that I didn't think it was possible, but I'm a pretty socially shy person and knew I would want to keep to myself. In actuality, the complete opposite occurred.


Glam Queen, my good luck charm, is someone I have kept in contact with since the concerts. We ended up being separated both nights, but we still shared an amazing experience together. She was the first person I wanted to show the bandana to and thank her for bringing me this lucky energy. When I found her, she showed me that Lars gave her one of his drumsticks. We both had this crazy experience together, and I am so thankful she welcomed me into her life for this concert.


The Montreal family I stood with both nights consisted of two brothers, one who brought his daughter and son to the concert who were about 16 and 12 respectively. My friend Alec, who unfortunately I did not keep in touch with as we didn't exchange last names or social accounts, was a true metalhead who showed me all of the memorabilia he has collected from shows over the years. He even told me stories of him seeing Metallica in the early years and Lars giving him his half finished drink before a concert during the Black Album tour. We spent the time before the show Sunday going over what we love most about metal and why we love Metallica. He even got me water on Sunday night when I was struggling with the heat. This family was hardcore and I felt so warm knowing that they all share this love together as a family unit.



After Ice Nine Kills and Five Finger Death Punch opened on Sunday night, Alec saw a ten year old boy standing behind us in the back. He was overcome with heat and was struggling to find his footing. We decided to bring him up with us and give him a spot at the barricade between us, making a wall behind him for safety. I never saw his parents, but they assured Alec that they felt safe with him being up with us. He told us the first night he was way in the back of the pit and couldn't see much, and we knew it would mean so much to him to be as close as we were. When Metallica started the show, this kid screamed, sang, headbanged, and just lived every second of that concert. There was a point where he asked me to scream at Lars with him, and of course I did. We screamed Moth into Flame together, threw up our horns and had the time of our lives. Watching this ten year old kid have the time of his life, trusting complete strangers to protect him from the bodies being thrown around behind us, sent waves of emotions over me. It was in that moment that I knew exactly what the Metallica Family was and continues to be. There was no hostility in our bubble, no conflict, no stress. There was no one saying that any of us were undeserving, that we weren't true metalheads. We were just a group of people who shared this bond with the four men on stage and the music they created. Even though myself and Alec disagreed on our favourite songs and eras, we didn't care. That didn't matter. We listened to each other, shared with each other, and respected each other. That's what music and art is all about; subjectivity and connectivity.


I know this blog post will probably never reach Alec or his family, but I would give anything to just be able to say thank you for letting me be a part of their unit. They left such a lasting impression on my heart and are a key piece of this story that I will hold dear forever.


NOTHING ELSE MATTERS


Sometimes I feel a bit cringey when I put into words what bands like Metallica mean to me. From the beginning of my life, dancing since I was 3 years old, music has been there for me when I felt like I couldn't turn to another human. It was my nonjudgmental, safe space. As life fly's by, I continue to rotate my taste in music, but I never abandon the artists that have influenced who I am today. So many artists have been with me in times of need, all different genres. From Billy Talent and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, Fleetwood Mac and Chilliwack, to Childish Gambino and Frank Ocean, Michael Jackson and Prince, all of these artists, regardless of what genre of music they create, live in a sacred place in my heart. Metallica is no different. Being able to hear them live, being able to connect with them, being seen by them, it all validates the emotions I feel when I listen to their music.


On August 11th, 2022, exactly one year prior to the Friday night show in Montreal, I wrote a note in my phone about what Metallica meant to me. At the time, I was struggling with my mental health and felt really lost for the first time in many years, even wanting to take my own life.


This note talked about my trauma, my anger, my healing process, and how I use heavy music as a friend to lean on when I can't handle these things on my own.

One line I wrote goes:

"I can allow metal and it's heartbeat and heaviness to crack me open and take the pieces of me that are frustrated or angry and let them fly away..."


It's crazy to think that exactly a year later, after being the sickest I had been since I discovered Metallica at 13, I would be having the experience that I did. I know that many people don't believe in spirituality or a higher power, but I truly believe that some part of me manifested this entire experience.


Music heals. Art heals. There is a reason that fandoms exist. Art allows humans to listen, learn, and grow from others stories. In this connection we make with music, we also make with likeminded humans who share those feelings and bonds with us.


Thank you, Metallica, for being genuine, caring, and badass. For recognizing your fans and your impact. You have and continue to touch the lives of so many fans, young and old, from all backgrounds and identities. The vulnerability and honesty portrayed throughout your career is breathtaking.


Thank you to the Metallica family I made at these shows. For creating a safe space for those around you. For taking me into your lives for the night, treating me like an old friend. For sharing your stories with me. Us lifting each other up was one of the best parts of this whole experience.


It's cheesy to end with "they say don't meet your heroes...", but I'm going to do it anyway, because sometimes you do get to meet your heroes and it's everything you've dreamed of and more.










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