Metallica: Why The Metal Legends Shouldn't Be Headlining Glastonbury

Have Glastonbury made a mistake by booking Metallica? And did Metallica make a mistake by saying yes?
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Glastonbury is in just a few short weeks, and to the horror of many music fans, organisers have chosen Metallica to headline the main stage on Saturday night. Is this decision shooting rock music in it's bass-thumping foot?

Lets face it, metal music doesn’t want to be mainstream, that's the basis of its entire appeal, but is our nostalgia for that sound killing the genre by forcing it to be part of the extremely lucrative (and somewhat saturated) festival scene?

The decision to throw Metallica in the mix was controversial to say the least. It’s hard not to notice how out of place the metal headliners look alongside the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, and Arcade Fire.

Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner’s verdict that Metallica’s inclusion on the Glasto line-up was pretty ‘out there’ hits the nail on the head. It's definitely out there, but not in a good way.

Metal fans are pretty territorial when it comes to their music and beloved bands. When Pendulum and Chase and Status were announced as headliners at Download Festival in 2011, many hardcore fans complained that the dance acts had no right to be at what is traditionally a rock festival. The same could be said with Metallica, what right do they have to be at Glastonbury, and furthermore, why would they even want to be there?

Metallica headlined Download Festival back in 2012 - a more suitable setting for their music and more comfortable surroundings for their hardcore fans. Nevertheless, the rockers hardly set the stage alight, and that's being generous. Another legendary band, Black Sabbath, also headlined that year. It does seem that organisers are continuously looking to the rockers of yesteryear to pull crowds in - and it’s questionable if festival-goers even want to see the same veteran rock bands year after year.

Remember when Guns N’ Roses played at Reading & Leeds in 2010? They might as well have sent a tribute act to perform in their place, then fans would at least have been able to see a complete set.


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Watching Metallica at a stadium concert full of metal-heads is one thing, but watching them in a field with tens of thousands of people who’ve rocked up to watch the likes of Arcade Fire and Kasabian is a completely different story. Rather than getting caught up in the atmosphere of life-long head bangers, Glasto-goers will be watching alongside people who might only vaguely know the worlds to Enter Sandman. Great fun.

Iron Maiden’s front man Bruce Dickinson recently revealed that the band would never play ‘bourgeois’ Glastonbury. Through this statement he makes a point. Like it or not, Glastonbury has become a bit of a yummy mummy destination, full of Chelsea waifs modelling themselves on Alexa Chung. Metal just doesn’t belong there.

You just need to watch footage of Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian ‘moshing’ on Jay Z’s command at Radio 1’s Hackney Big Weekend in 2012 to know that metal music should stay in the tattooed arms of the heavy metal fan, not in the fashion-blogging manicured talons of some posh Glastonbury chicks. This sounds horribly purist, but it’s the unfortunate truth.

Music festivals can be the perfect stage to mount a comeback. It’s a single gig with maximum exposure and impact - cue albums climbing back up the charts as festival goers cling to their drunken memories by downloading songs from their debauched summer evenings sleeping in a field.

It’s great to look back at rock stars from days gone past, but perhaps this obsession with massive acts from decades ago is causing the genre to stagnate. There are so many terrific bands doing amazing things with metal, and they’re getting sidelined in place of these big names that are somewhat irrelevant now. Rather than continuously adding musical relics to festival line ups, perhaps we need something a bit more radical and less forced?

After my lukewarm experience of watching Metallica at Download, and gauging the reaction to Glasto’s headline announcement from those planning to camp out at the legendary festival, I fear that rather than bring metal to a new audience, it could alienate the genre further. Potential metal-heads might even be put off, and in all seriousness it could essentially disrupt the life force of one of the greatest genres in music.

Glastonbury should have stuck with something more predictable - it might have made less headlines, but it would have been the best choice for everyone.

Follow Fiona on Twitter, @fiona_day