• Adam Christian Smith

Motorbreath (Metallica, Summer 1991)

Hello kids! Allow me to get you in the proper headspace to enjoy this post. Imagine a time before cellphones. The Internet? Ha! Your Commodore 64 was perhaps still in heavy use! All of this, yet there were still rock shows to attend and that meant dealing with the beloved Ticketmaster (or Ticketbastard as we called them).


So you piled into a vehicle and chose a record store to queue up in. You had no idea how early was too early, no idea that if you waited in line for 12 hours that you were even guaranteed a ticket! Come with me now, back to Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, WA on a hot August night in 1991 when Metallica was as big a rock show as you could hope to see and you had money to burn.


Considering there were no digital cameras in 1991, you’re lucky to see THE actual Camaro.


Your car is a a 1979 Camaro. Don’t laugh it’s paid for! You work full time and you have just graduated from high school in your beloved City of Renton and you talk a grand total of one friend into rolling the dice and cruising on down to Tower Records at the mall.


You roll in around 7PM and you claim the 3rd spot in line! SCORE! The line quickly fills and before an hour is up there are 20 people in line and the tickets to do not go on sale until 8AM tomorrow morning. Some people have tents. It occurs to your inexperienced ass that you came slightly underprepared. One thing working for you is that you have committed to spending the night outdoors during one of Seattle’s 3 weeks of summer so if you are going to die, it will not be from exposure. Unless exposure to the wrong Metallica fanatic happens but that hasn’t crossed your mind either.


My buddy, let’s call him “John” because it is his real name, isn’t a huge fan of live shows but he has become a Metallica fan and somehow I charmed him into the understanding that we may never have a chance to see Metallica live again! This is true of any band that you love but I truly didn’t think this would be the last chance but I didn’t relish the idea of potentially having to fight for my place in line with who knows how many other goddamned rockers.


Turns out, metal fans are cool. We decided sitting on the cement all night was just going to suck so we made a list of who was who and went back to our cars. At first, we sat in our cars but that lasted about 30 minutes. Soon, all our windows were down, we were all tuned in 99.9FM KISW - Seattle’s Best Rock. We were probably the youngest there so we just did what everyone else was doing. The really experienced rockers were all hanging around this bad ass jacked up International 4x4. This rig had a killer stereo and frankly we didn’t need all of our car stereos on - and it would scare the shit out of the hip Jeep and Subaru drivers of today’s Seattle.


He’d start his 340 cubic inch V8 up every 30 minutes to make sure he charged his battery up to keep the rock going … well… around the clock as they say. I can still hear it. 1979 Camaro seats do not recline so we did the obvious thing - we slept on the hood. We are both over six feet tall and the hood still had room to spare. The windshield rake was perfect and I can tell you I’ve had much less comfortable nights in real beds, usually traveling to Sandy, Utah to watch the Sounders play Real Salt Lake.


At some point in the night the International switched up to all Metallica, all the time. It started with, appropriately, Kill ‘Em All and we listened to each album all the way through, twice.


The next morning, we were very orderly but with lots of rocker cursing made our way back into line. We got our tickets to “An Evening With Metallica” - there was no opening band. We paid $29 (probably $20 of which went to Ticketmaster) and were in the front row!


Fast forward a couple months and we were winding our way into the Seattle Center Arena. This was before we had to sell every public space out for a few million bucks and I miss that. We were kinda surprised to see seating set up for the show - but the second the lights went out all the chairs were passed “backwards” and we never gave them a second thought.


Metallica kicked it off with Enter Sandman. Kirk Hammett spit beer on us and it was wonderful. James Hetfield flipped us all off and we flipped him off back and it was wonderful. A complete stranger and myself were the only people around us that knew Fight Fire With Fire and screamed, “we all shall die!” at the right time. Then, during Seek and Destroy James descended from the stage and went along the whole front row.


“SEARCHIIIIINGGGG,” he sang into the mic and before I knew it, I was wide eyed as he put the mic in front of my face and naturally I yelled, “SEEK AND DESTROY!” He proceeded down the rest of the front row repeating this at least ten times but I don’t remember those because, fuck, I just sang with James Hetfield!


Metallica rocked out lame asses for nearly three hours straight. Even as a super fit 19 year old I was nearing exhaustion when they closed with Whiplash a 100% metal banger that just about killed all of us in attendance.As the lights came back on and we made our way out, we saw all the chairs in a mountain, flattened like tin cans. It raised our eyebrows but fuck, nobody is sitting during Metallica!




This is the only other photo I have of “The King of ‘79". It holds a record from Seattle to Kennewick in 1 hour, 29 minutes. I will never break it.


Our ears ringing we finally made it back to the $400 Camaro. I don’t think I could hear for a good three or four days.And yeah, it wasn’t the last time I saw Metallica. They came to Seattle again less than six months later with Mötorhead and Guns ‘n’ Roses in the Kingdome.

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