Portland + Metal = Awesome

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photo by Matt Amott

I push through the dense crowd as the bass thuds in my chest. There’s no point in saying “excuse me”; no one would hear me. I’m caught in the middle of the friendly crush, and I still can’t see the band. Someone grabs my hand and pulls me up to stand on the bench along the wall. I smile in gratitude, and my rescuer gives me the metal horns, pinky and ring finger up, in return. I turn my attention to Heavy Voodoo, who has just finished a song. The crowd cheers and shouts expletives of encouragement. “If you know this one, sing along,” says the singer, Zac Pettini, as the band launches into a Pentagram cover.

From my vantage point, I can see the entire crowd. We’re crammed into the Alleyway on NE Alberta, Street, which I’m sure is about two people away from capacity. The bartenders have stopped serving and are headbanging, fists in the air. I spot people who I have invited. I had been carrying fliers for the Ceremony of Sludge, a two-night music festival featuring Portland metal bands, in my bag for the last few weeks. It had given me a good reason to strike up conversations with classmates and other students who I see regularly around campus but never really talk to. And now here we were, participating in this awesome spectacle together that had nothing to do with figuring out why our physics experiment wasn’t working or asking to borrow lecture notes or ordering coffee.

The metal scene isn’t just about the music; it’s about building a community of mutually supportive individuals. Not everyone is a musician; we all do what we can, even if that’s just coming to shows and cheering on the bands.

How are you helping to build community that extends beyond campus?