Metal 4Africa: Klein Libertas Theatre, 01 August 2009
I attended Metal 4 Africa for the first time last year, and it was quite the shock. If it is your scene, check it out tonight. Otherwise, below follows my take of last year's.
“There are the people of the day, and the creatures of the night. And it’s important to remember that the creatures of the night aren’t simply the people of the day staying up late because they think that makes them cool and interesting. It takes a lot more than heavy mascara and a pale complexion to cross the divide.”
- Terry Pratchett, Soul Music
I was sitting in my bedroom, busying myself with perfectly innocent student activity, when I was summoned to my closest encounter (thus far) with hell itself: Metal for Motherfucking Africa. (I am not entirely sure if this was the event’s official title, but it is what the gathering was called all night by everyone there, and so the adjective stuck). Of course, I had no choice but to attend. Not only had a close friend invited me, I was also listed as a photographer which meant free entrance and being duty-bound to make an appearance. Fine then- it was the very least I could do and I was on holiday, after all. And so I grabbed my camera and set off, wholly unaware of what was in store...
They say ignorance is bliss, but I’m sure that, had I been aware of what lay ahead, I would either have prepared better (mentally, and perhaps armed myself with garlic) or simply not gone at all. Alas, Mother Nature (perhaps Lucifer, in this case) continues to practice an oddly cruel sense of humour. It was a decent venue, one of my favourites, which generally hosted superb music gigs at which I had become a regular, to put it slightly. But tonight, I became quickly convinced that I had taken a wrong turn, fallen into a black hole of sorts and tumbled, head-first and camera-in-hand into a hellish nightmare.
The venue’s populace greeted me in a tsunami of pitch clothing and ghostly complexions. Their eyes were sunken and either vacant, closed or penetrating as if their glares were sucking the very goodness out of me. Their hair was black, the only exception being a full head of luminous green curls and the odd bit of purple, white (I don’t mean blonde, I mean a slain-unicorn silver) or angry red. There were dreadlocks, flyaway curls, greasy rats’ tails and what was artfully similar to those abandoned bird’s nests that just hang in trees forever, without use, because the bitch wasn’t satisfied with what her hubby had produced. The one thing they all had in common was that they scared me.
Once inside, I couldn’t decide whether the light made me more or less terrified than the eerie moonshine outdoors. In the end I decided that it made little difference and turned to alcohol to ease myself a little. I focused on scowling perpetually and turning down the corners of my lips, fearing they would claw out my blue eyes if I dared look anything short of miserable. Not that I wasn’t… Where did these people come from!? The town is not a big one and, being largely populated by students, one is sure to have seen most of the people that live in it at some point or another around town. But I had never seen a single one of the beings in this entire place before. I knew this because they are fairly noticeable, and especially so in daylight, I’m sure. Was there some sort of secret metalhead society, the seemingly ordinary student members crawling out from under rocks, morphing into these demonic vampires when the sun goes down? It was more than just emo make-up and piercings; these things had ceased being human from where I was standing!
Next I found myself at the stage. Desperate for some artistic proof that I had actually been to this occasion, I stood at the very front, waiting for some action. And action I got. Plenty of it, too. I found myself, not surprisingly, at the very core of the moshpit. I have since firmly adopted the belief that there is a God; the mere fact that I was not trampled to death is adequate evidence. I was knocked over a couple of times, though two of these were even trailed by an apology (evidently these boys were Afrikaans metalheads). The moshpit enclosed a bizarre culture I had not been exposed to before. The aficionados were viciously adoring of the music and had no manner of expressing this zeal other than physical violence. They began to shove one another, jostling and heaving against friends and foes alike. The fray intensified with each thrust and sooner or later everyone would have a chance at falling down. Someone would help you to your feet, of course, albeit only to kick you down again. The cesspool was like some sadistic cat-and-mouse game that was far beyond my comprehension.
Satan himself also graced the stage. He was bald, pale, and aggressive with white irises and a frizzy ginger beard long enough to blowdry. He was exactly as I had always imagined! I must say I did not appreciate his incessantly calling me a ‘motherfucker’ and asking whether I was having a ‘motherfucking good time’. Dylan Moran, perhaps, but no other man has the justification to address me in this manner. Even more terrifying was one of his devotees who had caught my eye from the very start. (This says a lot, since there was plenty to focus on. I’m sure I passed as a junkie rocked on some sinister drug with my lively eye movements which resulted from being utterly confused as to what or whom to stare at!) She was skeletally thin, and equally pale. She wore torn fishnet stockings and pieces of material I’m sure were intended to be a top and skirt, though they were only about 10cm long each. She also wore no underwear! (I only know this because at some point she was lying on the floor, spread-eagled and unconscious, divulging more information than anyone cared to have.) Her shirt read “Whore Insane” and I contemplated telling her that she must have mistakenly switched the two words around.
Finally I found myself a safe perch from which I could not only take pictures without a fear of being crushed, but also survey the belligerent throng in confused amazement. What a peculiar culture. Then again, I am sure they would scratch their black heads in perplexity if they were to watch my behaviour on a typical (significantly less eventful) evening out. Eventually I concluded that they were simply different to me and no less strange than the blonde things running around town making out with poles to the sounds of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. A little more intimidating, I’ll admit, but only because they don’t weigh less than their GHDs. The evening was like watching a philanthropical documentary and it had certainly been a learning experience. Not only did I know to avoid these festivals in future, I was also vastly more appreciative of my music.
Still amazed at having survived the ordeal, it was only the following morning that I realised I had been wearing a pink Pringle jersey all along.