Full Speed or Nothing

My New Jersey Transit bus was predictably late, and when it arrived it was standing room only. The Lincoln Tunnel was jammed on the way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I dodged a few homeless people on my way to the subway platform and hopped the C Train to the Fulton Street Station. A quick walk from there to my Financial District office in Downtown Manhattan and my Monday morning slog to work was complete. I settled into my desk, said hi to everyone, put my phone on the charger and got to work. I am a software developer, and I had a lot of coding to do that day.

There was nothing out of the ordinary on the agenda for the day. The only unusual circumstance was that my boss was visiting that day from our Miami office. He and I had placed a sandwich bet on a Dolphins/Jets NFL game about a month prior, and my Jets won it for me. We decided we would settle the bet at the recently reopened Lenwich in Hanover Square that day. I knew he would be extra annoyed because he really hates the Jets. That was going to make my sandwich even more enjoyable.

About two hours into my day, I paused what I was doing to look at my phone. There was a text message from Metallica (I had previously subscribed to text alerts from their website):

Wait, what? A new Metallica song? How come I hadn’t heard anything about this? What is happening? I’m confused! Wait, how to you pronounce the title? Is “Æ” even in the alphabet?

With alacrity I put my PC headset on and navigated to YouTube. At the top of Metallica’s channel was a link to the new video. I set the volume to maximum and clicked play. Metallica had unleashed a thrash metal instant classic. On first listen, it sounded like a grown-up sequel to “Hit the Lights” from their first album “Kill ‘Em All” crossed with Motörhead’s “Overkill”. I was instantly amazed and fired up.

My mind was racing as I tried to take it in. I needed to know more so I navigated to metallica.com in search of answers. The home page was remade since my last visit.

Wait, what? I just found out about the new Metallica song. But what’s this about a new Metallica album? And what is this about a new Metallica Tour?

I clicked on the tour link and saw the full itinerary. They laid out their touring schedule for 2023 and 2024 all at once. They announced they would play two nights in each city and both set lists would be unique. There were cities all over North America and Europe on the list. One city jumped out at me. It would be a chance to finally make a dream come true.

Metallica is my favorite band, which probably goes without saying. I am imbued with the following beliefs:

  • Metallica is the greatest band of all time.
  • James Hetfield is the greatest singer of all time.
  • James Hetfield is the greatest guitarist of all time.
  • Lars Ulrich is the greatest drummer of all time.
  • Kirk Hammett is the second greatest guitarist of all time.
  • Robert Trujillo is the second greatest bassist of all time.

If you were to challenge me on any of those points, I would not even bother to argue. I would just think that you are stupid, and it would not be worth my time.

In 2018 I wrote a story about a twenty year stretch of my life as a Metallica fan against a backdrop of technological changes in the world over that time. I detailed the twenty-two Metallica concerts I had seen up to that point. But Metallica has been on the move since then and I added five more concerts to my total since 2019.

We flew to San Fransisco in September 2019 for S&M 2, which was the first event at the newly built Chase Center. After a pause in touring for the COVID-19 restrictions, the band hit the road again in 2021. We flew to Louisville in September for the Louder Than Life Festival, and Metallica headlined two of the four nights, playing a distinct set each time. In 2022 I went to the two closest Metallica shows to New Jersey, Boston in May, and Buffalo in August.

Each show was a unique experience, and they were all a reminder about how important it is for me to continue to see Metallica play live at every opportunity I get. They have significantly cut back on their touring schedule, and they are not getting any younger. But they look and sound better than they ever have.

I have been to 27 Metallica concerts over a 30 year stretch from 1992 to 2022. But prior to 2019, I had never traveled very far to see them. I was content to see them play in cities I could drive to from New Jersey, the furthest one being Montreal.

I was never much of a traveler. As a child, our family vacations consisted of driving south for two hours for a two week stay in Long Beach Island. I loved it. I never was jealous of other kids who flew to other places like Disney World. The Jersey shore had everything I needed from a vacation spot, and it was cheap and easy to get there.

Not much changed as an adult. I would rent out houses with friends in various spots between Belmar and Point Pleasant Beach and spend weekends there in the summer. The stories I could write about the things I have seen and done at the Jersey Shore could fill a book. If I could even remember them all!

I also purchased a Harley Davidson in 1999, and I have owned one ever since. When I was not at the shore in the summer, I would be on the bike exploring routes and destinations all along the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to Quebec.

