Hurricane Metallica never made landfall last week at ACL 2018. Event staff at the American Express stage say that security expected a “crazy” audience, but it was business as usual.
You can’t blame them for expecting more chaos. Metallica is the first heavy-metal band to headline the Austin City Limits Music Festival — an unthinkable booking in the era of college alt bands and monsters of roots rock in the mid-2000s.
On Saturday of Weekend Two, the main stage’s first band, Wallows, hadn’t played a note before the black-shirts had already lined up at the front along the barriers. Compared to Friday’s Paul McCartney concert, only a fraction of early Metallica fans brought camping chairs.
Metallica fans seem to love the uniform made iconic by “Beavis and But-Head”: There’s no shortage of meditative misfits in black. (Though Beavis’ Metallica shirt, you’ll recall, was blue.)
Thomas Silvas, 23, drove in from his native Corpus Christi on Saturday at the behest of his dad, who was here last weekend. Silvas says he live-streamed the show and knew he had to make it. He’s excited to see Highly Suspect and Disturbed — and isn’t moving from his spot by the stage. He doesn’t feel any different, wearing a black Metallica shirt here among the Instagram influencers and moms in college football colors, but he says he thinks the calm seas of ACL will mean the show won’t be anything like the giant mosh pits he’s seen previously at Metallica-specific events.
Anthony Domingues drove in from Houston just for the day. He’s wearing a denim vest adorned with patches from bands like Slipknot and Metallica says he thinks his armor makes him something of an outcast because he doesn’t look like “everybody else.” But this is an accepting crowd.
The notoriously apolitical band has seen its members divided by the 2016 election. But Domingues doesn’t think fans are fazed. He wants to hear “One” tonight, because everyone does: It’s the distilled essence of Metallica, a reflective screed of pain and shared experience. Horse race politics won’t change that, he says.
“You’re a human just like everybody else,” he says. “You’re allowed to have an opinion.”
Metallica is sober and steel-eyed these days. Singer James Hetfield quit drinking 16 years ago. What’s left is the soundtrack of bored smart kids who hate sellouts. If tonight is anything like last week, the imminent catalog showcase will be therapeutic.