I enjoy all kinds of music, for sure – some of my disparate favorites are “Amy Grant”, “N.W.A.”, “No Doubt” and “Shania Twain”. Nor is the majesty of ‘classical’ music lost on me, or even a good broadway musical now and again (I could watch “Les Miserables” every day).

But the music that really moves me? Really stirs something deep and primal? Really slams me up, down, and sideways and reminds me I’m alive?

Heavy. Fuckin’. Metal.

(Sorry tender-ears; it would just be too un-metal to censor that, I can’t do it).

I can’t overstate the impact of metal’s loud arrival on my life. It was absolute mayhem, chaos, rage, and I loved it. Still love it. The driving guitars, pounding drums, piercing vocals; outrageous shows; out-of-control mosh pits. It’s still my music of first choice when I need a jump start.

To this day I can sing along to every Metallica song that comes on the radio (pre-‘Black Album’ of course). Their “…And Justice For All” stage show was awesome – I can feel my pant legs vibrating from the bass and the heat of the insane pyrotechnics just by closing my eyes.

There were others of course – “Anthrax”, “Nuclear Assault”, “Overkill”, “Slayer”, “Megadeth”, “Stormtroopers of Death”, “Abba”, the list is never ending (well okay, maybe not “Abba” – just making sure you’re paying attention).

My first true head-over-heels, love-of-my-life crush was at a metal concert at “The Paradise” in Boston. Her name was “Stormy Woods” (yes, really – I made her show me her driver’s license!) – she was a first-time fourth into the usual metal show trio of myself, my buddy Mike from work (Salem Hospital at the time), and Mike’s girlfriend Krysta.

We got to the show halfway through the first band, don’t recall who they were, and after a brief intermission (lights up, floor scanned and swept for large debris) we moshed it up through “Overkill”. Another quick intermission, and then the reason we were there, the reason we were all there – “Nuclear Assault”. The girls made a dash for the stage (the Paradise had no seats, it was a small club) and managed to squeeze to the front, Mike and I behind, just as the squeals of the guitars began and the crowd went nuts.

The two of them were pressed right up to the stage, and pretty much the only thing that kept them from getting their pretty guts squashed out was the protection of me and Mike. We spent the entire show with our arms braced against the lip of the stage, shielding Krysta and Stormy with our backs. Which, by the end of the night, were bruised and battered like you wouldn’t believe (not that we cared in the slightest).

Another time at the Paradise I refer to as “my Timex commercial” (as in, ‘takes a licking, keeps on ticking’). That night I think the band was “Slayer”, and as I careened through the periphery of the mosh pit, my flailing arm caught on a fellow metalhead’s jacket, sending my watch sailing off into the dark club.

Two hours later when the lights came up and the mob was filing out, I saw someone bend down and pick up something off the floor – it was my watch, and I managed to convince the guy to give it back (though I was entirely non-threatening, it was possibly because he was alone and I was with five or six others). The watch band was torn, and the face was covered with footprints and floor droppings. But it worked flawlessly for another six months until the battery gave out, despite having been trampled beneath hundreds of metal issue mosh boots.

One of the most surreal shows was, again, in Boston, but not at “The Paradise”, it was at “the other place” (couldn’t tell you the actual name now – not sure I ever knew!). By this point in my life I had been heavily involved in a fantastic teen prayer group in my hometown. I loved those folks, and after graduating high school I stayed involved in the community as a chaperone / advisor. I never lied to the younger kids about how I spent my free time, but I did sort of keep it hush-hush – there are, unfortunately, always those who look down on loud and obnoxious music or role playing games as being somehow “un-Christian”.

So I’m at this speed metal show, I want to say it was “Testament” but wouldn’t swear to it, and I’m having a blast in the mosh pit, really getting into it. As I’m doing my thing some guy jumps on my back and starts moshing on top of me – not in a hostile way, I didn’t get any kind of malicious vibe. He was just so into the music and the beat and the crowd that he was wild, couldn’t control himself, and I was apparently the closest thing he could see to climb up on.

I eventually managed to twist around far enough that I could grab his jacket and flip him off me, but instead of landing on his feet as I intended he hit the ground flat on his back. As he stood up I realized that I recognized him – it was one of the high-school freshman from my prayer group, a great kid named Pete.

He just looked at me, screamed “Mook! Oh my God, whatup brother?!”, and disappeared back into the crowd with the biggest, goofiest grin on his face I’ve ever seen.

Still makes me smile just thinking about it.

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