Typically, those two activities would satisfy my need to get out of the house and go somewhere. But along the way, I did pick up a nagging desire to mix things up occasionally.

For a long stretch, in the 2000’s, Metallica would only tour in Europe. They would send me an e-mail with my fan club pre-sale code for tickets every time they announced a tour. It started to get annoying that I had priority access for tickets to shows on another continent, but there were none here in America. I started to think to myself that maybe I should go see them play in France one summer and make a vacation out of it. Maybe even rent a Harley and ride through the countryside for a day or two.

I was never able to put it together. At first, I didn’t make it a priority. Then, I had run myself into financial trouble by gut renovating a house. The project went off the rails and I was flat broke for four years. I finished the project in 2019 and sold my condo and I finally had both the time and the money to try to make the “Metallica in France” dream come true. Then a plague swept the earth and shut down all live concerts!

In 2021 I tried to go to one of their European shows, but due to a snafu with ticketing, and rising flight prices, I failed to put it together yet again. But that turned out to not be much of a problem when I saw the itinerary for the “M72 World Tour” for 2023 and 2024. Now was going to be my chance to live out that dream.

Within a few minutes of watching the Lux Æterna video, my phone lit up like a Christmas tree. Friends were texting back and forth about the news and the potential tour dates. I was so distracted that I had to come clean and explain to my boss that Metallica had just announced a tour and I immediately needed to plan. The pre-sale was going to start in less than 48 hours so some quick decisions would have to be made.

This was a tour announcement like none other. Metallica will play two shows in each city with no song repeats. The stage is in the center of each stadium. It will have a donut hole-shaped “Snake Pit” in the middle of the stage offering a 360 view. The tour itinerary covers North America and Europe from April 2023 to September 2024. The first round of tickets would be sold in two-night passes for each city that cannot be broken up.

The second city on the tour is Paris and that jumped out at me immediately! This could be my chance to finally make this dream a reality. The date is not great, it will require me to reschedule a camping trip that I traditionally host that weekend, but sacrifices would have to be made.

After a few more stops in Europe, the tour heads to North America and the first stop is right here in North Jersey at MetLife Stadium. If Metallica plays New Jersey, I go every time.

The following weekend, they head due north to Montreal. Motorcycle and Metallica trip!

The next city that looked good to me is Phoenix on Labor Day weekend. I just visited the area in 2021 for the NASCAR Cup Series championship race and felt like my trip was too short for some of the things I wanted to do. I also have family in the area and they are fun to spend time with. That would be four cities in 2023, a pretty good number to cap it.

Metallica is going to take a well-deserved break starting in November 2023 and they hit the road again in June 2024, beginning again in Europe. Of the five European cities they will travel to in 2024, the one that looked the most interesting to me is Madrid in July. Why limit my dream to see Metallica in Europe to just Paris when I can also go to Madrid?

The next city on the tour is back in America in Foxborough, MA. That will be another motorcycle and Metallica trip for me, not to mention I have a college friend in the area that I enjoy visiting.

Now that I had an itinerary planned out, it was time to start planning the logistics of buying tickets. To steal a quote from a crappy movie I once saw, I’d rather stick a flaming hot skewer in my eye than deal with Ticketmaster. The company was recently in the news for botching a Taylor Smith tour pre-sale. I was surprised so many people were unaware how horrible the Ticketmaster experience was until then. They have been screwing me since they went online in the late 1990’s.

But I still have my priceless Legacy Fan Club Membership at my disposal, so I was counting on that to help me get tickets for every show. I was a paid member of the Metclub for about 17 years, and in 2016 Metallica obsoleted the paid tier, but promised all paid members that they would be grandfathered in to future pre-sales before the rest of the general pubic. Since then they have kept that promise. Today, no amount of money could buy you a Legacy Fan Club Membership from their website. Take that, Taylor Swift fans!

I collected my unique pre-sale code and got to work. I asked around to see what friends wanted to go to what shows. I was able to buy four passes for each city (but only two Snake Pit passes if I was lucky enough to pull them). There were too many of us going to the New Jersey show for me to help everyone who was going. But between us all we had enough pre-sale codes to accommodate everyone. For the rest of the shows, I had enough of my own ticket allocations to cover those that wanted to join me.

I read through the fine print in the ticket sale FAQ. The Legacy Fan Club pre-sales all start at 9 AM local time. That meant that for the France and Madrid shows, I would have to be online at 3 AM local time. Great.

