Metal Etiquette 101: The Jukebox

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Metalheads are a unique bunch in that we take great pride in enjoying music that normal people consider abrasive. They may look down upon us, call us “weird” and our music “scary”; so let’s fix that. Welcome to Metal Etiquette 101. Today’s topic: The Jukebox.

As metalheads we have a couple of social responsibilities, and our primary one should be doing our best to extinguish the terrible music of the world. Think of a time one of your friends or relatives said “I pretty much listen to everything, but mainly country and hip-hop” or “Five Finger Death Punch and In This Moment are the heaviest bands I can get into” (I know you’re cringing inside just seeing those words, trust me it wasn’t easy to type either). Another responsibility we possess is to try to share our refined musical tastes with the rest of society. The problem is that our music — heavy metal and all variations thereof — is not very accessible at all. Like I said in the intro paragraph, it’s considered abrasive and scary to the casual listener, characteristics that greatly impede our cause. As much as we’d like to, we cannot introduce heavy metal to a normie with bands like Pissgrave or VI (even if your jukebox has those choices).

Let’s talk for a moment about the jukebox: a social tool utilized by bars all across the globe with the similar goal of promoting comfort, good times, and discussion among patrons. Old school jukeboxes may have a collection of 50 albums give or take, but the newer ones have Internet access and a very wide selection of songs (you’ll just have to pay a few more cents for them). It’s a tool that can bring people together or tear them apart, depending on the music emanating from its speakers — music chosen by the people in close proximity. What type of music do you typically hear from the jukebox? If the bars you attend are anything like the ones in St. Louis, you can plan on hearing tracks from popular bands such as Nickelback, Mumford and Sons, or… Kenney Chesney (that’s a person, right?) You can see the dilemma here.

There are three types of metalheads that I know about when it comes to playing the jukebox:

  • The “no f**ks given” user. When my friend Dave returns to our circle of friends after spending several dollars at the jukebox, I typically see a wide smile on his face while the jukebox blares a shredder from Coma of Souls by Kreator. Dave and the rest of us now have a short amount of time to jam solid tunes before the majority of the patrons start grumbling and the bartender has to make an executive decision to either A) turn the volume way down or B) activate the emergency “song skip” button to something more palatable to the people. Yes we got to hear a few minutes of some great tunes, but he is now a few dollars poorer and several eyes at the bar are glaring at us for disrupting the peace. But let’s say the local admins [the staff] allow some death metal or thrash, the rest of the folks in the bar may look at, and judge, a group of ugly guys with scary black t-shirts who are headbanging to Cannibal Corpse. Incorrect though they may be, they will most likely categorize us as unapproachable, unsociable, and generally mean folks. After all, rarely does a person get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • The troll. Some folks have been known to intentionally play that especially terrible Daughtry song (“I’m Comin’ Home”… but in yarl-speak) as a social experiment to see who takes a liking to it, and proceed to laugh at them behind their backs. This is a very entertaining role to play, but it doesn’t help “the cause” (of propagating heavy metal and the acceptance thereof). It anything, it definitely helps to highlight the most desperate souls in need of saving. Perhaps trolling is a useful move earlier in the night to locate those patrons before moving onto the next phase.
  • The diplomat. Here is where we can do our part to help the cause, first by ensuring that the jukebox has enough good music in its queue (to bump out any potential Uncle Kracker or Jimmy Buffet), and to help ease the common listener into something heavier. The user can pick some classic hard rock with heavy riffing or maybe some modern heavy metal that doesn’t employ screaming/harsh vocals.

I like to select tracks from Deep Purple, Clutch, or Van Halen; but NEVER one of the radio singles. My first go-to is always the following track by Queen because it’s catchy, relatively heavy, and it’s definitely not “We Are the Champions,” which is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard by one of the best rock bands in existence. A casual listener may recognize Freddie Mercury’s voice or Brian May’s guitar work, without knowing that Queen was ever this good. He may think, “dang, this is heavy for Queen; perhaps it’s time to investigate their works beyond that horrid Greatest Hits disc I have at home.”

Hopefully you choose the “Diplomat” route when making your next visit to the area jukebox. The people do not want to hear “Acolytes” by Horrendous… yet. If we give them enough time they may be coerced into heavy metal; but they need to be eased into it just as we were many years ago. Start with the training wheels and understand that they will come off over time, even if it takes a decade. The common man is receptive to influence though he may not be aware, nor willing to admit it! Think of how easily people are influenced by the songs on the radio: does anyone like that “Rockstar” song? Really? REALLY? Or are they just institutionalized by top 20 radio into thinking that it’s good, by pure repetition?  I think we all know the answer.

(My favorite Van Halen song, because SCRIMM!!!)

Be mindful of your micro-actions and use them to help shape others around us. Even the smallest pebble will cause ripples in a pond, so start there. What type of jukebox user are you?  What songs do you gravitate towards? And most importantly, are you willing to do your part to help the cause? This has been our first lecture of Metal Etiquette 101.

(Images via TV Insider, reddit)

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