To start, I have to say that I love the sense of community that exists among metal fans. I’ve been to a huge number of concerts and festivals, and at the metal or rock ones there’s virtually no trouble – no drunken fights, no aggro, and no people dying from drug use, so in many ways the metal community is great. However, there is also a negative side where people seem opposed to success with many bands that move up to big venues being accused of having “sold out” or not being as good as they used to be, similarly any band that gets radio or TV coverage seems to get the same.
The recent fuss about Metallica playing Glastonbury festival has produced a huge amount of posts on social media, and while there are plenty from open minded people, there have also been so many posts that certainly can’t be decscribed as tolerant or open minded.
Judging by many of the posts containing mindless abuse I’ve seen on my facebook feed from metal fans aimed at people who go to Glastonbury, then sadly there does seem to be a big problem with metalheads stereotyping and prejudiced against non-metalheads. People who go to Glastonbury have been generally written off as “middle class” or “hippies”. Well some people there might fall into one of those categories, but I have a few points to make..
1. Who cares whether someone is middle class, working class or whatever? When it comes to music then these things shouldn’t matter. Lots of metal fans are middle class, so why use it as an insult for people going to Glastonbury?
2. Not everyone going to Glastonbury is either a hippy or middle class. Like most festivals it attracts a cross section of people, and I know a number of metalheads who have been to Glastonbury several times and enjoyed it.
3. I can bet that the majority of the people slagging off Glastonbury festival have never been to it, so really have very little idea what they’re talking about, and are just basing their prejudices on media coverage (and we all know how misleading media coverage can be).
4. Just because you don’t like most of the bands playing a festival doesnt make it shit – it just means it’s not the right festival for you
5. Metallica got a large crowd and went down well. Nobody was forced to be there – there are more than enough other stages to entertain people who don’t like a main stage band, so people were clearly there by choice, and it’s almost certain that a lot of them were seeing Metallica for the first time.
Since the Sophie Lancaster foundation, which is very active in the metal community aims to stamp out prejudice, hatred and intolerance everywhere, gets a lot of support from metal fans then you’d think metalheads would demonstrate the values they claim to support. Instead, while saying they support the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign, many peoples posts on facebook etc go against everything the charity is trying to achieve as they just spout prejudiced or abusive views.
Metal fans are quick to complain that “Chavs” give them abuse for looking different, so why do metal fans think it’s ok to criticise Hipsters, Hippies or even Chavs for the way they dress? It’s blatant hypocrisy.
Musical narrow mindedness?
There were plenty of people criticising Metallica for playing Glastonbury when they were first announced, and sadly most of the posts I saw came from so called metal fans, saying they shouldn’t play it as its not a metal fest. Well, so what? The British metal fans do often seem very narrow minded musically in my experience, and there’s always an outcry when festival organisers throw in a wild card, such as Download including a Blues act, or a band like The Prodigy. Read any metal or rock festival forum and you’ll see lots of whining when the organisers announce a band that isn’t considered Metal enough. In contrast, Dutch metal fans seem far more open minded – just look at the lineup for Pinkpop as an example, on any given year you’ll see a mix of metal, rock and pop, and there’s no whining about it.
Admittedly there were plenty of non metal fans demanding Metallica be taken off the bill at Glastonbury, but it’s unclear how many of them were actually ticket holders (probably very few), and most of the anti-Metallica posts from non-metalheads were not related to the music, but to the fact that James Hetfield is narrating a hunting program on TV and has been a hunter himself in the past. In terms of music, I didnt see many people saying Metallica were unsuitable musically to play Glastonbury.
In the end, when the band played, they had a huge crowd and went down very well. It doesnt matter if you personally think Metallica are shit, or weren’t on form, the simple fact is that they played a festival that traditionally has very little hard rock or metal and were a huge success. This is a massive win for Metal in my opinion for several reasons…
1. The Metallica set was broadcast on BBC2 – and it’s not often you’ll find any heavy metal music getting TV coverage from the BBC, so this was a big result, both in an immediate sense as fans got to watch the band live on TV, but also for the longer term – if the BBC got big ratings for Metallica’s performance then it might just start to change opinions at the BBC. If the ratings were equal to or higher than for other headliners at Glastonbury then it shows there is demand for metal bands to get more coverage. I doubt things will change suddenly, but it may eventually see metal getting more credibility from the BBC.
2. Metallica’s set will have been watched by a lot of people who don’t normally listen to heavy metal, either at the festival itself, or on TV. Now if a percentage of those liked what they heard then there’s a good chance some of them will pick up a CD or two and listen to the band more, and that acts as a gateway to other metal bands – if someone finds they like Metallica then they might try some of the other big names and gradually start listening to more metal. More people listening to metal has to be good for all metal bands.
3. Having seen Metallica go down well at Glastonbury then the festival organisers are likely to consider booking more metal bands in the future. Glastonbury has always had a diverse lineup, so adding more metal acts isnt a big change for them, and is a big opportunity for any metal band that plays.
I’d like to think that the online whining about Glastonbury represents a tiny percentage of metal fans and that the majority are open minded and reasonable. I do think the some metal fans hearing the S.O.P.H.I.E message have failed to grasp that it has to work both ways – it’s not a campaign to stop Goths and metalheads getting abuse while allowing Goths and Metalheads to abuse other people, it’s about stopping ALL abuse, intolerance and hatred no matter what group of people you are in. If metalheads want to avoid being judged based on appearance then they need to do the same themselves.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with some of what I’ve written, and we at Planetmosh would love to hear your views. Do you think that Metallica were right to play Glastonbury?, Should metal fans be more open to metal bands playing non metal fests?, are people in general too judgemental?