Come Together, Right Now!
Saturday’s drive-in live concert event is the first significant national “show” any major rock band has engaged in since the COVID-19 era began.
STEFFAN CHIRAZI explains that it is all about the Metallica community supporting each other, being out together.
The hail of drums.
The flurry of fret-action.
The throb and bob of that bass…all together again, in one space, on one “stage” with “Hardwired” blasting out as a spectacular sunset occurs behind them.
Oh, how long I’ve waited for this moment, in the name of desperation, in the name of wretched pain indeed!
This is Metallica 2020, and this is the first – and last – date on the Pandemica Summer Tour, a strictly one-date affair.
For James, Lars, Kirk, and Rob it is their first time on a “stage” since September 8, 2019, some 336 days ago. And while there have been tour breaks in Metallica’s history, stretches where the road was on a back burner, it is fair to say that nothing since September 8, 2019 could’ve been predicted. First, James went into rehab last fall, and then came the COVID-19 pandemic. And even for someone as linguistically hyperbolic as me, it is no stretch at all to say that things really might not ever be “normal” again…
…so when I tell you that seeing the likes of “One,” “The Unforgiven,” and “Master” for the first time in nearly a year was like a deep, deep sigh of relief and a sign that whatever the world throws at us, we are here and we will not be beaten, you’ll know what I mean.
That “we” applies not just to the band, crew, and management, it applies to you.
Metallica has been a part of our lives for decades.
Metallica has seen us all through births, schools, work, deaths, marriages, divorces, joys, and tragedies.
We’ve always had the music and the gigs. So, when the live entertainment industry was officially slayed by this pandemic, with it came uncertainty in so many areas of life. And with so many struggling to stay afloat, or fighting for health both physical and mental, to know that live music was off the table was unsettling. Deeply unsettling.
As the drive-in event will end up proving to you, to see the guys back in action was deeply comforting.
It was never ever just about the gig; it was always about the fact there was a gig. This is Metallica’s way of stepping up and shaking off the shackles of inertia and doubt to collectively say (adopts loudest Lars voice) “LET’S DO SOMETHING!” for all of us. And this is all about gathering for an event, gathering the tribes across the North American drive-in network and remembering what it feels like to be alive, remembering that it is okay to have some fun and loud music in your life.
This was the first time I had physically seen anyone since the end of January (save a brief drive-by social distance wave-with-Lars back in May).
I had not seen any of the crew.
I had not seen our HQ Met Club team.
I had seen no one, except for one socially-distanced breakfast with Vickie a couple of months ago.
Brie, the band liaison, had a lovely daughter who I had not met her.
No Jeff, no Brett, no Bobby. No Sarah, no Vicki, no Lug, no Marc, no Tony, no Dan, no Rob K, no Dewey, no Bob, no Adam, no Justin, no Jimmy, no Chad, no Jason, no Wes, no Zach, no Joe, no Avi, no Dana… to name a few.
These are people I have spent many hours with over many years, an extended family to me. We have shared countries, continents, planes, trains, and (yes) automobiles. And as I drove up to the secret site in wine country – some 30 mins away from HQ – I felt a wave of calm washing over me, because we were all going to be in the same “live gig” space.
We were going to see each other.
We were going to hang and tell awkward shitty jokes from behind layers of facial coverings, and social distance, and face masks were not going to kill the vibe. Because after six months of separation, of face masks and distance and global pandemic mayhem and all the fucking mood-swings – highs, lows and anxieties – we were gathering for a live event. The boys (and girls) were back in town, and while a few were absent such as Eric, Brother Seth, and Juan, it really did bestow a sense of realization that maybe we aren’t so fucked, or shit out of luck, that maybe – just maybe – it will be okay.
Could you sit on your arse on the sofa and watch something from the archives? Sure. Would you miss an exclusive, brand-new, and current performance? Yes. But more than anything, you’d be missing a chance to come together again with your Metallica Family brothers and sisters. You’d be missing a chance to support the band and all the crew (who themselves were raised off the floor with this burst of employment), and you’d be missing a chance to step back onto the road of normalcy again.
So whilst a drive-in “live” performance event might feel a little crazy (because it is a little crazy because the world is a little crazy), it is the best way imaginable within the COVID-19-era rules to re-energize that family/community gathering spirit.
It is outside.
It is a gathering of tribes.
It is coming together to see an exclusive performance, the first since James has returned from his rehab by the way, and it is a chance for you to scream, shout, roar, smile, and honk horns with your buddies in a communal setting.
It is also important to remember that James, Lars, Kirk, and Rob are, just like us, flesh and blood. Human beings who bring with them their own unique set of fears and insecurities which have only been intensified by COVID-19 and all swirling around it. They needed this. They needed to get back on the horse and ride again. They needed to know it would be more than okay to return to being a present-day functioning Metallica. That they could find their electric, chemical reconnecting point pretty quickly.
Gravel floors and limited gear be damned, it was a full throttle performance, a proper, throw-down set, with the guys finding themselves having as much fun exploring their live reconnection as you will have watching them. When we look back, regardless of whether this event is defined as a “gig” or an “experience” (let’s settle on it being both), the fact remains that it was a special performance for a special time. Which, by the mere nature of what it overcame to actually occur, marks it as the most important Metallica live performance in a couple of decades.
Once the event has passed, we will be publishing the backstory as to how it came about. Believe me, it was a hell of a lot trickier than just putting up some lights in a parking lot (COVID-19 compliance alone will give you a hint of how that was). But for now, I genuinely believe that if you can do it, you should get in your car with a trusted buddy or some family members and do it.
I’ll be in Pleasanton because I want to be among old friends such as yourselves. Check your anxieties, anger, cynicisms, and pessimisms at the door and go join the fun with your tribes. Bring your loudest voice and let it fucking loose! Yeah yeah, I know, “But without ketchup the fries aren’t quite the same!” Given that we haven’t had ANY fucking fries since March, luxuriate in the ones you’ve got and bring yer own special sauce!*
I personally think you’ll be glad you did.
*This is another of our Editor’s curious, frankly baffling, metaphors, but he’s excited so just roll with it.