Metallica Easily Puts X-Games In Top Tier of Texas Summer Music Fests
Metallica didn't need a fancy backdrop; they had their fans.
Photos by Derrek Barlow
If you're the type who is predisposed to enjoying heavy metal and/or loud rock, you've probably had a Metallica phase at one point or another. There's a reason that Mandatory Metallica still exists as a concept for some terrestrial radio stations: people who like heavy metal like Metallica. Even if you're someone who has fallen out of love with the band as an idea — whether or not that was with the release of the Black album, when they cut their hair, when they went after Napster, when they thought cowbells were snare drums, so on and so forth - you're still likely to fill the stirring of something inside you when you hear the beginning of "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
Metallica are no ordinary band, which probably explains that while tons of people showed up to cheer on the athletes of the 2015 X-Games, Saturday felt like one long, sweaty, action-packed opening act for the big Metallica show at the end of the night. Metallica shirts outnumbered pretty much everything else that wasn't official X-Games merchandise, and even then it was close. Metallica are so big the X-Games had to radically rethink their concert plans, the end result being the erection of a giant stage far away from the action so that they could pack everyone in for the concert.
It was, predictably, awesome.
Metallica is a well-oiled machine, and has been that way for a real long time now. They arrive, they kick ass and then it's on to the next. They have a fan base so dedicated that they don't really have to worry about giving them what they want anymore; the band does what they do, and by doing that people are pleased.
Sure, they're getting older, and James Hetfield's vocals aren't as strong as they used to be, but as a group of musicians they're as tight and focused as they've ever been. Musically they're the monster that they've always been, no signs of losing a step to be scene. It's remarkable, because while deep down you have to know that the band can't last forever, watching them on stage you can't ever imagine them stopping.
If you ever loved Metallica, seeing them live brings out something almost primal, something you may have forgotten existed. That's not to say that the intro to "Master of Puppets" is going to turn you in to a raging madman, but it will at the very least put a grin on your face and have you singing out loud. And while you may have other bands that you love more and know bands that are, by whatever measure, better, there's always going to be something about Metallica, even if you can't explain exactly what that is.
Nicki Minaj rocked the X-Games Superstage the day before Metallica.
So let's talk about the X-Games as a concept. If they're going to keep booking big-name acts, Toyota Center-level and above acts, we Texans are going to have to start taking them seriously as more than just an extreme-sports spectacle. The extreme-sports part of the event is nothing to mess around with, mind you; everyone should see a Big Air competition in person at least once in their life. If you've ever even had a passing interesting in skateboarding or BMX biking or any of the various events that the X-Games covers, then you should make the most of the fact that the X-Games are in our back yard for the next couple of years.
Except, of course, that this year it was the same weekend as Free Press Summer Festival.
Now, what happens next year if the X-Games decide to book, for example, Lil Wayne, Deadmau5 and Green Day as headliners? If they even get a little more serious about their music offerings, the actual summer music festivals of Texas might have to worry. You take this years headliners and add Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa and anyone big enough to headline Lights All Night and the X-Games firmly becomes a destination festival.
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Sure, FPSF is in our backyard, but when the headliners are a child predator, the 1/3 of Swedish House Mafia that does hang out with the other two anymore, a band whose own fans can't decide half the time if they're any good or not and Skrillex - who I'm not mocking because he's awesome - you can start to see why the X-Games could start cutting in to FPSF's and other festivals' bottom line.
ESPN has a good thing going on in Austin. On the whole, the X-Games may not have the pop-culture crossover appeal that they used to, but this weekend thousands and thousands of folks drove out to the Circuit of the Americas and stood on the hot asphalt to watch sick tricks and see the biggest heavy-metal band in the world. And they were happy to do it.
And if you're someone hustling for the festival dollars of an entire state, that's something worth paying attention to.