Sunday, November 20, 2011

Punks venture into the metal slam pit with Exodus, Metallica and the rest of the 'bangers

Exodus' raging vocalist, Paul Baloff (RIP). (All William L. Tuck III photos)
By Andy

I'd heard some Motorhead and Venom from my friend Pat (aka Adam Bomb-- DJ and bass man) in the early '80s, but when bands like Metallica and Slayer came across my path soon after, it was game on.

I grew up a rocker -- UFO, Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, KISS, Cheap Trick, etc. -- and then hooked onto the power, chaos and lyrical inspiration of punk in '79-'80 and let it rip from there. (I'd heard the Sex Pistols on the family AM radio in '77 or so and seen some punk specials on TV, but I remained a rocker for a while longer.)

After testing the headbanging waters with Metallica and Slayer (the latter of whom my buddy John and I hung out with on Pat's show, "The Final Countdown" at LMU in the Los Angeles area), my friends Corrosion of Conformity came to town and unleashed their walloping hymns into my brain in the summer of '84 at the Cathay De Grande. Although punk was my primary thing, I was ready for more clenched-fist metal, for sure.

So I -- along with others in the punk scene -- soon got caught up in the speed/thrash-metal scene a bit, mixing in with the longhairs at gigs featuring Possessed, Exodus, Hirax, Detente, Dark Angel, Savage Grace, etc.

COC, DRI, Dr. Know, GBH and other punk/metal hybrid bands were usually on the bills, as well, so those raucous gigs were begging to have us in attendance.

"You guys are fucking raging," Exodus singer Paul Baloff (RIP) screamed to a crowd at the Balboa Theater one fine evening.

Exodus' Baloff and Gary Holt at the Country Club.
Speaking of Exodus, my pal Jim (nowadays known as "Bobo" on TV's "Finding Bigfoot") and I took in a gig with the Bay Area's premier thrashers at the Country Club in Reseda in April of '85. They were sadly backed by the horrible, glammy Ruthless, but Baloff and company tore the place apart with their crucial tunes from the "Bonded By Blood" LP.

Ruthless, once again, were so lame that one young Exodus fan chucked pieces of ice at the singer and was yanked from the gig by a security guard. Much to his dismay, the headbanger missed the band he saved up his pennies to see that night, but the rest of us raged with Exodus tenfold.

In March of that year, I brought my friend Roween along for the metal ride for Metallica and Armored Saint at the Hollywood Palladium.  (Speaking of Roween, Carrie thinks it’s funny that he went to a metal show. She used to carpool with him in high school and he would always drill her about music, stating she had to pick either punk or metal. One or the other, but you could not like both. Carrie would say punk, even though she loved the metal also. )

Metallica actually opened that night and hit us with blast upon blast from the "Ride the Lightning" LP along with earlier tunes. From the initial strains of the melodic intro to "Fight Fire with Fire," some 'bangers in the crowd were already slam dancing... and then when the song kicked into gear, the place fucking erupted, with bodies flying everywhere, voices and fists raised and noggins properly banging -- it was a beautiful sight.

Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett tear up the Hollywood Palladium.

William L. Tuck III, another punk from back in the day, also joined in on the thrash/speed-metal action. Here's his story about Metallica and Exodus and those killer gigs of '85:

My experience with Metallica started when I saw an ad for them in BAM magazine back in 1983 when they did a national club tour with Raven. My thought was, "Who the hell are these country-rock-lookin' dudes?" --especially Lars Ulrich with his beard and Levi's jacket. Then "Kill 'em All" came out at the same time I was getting into Venom (I already was a strong Motorhead fan by this time). I saw that same picture on the back cover of the album, but when the needle hit the wax, I realized how wrong and way off I was in my assumptions of this band.

It wasn't that much time from "Kill 'em All" and "Ride the Lightning," and, for the most part, checking Metallica out live flew under my radar because I was so ensconced in the hardcore scene at that point that I had no desire to "hang" with the metalheads.

What a difference two years makes. With the advent of thrash and speed metal, I could not wait and craved for live shows by this new breed of bands. Metallica were, in my opinion, at the vanguard of this new movement. By 1985, things were going pretty good for them. They had just secured a deal with a major label and they were big enough to play a place like the Hollywood Palladium, a far cry from the places they used to play.

Metallica wasn't even mentioned on the ticket ... Andy scribbled them in.
I was quite stoked to finally witness the band that I grew to love over the last two years. Walking into the Palladium as a full-blown punk rocker was an experience in itself. Some of the metalheads were throwing looks our way as if we didn't belong there. With a bit of hubris, we felt that they borrowed the good aspects of "our" music and felt this music belonged to us as much as it did to the metal guys. Based on that, we knew damn well that we belonged there. 

