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Where the hell did they go?

April 3, 2017

Last night I was watching Sam Dunn’s excellent TV Series “Metal Evolution”and enjoying it greatly.  Seeing crowds of teenagers when teenagers went to see bands actually play instruments thrashing around and getting out all of their tensions at a metal show, made me quite nostalgic. My high school was about half full of these people and in hindsight, I quite miss them. These were the guys who were just muscular by default, wore faded clothes with no logos on them, threatened to beat you for fun, didn’t give a shit about much at all, worked on cars a lot (and drove one with just primer on it), and planned to get a factory job the day after high school ended and party on the weekends.  In Kitchener, Ontario, where I grew up these guys would (literally) pull up behind you with the lights off on their cars and jump out and threaten you (or occasionally actually hit you).  The weird thing is that when we got big enough that they didn’t threaten us anymore, we actually kind of missed them. It happened in one specific incident: my friend Terry and I were standing at the strip mall doing nothing, and a guy in Nova pulled up and drove to within inches of our legs. We were supposed to run in terror at that point, but instead Terry just threw his half finished chocolate milk onto the hood of the guys car and we stood there waiting for something to happen.  Much to our astonishment, he just backed up and drove away.  I was sad … it was the end of an era.

But the point of this:  where did these guys go? There were thousands of them when I was in high school, swarming all of the “tech hall”, growing hair down their backs, and getting stoned at school. I kind of feel like there should be “tough guys” somewhere, but where are they? Those guys must have gone off with their girlfriends and had kids (like, immediately) … did their kids become hip hop fans and drive Hondas with exhaust amplifiers? That must have been horrible for them.   And, now we’re stuck with this generation of people who listen to what?  I really don’t know.  What I do know is that it makes me sad to think of an entire generation of young people with excess energy who don’t have any aggressive music to listen to to get all of the tension out, and don’t go to concerts where they can get all sweaty and just be totally out of control for a couple of hours.  I guess that today’s tough guys sit in their bedrooms with their game console and curse their opponents in first person shooters … that’s really a step down from the legacy of their forefathers. I want them to have scary, aggressive, loud music again. They need it.

My son is into Metal. I’m really glad about that because I think that young people should have music with “balls” … it’s an outlet, a way to pump oneself up or harmlessly experience some rage, and it is also an “outsiders’ club”.  He is one of very few at his school, however. You and the other folks who feel alienated can unite around something, wear an insignia, and draw pictures of their logos on your binder (or jean jacket) to show that you belong to something. The Metal musicians were the same people as the kids listening to the music.  You were all part of the same club. A young person listening to Kanye West, or Drake, or whatever, is idolizing a person that lives in another universe, and you can hardly aspire to be Jay Z … that ain’t happening. You can’t become Lady Gaga … all of these people live in multi-million dollar mansions in Malibu, make music that a person like that would make (i.e. – definitely lacking in “balls”) … you can only worship that person from afar, not feel like you’re all in the same club.

Anyway, while I had a great nostalgic time watching Metal Evolution, there was a certain feeling of sadness knowing that this monster, aggressive, communal letting-go is no longer a thing.  Most metal shows now are licensed, so I can’t even take my 16 year old, and he can not experience that draining of anger and aggression that is really good for a person.  I went to see Slayer in September and thought: “man, I wish my son could be here to see that there is a community of people that are like him, and to witness people letting go and being crazy for a couple of hours … not to mention just experiencing the power of loud live music.”  (there was this great thing that in this really huge mob of crazed metal heads, at random moments someone would just yell “SLAYER!!!!” and then everyone would started yelling and thrashing around … I loved that). There’s an epidemic of anxiety among young people these days, and I can’t help but wonder if it might help even a little bit for them to be able to get out and let it all out once in a while … just scream in a crowd of equally angry and frustrated young people … hell, I still do it, and I’m 53 years old.  It feels good.

But once again … where did the tough guys go?  Where are they hiding?

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