My Metallica Weekend has come and gone, and I still find myself getting giddy and emotional when I think back on the show, but the day wasn’t all harvesters of sorrow, creeping deaths, and lepers messiah, friends. For a day that started out so great, and had so much potential, things got extremely fucking terrible for a while. However, through sheer force of will (along with some help from Metallica, as well as the wonderful bartending and kitchen staff at Bluegrass Brewing Company), the night ended up being pretty damn perfect. Here’s my rundown…
A quick origin story to set the stage for the extremely fucking terrible part of the day: two months ago, we tried to book a hotel room for the night, only to find insane rates everywhere we looked (within walking distance, anyway – we could’ve stayed 10 miles away from the venue for a decent price, but we wanted to have the option of walking to the show, weather permitting). We later found out that in addition to Metallica, John “Johnny “The Coug” Cougar” Mellencamp was playing in town, and on top of that, our usual downtown Louisville hotel destination is in the process of being remodeled, so they have fewer rooms available than usual. Long story short, we decided, with much hesitation, to give Airbnb a shot.
Both of us had been wary of using the service, mostly because of the lack of accountability it provides, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and we found a listing that was just blocks from the venue. It was not cheap at all, but it was cheaper than any hotel in the area, and it was an entire loft apartment. I booked it, and we were go – approximately one year after Mrs. Stay Heavy purchased the tickets (as an early birthday gift for me), it was all finally starting to seem real.
We left town around 11:00 AM and drove straight to the New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria and Public House for delicious pizza and excellent craft beers (all very affordable, as well – do look them up if you’re in that area!), arriving there around 1:30. I contacted our Airbnb hosts and indicated that we were in New Albany, and that I would call them when we were leaving, as Google Maps indicated the drive would take 15 minutes. One of them got back with me and said that would be great, and that they would meet us in the lobby of the building at 3:30 (which was 30 minutes after our agreed upon check-in time, but it was raining very hard, and I thought maybe that played into it a bit, so I didn’t worry much about it).
With our bellies full, we got in the car and I called the number given to me when I booked the apartment, only to get a business voicemail. I declined to leave a voice message and instead messaged them through the app, telling them that we were on our way, and that we would see them at 3:30. When we arrived in the parking garage across the street, I still hadn’t heard from them, so we walked into the lobby and waited…and waited…and waited…until about 3:45, when I sent another message indicating we were there. At 3:50, I called the number again, leaving a voicemail this time. At 3:55, a woman who earlier had walked through the lobby and gone up the elevator approached us and asked if we had a 4:00 PM check-in.
We indicated that we, in fact, had a 3:00 PM check-in, but were asked to meet the hosts at 3:30. She told us that she was there as a representative of her sister, who in turn works for the hosts. Her sister was out of town or some such, and she was sent to clean the room for us, but turns out the guy who stayed the night before hadn’t checked out yet, all of his stuff was in the apartment, and he was nowhere to be found. She spent the next 15 minutes trying to contact one of the hosts (one of which was out of the country on vacation, while the other was apparently in some kind of business meeting), and eventually she was told by someone to go ahead up and clean the room for us.
We followed her up to the loft and were greeted by a room in complete disarray: TV left on, laundry in the washing machine, air matress inflated in the middle of the living area, dirty clothes and dishes all over the place, and, as expected, no sign of the asshole who clearly had no intention of leaving anytime soon. The poor woman who was acting as the face of the hosts started trying to clean for us while we stood there frantically looking for a hotel room somewhere close, hoping like hell this fuckwad wouldn’t come back while we were all in there, because fuck a bunch of that awkward bullshit. We booked a room about 1 mile from the venue (for an obscene amount of money), told her we were not comfortable staying in this room, for many reasons, and that we were gonna stay somewhere else and get a refund on this ridiculous situation. She replied that she was glad we said that, because she wasn’t comfortable with the sitation either.
We left the buiding, walked back across the street to the parking garage in the torrential rain, and drove to our newly-booked hotel. The front desk staff and the place were very nice (although obviously overpriced), and I’d recommend the Vu Guesthouse to anyone staying in downtown Louisville. We got in the room, freshened up, and requested a Lyft – we still had plenty of time before the show started, but we wanted to stop at the Bluegrass Brewing Company for a small bite to eat and some much more affordable beers before entering the overpriced confines of the KFC Yum! Center (official motto: A Very Nice Venue With A Very Bad Name*).
We stood out in the rain and watched our Lyft driver speed past us without even looking our way. I got a notification that he was waiting on us, and would be leaving in 1 minute, so I called him and told him where we were. He responded that he was there, too, and after a much-too-long phone conversation, we realized he was in the parking lot behind us. We got in his car to the sounds of some kind of god-awful pop music and proceeded downtown in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced in Louisville. The one mile trip took us almost 25 minutes, and if it hadn’t been raining so very, very hard, I would’ve gotten out and walked. I told the missus that I was going to have a good time tonight if it killed me, and that I was confident that everything would soon be coming up Milhouse.
