COMMENTARY: Cherokee’s young people need varied music shows

by Dec 12, 2018OPINIONS





My wife and I recently watched a short documentary on YouTube entitled “Metal from the Dirt” which covered a fledging, and growing, metal band scene on the Navajo Nation.  Most of their shows are put on out of the backs of trucks or on make-shift stages, and it works.  In a small-town environment, those shows and that scene provide not only an outlet for youth, but it also helps with that ever-present statement by a lot of Rez kids nationwide – “there’s nothing to do here”.

In the documentary, Jerold Cecil, who manages Navajo group I Don’t Konform, states, “There’s a lot of bands, heavy-metal bands, on the Navajo reservation.  And for reason this music, this subculture, seems to permeate with the youth.”

Every time I go to an event locally, I see tons of Cherokee kids, Rez kids, wearing black band t-shirts.  My daughter’s closet is comprised of probably 90 percent black band t-shirts.  It’s not just metal bands, but punk bands, skater bands, and more – bands that aren’t in the norm; bands that don’t make the Billboard charts often, if ever.

The problem is that there isn’t any place here in Cherokee to go see any bands like this.  To my knowledge, there aren’t that many local bands like this so having a do-it-yourself scene like at Navajo Nation would be difficult starting out…but, it’s something I would encourage.  For those of you guys and gals into this type of music, go out and buy some cheap instruments and start playing.  You’ll learn as you go.  Playing is the important thing.

Several years ago, my friend, Amble Smoker, lead singer of a metal band known as Pride Before a Fall, organized an awesome metal show at the Yellowhill Activity Center.  His band and several others, including the well-known Michigan group Heartsick, played, and it was a great show.  We need more of that here in Cherokee.

We always here talk about the youth coming first, and with 2019 being an election year I’m sure we’ll be inundated with such speech.  Well, then, it’s time for the wants of the youth to come first.  Contrary to popular opinion, they’re interested in more than just their “big check”.  With all of the community centers and gyms that are located here in Cherokee, it wouldn’t be hard to find venues for shows featuring metal, punk, hip-hop and other genres not really seen much, if at all, here in western North Carolina.

Youth into country music must feel like they’re at a buffet while kids into metal and real punk must feel like the little birds at a park looking around on the ground for crumbs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with country music…I like the real stuff (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Chris LeDoux – look him up if you don’t know who he is), but it is very readily available here in the mountains, and it just doesn’t seem to be as popular among the younger crowd.

Plus, metal is fascinating to me.  I usually gravitate more towards older rock (The Beatles, The Doors, David Bowie, Queen) and alternative (Nirvana, U2, REM), but being a drummer and bassist, I appreciate the musicianship of metal above all other rock genres.  And, speaking of genres, how can you not be fascinated with all of the varied types of metal music: Viking metal, Black metal, Alternative metal, Death metal, Sludge metal, Celtic metal, Pirate metal (my personal favorite), and tons of others.

These shows could be hosted, at first, by tribal or community programs, but it would be awesome to see that root really take hold and have younger tribal members begin to host their own shows.  It will work.

Scott Ian, founding member of the thrash metal band Anthrax, once said, “Why would heavy metal ever go away?”