An Afternoon with Metallica, 10/4/09
Before I write this story, a debt of great gratitude must be paid to the gentleman that made this possible for Lee and I. We would like to thank, with all the 'Elk might we can muster, one Mr. Jim Singleton of Jim's Guitars. It is solely because this guy found it in his heart to make a phone call on our behalf that Lee and I did what we never expected we would do: We cruised down to Phillips Arena in Atlanta, GA. and hung out with James and the guys in Metallica. I must also note that I waited an extra day to write this adventure up because, as I told Lee: with the exception of the birth of my daughter and that huge party that was my wedding day 17 years ago, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009 was possibly the greatest day of my life.
It was a somewhat grey day and I was at home in my Incredible Hulk pajamas, anticipating a day of football and Stellas. Of course, my tall partner calls up and asks what I'm doing, even though he knows it's Sunday and I ain't doing much except reaching for Stellas and watching football. Believe me, he knows this. I tell him I'm just chillin' and that my buddy, Dan called and said he had an extra ticket to the Metallica show that night, so I thought I would warm up (with a few Stellas) and go see the show. Lamb of God was opening and they're also a great favorite of mine. Lee goes, "I outta call Jim and see if he can get us the hookup. I'm sure he knows those guys" and I go, "Yeah, that sounds great". Like it would happen in a million years, right? Well, it wasn't an hour later that Lee calls back and says, "James' tech is going to call with a list of guitars the boys are looking for- you might want to get out of those goofy pajamas I know you're wearing". I still wasn't moving too fast, because I thought that the chances of any of this happening were probably pretty slim- please note that I did get up to change the channel and get another Stella. 30 minutes later, Lee calls again and says, "It's on- get ready because we have to be down at the arena at 3:30". Now, I'm in disbelief because the reality of the situation has hit me. I've been a tried and true Metalhead since 1981 and a fan of Metallica since the day I first heard "Kill 'Em All". My wife walks into the kitchen, sees the look on my face and asks me what's wrong. "Nothing" I say. "We have to take some guitars down to Phillips and show them to James Hetfield". She then proceeds to tell me that this will happen when she blows a donkey out of her behind and continues walking through the kitchen.
Fast forward to 3:00 and I'm meeting Lee just outside the parking lot to the Chocolate City Club. (it was empty because you don't strip in Georgia on the Lord's day) We then go over to the loading docks at Phillips Arena and were met by a guy named Zack- he's the bass tech for the low- end monster that is Robert Trujillo. "Glad you guys are here" he says. "Let's get set up and James will be here in a little bit". Now, I'm getting fired up but trying to be cool at the same time, so we go to a small room to lay out the guitars and who should walk out of that room but Rick King, from Tacoma, WA. He's a dealer friend and does the authentication for the boys in the band when they are buying gear. We exchange pleasantries and while waiting on James to show up, I walked out into the show area where the stage techs were doing soundcheck. I shot some pictures, hung out for a moment and then headed back to the room to check on the guitars. When I opened the door, there was the man himself, Mr. Hetfield standing there with a '76 Explorer and talking to Rick. "Hi, I'm James" he said and at that precise second, I acknowledged secretly to myself that I was doing what I was put on this Earth to do: sell guitars to rock stars. I said, "Hi, I'm Ray" and the next 45 minutes was the coolest blur one could experience. Lee came in and we basically sat down and watched my boy play and try out a couple of the guitars we brought. He settled on a mint 1981 white Flying V ( which, by the way is Lee's favorite guitar) and then we just sat for a while and talked about guitars, playing, collecting and the like. When the business at hand was done, James kindly took a few pictures with us and I told him that he would be in the 'Elk Nation. He was quite cool with that and told us that he had been on the site before, so now my smile is literally ear to ear, as you could imagine! He asked us if we would like to stay and watch the show- we happily accepted and we were given backstage passes. (I need you to know that giving me an all- access backstage pass to a Metallica show is like giving a fat baby a bucket of chocolate ice cream)
We watched Gojira and Lamb of God tear the floor off the stage, warming up the crowd for the mighty Kings of Metal and when the boys hit the stage, that place was on fire! Lee and I stayed for the show and then picked up our guitars and headed home. I got to the house and checked out the pictures we took, relishing in what had been a perfect evening. I'm a true heavy music fan and for me, Christmas came early this year. I shut the office down, cut off the lights and headed upstairs to call it a night when I heard what sounded like my wife fussing. Somewhat worried because she was yelling at this time of the night, I turned the corner only to come face to face with a full- grown donkey standing in my kitchen…….as I said, a perfect night.
Photo 1. Lee and I with the Master, Mr. Hetfield. You ought to hear this guy banging out heavy rhythm picking in their tuning room- it's just devastating.
Photos 2-4. This the stage during soundcheck, before the show. If you think it's loud when the crowd is there, you ought to hear this rig in an empty building. Just brutal....
Photos 5-7. This is a couple of shots from backstage- there had to be at least 100 flight cases with the Metallica stamp on them.
Photos 8-13. This is where the guys shine- 20+ years in the business and both the music and the shows are some of the best to be presented anywhere. It doesn't get any better than "Master of Puppets" in the round....
Photos 14 & 15. These pictures are from the Metallica website. This is the "tuning room", where the guys warm- up and make any last minute changes to the set. You'll notice that James is playing the white Flying V he got from us a couple of hours earlier and his tech told us he never put it down during the entire warm- up session. If he's happy, then we're happy and we would like you all to welcome the newest member of the 'Elk Nation, Mr. James Hetfield. Now that's what I would call a fine Sunday afternoon.....