By Jason Notte
Bonnaroo, it was nice knowing you.
We'll miss your gray market economy, with Frisbee-chucking weirdos selling burritos, beer and mystery balloons from the back of Econoline vans. We'll miss the way you blended hippie jam bands like Rusted Root with indie rock bands like Death Cab for Cutie and the resultant nine-car social pile up that ensued. Hell, we'll even miss the sunstroke and smell of the non-VIP camping area.
But it's all over now. You could have had yourself a nice little time with David Cross in the comedy tent, dozens of stoners mesmerized by “The Big Lebowski” and maybe a nice Phil Lesh/Lupe Fiasco duet, but no. You got greedy. You wanted a big-time name near the top of the bill. You had to go cock things up and get Metallica.
Let there be no question: Metallica will kill Bonnaroo. When they're done, Manchester, Tenn. will be a post-apocalyptic swath of scorched farmland, burned out VW Microbuses and tufts of shredded hair yanked from hipster beards. Why, you ask? Because this band is like Rogue from the X-Men, it kills everything it touches. Here are five solid examples to ponder before the special brownies kick in.
1. They killed Lollapalooza.
OK, so maybe a festival that included Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails and Public Enemy on its rosters wasn't the feel-good touring franchise of the century. But before Metallica played in 1996, the biggest problem facing this festival of dancing Shaolin Monks, adult jungle gyms and piercing stations was Billy Corgan getting pissed off because people liked the Beastie Boys better than his band. Once big daddy Perry Farrell left, though, the wheels came off the cart. An event that once featured teens crying over the loss of Kurt Cobain now reverberated with the sound of pizza delivering high school dropouts chanting “Die, Die, Die” as Lars Ulrich and company laid into their Passover-themed crowd favorite “Creeping Death.” The next year, Lolla tried to save face by putting on a Prodigy/Orbital-fueled rave, but it was too late. The whole thing went on hiatus until 2003, when the tour limped to an unmerciful end -- relegated to one-off, stiflingly hot summer shows in Chicago's Grant Park. One of Metallica's lesser offenses, they may not have ultimately kicked the chair, but they certainly helped secure the noose.
2. They killed hair metal.
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage.com
The average long-haired, black-shirted true believer wasn't altogether pleased when The Black Album went platinum and “Enter Sandman” was all over MTV, but at least this gave Metallica a chance to knock the world on its ass with some thrash metal, no? Wrong, fucko. After Sandman's success, they cut their hair short. Then singer James Hetfield, who inspired the band's nickname "Alcoholica," got sober. Finally, the band released Load, which will go down in history as one of the greatest adult contemporary albums ever released -- easily equaling anything released by Carly Simon or Bread. To pour rock salt into the wound, a year later, the band released the equally pitiful and decidedly unmetal ReLoad, then followed that with an album of Bob Seeger, Thin Lizzie and Blue Oyster Cult covers called Garage Inc., and punctuated the whole mess with symphonic recordings of several of their songs in 1999. With metal's flagbearers out of the picture, metal became the punchline to a cultural joke: Pat Boone recorded an album of metal covers, Ozzy's reality TV show turned him into America's Sweetheart, and Sebastian Bach ended up on The Gilmore Girls.
3. They killed Woodstock '99.
Some would argue that Woodstock as a franchise needed to be killed (which is true) and that the mayhem that erupted at the 1999 edition was Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine's fault (which is slightly false). That's like saying Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc were the driving forces behind the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Professional wet fart Fred Durst and fair-weather activist Zach de la Rocha (our feelings on that here) may have fanned the flames, but the inclusion of Metallica in the lineup made the presence of those bands possible in the first place. Organizers rolled the dice with Metallica once at Woodstock '94 and got lucky. Not this time. There's oppressive heat, overcommericialization and $4 water at nearly all such events, but Hetfield & Co. lit the fuse. You know, it takes a special breed of asshole to see how unhappy the crowds were and still crank out “Fight Fire With Fire” while beer-fueled idiots tear the place apart and then act stunned when there are four rapes and the place is torched a night later. Welcome to the peace festival, motherfuckers!
4. They killed Napster.
Remember this? Back in 2000, "Napster Baaad!" became one of the Web's first viral videos.
There's a reason many of your friends' CD collections come to an abrupt halt in the mid-'90s. It was called Napster, and it was good. Labels and artists cried that it stole their livelihood, but made the same argument about blank cassette tapes years ago. So they adjusted, right? Well, no. Ulrich and several other millionaires called a press conference in 2000 to rat out more than 300,000 fans that downloaded music "illegally." (Technically, it wasn't illegal yet.) Lars singlehandedly saved the music industry and kept CD sales flourishing while labels and artists alike came up with new and innovative ways to get their music to listeners and still earn a profit. At least that's what he'll tell you. Today, the music industry is on deathwatch and the only people who got rich off legal downloads seem to work at Apple. The rest of us still download music illegally, only it's more difficult, stealing songs from Hype Machine and that one guy at work who downloaded every album ever made from Napster eight years ago.
5. They killed Jason Newsted.
The death of original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton in tour bus accident was a tragic and senseless accident. But what they did to poor Jason Newsted makes the shit that goes on at Guantanamo look like a visit to Six Flags. Listen to the ...And Justice For All album sometime and point out the bass parts. If you can't, you're not alone, as Newsted says he was elbowed out as part of Hetfield and Ulrich's little frat-boy hazing ritual that only intensified over time. Sure, they threw Newsted's belongings out hotel windows, jarred him awake at 4 a.m. and tricked him into eating wasabi just for laughs, but how bad did it get? Consider this excerpt from a January 2001 interview in Playboy:
PLAYBOY: Did you know they were telling people you were gay?
NEWSTED: No. I mean, dude, there was so much, that's like a minor detail.
Flogged like an unwanted stepbrother for much of his time with the band, his departure was foreshadowed when Hetfield told him “Jason, you're too metal for your own fucking good, man” during a concert in Mexico City recorded for the band's Live Shit: Binge and Purge boxed set in 1993. Ten years later, as Hetfield and Ulrich had their group hug during the Monster therapy sessions, Newsted was working on a side project. Feeling threatened by Newsted's other venture, Metallica got pissed and Newsted finally had his Tina Turner moment, calling the band's therapy adventure, “really fucking lame and weak.” Newsted's in some band called Voivod now, which is the metal equivalent of the witness protection program.