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Thursday, August 27,2009

Hell on Earth

Why Lansing's metal scene rules supreme

by David Peterman

(Editor's note: David Peterman is lead vocalist and guitarist for Lansing metal band Satyrasis. Rich Tupica's regular column will be back next week)

When most people mention Lansing in a musical conversation, there is plenty of hipster pontification, alterna-indie college dork jargon and curmudgeonly laments about the bygone days of the old Civic Center and the death of “real rock ‘n’ roll.”


One thing I guarantee you’ll probably never hear, unless you catch an enlightened record store conversation, is the idea of Lansing as the Heavy Metal Capital of Michigan.

Even as I type that sentence, I hear some of my friends groaning or calling me a douche bag (they do this often), but after seeing what much of this state has to offer, there’s not a doubt in my mind.


Lansing has her musical maladies, just as any town in this state, but playing and being involved in Lansing has much more upside. For starters, Lansing breeds metal heads as if it was Lemmy Kilmister’s personal egg donor. We are a blue-collar town in the grips of industrial collapse, stuck between university pretense and political corruption. Like no other place in our fair state, we toe the line between rural escapism and urban cynicism, smelting an ideological alloy that gives our metal bands a distinct perspective no other city can match.

Lansing’s metal-ists operate in a more concentrated fashion; regardless of what kind of metal your band is hip to, you’re playing at the same clubs, dealing with the same promoters and meeting the same musicians night after night. It’s camaraderie by necessity, given the fact that some of the bands don’t even get along, or care about the other’s music.

Perhaps the most widely overlooked fact about Lansing’s metal bands is their ability to be heads above all other Michigan metal in terms of creativity, originality or execution. Even if they’re not trying, Lansing metal bands stand out from their peers, because of their unique perception of themselves and their music. They just don’t give a damn.


They’re playing for their ideals and nobody else’s.


My band and I found out just how special our hometown actually is. A while back we embarked on a 24-state jaunt, playing a new town and usually in a different state every night. In every town, we talked with local bands and fans about the state of affairs in their city or state. The answers to our questions were always grim or in some way tepid. The bands in Brooklyn lamented the lack of cooperation between local bands. An Orlando club owner confided that they just don't have enough talent in town. A band from Austin, Texas, that had just played Lansing two weeks earlier told us Lansing by far had the best crowd of its tour. Every night we played with bands that weren't supportive of one another — bands that had spent their entire existence in the same 20-mile radius, and had never talked with one another before.

The word “scene” has connotations that are so repulsive it makes me gag a little. Be that as it may, it might be the only word that fittingly describes the bubbling under the surface that our city has been experiencing for the last couple of years. Scene or no scene, after seeing what a large portion of the country has to offer, I know that it is one thing: Special.

Still, all is not sunny. For years now, attendance at local shows has atrophied, which can be attributed to many factors. One of the biggest, I believe, happens to be the ill-conceived notion that our city holds little talent. I can speak for the many bands I have seen that this is not the case.


We also are victims of the imaginary line that MSU students dare not cross, thinking that the only entertainment available to them is served across Grand River Avenue or in their dorm rooms. If the scores of MSU matriculations that filter in each fall were made privy to the amount happenings a couple miles to the west, I think our music community as a whole would benefit.

Bottom line, if you’re into heavy metal, or watching other genres of live music, get your ass to a show. You’re guaranteed to see some very talented bands.

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