“I’m slutty and weird. Is that strange I’m telling you that?” asks single gal Rachel during the first-ever edition of Speed Metal Dating, at Saint Vitus Bar. She’s come straight from Wiffle ball and is thus clad in sporty leggings, but most other participants — about 76 in all — are in black, a near-uniform mass of leather jackets, jeans, band T-shirts, and tattoos. Rachel, apparently an active dater, spotted another metalhead she’d matched with before on Tinder. Despite their mutual interest, it hadn’t worked out, yet here they were again, both hoping to have better luck this evening, among their people.
The second hopefuls I met were two bald buds from the Newark, New Jersey, area. DJ Dirty Teddy, a self-proclaimed internet troll, was wearing his Sephora-purchased Gucci Guilty cologne to entice the ladies, pairing the scent with torn shorts and a septum ring. Teddy introduced me to his roommate Sean, referencing the powerful vocalist of Judas Priest: “He’s a not-gay Rob Halford.” Sean wore a Venom T-shirt and had written “Dad” on his name tag. His main criterion for a date: “no cocaine.”
While Sean’s shirt went over well with many in attendance, knowledge of that band’s catalog (or those of other speed metal acts, like Judas Priest or Blind Guardian) was not a requirement: This was metal-themed speed dating, not speed-metal-exclusive dating, an important distinction considering the clientele.
As the front bar filled with lovelorn metalheads, there were some shy sidelong glances, but more booze-ordering and phone-staring than true pre-gaming. Hip attendees knew to ask for a “Lemmy” when they wanted a tall Jack & Coke, a recent renaming of the dearly departed Motörhead frontman’s preferred apertif. Those saving pennies for the first dates they hoped to leave with stuck to wallet-friendly PBRs.
While I eavesdropped on the proceedings, an engaging shaggy-haired dude in a sleeveless Batman T-shirt sidled over to the bar: James, 33, guitarist. When he found himself speaking to a reporter rather than a potential hookup, he went into promo mode, pitching me his band, Tower, as “classic metal with a girl singer.” His name tag, which he’d stuck onto a toned bicep, read “Jimbo Slice.” If there are any interested ladies reading this, he would like you to know that he has a sixteen-year-old cat he loves very much and that his band is playing Saint Vitus this Saturday, April 16.
By 7:22 p.m., organizers had filled Saint Vitus’s concert floor with rows of folding chairs, to be occupied for the length of a heavy song song — say, Slayer’s “Angel of Death” (4:51) or “Clean My Wounds” by Corrosion of Conformity (3:33). The first participant to sign up and receive his “Hello I’m…” badge was a buff, clean-cut, short-haired dude; next in the queue was an elegant woman with long hair and black nails. All the name tags were modified to read simply “Hell,” festooned with between one and four hand-drawn inverted crosses.
Setting the mood for love with “not all kinds of metal, only good metal” was emcee and DJ Dave Hill, who co-hosts the Web series Metal Grasshopper with former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo. Musing before the event, Hill suggested that a potential icebreaker might be, “Do you like Dio-era or Ozzy Black Sabbath better?” (Hill’s answer: Ozzy, but both singers were “amazing.”) Smiling as he turned on the fog machine, he predicted, “I imagine tonight will devolve into chaos. If it goes well, we’ll do it again; if it goes horribly, we’ll do it again sooner.”
As Hill cranked the metal, hopeful hookers-up chatted, laughed, and debated the merits of their respective favorite bands. Thomas, newly single and the proud owner of a “loud lounge” (his nickname for the metal version of a “man cave”), was nervous but seemed to do well as he switched partners, per Hill’s instructions: “Ladies, stay put — let the men come to you!”
By the third song, a joking shout of “Back off, she’s mine” could be heard, but all in all, the chatters were serious, intent, and clearly, it seemed, having fun. One girl wore a helmet; after all, dating can be dangerous. I overheard another musing — “I was thinking about how I needed a will” — to a starry-eyed potential suitor.
After at least two hours of “dating,” Sean, his Venom tee now a bit sweaty, emerged from his dating escapade looking dazed and muttered, simply, “Brutal.” Still, he came out of the evening with a couple of numbers for (hopefully cocaine-free) ladies.
Zora, a fan of Mongolian folk-metal band Tengger Cavalry, and many of the other women in attendance were genuine metal lovers who came with “low expectations” but left pleasantly surprised. A few memorable mishaps transpired, both wonderfully metal: one drink thrown in a dude’s face for a rude comment, and one offer of bestiality. But even the pit bull’s owner, Marisa, left happy. “He’s going back to Scotland tomorrow,” she explained, “so I think my dog’s safe.”
As Hill concluded after he’d called the final round, “If a grindcore person can get along with a stoner metal person, maybe we can all get along.” Cheers.