Sep 17th, 2008
The Flickr set for this post is here.
In my continuing effort to stay away from the “tourist track” and do things that locals might do, things that locals might not do, or things that I think will be funny, I went to a “deathcore” metal festival, spent time in various parks of varying degrees of sketchiness, and got my life threatened by a crazy man this past weekend in Medellin, Colombia. Here are the details:
There was no problem finding the address for the much-anticipated Dark Blood Fest on Saturday night. I put on the best thing I had available to wear before leaving – a my red “Periodic Table of the Elements” t-shirt and cut off jeans. About two blocks away in central Medellin, we could hear the drums, feedback, grinding guitar and the growling vocals of amateur metal. The place just looked like a normal building – not the bar or concert hall I was expecting.
“This is gonna be awful,” I said to my roommate, Brent. Standing outside, we took a couple pictures of the venue when some sweaty Colombian guy leaned out the window and yelled at me in English, “Hey! Nigger! Come here, mother fucker!”
Hm. Right. Knowing I would probably be seeing this racially confused master of English inside, I grinned at him and gave him a thumbs up yelling, “Just a second!”
We went inside and upstairs to find a bunch of teenagers dressed in black milling about. To my undiscerning eye, most of them looked like hair-across-the-eyes MySpace Emo Kids. One half of the place was a small-for-a-concert second floor room that housed Dark Blood Fest and the other was an in-use bowling alley. I’m sure the people that came to bowl loved the aural onslaught from the other side of the building.
Paying the $10,000 Peso entrance fee, we walked in and the screaming hit us. We stood in the back while the air-curdling sonic manifestation of teen angst strained the PA and amps. A circle of about 75 people surrounded the band with a mosh area in the middle. There were no lights in the room and I actually didn’t need the earplugs I brought. I was expecting a little something more, I think. Perhaps a fountain of red food coloring water?
Dancing at the metal show consisted of either doing nothing, nodding ones head while swaying slightly, or wildly kicking and punching the air during more frantic parts of the music. Some chose to kick the air in the mosh pit while others (especially the girls) would furiously punch and kick the air in front of them outside the central mosh pit. This looked kind of like a kooky workout tape. The guys in the middle were more Capoeira-style with their kicking; jumping up while doing continuous round-house kicks.
Here’s a video of your standard cute Colombian Metal Girl doing the Air Punch ‘n Kick dance. Apologies for it turning sideways; Brent shot it:
My favorite mosh technique, though, was the crowd-parting “pick your friend up under their shoulders and swing them around at people while they bicycle kick at people’s faces” method. It instantly caused everyone to hurriedly step back and cleared a big swath on the floor. What weenies. If they were true Fans of Death, wouldn’t they allow themselves to get kicked in the face?
Within one minute of being in the room, the guy that yelled at me from the window found me. He came over and gave me a big sweaty hug, slap on the back, and introduced me to his girlfriend. I doubt he expected I was actually going to come inside. I couldn’t understand much of what he said, but seemed to get a good reaction when I would yell, “Rock and roll!” and make the rock and roll sign with my hand. This became my default reply to anything anyone said to me at Darkblood Fest.
Sweaty Guy went in to a diatribe about how he hates Emo Kids (“they are gay”), called one of his friends gay a bunch of times (this friend was, incidentally, an Emocore lover), and espoused the awesomeness of Deathcore and Grindcore metal. “Rock and roll!” came my enthusiastic reply.
We milled about inside and outside the room. Outside, we were the subject of much interest from the high school kids sitting around. They were nice and shared their crappy booze with us. I got asked what kind of music I liked, but had trouble with specifics after telling them I like metal. “Well, you know, I used to work with this guy that likes metal. He played it and it rocked. Umm… Autopilot Off? Baby Killer?” (Autopilot Off is relatively candy-assed punk band that hasn’t played in 3 years. “Baby Killer” is only a song title of some metal song.) It was the best I could come up with. They didn’t say anything. Several of them liked hiphop, though, so that worked much better to talk about.
While we didn’t see a drop of blood, the music wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. By no means did I like it, but there was actually an element of melody to it and wasn’t completely just grunting and grinding. It wasn’t ear-splittingly loud. I’m not saying I’m gonna load my iPod up with metal now, but it was certainly tolerable.
Here’s some video of the event of a typical song:
The kids were nice and Dark Blood Fest was fun. Thanks, Colombian Metal Crowd; I’d come back. I’m glad we could hang out for a couple hours and I’ve now got some new Facebook friends to clutter up my friend feed. I’m not sure what it would take for me to actually start moshing (Sweaty Guy did ask me to join them in “The Pit”), but I was glad to watch from a safe distance. A safe distance. Pretty hardcore, eh?
We left Dark Blood Fest after a couple hours and headed towards the middle of Centro.
Suicidal Crazytime Screamer says God will kill me.
After Dark Blood Fest, I wanted to check out a park I’d read about in Centro called either “El Guanabano” or “Parque Periodista.” We had wanted to go there on Thursday night, but it seemed a bit too sketchy to walk to so we decided to save it.