We arrived at BBC right around 6:00 PM and were told by the hostess that it would probably be a 1 hour wait for a table. I told her we were gonna go grab a beer and wait inside somewhere, and she said that was fine, as long as we didn’t stand on the stairs. We ordered a couple of pints (the keg blew while the bartender was pouring mine (because at that point, why the hell wouldn’t it?), and she gave me three quarters of a beer for free while she poured a different beer for me – “Milhouse!”, I said to the missus) and found ourselves a back corner next to the stairs. The place was fucking packed, and the music was blaring, almost uncomfortably so – I think they were trying to get people pumped for the show, but I think they may also have trying to get some people to clear out. Only one of those possible motives had the possible desired effect; the crowd was clearly into the jams and had no intention of leaving until the rain lightened up.
“Hey Joel, are you ever gonna get to the fucking point and talk about the goddamn show?” That’s a fair question; we’ll be there soon, I promise.
We chatted up another couple standing near us, both of whom were very friendly, and after about 15 minutes the rain did let up, and over half the crowd (including our new chums) cleared out, seemingly all at once, and crossed the still completely jammed up intersection to wait in line outside the venue. Three seats opened up at the bar, we snagged two, and within one minute, we were able to order food and more beers (“Milhouse!”). Our food arrived in record time, and just as it was placed in front of us, one of the bartenders switched the music over to a strictly Metallica playlist (“Milhouse!”). We finished up, paid our tab, and crossed the still completely jammed up intersection to wait in line outside the venue. We got in quickly, found our seats, and mostly enjoyed the comedy stylings of funnyman Jim Breuer, who for whatever reason is the opening act on this leg of the tour.
Sometime around 8:15, the lights went down and the crowd roared as the strains of Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” began to play over the sound system, accompanied by the scene that accompanies it in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I was overcome by emotion, due both to the moment and to the beauty of that song and movie, and I may or may not have started weeping uncontrollably. Next thing you know, the band is onstage and ripping through the first two songs from their latest offering, 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. James addressed the crowd briefly, then they laid out a killer rendition of “Seek and Destroy”, followed by “Harvester of Sorrow”, then a whole bunch of other rad shit for a set that ended up being somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours long.
The band was tight (as they should be), and it might’ve been my imagination, but it seemed like they were playing songs faster than the studio versions, which was extra cool, but did make it a bit more challenging to sing along. James kicked ass on vocals, which honestly was my primary concern going into the show. I’ve seen and heard plenty of live footage of the band from the past several years, and his voice has often sounded strained, but he sounded great, as he has on every live video I’ve seen from this tour so far. He had to pitch a bit lower on the older songs, but every band from the old days has to do that (with the notable exception of Death Angel). He was able to adjust without making it sound weird, and I was very glad about that.
I enjoyed the songs from the new album very much, although I did take a pee break during Lars’ drum solo in the midst of “Now That We’re Dead”, which proved to be a very popular time for a pee break. They played several songs from 1991’s Metallica (a.k.a. “The Black Album”), and I say with absolute certainty that those songs have never sounded better. I even enjoyed the live rendition of “Fuel”, from the band’s much-maligned multi-platinum 1997 Reload, although further research has indicated that I still do not enjoy the studio version.
The band has broken attendance records at several of the venues they’ve played on this absurdly long tour, and our stop was no different, with a final tally of 23,084 (beating the previous record held by country superstar George Strait since 2014). Our crowd also holds the distinction of being the largest crowd so far of the North American leg of the tour. Oddly enough though, for an extremely loud sold-out crowd on a Saturday night, we were the only people in our section who stood at any point during the show, save for the people behind us (who only stood up after we did, which was immediately upon hearing the opening strains of “The Ecstasy of Gold”) and one other dude down the way from us. In fact, all throughout our level, we could see people just sitting, as if Metallica was not rocking their balls and/or tits off. That was weird.
- Atlas, Rise!
- Seek and Destroy
- Harvester of Sorrow
- The Unforgiven
- Now That We’re Dead (with extended middle drum solo/pee break)
- Creeping Death
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
- Halo on Fire (followed by Kirk and Rob’s solos, featuring “Too Rolling Stoned” (Robin Trower) and “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth“)
- Moth Into Flame
- Sad But True
- Master of Puppets
- Nothing Else Matters
- Enter Sandman
To sum up: I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I cried some more, and I nearly lost my goddamn mind. After almost 33 years of surviving the ups and downs that accompany being a Metallica fan, I finally got to see Metallica live. I can’t help but think that after all the bullshit in the hours leading up to it, I had an even better time than I would otherwise have had, but either way, it was one of the greatest and most cathartic experiences of my life.
At the risk of sounding like a total goober, I’m just gonna go ahead and say that for a couple of hours on Saturday night, March 9, 2019, nothing else mattered. Thanks for reading, friends, and stay heavy.
*Not their real motto.