By Jacqueline Nelson
I turned up my stereo — a mix of Rammstein and Marilyn Manson and stood back from the mirror to admire my handiwork: black tank top with silver guns across the chest, grey skinny jeans, a black hoodie and sneakers. I borrowed my dad’s black bomber jacket from his air force days .The congealed blood-red lips and darkly veiled eyes looked pretty close to the pictures, and while my hair was still blonde, I resisted the urge to wash it, and pulled it dramatically in front of my face. I slunk down the hall to my brother’s room.
“How do I look?”
He considered me and nodded, “Pretty good, but shouldn’t you have a dirty teddy bear backpack that you’ve shredded and safety-pinned back together?” I rolled my eyes and gave him my best ‘I’ll shred your jugular’ glare and he started to laugh.
Normally, My ideal night out involves a quality shiraz, a new dress and two tickets to the National Ballet. But tonight, I’m throwing myself into a scene I’ve never seen, equipped with a note pad, and a few delusions. The Eyeopener chose me for this experiment because I am the farthest thing from metal. Luckily, I was paired up with someone who is practically married to it. So what does a group of outsiders look like to outsiders? They look happy.
Greg Harris, my guide for the night rocks pretty hard. We’re in the same program and he manages to mention metal in almost every class. Harris is a natural redhead. His Rapunzel hair and scraggly beard make him look the part of a head banging metal head perfectly. The guy runs a Website dedicated to the stoner metal scene called toohightogetitright.com I tell him about the Manson shirt I almost wore out tonight. “It’s a good thing you didn’t wear it,”he shakes his copper-colored head. “Manson is so not cool. And that’s being really nice.” I avert my eyes. “Of course not,”I agree. “Even I know Manson’s lame.”I decide not to mention Rammstein.
The inside of the Rok Boutique is a fantastic, lurid shade of pink. Black accents make the place look more like metal-Barbie than anything else. To my horror, I find that I’ve overdressed. Sure, most people are wearing black, but they all look, well, normal. I regret my violent, gothic clothing immediately and resign myself to an evening of sitting in the corner trying not to commit any more metal faux pas. I silently curse the people in the pictures I’d googled for leading me so far astray. 11:05 p.m.
Resigned to the fact that fitting in is improbable, I sit with my head buried in my notepad. Just then, Rammstein comes blasting through the speakers followed by some David Bowie. I look at Greg. He isn’t pleased. I start to feel better as I suck down the last of my drink.
A middle-aged man with wild shoulder- length hair and a light Van Halen t-shirt under his leather jacket walked through the door. Several people seem to know him, including Copperhead. He’s introduced to me as “Thrasher Bob.”He slips me a business card with his personal e-mail splashed in red across an image of four fists clad in silver skull rings, which he is currently wearing.
I comment on his shirt colour. “I have 400 t-shirts, and about 360 of them are black. I wore black for 25 fucking years. I don’t have to do it anymore. I’ve been going to shows since 1981.”He’s paid his dues in the metal scene.
“I’ve seen Motorhead 12 times. I’ve seen Slayer 14 times.”He later admits to me that he even went to see Christina Aguilera last year. His smile is infectious, and before long I’m laughing at his tales from his early days in Woodstock (Ontario, that is).
11: 40 p.m.
Sin Dealer, a stoner-rock-meets-metal fusion, finally takes the makeshift stage and claims their title as first live band to ever play at the Rok Boutique. I get up to the front, make a fist and shake my hair at the lead singer. I can’t help but laugh in reckless abandon. Suddenly, I realize I had fallen victim to a classic playground syndrome. I thought that if I showed up as myself I’d be rejected from the scene — but in a counterintuitive way, hanging underground with the leather-clad outcasts is one of the only places you can be yourself.
Back at my table I snuggle in next to my jacket for a moment of peace. A tall, thin blonde approaches me and I feel a sense of camaraderie. “I heard you were writing about the band for your paper,”she says. She slips me a business card with an illustration of a busty femme fatale in leather boots and bearing the name “Metal Queen Management.” I realize I’ve just been slipped some metal PR. We stand in front of each other awkwardly. It’s passed my bed time. Eventually she rubs me on the arm like a camp counsellor and goes back to her friends. The unnerving similarity of the metal scene to the social scenes I know well is half disappointing, but somehow reassuring.
As I leave, Thrasher Bob gives me a hug. On my walk to the door I take a last look around at the smiling people. They look genuine — like they’re not attempting to achieve the right kind of cool. I push open the door to leave as the DJ cranks a new song into the pink. I’m pretty sure it was a Manson tune.