It was hopping and it was on the grimy side. I liked it very much. Parque Periodista was full of the usual evening crowd of drinkers, dealers, and weed smokers sitting around outside. A lot of early to mid-thirties tattooed people, Sex Pistols and Misfits t-shirts, and assorted riffraff with establishment-attacking hair dos. I bet they’d love Roller Derby. Excellent fodder for more interesting interactions than the button-up shirt crowd in Parque Lleras.
We had lots of conversations with lots of different people. Most were just regular people that worked and lived in the area. I met an astrophysics student and his girlfriend. Other groups taught us new and useful vocabulary and shared stories. Good times.
The highlight of Parque Periodista, though, was Suicidal Crazytime Screamer. He said his name was Paul. Initially, I had no idea that Suicidal Crazytime Screamer was suicidal, crazy, a screamer, or a religious nut. However, he would earn his namesake and make these facts abundantly clear after about 45 minutes.
Paul (pictured right) approached me and Brent as we were sitting in the park. We talked to him for about a half an hour during which time he offered us coke (Again, no thanks.), told us how much he loves gringos, how welcoming his country is, and that he used to work for Pablo Escobar. He was doing coke bumps fairly regularly. It seemed perfectly normal except for the fact that he said he wanted to kill himself several times.
Brent and I offered several helpful reasons of why he should not kill himself and keep living and he eventually wandered off. That seemed to be that.
Fifteen minutes later, though, I was sitting and talking to another group while Brent talked to some other people about ten feet away from me. Paul came back and approached me. What happened next was curious. He started talking to me moderately normally, but then something changed in him. The crazy took over.
He started puffing his chest out and speaking dramatically like he was overacting in a Shakespeare play. At first I thought he was trying to be funny, but it quickly became evident that he wasn’t kidding and was attempting to be threatening.
Paul then officially transformed from Paul to Suicidal Crazytime Screamer. He started shaking and talking about God and Jesus and blood. He would make dramatic swoops of his arms and body as his voice got louder and louder. He shook his fist at me and pointed at me. His voice rose and fell in volume and pitch. Sometimes he would talk in a snake-like hissy whisper voice and other times he screamed. People in the crowded park began to stop their conversations and start looking. All of this drama and energy was focused directly at me.
He started yelling and screaming. A lot. It was death talk and Day of Reckoning talk. He told me that God was going to kill me and all the gringos. He made machine gun noises and gestures. He would go “Ratatatatatat! Chichchchchchci!” as he sprayed the bemused crowd with his imaginary gun. He was talking all manner of crazy. Batshit crazy. En Espanol. All sorts of apocalyptic stuff and vocabulary that went beyond my knowledge. I tried to reason with him for a little bit, but you can’t reason with crazy. I stopped talking and assumed my best neutral but pleasant face and let him continue.
His eyes were wide and locked on to mine the entire time. I matched his gaze and tried to look amiable, though I was inwardly slightly alarmed by his shift in tone. I’m not used to being told that God will kill me and all my countrymen from someone who initially told me he loves my kind. In fact, I wasn’t sure if he was going to pull out a knife or do something even more crazy so I kept my eyes on him and tried to be ready to move quickly if necessary.
This went on for about six or seven minutes. For some reason, he eventually wandered off to scream at everybody else for a while. I took a breath and turned to grin at the gaggle of people that were looking at me. “Wow, how ’bout that guy, eh?”
The best part of Suicidal Crazytime Screamer was the way my nonplussed reaction seemed to endear me to the crowd around me. Everyone was apologetic and made sure to tell me — as if it wasn’t really obvious — “That guy is crazy.”
He spent the next two hours we were there walking around and yelling at everyone or walking to the street and yelling at cars. I later learned the best way to deal with him is to ignore him, though I was too wary to look away initially.
I joined several groups after that and we continued talking. The rest of the evening at Parque Periodista was fun and I could have stuck around longer than we did. However, we finally left after Brent got punched in the back by the friend of a drug dealer for what he describes as “no reason.”
We spent the rest of the night wandering around Centro, observing skanky prostitutes (see below), and talking with randoms. Brent got mad at a woman at a bar who wouldn’t sleep with him that night and we had to leave again. We taxied back to Parque Poblado in our neighborhood for a little while and talked to some girls that were celebrating their friends’ engagement.
Fun night. Here are some pictures, starting with a favorite from the night featuring me and a lady I’ve dubbed “Sausage Shorts” and followed up by your standard Medellin centro prostitute.
The other noteworthy thing that happened this past weekend was meeting Abdul Alsaler, the Guinness Record-holding man who pops his eyes out of his head and gives you a postcard for a dollar. I would have just let the guy go by, but I was hanging out with Luisa in Parque Envigado and she had seen a video of him on YouTube and paid him to hang out with us for a bit.
These are the results:
Random Racism of the Week
In my continuing end-note series of observed things in South America that are racist to me, I saw this ad for “Niggaz Jeans” on the side of a building in Central Medellin. It’s very prominent right by the largest Metro train station in the city.
Here’s your Flickr set again. That’s all for now, people. Stay tuned.