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Hangovers and heavy metal

I will be posting pieces from Chronicles of Chaos here, along with accompanying music. Enjoy, and remember, there is always an underground.


There’s something about cheap beer that makes me happy. Maybe it’s habit. Maybe it’s the effect. Maybe it’s both. I’ve learned alcoholism is funny like that. One moment you’re enjoying a crisp cold one and the next you’re sick as a rat with a belly full of Raid, praying to some type of higher power and swearing you’ll never ingest the stuff again if you manage to survive this purge. It’s a small price to pay. The gods haven’t killed me off yet, so I take it as some sort of sign of strength and perseverance. But the same can be said about a cockroach.

My all-time favorite beer is Iron City bottles, or Pittsburgh Pabst, as I call it. It goes down easy. Too easy, most of the time. As a registered minister of the Universal Life Church Monastery, which I’m convinced gives me some credit with the powers that be, my friends had me officiate their Friday the 13th wedding a couple years ago. My payment? A case of Iron City bottles. The lord works in mysterious ways. It’s a shame it’s not sold west of the Ohio River.

I refer to myself as a budget beer connoisseur. Historically, I’ve sipped on Pabst Blue Ribbon, which was voted America’s best beer in 1893, as the can still proudly states. That’s the same year Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival. A grand event by all accounts, but the history books leave out one of the most exciting aspects of the celebration.

Local entrepreneur H.H. Holmes built an apartment complex in the city shortly before the world’s fair, which became a popular spot during the event, though for sinister reasons. Guests checked in, but never checked out. Holmes, who had a medical background, became what many consider America’s first serial killer, as he dismembered people in macabre ways. Leaking poisonous gas through the vents allowed him to rack up the kills, before having fun with his guest’s bodies. Vats of acid in the basement made disposal more efficient and less wasteful. His building earned the nickname the “Murder Castle.” It got terrible Yelp reviews. There are theories that Holmes also may have doubled as the infamous international murderer Jack the Ripper, who terrorized the streets of London from 1888 to 1891, as a handful of long-lost documents point to Holmes potentially being in Whitechapel during the timeframe of widespread bloodshed. The law eventually caught up to Holmes, and he was hung in Philadelphia in 1896, a short time after Pabst reached the pinnacle of brewing excellence.

Every time I order a Pabst and see that “Selected as America’s Best in 1893” proclamation, I think of Mr. Holmes. The lord works in mysterious ways.

Here in Telluride, my go-to swill is the $2 Utica Club cans that O’Bannon’s Pub serves up. The bartenders there know to garnish it with a lime wedge. I’m classy, after all. But boozing alone like Bukowski is a sure sign of alcoholism, which is why I won’t do it, so I like to share happy hour and late nights with like-minded friends, especially at the end of a long week, or a random weeknight, that spirals into revelry. The kind that ends with you praying and hugging a toilet.

The boys know how to have a good time … aka we drink heavily and listen to heavy metal. The ritual is surely terrifying to the outsiders. If witnessing drunken displays of unfounded confidence wasn’t bad enough, imagine the scene having a soundtrack featuring distorted guitars and double-bass drums.

It’s not a proper night out if Judas Priest’s “Thunder Road” isn’t blared through OB’s fuzzy speakers, while we all strike power poses and play air guitar like hairy, overgrown 12-year-olds with rockstar aspirations. But this is America, and if you want to get drunk in public and mimic Rob Halford’s high-pitched pipes with your buddies, have at it.

On any given night, the playlist may also include Ratt (“Round and Round”), W.A.S.P. (“I Wanna Be Somebody”), David Lee Roth (“Just Like Paradise”), Dokken (“Breaking the Chains”), Skid Row (“Slave to the Grind”) and anything Van Halen (not Van Hagar), among other bangers. These are bands that had their heyday during the hair metal boom of the 1980s. The guitar licks and solos are over the top, the lyrics are cheesy as hell but anthemic, and we look like fools imitating them.

If we want to get more technical with our barroom musicianship, we’ll throw on some heavier stuff — Slayer, Metallica, Motorhead — and hope we don’t get forearm cramps feigning triplets. Our one buddy, we’ll call him Shane, is a drummer, so he air drums, while the rest of us play lead. We all handle vocal duties, but nobody wants to play air bass. Shit, no one wants to play bass in real life either.

Sometimes I’ll put on some Killswitch Engage, Mastodon or He Is Legend. It doesn’t go over well with my fellow headbangers. One particular bartender, who shall remain nameless, skips those types of “screamer” songs. And absolutely no Lamb of God, the bartender reminds me every time I’m standing in front of the jukebox, swaying and unsteady. The bartender created the unwritten rule after I took advantage of the free plays available during weekday happy hours one too many times. The bartender, who has a reputation of being a pain in the ass and will no sooner tell a person off than listen to Lamb of God, became enraged whenever Randy Blythe’s vocals came on.

“Who played this shit?” the bartender would always bark.

She looked like Tank Girl and had the attitude to match.

I’d bashfully admit to pressing play on “Walk With Me In Hell.”

“I can’t stand this fuckin’ shit,” and the bartender would skip to the next song, every time.

Well, I’ve never been one to take a hint, so I made a habit of playing at least one Lamb of God song every time the bartender worked weekday happy hour shifts. It became too hard to hide at a certain point, so I’d been informed to never play Lamb of God during her shifts again, which I respected. But she never said I couldn’t play Deicide.

Through such antics at OB’s, I met friends with similar musical tastes, which only evolved into impromptu headbanging at the bar and sideways looks from uninterested women.

But all anyone ever asks of us during this public display of insanity is we headbang away from the uninterested, if not confused, patrons and leave when the clock strikes 2 a.m.

Even then, we usually spill into the street, light up American Spirits and stumble to someone’s house in order to keep the party going. Naturally, these private events include more metal, air shredding and libations.

If you’ve never drank aged Armenian brandy out of a machine gun-shaped bottle while blaring Black Sabbath, then you haven’t lived life to its fullest. But this is our communion. A shared interest in good times and metal music is what brought us together.

The first time I met my friend John we ended up back at his place quizzing each other about Slayer albums and throwing down to “Raining Blood” and “God Hates Us All.” The lord works in mysterious ways.

John’s a quiet guy who rarely shows much emotion when he’s sober, but get a couple beers in him, and he’ll high kick and rock out with the best of them. His mom and aunt both dated David Lee Roth in high school back in California, so we have a running joke that David Lee Roth is his daddy. He doesn’t necessarily deny it either, and he can hit those trademark David Lee Roth high notes pretty well.

At some point during every late-night jam session, we make plans to start our own band. It’s going to be a blend of metal, punk, grindcore and surf rock. We’re still pondering the name, and Shane needs to go to the Front Range to get his drums — something he’s been meaning to do for the past three years. John has the guitars and a bass, and we’ll all sing, because we all have different vocal strengths.

As another friend Stan put it one night, “I just want to make music that scares people.” We all snickered in agreement, then cracked another beer and turned up Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson screamed, “I have a constant fear that something’s always near. Fear of the dark! Fear of the dark!”

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