“Can YOU put a price on peace?” I drunkenly screamed at each of my new, nameless friends in the mosh pit at the Wellmont Theater last night, as Dave Mustaine snarled into the microphone behind me. “Can YOU? How about YOU?” Megadeth was back in town, and I was wasted on whiskey, metal-crazy, and having the best night of my life.
I review about 50-60 rock concerts a year, and most of them follow the same format. Photograph the first three songs of each band, find a spot to watch the show with my colleagues where my camera won’t get bashed around, buy an overpriced beer or two, then go home and spend hours writing my review and editing photos. But last night, I went to my fourth Megadeth show of the year purely as a fan in the crowd, and found myself reborn anew as a heavy metal concert lover.
I knocked back a flask of Jack Daniels right before going through security into the Wellmont, and felt that warm liquid buzz instantly loosen me up. Fear Factory was just finishing their set, and I slid up through the crowd to grab a center position, with only a few fans between me and the front barricades.
Megadeth has been opening with Trust for over a year, but as Dave promised me when I interviewed him by phone last month (read the whole thing here), it’s time for a change. The band ran out on stage and blasted right into Hanger 18, and that’s when sh*t got crazy.
I ditched my earplugs halfway through Chris’s first solo. Hearing protection is a must-have for any regular concert goer, but screw it – I wanted to hear every note as loud and hard as possible, and at this point in my rock journalism career, what’s a little more hearing damage? Alternating between fist pumping and air guitar, I chanted ME-GA-DETH along with the thousand other fans on the floor, headbanging til it hurt as Chris and Dave traded off solos with that trademark blistering Megadeth fury.
It was a good thing I’d pregamed – there was no way I was going to leave the crowd to hit the bar, because next was Wake Up Dead, then In My Darkest Hour, then Tornado of Souls, and then the absolute crowd-favorite, a justification in its own right for attending every single local Megadeth concert, the schizophrenic, patter-paced Sweating Bullets.
“Hello Me!” the crowd shouted, louder than Dave himself. “Meet the real me!” The past four songs had seen fans running in circles and slamming into each other until the entire floor was a living, writhing creature, crowdsurfers exploding overhead and mini-pits breaking open every few seconds, and that’s what a Megadeth concert is all about. Just going apesh*t while Dave shreds his face off for us onstage.
But Sweating Bullets slowed the pace down to more of a mid-tempo stomp-around. “Bloodstains on my hands and I don’t know where I’ve been!” I sang along with the two guys next to me, a pair of Jersey jocks I’d never seen before and will probably never see again, but for five minutes last night, we were best friends.
By the time Sweating Bullets crashed to a finish, I was getting thirsty. I sacrificed my front row position for Set The World Afire and a Tout Le Monde to get myself a glassful of whiskey with a splash of coke, aka a triple Blacktooth Grin, and pushed back into the crowd trying not to spill my drink. The band, no doubt understanding the importance of not getting my drink jostled, kept things slow and easy with new song Kingmaker and the mid-pace Trust, giving us all some time to sing along, catch our breath, and chug down the incredibly generous portion of liquid rage in my cup.
There’s something that makes whiskey and metal go so damn well together, and the crunching Symphony of Destruction set off the crazy inside me. Like every other metal fan, I grew up listening to these songs on repeat and every riff, every lyric, every second of Megadeth’s music is ingrained in my head like gospel. The crowdsurfers were getting more aggressive, and as a girl landed on my head I launched her as hard as I could towards the front row, raising my fists in victory as she almost bowled over the security guard trying to catch her flying over the railing.
With the alcohol pounding in my brain, I’d achieved optimal metal madness, and just in time for Peace Sells. I was in the zone. I turned my back on the band and focused on the pit. “What do you mean I don’t believe in god? I talk to him every day!” I shouted each line to a new face as I bounced around the widening circle, turning around every few seconds to salute Dave, David, Shawn & Chris with raised devil horns.
“Can you put a price on peace?” I couldn’t hear Dave at all, just the drums and guitars throbbing in my ears as I drunkenly demanded that everyone around me estimate the approximate monetary value of non-violence. The entire venue was chanting to the guitar-soaked climax of the song, and I was right in the absolute center of it all, every sense overloaded with pure metal euphoria as the bodies flew around me. “Peace sells, but who’s buying? Peace sells, but who’s buying? Peace sells, but who’s buying? Peace sells but who’s BUYING? Peace seeeeeEEEEeeEEELLLlllllllllllllllllllssss!”
I barely even remember Holy Wars, the night’s final song. It’s just a blur of headbanging, air guitar-ing, and that shrieking, earsplitting beast of a solo. Dave and Chris tossed their picks into the crowd and everyone dove forward, except me. I spotted a yellow blur flying over everyone’s head and snatched my first ever Dave Mustaine pick, the perfect end to a perfect show.
I love being a rock journalist. I love photographing my favorite artists up close and watching the show with an observant eye so I can share my thoughts and criticisms with any fellow fans who feel like reading my review. I love the access and privilege that comes along with working in the industry, and I love knowing all the best spots in each venue to comfortably observe the stage and crowd.
But last night I was just a fan again, another body in the pit, drunk and wild and totally out of control. It reminded me of my very first Megadeth show, when I was swept up in the crazed crowd and was only able to catch occasional glimpses of the infamous red-haired guitarist hammering out what had just recently become my favorite songs. I was a teenager again, I was indestructible again, I was alive and goddamn I felt awesome.
Megadeth returns to The Paramount in Long Island this coming Tuesday, and I’ll be there with all my camera gear, nodding my head to the riffs responsibly and staying sober enough to drive home afterwards. But everyone should know that the fountain of youth isn’t diet or exercise or the vitamins you see on late night infomercials. The fountain of youth is listening to heavy f*cking metal and going crazy at metal shows, and no one plays heavy f*cking metal concerts better than Dave Mustaine and Megadeth. So stay young, stay happy and stay awesome – rock out with Megadeth!
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