Music documentary

A look back at the hilarious musical documentary “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”

Have you ever spent hours outside of a gig queuing to see your favorite band? If so, you might recognize the kind of people featured in the cult classic, Heavy metal parking.

On paper, it’s such a ridiculous concept to make a short film, but on May 31, 1986, documentary filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn decided to put on a Judas Priest concert in Landover, Md., To chat with some members of the public.

If you ask someone who’s been to a concert before, they’ll likely tell you that the kind of conversation that takes place beforehand can range from mundane and insane to intriguing and immersive.

Without a doubt, a shared love of music and an opportunity to hang out together can get anyone to start a conversation, but generally these conversations aren’t worth recalling more than 30 minutes later.

However, Heavy metal parking proves that sometimes you can come across conversations that people are still talking about over 30 years later.

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May 31, 1986 was a Saturday night and was the perfect opportunity for music lovers to go out and have some fun. In this case, a horde of heavy metal fans hit Maryland’s Capital Center for a double header featuring English icons Judas Priest and American rockers Dokken.

Performing as part of Judas Priest Fuel for Life Tour, the show was popular and attracted hundreds of like-minded people.

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Two of the people happened to be Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, who brought with them a video camera and microphone. The plan? To talk to those viewers and get a glimpse of the era that featured the odd and irreverent concert subculture of the era.

Talk to NPR in 2016, Krulik explained that he and Heyn were grading filmmakers looking for a story to document.

“I had heard the commercials on the radio, so we knew it was a metal show,” Kulik explained. “We kind of knew what we were getting into or hoping to get into. “

“We had no idea how to do it the right way. But I think for what it was, it was the right way, ”he added.

Running barely 17 minutes, Heavy metal parking managed to capture some now iconic footage including a pair of metalheads singing on ‘Living After Midnight’, a guy who wants to see all drugs legalized, a 20-year-old Dave Helvey hosting a makeup shoot with his 13-year-old companion, and the ‘Zebraman’ you have to see to believe.

Discover “Living After Midnight” by Judas Priest:

While it hasn’t exactly been released with rave reviews and red carpet premieres, Heavy metal parking quickly became an underground classic. In fact, it’s frequently cited as one of the most beloved pieces of tour bus material for grunge icons Nirvana, with the band watching it on repeat in the early ’90s.

“For anyone who wants to understand what a heavy metal crowd was like when heavy metal was at its peak in the 1980s, this is a perfect document of this moment in musical history,” said Laura Schnitker, ethnomusicologist from the University of Maryland. , explained to NPR. “It’s just a great fandom snapshot.”

One of the viewers of the documentary, Zev Zalman “ZZ” Ludwick, described the atmosphere created by these pre-show rituals.

“We would all spread the word to our friends, ‘Hey, meet us before the show’, you know? We were going a few hours early, ”said Ludwick, who repairs instruments for a living.

“There’s a whole feeling when you meet people for the same thing in common – all about music and just having fun.”

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In the years that followed Heavy metal parking, filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn have not completed their documentation of the gatherings there, recording interviews for Harry Potter parking lot (documenting a book signing by JR Rowling in 1999), and Neil Diamond Parking Lot, who saw attendees at a Neil Diamond concert in the same location as the original, ten years later.

In the early 2000s, the duo worked on an eight-part series that covered similar topics, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original film, they released a documentary “Where Are They Now” which saw them catch up with some of the interviewees most emblematic of the original.

More than 30 years after the release of the original documentary, Heavy metal parking much still stands as an incredible snapshot of the musical fandom of the era.

Of course, looking at it these days, it all feels a bit too far in the past, with the fierce metal bands of the era looking tame compared to today’s envelope pushers. Even the crowd seems to be satirical to some extent, with their vernacular appearing mundane and dated.

But for those who lived through the time, it was far from being a fantasy, it was real life, and it was the people we rubbed shoulders with trying to get a better view of your favorite band.

With a simple concept, intriguing participants and an iconic piece of underground cinema status, there has never been anything like it. Heavy metal parking since, and probably, there never will be.

To verify Heavy metal parking “Where are they now” feature: