Tailgating before a Judas Priest concert, a motley crew of mostly shirtless mid-Atlantic metalheads unites to drink, and yell, and throw the sign of the horns—worshiping the devil music; achieving ecstasy just hanging out.
A lo-fi documentary of one brief gathering of generational outcasts, Heavy Metal Parking Lot concerns a subculture reaching critical mass. Recorded in 1986—a peak of the genre's creative best, before the late 80s descent into hair metal hell—the 15 minutes of montage and interviews are equally silly and significant. The babbling, beer-guzzling shaggy boys are underage and hopeless; the shoeless girls are drunk enough to fuck (or scream about it), but their experience is made transcendental on-camera. The parking lot rite is as much a religious event as the concert. Dropouts and self-styled outcasts gather together to drink the Budweiser blood, adoring their leather-clad gods in the transubstantiated drunken cloud of their unknowing—an electric communion. As one strangely coherent dude states, "There's enough burnouts here to go hands across America."
John Heyn and Jeff Krulik's short reveals the genuine characters of a simple Maryland concert scene, making them, or their memory, as iconic as their idols. The energy and aesthetic of the subjects can be mistaken for immorality and occultism (reflecting qualities inherent to and the perceptions of the music itself), but despite any "Kill 'Em All" t-shirt philosophizing, the fans are sweethearts. They are remarkable for their lack of self-effacement, over-analysis or pretense; they are just who they say they are. The attitude and look still exist—rock is die hard by nature—but the honesty and exuberance also persist in mutations.
VHS copies of the footage circulated within the metal community for decades before its official DVD release in 2006. Among the early fans were the members of Nirvana, who touted the tape as a tour bus favorite. What Nirvana loved, Nirvana fans loved: the tape reached a new respectfully mocking audience that followed its demigods with the same devotion, but didn't gush about it on camera or betray any emotions besides the tortured ones. Without acknowledging it, grunge owed a lot to 80s metal; the Seattle scene sprang up as a reactionary inverse to the terrible resurgence of glam metal at the end of the previous decade. Tragically, 1990s youth culture reinterpreted the unaffected fun of its forebears into the defining quality of their own time: irony. Maybe the Heavy Metal Parking Lot kids weren't alright, but at least they were happy.