by Graham "Gruhamed" Hartmann
I thought I was too old to have a life changing experience at a rock show. Music is more important to me now than it ever was, but I never thought a live band could blow my mind like back in my teenage years. Last Friday proved me wrong. As I stood in the crowd inside the E&L Auditorium at NYU, watching Salome play a 40- minute doom set, I felt the same way I did when I first saw Sum 41 at 15 years old. (don’t judge me!)
The story of how we got into the sold-out sludge fest may be more ridiculous than the show itself. The metal gods must have been looking down on my buddies and me that night, because how we managed to get tickets is truly miraculous. It all started in New Haven, Connecticut, where Joe, Tobey, Anthony and myself met up for the drive down to New York City. We optimistically rejected the idea of pre-sale tickets, favoring the laziness of not planning ahead. “Shrinebuilder, Wolves in the Throne Room and Salome will never sell out,” we thought. “Hell, we’ll probably be the first ones there and snag a spot right in front of the stage, dead center.” So I calmly drove along I-95 South, in no real hurry, listening to Opie and Anthony and making fat jokes about Mo’Nique in “Precious.” I even decided to stop for gas with only 20 minutes until Salome was set to take the stage. I finished re-fueling and hopped back into my car only to hear Tobey on the phone yelling, “Are you serious?!” to a friend who was already at the show. Sold out. The damn show was sold out after only ten minutes into the ticket sales at the door. After failing to find parking on the street and succumbing to the convenience of a $40 parking lot a few blocks from the venue, we ran to the E&L. We ran in through the glass doors, only to be “kindly asked to leave” by the NYU campus police. Outside we found the streets littered with metalheads who had also been refused entry. We overheard that the tickets were only sold out for non-NYU students, so our mission became obvious, grab an NYU student off the street and make the bastard buy them for us.
We managed to find two people who agreed to help us out, but it was no use. They told us that if your ticket says “NYU Student” on it, you’d have to show your NYU I.D. to get in. Our only option left was to call any connection we had in the metal industry in a weak attempt to get onto the guest list. After being denied again and again by our industry contacts, we began to accept the fact that we’d be driving back to Connecticut without seeing a metal show. I was crushed. I’d been looking forward to this show for weeks. Ever since I heard the crushing shriek of Katherine Katz on Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s 2009 release, “Agorapocalypse,” I was addicted. She captivated me so much, that when I found out about her other band, Salome, I raced to their Myspace page at light speed. I even got the opportunity to interview her for Joe’s radio show, “Metal ‘til Midnight.” The second I learned that Salome would be gracing New York City with their music; I was dedicated, no matter what the circumstance. But my luck had run out. I was cast out onto the street, hopes crushed, listening to the ramblings of a black meal elitist about why his friend doesn’t deserve to wear a Venom t-shirt.
“Do you want these tickets?”
I turned to my left to find four fresh tickets being held out by a bearded kid in a beanie. I didn’t know how to respond.
“Do you want them or not?”
“Are they guest tickets?” I asked.
“Do you want them or not?” he asked us again.
“Wait a minute, are they for guests or for students?” He brought them closer to my face, and I saw the three most beautiful letters I’ve ever seen at the bottom of the ticket… GUE. I was floored.
“How much do you want for them?”
He looked up at me. “Take them,” he said as he placed the tickets into my hand. Was I dreaming? Had I finally snapped? Was my personal devastation and denial of reality causing me to hallucinate? Or was this guy really giving me free tickets to a sold-out show? How did he get them in the first place? It didn’t matter. I grabbed my friends and dragged them into the building, ready to face the guard who had booted us out just minutes earlier. He knew we didn’t have tickets earlier. Would he let us in? I put on my best confidant grin, and handed him my ticket. He quickly glanced at the thickened paper stub, and gave me the wave in.
I couldn’t get to the elevator quick enough. We got to the fourth floor of the building and I could hear the creeping doom of Salome flowing through the walls. I practically ran through the double doors into the venue; I could hear Kat’s vocals piercing through the concrete and steel. I opened them, and found myself in the presence of the monstrous three-piece from Washington D.C. known as Salome. The people in the crowd were hypnotically bobbing their heads in unison; it was obvious that the band was getting through to these people. They were out in full force, head-banging and sickeningly twisting to their music. I secured a spot right in front of Kat, and watched. The vocalist must have only been scraping 5 feet even, but on stage she was a titan. She was pouring with emotion, her eyes painfully squinting and her arm shaking as she let loose scream after scream. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline pumping through me, the miracle of getting into the show for free, or the fact that I was hearing one of my favorite vocalists live, but their music hit me deeper than almost anything I had ever experienced. So much so that my eyes began to well up. This was my experience, and it changed the way I think about metal. Wolves in the Throne Room were good and Shrinebuilder were okay, but this was truly Salome’s night. So that’s my story. I bought a Salome shirt (which I’m wearing as I type this) and paid my $40 parking bill, knowing that my life had just turned for the better. This isn’t a puff piece. I’ve never met the band, I don’t work for Profound Lore Records and I’m not being paid to write this story. All I happened to do was find a diamond in the rough, something that filled me with enough passion to sit in front of a laptop for two hours. And to me, that’s what music is all about.