The Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway first opened its doors in 1931 with the world premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. No one who attended that opening night could ever in their wildest dreams have imagined that the 2,000-capacity venue would, decades later, host an event like Red Bull Music Academy Festival’s Todo Es Metal showcase.
The Saturday, Oct. 21, event united rock bands from Mexico with their long-haired peers of the American diaspora for a night of thrash, grind, death, black and heavy metal. Southern Californian acts Mictlantecuhtli, XLesionsX, Scrapmetal, Blue Hummingbird on the Left, Volahn, Letum Ascensus, Sadistic Intent and Terrorizer L.A. shared the bill with Thanatology, Disgorge and Transmetal from Mexico.
Metaleros from as far south as Mexico came out for the event, which covered the past, present and future of metal inside the historic landmark. The high ceilings of the retro theater provided the perfect space for the squeals of buzzsaw riffs, screeching guitar solos, rapid-fire drum kicks and Jabba the Hutt–meets–Cookie Monster vocals, which drilled into the eardrums of people as far back as the entrance and out into the street.
“When you look out at the audience at any extreme metal show in L.A., Hispanic kids are everywhere,” explains Adam Shore of RBMA, who helped curate the show along with Daniel Dismal of Church of the 8th Day. “High school kids [with] denim jackets and patches, wallet chains — they just live the music. They are the most dedicated fans.
“We were shocked that more Mexican metal bands don’t play L.A., but visas and flights are expensive, and show fees often don’t cover basic expenses,” Shore explains. “Bands like Transmetal and Disgorge are thrilling live, and extremely influential. We feel fortunate we get to work with such great artists and introduce them to a new generation of metal fans in L.A.”
Brothers Rick and Bay Cortez of Sadistic Intent continue to bear witness to the generational shifts in metal music in Los Angeles. They grew up in Huntington Park and befriended Tom Araya’s younger brother before Araya went on to form Slayer. The brothers and their friends would kill time by hanging outside the garage of Araya’s family’s home to listen to them rehearse what would eventually become the band’s debut album, Show No Mercy. Slayer’s success influenced their decision to start their own band that would become faster, harder and heavier than even Slayer.
“Here in L.A., we’re one of the first death-metal bands, if you think about it,” says Rick, who with his brother runs Dark Realm Records in Downey, a record store and label that has served as a linchpin for the metal community since its opening in 1994. They opened the shop as a place to sell the albums they would trade with other bands from around the world and have hosted in-store appearances by bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Destruction, Sodom, Kreator and Dark Funeral.
Sadistic Intent were the first major draw of the day, thanks to their recognition as longtime supporters of the city’s metal scene. Neither the band nor the fans seemed to mind that an energy drink corporation curated the event.
“Red Bull’s a big-time corporation, and to have them sponsor this type of metal show, this extreme shit, is cool,” Rick says in the artists area as the walls vibrate from Terrorizer L.A.’s assault on the senses. “I think it’s a positive thing. They could’ve done one of these cheesy, wannabe Justin Bieber shits going on but they got fucking Sadistic Intent, so I got to give them credit for that.”
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Dr. Bautista, founder and lead vocalist of Thanatology, who performed before Sadistic Intent, had no idea the event was sponsored by Red Bull until he arrived to the venue with his band. They accepted the gig, no questions asked, when Dismal offered them the slot weeks ago.
Their act was also one of the most theatrical on the day. Dr. Bautista isn’t just a stage name; his day job is as a surgeon in Tijuana and his band, which plays “forensic grind metal,” is an extension of his career. Bautista dons a white medical suit, headgear and mask, much like the ones used by the first surgeons, with a microphone hidden beneath. The other band members also dress in white and serve as his assistants.
“What I try to transmit onstage is what a surgeon did in the early 1890s when they would give lectures,” he explains of his group’s theatrics and lyrical subject matter. “The butchers were the ones who would cut the corpses. My surgeons are the musicians. I’m just lecturing.”
Transmetal needed no theatrics, as the pioneers of heavy metal in Mexico were the most anticipated act of the night and rightful headliners. It was a great way for the group from Michoacán to celebrate 30 years of mayhem and eardrum-shredding guitar solos, and the fans celebrated in kind. When all was shredded and done, at least half the audience successfully took a dive off the stage (at least by my unscientific estimate), security be damned.