Monday, September 14, 2020

Heavy metal party and The Priest, Part 1

For five years, from 2011-2015, I hosted an annual heavy metal themed party. And had a blast. Ultimately it grew into something much more. Here’s the story…

It started out modest, a gathering of 8-9 buddies. My wife and daughters were out of state visiting my sister-in-law, a girls’ weekend. To celebrate my short-term bachelorhood I decided what I needed was a guy’s weekend, a gathering to drink beer and listen to heavy metal with some dudes. No more no less. We’ve all been there.

That first year we drank too much beer and ate ribs off the smoker. My old man did the cooking and stuck around for a few cold ones. I threw a few bags of chips on the table. We may or may not have ended up at a gentlemen’s club late night. No different than your average guy’s hangout. If there was one underlying commonality an outsider to the gathering might have noticed, it was the soundtrack and the garb: We listened exclusively to heavy metal, and many of us were wearing metal t-shirts.

A theme began to coalesce.

I think it was my friend Scott who eventually dubbed the gathering “the metal party” because of the music, the general crude nature of the affair, and the scarcity of women (metal concerts are largely sausage fests). The name stuck, and an informal guy’s hangout became something more.

I started to build on the theme with some planned metal-themed activities. For example, the next year we watched KISS videos which we turned into a drinking game—any time Paul Stanley did something androgynous or feminine, or whenever Gene Simmons made a sexual innuendo, we took a drink (for the record we got drunk, real fast). We played a game of heavy metal-themed trivia, penned by yours truly.

In Year 3, 2013, my wife and a couple other women got involved. The organization and food quality went way up. The wildness may have dropped a notch—but not much. We still had an absolute blast, playing “KISS or fiction” on my back deck. I pressed my buddy Chris’ girlfriend Rosie into duty: She would read a lyric, and you’d have to guess: Actual KISS lyric, or fiction? Here’s an example:

Well it's out of the fryin' pan and into the fire 
You bent over, baby, and let me be the driver 

(KISS. Yes, they wrote this little bit of brilliance for a song called “Burn Bitch Burn.”)

 I’m like a pounding hammer and I wish you were the nail

Girl you’re not 18, but they can’t put my mind in jail

 (Fiction—I made this one up. And am immensely proud of myself for doing so)

Aside: I am a huge KISS fan and think they are the best at what they do, which is theatrics, spectacle, and writing fun, entertaining rock songs. But if you can’t laugh at some of the nonsense they’ve put out over the years, you’re doing it wrong.

Rosie (left) was a good sport with "KISS or fiction"

We continued to layer on the fun over the next two years, adding a karaoke machine one year and belting out our favorite songs in my living room. The list of attendees began to grow, including our friends Janet and Allen, who drove down from New Hampshire and brought with them a Judas Priest tapestry, made by hand from dozens of concert t-shirts. We had a grand unveiling and worshipped its magnificence. We did Jello shots, stuffed a bathroom, someone brought metal-themed cookies. I started doing a rambling kickoff speech, celebrating friendship, and heavy metal, roasting various attendees with embarrassing anecdotes from our past, and in general making an ass of myself.

In I believe 2014 my friend Vin showed up in his tricked out Chevy Tahoe, basically a stereo on wheels. I have no idea what type of equipment he hooked up in this rig, but I can tell you there was no room for groceries—because the entire storage compartment was jammed full of speakers. Recently I asked him to confirm the technical specs, and here’s what he said:

Dual batteries, Dual alternators, 2/0 ga power cable, 300A main fuse, Orion HCCA sub amp pushing 4 precision power PRO12 4 ohm carbon fiber flat piston subs wired in paralled 1ohm and 1200 watts bridged.

The sub box was 6 cubic feet, had 6 gallons of fiberglass body filler and weighed over 300 pounds. Vin needed to run air shocks in the back for support, and it needed a second battery and alternator to run the stereo and the car at the same time.

It put out 3000 watts of power.

For the record I have no idea what most of this means—only that it was REALLY FUCKING LOUD. We opened up the back, rolled down the windows, and cranked songs like “Raining Blood” and “Revolution Calling” loud enough to rattle teeth. The appearance of the Tahoe and our gatherings in the driveway quickly became a highlight.

In short, the metal party was rocking, hard. But changes were afoot. 

I’ve always been a big concert goer and in October 2014 Janet made my year when she got me a pair of tickets to a backstage meet-and-greet with Judas Priest. That’s a story that will have to wait another day, as it’s too good to tell here. I’ve always loved Priest, but this singular event kicked up my appreciation of these metal gods to new levels.

A couple weeks after that, Chris alerted me that a Judas Priest cover band called Hell Bent for Judas was playing over at the Chit-Chat Lounge in Haverhill, barely 15 minutes away. Priest being in my top three favorite bands of all time, and flush off the high of the Lowell show, I didn’t want to miss the occasion.

Hell Bent did not disappoint. As my buddy Chris and I left the club, ears ringing and a shit-eating grin on our faces, he turned to me and said, “the metal party is always fun, but I’m starting to think it’s a little stale and needs something else. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a live band?”

Brilliant, I thought. “Yeah, that would be awesome,” I replied. “I bet these tribute bands do private gigs.”

A seed was planted. I found Hell Bent for Judas’ Facebook page and followed and liked them.

In 2015 the lead singer of Hell Bent for Judas (a nice bloke, but an average talent at best) left the band and/or was booted out, and replaced by a more talented singer. He too left, within a few short months (this band was going through lead singers like Spinal Tap goes through drummers), replaced by a third dude named Ron Finn. Ron is a local legend, a hugely talented singer perhaps best known as the frontman of Wildside, a fun and talented party band known for 70-80s covers, mainly hair metal and classic hard rock like AC/DC. Ron also recorded a few albums with his band Easy Rider, and experienced some moderate fame and following over in Europe. Ron has one of those voices with huge power and range and sustain. I’ve heard him crush everything from Whitesnake to Quiet Riot to Rainbow. The guy can sing.

Redubbed as The Priest, these guys tore the roof off another semi-shady but fun local venue, Uncle Eddies on Salisbury Beach, that we attended in June of 2015. I was blown away watching them play classic Judas Priest hits like “Desert Plains” and “Devils’ Child.” I was mesmermized and screamed along with the crowd as Ron nailed Rob Halford’s high-pitched scream at the end of “Victim of Changes” (you know the one). I remembered Chris’ words from the Chit-Chat, and during intermission of the show we revived the conversation.

“I’m going to do it man, I’m going to see if I can get these guys to play the metal party,” I said. “This is who I would want to play. The Priest!”

Fast forward a few months later. Sitting in the calm of my living room, my finger hovered over the “contact the band” button on their website.

I’ll just ask some questions, satisfy my curiosity, I mused.


The metal party was about to go to 11.


D.M. Ritzlin said...

Gene Simmons should have hired you to be his lyricist!

Brian Murphy said...

I think I could have penned a respectable KISS album from their 80s-era. And by respectable, I mean every song would contain unveiled/naked sexual innuendo.