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The best place to ponder the Metallica movie Some Kind of Monster: Zeitgeist, of course

Wednesday, Feb 9 2005
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During one month in Indian summer of last year, according to a Stella Artois distributor who shall remain nameless, the Zeitgeist bar on Valencia went through at least 75 kegs of the stuff. To give you a note of comparison, your average Mission bar with a steady stream of regulars and the occasional office party probably goes through five to 10 kegs of a given brand per month, if it is lucky. Translation: Zeitgeist does one hell of a business. One Mission bartender I talked to estimated that the servers at Zeitgeist can probably pull in upward of 20 grand a month in tips during the summer months when everyone and his alcoholic mother heads to the bar's outdoor "biergarten." That means that only the strippers at the Mitchell Brothers make more per night.

Of course, I cared about none of this when I and just about everyone else in town showed up there at the first sign of a temperature above 45 degrees last week. People go to Zeitgeist because it is precisely not the kind of place you would expect to be bringing in dough. They go there because they want to sit outside and drink in a place that looks like the back yard of that creepy guy who used to buy you beer in high school, which is why, ironically, the place makes bank.

Still, filthy rich or not, I love it, even when the bartenders are too cool to serve me, or I have to sit next to a downtown professional who thinks he's hella rad because he rides a motorcycle and listens to the Killers.

I did something really weird and went by myself. No one goes to Zeitgeist by himself unless he is expecting to meet someone there or he already knows everyone. That's like going to a karaoke bar by yourself and bringing your own lyrics. But I had just watched Metallica's Some Kind of Monster on DVD and I needed to sort it out, man. It was sunny and warm outside, and it was the first and only place that occurred to me. I ordered a Stella, natch, and parked it on the farthest right table out back I could find. My newfound companions appeared to be a gaggle of crusty punk roommates; a couple who looked just like Buddy Holly, Oh Oh Oh and she's Mary Tyler Moore; and a fubsy Joe Schmo in an Alcatraz T-shirt.

When I say I had to sort out the Metallica documentary, I really mean it. It was filmed during the making of the band's worst record, St. Anger, in the middle of which James Hetfield checked himself into rehab. The band members had hired a therapist to help them work through their "issues" and allowed the filmmakers -- Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the same guys who made the docs Paradise Lost and Brother's Keeper -- to film all of it.

There is a special place in my heart for Metallica, which I can say is one of my top 10 favorite bands of all time, right after the Bee Gees, the Jam, and the Little River Band. Seeing them live when I was 19 was also one of the only times I have ever been sexually aroused at a concert, at least by the band. It was a strange sensation, compelling me, like so many other women who came before, to contemplate blowing the sound guy to get backstage.

My mother is actually the person who introduced me to Master of Puppets, something that blew the minds of my stoner junior high friends. Then my potential prom date stole the tape from her car and I was forbidden to go out with him again.

Despite my long, illustrious love affair with these guys, I have never once written anything kind about them. Face it, as soon as Bob Rock began producing their stuff they started to suck. I trashed their foray with the S.F. Symphony, I pilloried them for the whole Napster thingy, and I totally ripped on that piece of shite they named St. Anger when it came out. Some Kind of Monster, I hoped, would live up to its hype and redeem the band for me.

"Penny for your thoughts," said the guy in the Alcatraz T-shirt with a chuckle. Apparently I was clenching my fists and quietly cursing to myself at the thought of Bon Jovi collaborator Bob Rock. I told Alcatraz my predicament, that I had just seen the documentary and was bummed.

"Man, I haven't seen it," he offered, "but that last record was amazing -- very underrated."

Argh.

The reason Some Kind of Monster saddened me was because it was like watching the band's epitaph be slowly chiseled into a gravestone. Wait, no ... that's too metal a description for this emasculated group. No, it was like watching the last of your petunias wither and die before winter sets in. The dream is officially over. You actually see Metallica working out songs that are fucking terrible, cheesy, crappy, totally gnar-gnar, and they are digging them.

What happens to bands over 30? Does something in their head switch and they just can't hear things the same as the rest of us? The douche bags in Metallica even had several people -- Lars Ulrich's cute li'l hobgoblin of a dad, no less -- tell them that their new record was sounding like shit, but they didn't listen. Hence a documentary that feels like a two-hour slo-mo shot of a train wreck.

Then it hit me why I was drawn to Zeitgeist to ponder the film. What is great about Metallica is that it's sort of an everyman band to me; I feel like I know the men of Metallica, or could at least drink Jägermeister with them. They are some of the richest musicians in the world but they still seem gritty, even when they put out crap. Metallica is a 75-kegs-a-month dive bar doing knockdown business, and no one can take Ride the Lightning away from the band.

Zeitgeist can often disappoint me too, but when push comes to shove, I will always sit alone on the far right side with a Stella when I need to sort things out.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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