Saturday, September 19, 2020

Heavy metal party and The Priest, part 2

The Quilt, made of Judas Priest concert Ts
Murph's 6th annual Metal Party is back, and this one goes to 11! The can't-miss metal event of year will feature the live music of The Priest, New England's premier Judas Priest tribute band. Wear your faded concert t-shirts and denim jackets and strap your leather cod pieces on tight. Prepare for yet another round of "classick" metal trivia, bad late night videos, and oft-told, slightly exaggerated stories of metal concerts from decades past. Metal rules, my friends, so "head out to the highway" to celebrate.

Food, some booze, and locale provided, but bring your own favorite drinks and apps or desserts welcomed. Hat will be passed around to defray some costs of band.

--Description from the Facebook page of Murph’s Metal Party, 6th annual

I knew I was in trouble when Tom, aka, KK Downing, pulled into my driveway with a minivan LOADED with equipment. I mean, this thing was jammed floor to ceiling with amplifiers, sound board, wires, guitars, god knows what.

“Holy shit, you guys brought a lot of equipment,” I said, bug-eyed as I stared at the pile of noise generating electronics that would soon be making its way into my living room.

“Oh no, that’s just mine,” Tom replied. His face was utterly dead pan and humorless.

Oh shit, I thought.

Long story short, I booked The Priest for Saturday, July 30, 2016, to play live at my house. Originally we had planned to set up the stage in the back yard. But this presented two major obstacles:

1)      Noise. It should come as no surprise (though it still is to me, sometimes) that not everyone likes heavy metal. Especially neighbors living a respectable middle class life on a respectable cul-de-sac in suburbia. Even those who can bear it, or appreciate it, don’t necessarily want to be “Living After Midnight” if the band plays late.

2)     The weather. This was more problematic than 1, as a rainstorm would ruin everything, more surely than bitching neighbors.

To circumvent the noise issue I called up the Merrimac Police Station to let them know what I had planned. After assuring the dispatcher that my call was not a medical emergency, I eventually got hold of the Chief. This turned out to be an interesting conversation. The chief said I should be fine as long as we didn’t go past 11, but recommended I ask the town if they had any special noise ordinance or if some type of permit was required. I wound up getting placed as an agenda item on the next Selectmen’s meeting to explain what I had planned. When I showed up for my “hearing” the selectmen were conducting some prior closed-door business, and I found myself awkwardly waiting side-by-side with the chief on a bench in town hall. In full uniform, the chief casually asked me what kind of music I had booked.

“Something you would not like,” I said, sheepishly.

“Try me.”

“Heavy metal—Judas Priest tribute band to be specific.” I said this with a flinch.

He smiled. “I’m a metal fan too.”

So, the meeting went well, the selectmen said I was good to go and even thanked me for being so diligent. In a somewhat ballsy movie I wound up inviting the chief (he never came). As a further CYA move I wrote a letter explaining my intent to hire a Judas Priest tribute, and hand delivered it to the mailbox of everyone on my street, inviting my neighbors to stop by. Many would later hang outside and listen from the street. Here is the text of that letter, in case you are wondering what it would be like to be my neighbor:

Dear neighbor, 

This is Brian Murphy, resident of xxxxx. The family and I have been living here since January of 2014 and you may have barely noticed me in all that time. I’m pretty quiet and respectful of our great neighborhood.

I want to keep it that way which is why I’m giving you notice of a small(ish) party I plan to throw at my house the evening of Saturday, July 30. This party will include 35-40 people. It will also include a live band playing in the backyard. More specifically a Judas Priest cover band using amplifiers and drums.

The plan is to have the band play from approximately 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., possibly a half hour in either direction—but no more. They’ll be finished playing no later than most of you typically go to bed. The sound will be projecting away from the street and towards the woods out back. There is even a small chance they will play indoors, especially if the weather is bad, which will render this letter mostly moot. After the band is done I anticipate most of the remainder of the party will occur indoors.

I have run this past both police chief xxxxx and the Board of Selectmen. Neither one of them expressed any reservations, especially when I told them I’d be notifying you all and being respectful of you and our great neighborhood.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to invite any of the curious who might wish to see a 70’s/80’s heavy metal cover band and enjoy a cold beverage or two on the house. Please feel free to make your way down to the end of the circle.

If you have any questions or concerns you know where you can find me; you can also call or text my cell at 978-xxx-xxxx.

All the best, and rock on,

Brian Murphy


In case you’re wondering many still call me “The Judas Priest guy” to this day.

The second obstacle turned out to be more problematic, as weather is less forgiving. About a week out, my weather app called for possible afternoon showers… not great. Too risky. Time for plan B, which called for moving The Priest inside. Fortunately my house has a large great room that could accommodate the band and their equipment.

As it turned out I would need every inch of available space.

Tom “KK Downing” was the first to show up on July 30. He was there EARLY, before even my friends. But I had no idea how much setup was required. My friends began to trickle in, and we stared in awe as the great room filled up.

We watched them do some sound-checks in shorts and t-shirts, including a brief bit of “Breaking the Law.” We’d hear the full version later. We were in awe, just of the equipment.

It was AWESOME. There was so much anticipation and energy in the air, as the band members mingled for a while and had a few drinks. During this time I busted out trivia. Later the band made their way downstairs to change into full leather, wigs, arm bands, and other paraphernalia circa early 80s Priest. I walked downstairs to grab a beer and caught a couple of them in mid-change, awkwardly throwing up my hand to avert the sight. Fortunately (to quote Nigel Tufnel) they were only “semi-nude.”

