Rock and Roll Damnation: the heavy-metal concert review as post-secondary writing exercise

By Steve Newton

There’s a comedic reading series running in Vancouver called Teen Angst Night, where people read embarrassing things they wrote as a youth.

This is kinda like that.

When I was taking English 304 at UBC one of the assignments was to write something where each sentence started with a different letter of the alphabet, from A to Z.

I took the easy way out and tried to describe what it was like at a heavy-metal concert. I’m pretty sure I had an AC/DC show in mind, because I titled the thing Rock and Roll Damnation (this was not long after Powerage came out).

Strangely enough, as embarrassing as the writing was, my English prof. took a shine to it. He had the story typed up and copies made and then he read it out in class. Maybe he was a closet metalhead. He probably shoulda just said, “Hey Newt. Really? ‘Virgin souls seem sacrificed to the god of heavy metal passion!’? Tone it the fvck down why don’tcha?”

All the waiting has come down to this. Blackness envelopes the auditorium as the last of the house lights are switched off. Cutting through the dark almost simultaneously is the traditional ‘spectrum of fire’ as thousands of fans hold aloft matches and lighters, trying desperately to add to the illuminative spectacle around them. Directly above and in front of the stage, a huge circular object is set in motion. Everyone who has been to a rock show before knows what this rotary ball is capable of doing, and waits the moment of its ‘celebration’. For the uninitiated yet enthusiastic it can turn a regular evening’s entertainment into a most cataclysmic experience. Groups of people on the floor area now become one great mass, pushing ever closer to the front of the stage. Huge security men have been placed strategically within the small walking space between the stage and the makeshift guardrails that they pray will hold back the crowd. In an upper balcony the fearful, resounding blast of an M-80 reminds those nearby to be wary of its sight-robbing capabilities. Jubilant and intoxicated young men stand on their seats and howl themselves hoarse, but still can’t break through over the general rumble of the impatient crowd. Kindled by the sight of dark figures moving about the stage the crowd begins to really catch fire. Long moments in the noisy blackness have led to a level of excitement that brinks on pandemonium. Missiles are hurled toward the stage as the crowd loses control. Now the time has come! Over the loudspeaker system comes the scorchingly loud drone of the opening chord to the song that everyone in the audience has been listening to, and loving, ever since it hit the airwaves. Precisely when the band rips into the fierce rock and roll number fiery explosions on each side of the stage send flames roaring fifty feet high and the onlooker is mesmerized by the most furious combination of sight and sound that modern techniques can achieve. Quintessential streams of coloured light burn down upon the ‘rock stars’ in all their glory. Raw, metallic music is pushed through the towers of amplifiers and comes out loud enough to kill small rodents in their tracks–and 20,000 rock fans go wild. Slowly the song builds up to a crescendo. The crowd by this time has become so frantic and uninhibited that it is downright uncivilized. Under the influence of marijuana or harsh drugs many are transfixed by the goings-on, willing victims of mind-boggling patterns the whirling laser beans concoct. Virgin souls seem sacrificed to the god of heavy metal passion! When it seems as if nothing more could be done to take someone further from the reality of day to day existence, a laser shatters the ‘sight barrier’ when it is beamed directly onto the rotating sphere that by now has been lost sight of in the excitement. X-ray specs could not compare with the visual extravagance of the infamous ‘mirror-ball’ as its reflective rays turn the inside of the arena into a shimmering, crystalline palace of wonder. You can walk out of such an experience with only one word traveling around in what’s left of your mind. Zounds!

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