Sunday, March 29, 2009

Iron Maiden is Going to SHRED YOUR FACE OFF!!!!!!!!

Metalhead is a popular term for a devoted fan of heavy metal music.. Heavy metal fans exist in many countries beyond the United Kingdom and United States, where it first developed, especially in Japan, Scandinavia and Brazil and even Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The long hair, leather jackets, and band patches of heavy metal fashion help to encourage a sense of identification within the subculture.

-Wikipedia

Meet Bruce Dickinson, a fifty-one year old man from Nottinghamshire, England, and the lead singer of Iron Maiden:

I know, I love the pants too

Or meet him as I did yesterday afternoon: salt and pepper hair, faded blue t-shirt that read "Some days you are the pigeon, some days you are the statue," faded pink salmon shorts that ended mid thigh, an old pair of sneakers and a nice disposition. I thought he was one of the crew. He talked with Jessica's family friends, Peter and Pru, for a good ten minutes about his target practice the day before and then wandered on to chat with more folks that were hanging around the back stage at the Quilmes Rock Festival on Saturday afternoon. After he left Peter commented that once Bruce starts talking about something he'll never stop. He almost sounded annoyed. Five minutes later the shock and awe left Nick's face long enough for him to tell me who that was.
So how did I end up in the exclusive back stage of a Heavy Metal concert? Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...
Pru met Tina (la madre de Jessica) when they were 17 years old. Pru married Peter, and 12 years ago Peter got a job as the accountant for Iron Maiden (the manager of the band is his long time college friend). This year, Iron Maiden embarked upon their 2008/9 Somewhere Back in Time Tour, and Peter and Pru arrived in Argentina before the band to do some sightseeing. They also brought pots of pesto and Marmite for Jessica, and of course an invitation to the Iron Maiden concert to which she could bring three friends. Nick, an Iron Maiden fanatic, was the first to get an official invitation, and Josh and followed by default since Jessica's list of Metal Head friends is pretty limited.
The day of the show arrived, and I just didn't know what to wear. Finding out that its all about black at Metal shows was a relief, so I donned my black tank dress, my Frye boots, a borrowed scarf from Jess, some homemade dangling earrings and I was ready to rock. We Subted it to the Four Seasons hotel where the band and their entourage were staying. As the door was opened for me a cool rush of air began to cool my overheating skin, and the marble lobby welcomed us with the smell of fresh flowers and elegance. We looked over our shoulders at the Maiden fans in the driveway (I think one might actually have taken our picture) and Josh and sighed a guilty sigh of someone getting to do something they really have no business doing but is about to take great pleasure in anyway. We met Pete and Pru in the bar where we refreshed with cold sodas and then hopped into our private van that took us directly to the arena. No hot, sweaty, long ass bus ride for us.
One at the stadium, we stuck on our blue guest stickers and ventured to the back.

Sticker on much loved camo shorts = nothing to stick to. Thankfully Jessica had a safety pin.

We hung out in the catering area drinking cold drinks and eating the surprisingly good Hallah they had out while waiting for the first set to begin.

Free beverages!!!
Nick = most excited fan
Pru and our extreme proximity to the dressing rooms

Lauren Harris, the daughter of Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, was warming up in her dressing room, and I was struck by how amazing her voice was. I was then schooled a bit on Heavy Metal music by Nick and Pete (who both know truckloads of things about the genre) and discovered that one of the most important things about this music is the extreme talent of the musicians. Well, you would have to have one hell of a voice box to compete with your accompaniment. According to Nick, her band was good, but nothing compared to Iron Maiden. "Iron Maiden is going to shred your face off," he informed me. We watched the set with the slowly growing crowd, and I observed my first large group of Metal Heads. For once, Nick really blended in.

Camo shorts + black t-shirt = uniform (and what Nick always wears)

The long hair, the black faded and much loved shirts, the tough looking girls in cut off t-shirts...I was transported back to a decade I can barely remember. It was amazing.
In between sets we returned to the backstage to chill while the crowd multiplied and grew more rowdy as the space grew more limited. We didn't see much of the Argentine bands (they were...REALLY heavy to say the least) and instead listened to the distant shouting from comfy sofas or from the tables set up for the band and crew while eating the free catering. Think Almost Famous and bandaids. Its the closest I'll ever get.