Then it was time.

We started the chant, me and a couple friends. Eventually the whole crowd of party-goers, some 25-30 strong, all got in.

“Priest! Priest! Priest!”

One by one, each band member came up from the basement and made their way through a cheering crowd, in MY FUCKING HOUSE (did I mention this), and took their place at their respective instrument. Tom aka, “KK Downing,” Bryan aka, “Glenn Tipton,” Everett aka, “Scott Travis,” Dave aka, “Ian Hill” and of course, Ron Finn aka. “Rob Halford.”

At this point I’m going to let the pictures, and videos, speak for themselves. Anyone who has ever captured concert footage on a crappy cell phone knows that the post-video does zero justice to hearing it live, and the same goes with these clips. But they’re not bad for all that. Give them a listen.

During the show my brother in law opened up a few windows strategically to make sure the sound could escape, or something. Maybe he was accommodating a few of my neighbors who had showed up to watch the show from outside. It was loud enough for them to hear it, and the light towers flashing purple and blue and red through my great room window made for a hell of a visual.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I sang Turbo Lover with the band playing.

No, you cannot hear a clip of this J

The Priest took a well-deserved intermission during which I delivered my annual metal speech. I barely remember delivering it, so I’m including the full transcript below.

It was three hours of sheer fucking volume and power and awesomeness. I should add that not everyone who came liked metal, or perhaps liked only the likes of Bon Jovi or Poison. They left impressed.

I think I made a couple new Judas Priest fans.

The band did play until just after midnight, so technically we were “Living After Midnight.” Breaking down and carrying out took a lot less time. Afterwards they hung out with me and a few die-hards. I stayed up until almost 3 a.m. with my brother-in-law, Ron, Dave the bassist, and Bryan/Glenn Tipton, sitting around a fire and shooting the shit about life and metal.

What is best in life? That experience. It was so worth it. A peak, top 10 memory for me.

There is a Part 3 to this story… more madness, and the end of the Metal Party? Stay tuned.


My speech

So who here is a Defender of the Faith?

Donald Trump wants to make America great again, we are here to make metal great again.

I’ve been a fan of the genre the whole of my adult life. KISS was my first love and while they are hard rock for the most part, not metal, they were a gateway to the harder stuff. Soon I was listening to bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and eventually Judas-fucking Priest!

It was the late 80s! I was thin and had most of my hair, was 30 pounds thinner and better-looking, and life was good.

But times change, and fast. Metal fell into steep decline starting around 1992. Within a couple years Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden, Rob Halford left Judas Priest, and Metallica cut their hair. Immortal acts like Hootie and the Blowfish and the Spin Doctors ruled the airwaves, and Pearl Jam was being declared the next Beatles. And I started a slow decline into the sad mass of flesh you see before you now.

It was dark times for my favorite genre, and for me. I still listened to metal in my dorm room, shivering under a crusty blanket while strains of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” echoed down the hall, but there were no Dio posters to be found, no Exodus t-shirts, no denim jackets with Manowar back patches. My favorite bands were gone underground or on life support.

It was my first realization that, to quote Axl Rose, Nothing lasts forever.

But neither do the hard times, or the cold November Rain. People got sick of flannel and hackey sacks, and songs about teen angst and how bad the world sucks. Soon grunge was happily becoming passe. And by 2000 or so, metal was back. You can’t keep a good thing down. The music, as it turns out, was pretty damned good after all.

And I’m proud to say I never left it. I stayed a Defender of the Metal faith through the dark times, and I still am. But that experience made me realize how fragile this all is.

And so I got tired of waiting for the party I always wanted to attend. And I threw the one I always wanted tonight!

I learned something in this process: Get rid of your restraint. Do the big, grand, over the top gesture. Do what you love to do, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.

Recently I’ve finally come to the realization about who I am.

I’m a Rocker, and no one can take that away.

So let’s raise a glass to metal! And please keep that glass raised for a second toast for someone special—my wife, for putting up with this nonsense. She’s the best, and even though she’s not a heavy metal fan she’s metal in her own way. She’s made this party rock 10 times harder.

Let’s move on to the main event.

Judas Priest would make most self-respecting metal fans top three heavy metal bands of all time. They are not the first heavy metal band of all time—that was Black Sabbath, by most counts—but they were the ones who created the template for metal as most of us know it today. Twin guitars, operatic vocals, a sound of clean steel, divorced from the blues. A sound like roaring motorbikes and lyrics about Sentinels from some distant apocalyptic future. Also revolutionary was their leather and studs look.

If you want to understand what metal is all about, start with Judas Priest.

We first saw Hell Bent for Judas a couple years ago playing the Chit Chat Lounge in Haverhill. I remember being very impressed with how tight they were. Since then they’ve added a new lead singer and renamed themselves The Priest. I called Ron Finn back in April to ask if he’d play a private event, Tom and I worked out the details, and here we are. He’s awesome, they all are.

At the 6th annual metal party we’ve turned it up to fucking ELEVEN.

So let’s head on out to the highway! What do you say? Are you ready for some Judas Priest style heavy metal? I give you The Priest!!



Paul R. McNamee said...

Glad you captured sound & video of "Metal Gods"!

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks Paul... I've got many more great clips but Blogger is rejecting them due to size limitations. I'll see what I can do for the third and final part.

jason said...

These are pretty epic parties. I've enjoyed reading them, and Priest is great!

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks Jason... as epic as I've described, and then some.