The East Rutherford, Montreal, and Foxborough pre-sales started simultaneously at 9 AM. But I was advised that Ticketmaster does not like when you are buying tickets for multiple events at the same time. It supposedly guards against things like different browsers on the same device, using one Ticketmaster account login or a singular credit card to make simultaneous purchases. There was no good way to verify this, but I was not going to take any chances. I opened two additional Ticketmaster accounts, I assigned each one a different credit card. I lined up three devices: my personal computer, my work notebook computer, and my work desktop computer. I could use them in conjunction to order tickets for the three shows simultaneously. I never trusted the Ticketmaster iOS app, so I nixed the idea of using my phone.

Finally, there was the Phoenix show. That pre-sale would start at 11 AM, but of course the venue has an agreement with Seat Geek instead of Ticketmaster so that would be a different platform and account altogether. I had never previously bought primary market tickets on Seat Geek, so I had a lot of apprehension about their web site capabilities. But I assumed I would be able to figure it out once the rest of the pre-sales were out of the way and just hope for the best.

I reviewed my plan, checked all my accounts and credit cards, got my PCs ready, copied my pre-sale code to them, then set my alarm for 2:40 AM. I do not recall a previous instance that I was so nervous heading to bed. Maybe it was the day before I bought my first Harley, and I knew that I had to ride it home having never previously operating a motorcycle on a highway.

I did not get much sleep, but I was groggy when the alarm went off. My cats Ozzy and Lemmy gave me a confused look as I stumbled down the hallway to the computers I set up. I followed the links from the band website to the event pages on Ticketmaster France and Ticketmaster Spain. The first thing I noticed was that Ticketmaster France has a much different user interface than the American version. On top of that, despite clicking the “EN” link at the top for English, it didn’t translate everything.

I managed to enter both ticket queues for the Madrid and Paris shows and waited about 15 minutes for my spot to pop up to buy tickets. Madrid was first and I immediately selected two Snake Pit tickets and clicked buy. Bingo, I was allocated two Snake Pit tickets! I began the checkout process, and my username and password weren’t working. Unbeknownst to me, you need a separate Ticketmaster account for each country you want to buy tickets in. I had to begin the process of creating an account quickly enough to secure the Snake Pit tickets.

While this was happening, I was trying to pull Paris tickets on a different computer. But with the different interface and the failed translations, I was having a much harder time figuring out what to do. Everything was in a grid that looked like this:

The Snake Pit column was straightforward, but this didn’t appear to be a simple 2-day pass as advertised. I had no idea which to pick but I tried the link for “Tarif Pack 2” but it came back and said “no more seats in this category”. While I was still trying to check out my Madrid tickets, I had to try to figure out how to drop down to general admission for Paris. I grabbed two tickets for what I thought was general admission, then I also had to create a Ticketmaster France account as a requisite for completing the purchase.

Groggy and as confused as I was, I managed to get Snake Pit for Madrid and two tickets for Paris as well. Off to a good start. I went back to bed.

In the morning, I forwarded the French confirmation e-mail to a friend to ask him if I screwed something up. It turned out that I had, I got seats and not general admission tickets. I guess I confused “Pelouse” with “Carrie Or” when I bought tickets. This was a mistake, but not the end of the world. I would still have a pretty good perspective.

Next up, it was time to buy tickets for East Rutherford, Montreal, and Foxborough at the same time. I checked and my regular Ticketmaster account worked for Montreal, so I was all set with my original three-computer plan. Everything was smooth this time, I was not able to get Snake Pit tickets for any of the shows but was easily able to move down to general admission for all three.

Finally, Phoenix was up next at 11. I checked my Seat Geek account and it said, “there is a problem with your account, please call customer service”. I opened a new account, added a credit card, and got in line for more tickets. I was unfamiliar with their queuing system, but after what seemed like a longer than usual wait, I managed to pull general admission tickets.

With that, I was locked in. No Ticketmaster snafus in any country was going to keep me out. My trusty Metclub Legacy Membership came through for me.

This capped a whirlwind 48-hour stretch. I came out of it with a whole new direction in life. I am going to break up the cycle of only spending my vacation time and weekends on my motorcycle and at the Jersey Shore and throw some big travel plans into the mix, inspired by the greatest band of all time.

I have a lot of preparing I need to do. I need to book flights and accommodations along with sightseeing itineraries. I told my personal trainer that I need to step up the intensity of my workouts. I need my strength and conditioning to be as best as possible for these shows.

This turn of events has inspired me to write. I’m going to keep a journal of events around every trip and every concert and turn it into a Metallica travel blog.

