Metal Fest (Short Story from Contributor Sir Pinkerton)

John Fitz was a loner. He liked people but only at a distance. His dislike of big crowds was paramount. He felt them detestable. But big crowds were everywhere now a days, it seemed. He couldn’t get away from them. He loved going out and seeing bands play live but, there again, were the grand hoards of people he so longed from which to rid himself. He’d been working on getting his anxiety under control so he could enjoy the music but the older he got the harder it became. He wasn’t as young and forgiving as he used to be and it tarnished his experience.

The last show he’d gone to was a metal fest built around a fundraiser for mental health awareness. A dozen bands each day over the course of a weekend. By and large these groups were ones he’d never heard of, but they played well and had a vibe each and of their own. Metal was a good catalyst to immerse oneself in. It made the crowds disappear for the forty-five minute they’d be playing on stage. Sure, there was crowd surfing but, as so often he did, when Fitz held back toward the back of the crowd, there was more than enough space to enjoy himself. There was always at least ten feet between him and the rest of the people enjoying the set.

Over the course of the first day, band after band played their hearts out. Screamed their hearts out. The first handful of bands played on the B stage across the street from the main stage. There were the usual vendors plying various wares including food and drink and merch from the bands lined up that afternoon. During the set breaks, Fitz would go and snag a beer and head to the smoking area. There wasn’t actually one but it was off to the side and where most smokers gravitated to and so he joined them. One could smell weed on the wind as the state within which they were had legalized the sacred herb. He joined them as a joint was passed around. This filled him with a heady buzz because of the beer he was also drinking. It was a glorious day. A light breeze to keep the July heat and sunshine from getting too oppressively hot. Also, the venue was situated next to a wide lolling river so the smells of running water mingled with the smells of cooking sausage.

Fritz was in his element, having the time of his life. The excitement in the air was palpable. The people in the crowd responding in earnest to the bands’ vigorous playing styles. Chugging and screaming, chugging and screaming. It was heaven. The harder playing style really woke something up in his mind and heart. He couldn’t get enough. Four bands played on the smaller stage and by the time the last one had finished its encore, Fitz’s head was swimming for beer and weed. Then the crowd was moved to the main stage area across the street. There was no metal detectors and frisking going on now because at that point you were technically inside the show. Getting to the main stage was a bit harder for him as you had to walk through shakedown street. Here the vendors had more space and there were twice as many. T-shirts posters, CDs, photos, food beer and wine, porta johns, all of them having long lines of people wanting. Fitz pushed his was through the throngs and fell into line of the attendees heading towards the headliners stage. Here it was more open. Once you got through the bottleneck of people heading to the various seating areas it opened up quite nicely. He moved to the nearest beer seller and refreshed his beverage. Nothing was so sweet as an ice-cold local brew on a hot day. Then he made his way to the back part of the open seating area and waited for the first of the bigger acts to start.

The next couple hours were a blur. Three bands played, all good but nothing that really moved his soul. He’d sway to the music, drink beer, get more beer, smoke more weed, hit up the restrooms and sway to more music. It was an excellent few hours. He thought he had hit a plateau with the festival when the next band took the stage. He soon learned that the show was only getting started. Killswitch Engage took the stage next and the world fell away from Fitz. From their opening notes to the end of the last encore, Fitz was in heaven. Never had he heard a band play like they did. He went from swaying to the music to headbanging and jumping and singing along with the tunes. Fitz was in pure bliss. Yes, the beer and weed made him get that much more into it but the band was electric. They played for an hour and a half. He could have listened to them play all night. But alas, the bitter end came when they played his favorite tune. The end of heartache. Such a great title to such a great tune. Fitz was in heaven. As the last note dwindled down to nothing the roar of the crowd surprised even him. He actually forgot there were other people in the crowd. He whistled and yelled and became almost hoarse with the effort.

As they left the stage a slight drizzle of rain started to envelop the crowd. Most people got right to leaving at this turn of events. Not Fitz though. He stood and watched the roadies start to break down the gear. The gear that made angelic music not ten minutes before. Objects of heavenly intent. The house lights came up and security was herding people out the doors. Fitz had to obey and made for the exits. As he came out to the street, throngs of people stood around smoking and chatting about the show. He’s had his fill of crowds for the night so he walked down the street a few block and hailed a cab. He got dropped off at the camp site where he was to bunk down for the evening. He cracked one last beer, lit up one last joint and marveled at the starry sky, reminiscing about the magnitude of the show he’d just witnessed. Here, he was home, with the music still ringing in his ears, the crickets sawing away, he was at peace. Soon after, he shed his clothes and entered his tent to sleep the sleep of kings.

The next morning, he arose at dawn, packed up his belongings into his truck and headed south for the three-hour drive home. He was still elated from the previous nights festivities and hummed the whole was home. When he reached his destination, he vowed to make sure to see that band every time they came through town. Such was the way of obsession, and Fitz was now obsessed with Killswitch. He thanked his lucky stars he had finally bought those tickets and made it to the show, despite the crowds of people he knew was sure to be there. Maybe there was hope for him yet. Maybe he would get out more, see more bands, go to more shows. For this last one had shown him how refreshing and rejuvenating it could be. One more band, one more show, he thought, I can take it, I will persevere. With this last thought he went about his normal life with an extra pep to his step.

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