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From the time when Metallica first came to the Bay Area from L.A. in 1982, Brian Lew was there — often as a friend and a fan, but also as a photographer. Lew was present at the band's first-ever show in S.F. He was there when bassist Cliff Burton played with Metallica for the first time. And he was there when Metallica made its first appearance at the iconic Day on the Green concert series at Oakland Stadium. (He was also there on Monday night, when the band began its 30th Anniversary concert series at the Fillmore.)
Lew and his friend (and fellow metal fan) Harald Oimoen recently compiled their pictures and stories from the early days of the Bay Area metal scene into a gorgeous new book, Murder in the Front Row. As part of our exploration this week into all things Metallica, we asked Lew for some of his recollections from the band's early days. Below, he talks about seeing the band for the first time, the incredible trauma that the metal community felt after Burton died in a touring bus accident at age 24, and what made the Bay Area an especially receptive place for the kind of music played by Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth. Some of Lew and Oimoen's incredible early pictures of Metallica are interspersed throughout the text.
What's your backstory with the Bay Area metal scene?
Basically the whole kind of big story of the book is we were all just kids at the time. It wasn't like Metallica and Slayer and Megadeth were on tour, and we just met them. Metallica came to San Francisco to play a showcase for Metal Blade records. I arranged to meet them. I was fortunate enough to get their demo tape very early on, so I arranged to meet them in front of the Stone on Broadway, which was their first show [in S.F.]. But we were all the same age, so it wasn't like I was meeting Metallica. I was meeting a band who I wanted to meet. That was sort of the foundation of the original Bay Area metal scene.