Four countries, six cities, twelve Metallica concerts. When it is done, my lifetime total of Metallica concerts seen will increase from 27 to 39.

The text message I got on Monday, November 28, 2022, wasn’t just a notification for a new Metallica video. It was my existential pivot.

Full speed or nothing.

My M72 World Tour itinerary:

ParisFranceStade de FranceMay 17, 19 2023
East RutherfordUSAMetLife StadiumAug 4, 6 2023
MontrealCanadaStade OlympiqueAug 11, 13 2023
PhoenixUSAState Farm StadiumSep 1, 3 2023
MadridSpainEstadio Cívitas MetropolitanoJul 12,14 2024
FoxboroughUSAGilette StadiumAug 2, 4 2024

My lifetime Metallica shows:

4/8/1992Brendan Byrne ArenaEast Rutherford, NJ
7/17/1998Giants StadiumEast Rutherford, NJ
11/24/1998Roseland BallroomNew York, NY
11/23/1999Madison Square GardenNew York, NY
7/20/2000Giants StadiumEast Rutherford, NJ
7/8/2003Giants StadiumEast Rutherford, NJ
4/20/2004Nassau ColiseumUniondale, NY
10/22/2004Continental Airlines ArenaEast Rutherford, NJ
1/17/2009Wachovia CenterPhiladelphia, PA
1/31/2009Prudential CenterNewark, NJ
2/1/2009Prudential CenterNewark, NJ
11/14/2009Madison Square GardenNew York, NY
11/15/2009Madison Square GardenNew York, NY
9/14/2011Yankee StadiumNew York, NY
6/23/2012Bader FieldAtlantic City, NJ
6/24/2012Bader FieldAtlantic City, NJ
5/12/2017Lincoln Financial FieldPhiladelphia, PA
5/14/2017MetLife StadiumEast Rutherford, NJ
5/17/2017The New Coliseum Presented by NYCVUniondale, NY
7/19/2017Parc Jean-DrapeauMontreal, QC
10/20/2018Bryce Jordan CenterState College, PA
10/25/2018Wells Fargo CenterPhiladelphia, PA
9/6/2019Chase CenterSan Francisco, CA
9/24/2021Highland Festival Grounds at KY Expo CenterLouisville, KY
9/25/2021Highland Festival Grounds at KY Expo CenterLouisville, KY
5/29/2022Harvard Athletic ComplexBoston, MA
8/11/2022Highmark StadiumBuffalo, NY

Songs I’ve seen performed live:

SongTimes Seen
Enter Sandman25
Nothing Else Matters25
Master of Puppets24
Sad But True24
Seek and Destroy21
For Whom the Bell Tolls19
Creeping Death16
Fade to Black15
Wherever I May Roam11
Moth Into Flame9
The Unforgiven9
Ride The Lightning8
The Memory Remains8
Now That We’re Dead7
The Day That Never Comes7
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)7
Atlas, Rise!6
Fight Fire With Fire6
Harvester of Sorrow6
Holier Than Thou6
The Four Horsemen6
All Nightmare Long5
Broken, Beat And Scarred5
Halo On Fire5
No Leaf Clover5
Of Wolf and Man5
That Was Just Your Life5
The End Of The Line5
Hit The Lights4
Last Caress4
Whiskey In The Jar4
King Nothing3
St. Anger3
The Call of Ktulu3
The God That Failed3
Through the Never3
Turn The Page3
Am I Evil?2
Bleeding Me2
Die, Die My Darling2
Don’t Tread On Me2
I Disappear2
Last Caress/Green Hell2
My Friend Of Misery2
The Outlaw Torn2
The Shortest Straw2
The Struggle Within2
The Thing That Should Not Be2
Trapped Under Ice2
Until It Sleeps2
– Human1
(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth1
…And Justice For All1
All Within My Hands1
Damage Inc.1
Devil’s Dance1
Dirty Window1
Disposable Heroes1
Dyers Eve1
Hell And Back1
Hero of the Day1
Iron Foundry1
Jump In The Fire1
Justice Medley1
Killing Time1
Last Caress/So What/Die, Die My Darling1
Low Man’s Lyric1
Mercyful Fate1
Metal Militia1
My Apocalypse1
No Remorse1
Phantom Lord1
Sabbra Cadabra1
Small Hours1
So What1
Spit Out The Bone1
Stone Cold Crazy1
The Ecstasy of Gold1
The Judas Kiss1
The Prince1
The Unforgiven III1
The Wait1