Red Carpet style next to a bucket of ice cold Quilmes cans
Then it was time. We were to watch the show from the sound desk, or for those not in on the lingo the control tower. However, in our absence, the last bits of space on the floor had disappeared with the sun's setting, and 42,000 people had arrived at the stadium to witness one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands of all times.

Very crowded

Seeing as the sound desk was in the middle of this tightly packed, sweaty mass of riled up metalheads, we had to use the isle down the middle of the crowd to get to our spots before the show started. We were taken there by a loud English man from the North. Beer in hand, I took a deep breath and began what felt like the never ending journey to the oasis in the middle of a...OK, well maybe I'm taking it too far, but the people sure were thirsty and hot, so the oasis metaphor seems a good one. The path was just wide enough so that if you carefully walked down the center the flailing arms on either side trying to grab you were just out of reach. The security was keeping the crowd barely under control and pulling people over the barrier to carry them out when necessary. People shouted WATER!!! in English as we walked past, and hollered louder than any truck driver as Jess and I passed by. At the same time, waves of human heat and smell came at us from either side as hands reached for us. It felt like a never ending gauntlet, and me, little old non-important me, has never had so many eyes on me at once. Scary. We were all relieved when we arrived at the sound deck and snuck to the back where we would be out of the way with the equipment cases with the best view ever of the stage: dead center with nothing to block our view.

Trippy photo of the sound board

The air was thick with anticipation, the crowd was getting rowdy, and the minutes ticked on until finally, at nine pm, the lights went out, and music started playing from the blackened stage. As the song ended, another one began, but this time there was a video of the band arriving by plane, their fans, and then footage from a WWII. To the sound of "We will never surrender!!""" and in a flash of pyrotechnics that black curtain came down and the stage was lit up in an explosion of light to reveal an amazingly detailed back drop of a mummy faced sphinx, a stage with a strong Egyptian theme, and the band with Bruce in the middle wearing the outfit in the picture above straddling two speakers. Man, did they put on a show and a half!!! With ever changing back drops, giant torn British flags, sarcophagi with red lights for eyes, hand banging, and a ridiculous amount of running around the stage while singing and playing the guitar with every ounce of energy in their bodies dedicated to making this the most rocking show ever. There were also many costume changes, including Bruce dressed up as the Grim Reaper. Amazing.

The show begins
Nick, well you can see how happy he was for yourself
For the end of the show they upped the decibel even more, and the giant head of a sarcophagus opened to reveal a giant mummy inside with unraveling bandages and waving arms.

My favorite guitarist (Yanick) started doing crazy things with his guitar: swinging it around, swinging it by the handle, and eventually he threw it not once, but two times at least twenty feet into the air and caught it both times as if he had done it everyday for his entire life. Maybe he has...There were more pyrotechnics than left me momentarily seeing only red, and ear blasting shreds. I reached up to my face to make sure it was still there. It wasn't. It had been shredded to pieces, and those pieces had been shredded again, just as Nick had predicted.
We left the show before the encore in preparation for our "run out" with the band. We were part of the four van caravan that left the arena the second the show ended in order to safely transport the band back to the Four Seasons before the crowd got out. We watched the encore on the little TVs in the van controlling the big screens, and then were rushed into a van and were whisked away.

Walking back through the gauntlet
Show no fear (even though inside the crowd is scaring me!!)
Video Van

We arrived back at the hotel, and emerged from our vans as Iron Maiden rushed into the hotel in sweet Iron Maiden dressing gowns. We followed and went straight to the bar where a Tango show was about to start. Thrust from one world to its opposite we sat at a table and watched Tango and waited to see if the band was going out. Sadly, two vodka gimlets and too many olives later it became clear that not much was happening due to the 7:45 wake up call, and seeing as Bruce had not invited us to get sushi with him we said our goodbyes to Pru and Peter, but not before Yanick joined us at our table, long hair down with three beers in his hand. "Well here's to obvlivion!" he cheered with his Brahma.
As the night ended we walked to the front of the hotel with Peter and Pru while thanking them profusely for the coolest night EVER. As soon as we had our last hugs goodbye the magic slowly faded away and we resumed our normal lives as paupers and caught the 152 bus back home, but we had our blue stickers and some amazing photos to prove it all happened.

2 comments:

Ann Behar said...

I almost can't believe the whole story--VERY surreal!

erin said...

Haha, I wish I could've seen what you look like with your face shredded off