Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Metal Needs To Start Giving A Shit About Detroit: Part 1

I’ve spent most of my life in this state, and was born in the city of Detroit some 28 years ago. Frankly, I’ve always hated this place. There was never anything to do but go bowling or destroy property. Oh, and get drunk. Anyway, after I gallivanted to the east coast for college, I found myself back in the Mitten (thanks, out of state tuition). But hey, when life gives you lemons, chuck them at innocent passers-by, amirite!?

I have to take a moment to say that my ‘hatred’ has transformed into a passion for the camaraderie the city embodies. Something I once loathed because of my experience elsewhere turned out to be young, pompous ignorance to the reality of what Detroit has to offer: unique artistry, resilience, and a stubborn love to stay in a place most people have fled.  I have come to think of this place as home for the first time in my life, and that’s due to the lack of positive attention it has gotten from both mass media and metal (do you want me to compile a list of how many tours avoid our city like the plague?), where fighting for its respect has now become a mission.

Why? Because Detroit is playing a large part in the evolution of metal these days, and I think it’s about damn time both the industry and the fans start giving a fuck about Detroit, because we’re changing the game whether you like it or not. Here are a couple reasons how and why, from a native’s perspective.

Metallica doesn't give a fuck about much, but they are giving a fuck about Detroit, and that should say something.

Besides shopping. Because girly-men.
I’m sure it came as a surprise to a lot of people that Metallica’s Orion Festival landed in Detroit for its sophomore run. I’m sure it surprised everyone far more when James Hetfield announced that Orion would be back in Detroit for the next 3 consecutive years, and could quite possibly become the festivals permanent residence. What most people are unaware of is that even before Detroit shit the bed and declared bankruptcy, the city council was incredibly close to selling off Belle Isle (where the festival takes place) to the highest bidder. The island is truly a gem in the midst of decay (no really, it’s in a shitty, shitty part of the city), and it means a lot to citizens in and out of city proper.  It’s a year round haven for anyone with a dog, a child, a bicycle, or half a reason to go outside. By booking such a high-profile event on its grounds, Orion Fest aided in securing at least a portion of Belle Isle’s fate for at least the next 3 years.

Metallica did something not many others have been able to do:  they noticed what Detroit needs more of, and that’s outsiders coming in to experience the city as it is and develop their own opinions rather than just regurgitating the garbage the media shoves down their throats. Just in the past couple weeks, Detroit gave the OK to hand over the island to the state of Michigan for the next 10 years, saving the city itself 4 million a year while the state spends 6 million each year to keep it up and improve the grounds as whole. That means no more AIDS toilets. Or at least far less AIDS toilets.

"No, no don't worry. Just roll the windows down...these pants don't matter anyway. JUST FUCKING DRIVE."
I’d like to emphasize the fact that I don’t believe Metallica or Orion Fest ‘saved’ Belle Isle from being turned into commonwealth for billionaires or the site for a modern day Alcatraz (you can find prison-like hell holes sprinkled all over the city, don’t worry), but by giving music fans and specifically metal-heads a chance to come see that the city isn’t just one big barren wasteland, they did something really beneficial. They gave people a reason to talk about Detroit in a new light; a reason to give it a shot when everyone else looks at it like the red headed step-child of American metropolises….metropoli? What-ever. 

Here is where my qualm lies: people should have been talking about Orion after it took place. More importantly, people should have been talking about DETROIT afterwards. Because everyone I spoke to that attended had nothing but great things to say about both the event AND the city itself. But did anyone really write anything positive about their impressions of Detroit when all was said and done? Did ANYONE give our city the credit it deserves? All you heard afterwards was, “The shuttle lines were too damn long.”


It’s easy for anyone not living here to blurt out harsh statements which are blown flamboyantly out of proportion.  Just remember:  what has become something easy to mock is a million times harder to defend. If the main stream media reported even half of the truth about Detroit, people might want to come and visit for more than just gratuitous post-apocalyptic city tours. And hey, maybe if some of you metal bloggers and radio personalities removed your heads from your assholes you would see that defending Detroit is a lot like defending metal: constantly correcting its bad wrap because of its misrepresentation. If a band like Metallica - who are playing a show in Antarctica for a bunch of sea lions and icebergs come December - are able to correlate these similarities, I would hope the rest of you can open your eyes and do the same.

For those attending the Antarctica show, be forewarned that these are the nosebleeds.
We need Orion and we need those who traveled here to come out and talk about their experience with the CITY, not just how cool it was that Metallica played under a false band name one night. Ostracizing a community because of mainstream gossip is not only irresponsible but detrimental to its recovery. 

Give a shit about Detroit. Support the underdog. It’s never too late to say nice things about Detroit. Amen.  

Update: PART 2 of the series can be read here

- Angela

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