An Evening with Machine Head

Robb Flynn 4    

I couldn’t stay away. I tried to put him out of my mind, but it was impossible. As the date got closer, I obsessively looking online to see what he was up to, and I finally gave in decided to see him. I wasn’t over Robb yet, and I needed to face him to figure out if we had a future together.

A couple weeks ago, I watched Machine Head – featuring lead singer/guitarist Robb Flynn – play at a small club in Seattle. If you’re a regular reader, you may recall I blogged about my relationship with Robb and Co. last November. It’s been a tempestuous relationship. I love (much of) Robb’s music, but I was tired of him disappointing me by canceling gigs in the Seattle area and then releasing a record that just isn’t very good. But this tour was special. Machine Head was playing a two and a half hour set with no opening act. I knew from the Internet they would be playing most of my favorite songs, and I couldn’t resist the temptation. Not to mention it had been months since I’d seen any metal show. I was hungry.

Machine Head did not disappoint. The venue was smaller than I expected, which was ideal for getting up close and personal with the band. The sound quality was good, the band played well, and the set list was filled with amazing metal music. The bonus of knowing what songs they were going to play – and in which order – was that I could step away from the show floor during the songs I didn’t like and hang out in the bar with Sean, my brother-in-metal, who is not a big Machine Head fan and played the role of chaperone, biding his time while his charge plays all the games at Chuck E. Cheese.

When I wasn’t chilling in the bar, I was on the floor singing along, headbanging, moshing, pogoing…and worrying. That’s right, I was worried. Scared, even. I thought there was a chance that Robb might call me out from the stage and tell the audience to beat me up. You might think that the “conflicted boyfriend” metaphor I’ve used to describe my relationship with Robb Flynn is just a joke, but I wasn’t sure he would think it was so damn funny. As I blogged about, Robb takes relationships, and slights, seriously, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Metal music is filled with characters. As a very dramatic musical form, the performers often become one of the following archetypes:

  1. Larger than Life – These are the superhuman legends of metal, like Ozzy and Lemmy, who fans admire like the ancient Greeks admired Zeus and Apollo.
  1. Life of the Party – These are the ones, like Dimebag and Zakk Wylde, that fans want to hang out with after the show for a guaranteed good time.
  1. Master Craftsman – These are the performers who exemplify the talent that exists in the best metal music. Guitarists like Randy Rhoads and vocalists like Ronnie James Dio are the ones fans point to and say, “See! I told you these guys could really play!”
  1. Douchebag – These are the guys who have ceased being metal musicians and become caricatures who appear more interested in talking politics than playing metal. Ted Nugent* and Phil Labonte are the poster children for douchebags.
  1. Angry and Dangerous – These are the ones who give the impression they are just as likely to beat you senseless as they are to play the gig. Phil Anselmo and Randy Blythe (pre-sobriety, Randy, that is) are the “WANTED” poster children for this archetype.

Robb Flynn has demonstrated characteristics of each type, and I feared, based on some of his social networking rants, that he was sliding away from the hard-partying craftsman and towards the dangerous douchebag end of the continuum. After all, he sings “Game Over” – a brutal “I hate you” elegy about his former friend and bass player – every night. That’s not a sign that he’s a “live and let live” kind of guy. I suspected he might very well call me to account for my critique.

However, during the spoken word intro to the beautiful ode to music entitled “Darkness Within,” Robb didn’t call me out. Rather, alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar and spotlight, he strummed the opening chords and apologized. He told the crowd he was sorry for letting us down so many times before by canceling shows. He waxed poetic about the contributions Seattle made to the heavy music scene, namedropping obscure bands like Gruntruck and The Accüsed, bands that are important to those of us who’ve been around the Seattle scene for the past almost-thirty years. He thanked us for our brotherhood and devotion to Machine “F’ing” Head, and then he played and sang, and we sang along.

The band returned to the stage and raged for another half hour, and I was caught up in the sturm und drang of the moment. The show ended with a powerful rendition of “Halo,” and I left the venue happy and sated. I’m not sure if it was a beautiful goodbye or a rekindling of the musical romance, but I’m glad Robb and I had that night together. It’s certainly a night I will never forget.

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*Of course, Ted Nugent isn’t really a heavy metal guitar player, but he’s often associated with the genre and he so perfectly exemplifies douchebaggery, I couldn’t resist his inclusion.

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