The opening band was a proto-glam dude named Adam Bomb (not the aforementioned Pat!). We conveniently missed that as to not cloud our minds and be able to witness Metallica to the fullest potential. We made our way up to the front of the stage so that I could take pictures with my trusty 110 camera. 

Your mother cuts hair in hell: metalers had to look good, too
As the lights went down, we suddenly heard the acoustic intro to "Fight Fire with Fire" and out comes the band. I go crazy as does the crowd. The pit was unreal-- it was as if the entire place erupted. I remember being at the bottom of a giant dogpile and being scared shitless, thinking I was going to die like those people at that Who concert did a few years earlier. Fortunately, that didn't happen because everyone was on the same vibe and we were all helping each other. This was a first for me because up until this point, there was always a strong division between punks and metalheads. Longhairs were picking me up and patting me on the back. The band ran through all the select songs from the first two albums and the whole show was spot on. 

I think for Metallica, it was an amazing experience, too, because up until this time, L.A. had dissed them pretty hard and when they came back, they came back in a big way because people were finally getting it. The amazing thing was that Armored Saint were pretty big at this point, big enough to headline, yet after Metallica played, there was but 200 to 300 people left in the audience. A pretty good sign that things were changing in metal music.

This was the first and last time I saw Metallica. A year-and-a-half later, Cliff Burton was dead and they were playing bigger and bigger venues with higher ticket prices. I had no interest in being a part of that. That being said, I feel fortunate to have seen a band of this magnitude at a good place at the right time and I will always remember it being one of the best shows I've ever witnessed. 

Exodus' Holt with an evil stare.

I had started listening to Venom in the summer of 1983, and a year later got turned on to Slayer by these kids I met at Tower Records in West Covina and I was hooked. Reading various metal zines and by word of mouth, I started to hear about the burgeoning Bay Area thrash movement. Bands like Possessed, Metallica and the band I was told was the most extreme: Exodus.

Slayer's Tom Araya


Exodus already had a name for themselves as THE band that hated false metal (ie: Ratt, Motley Crue, etc.). Also, Kirk Hammett was a former member, and if that wasn't a stamp of approval, then I don't know what is. Without even hearing the band, we caught news that they were playing the Country Club and drove out to check these guys out.

They were sandwiched in between two bands called Ruthless and Savage Grace. By Bay Area standards of the day, these two bands would be considered false or posers. 

Ruthless came out in Motley Crue-style leathers and makeup. The crowd, for the most part, was not pleased with this-- they not only began booing them, but spitting on them, as well. It got so bad that one guy went up and tried to punch the singer and was quickly ejected from the club by a huge bouncer. I think they cut their set short in fear of the onslaught that could have potentially ensued had they gone further. I don't remember the music being too bad, just a bit of Priest worship in all the wrong directions.

Up next was the band we came to see: Exodus. They came out with a fury. Five regular dudes that came out and owned the stage with powerful riffs and an angry troll of a vocalist named Paul Baloff. Paul really knew how to work the crowd into a frenzy with his classic in-between-song banter about "killing posers" and "kicking ass." Though not tall in stature, he made up for it by being very intimidating in his demeanor. He was probably 5'6" in height, but carried himself like he was 7 feet tall. The band blazed through their set, which consisted of the songs from "Bonded by Blood." I remember Gary Holt doing the intro to "No Love," a little traditional Irish folk ditty that blew up into a heavy-ass riff. By the time the show was finished, we were believers of not only this band, but Bay Area thrash.

The headlining band was L.A. local posers Savage Grace and we were in no mood for that shit. We promptly left with great memories intact.

In a final twist of irony, I recently bought some tickets to see Saxon from the singer, Sammy, of the reformed Ruthless who were opening the show. I spoke to him a bit about that '85 show and he was pretty embarrassed about how they looked and acted. He told me that in L.A., you pretty much had to look like that to get gigs, but he wasn't too proud of it. I saw them open for Saxon and they were without the makeup and corny leathers. Hell, they even have Jim Durkin from Dark Angel in the band now. Much different band now-- and in a good way.....

Ruthless in '85 ---- ugh.


  1. Ha ha Andy! Check you FB message on my thoughts of these two shows....

  2. I wrote it before I read this article.

  3. Hey Andy. just came across this blog. very cool. I was at those metallica and venom/slayer/exodus shows with me and my fellow punker hooligans. pivotal shit.