Love is in the air. But there’s also a fog machine.
Comedian Dave Hill is hosting and DJing the inaugural “Speed Metal Speed Dating” event at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus (tagline: “Meet that special someone who will follow you to the depths of hell while listening to speed metal and other awesome forms of heavy metal”). Hill has a history with speed dating, having hosted Smiths/Morrissey Speed Dating since as far back as 2009. “My buddy Kent owns Black Rabbit, and he said I should do a night there,” Hill said. “I suggested Smiths speed-dating, just as a joke, and it sounded so absurd—and I’m a big fan of following through on ideas, the more ridiculous the better.”
Despite his history with Moz, Hill, whose favorite metal band is Black Sabbath (“they are THE metal band”), is optimistic about the speed-metal incarnation. “Whether you’re here dating or just hanging out watching, it’s going to be fun. That’s how it’s always been at the Smiths ones. If you like drinking and listening to metal, you’ll have fun tonight. And then if you want to meet someone, there’s a shitload of people signed up. This is what I love about New York—you can have a fun idea and make it happen,” he says. “Based on my track record from the Smiths nights, I can say that people will definitely meet, some will go out on dates, and some will make out in the bathroom.” He does have one reservation, however: “You might get someone who’s into, like, grindcore, and they meet someone who’s into, like, doom, and they won’t get along at all.”
Organizer Trish Nelson said, “This event is set up for straight men and straight women, but we’re thinking of doing an LGBT one in the future, if there’s enough interest.” I brought up how there was concern on the Facebook event page that it’d be a “sausage party,” and she said that they ended up with equal numbers of men and women, 38 each, and they were literally turning away hopeful participants at the door. “Men need to understand that there are a lot of female metalheads,” she said.
I spoke to a couple of daters before the event started. Sandra (whose nametag and metal horns are pictured above) told me, “I have never done a speed-dating event before. I’ve witnessed them in other bars and laughed my ass off at how ridiculous it was. This one seemed just ridiculous enough for me to partake in and laugh at myself a little bit. I’m not really hoping for a metal Prince Charming, but maybe someone cool to talk about music with.”
Jimbo Slice: “I just wanted to get outa the house on a Sunday. It’s a pretty good turnout.”
“Do you usually date within the metal community?”
Jimbo Slice: “It doesn’t really matter to me, but, yeah, I guess so.”
Favorite metal band:
“I don’t make lists. But the bands I go back to are classic: Priest, Scorpions, KISS.”
After providing some loose instruction, Hill instructs the crowd to “Date like the wind!” while atmospheric fog fills the stage, and a screen behind him shows scenes from Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Vikings, Game of Thrones, and other headbanger-friendly clips. Saint Vitus is filled to capacity with rows of folding chairs, and there are even “couples” lined up standing against two walls. Each date lasts the duration of one song (“or two short ones,” Hill said), and then the men all move one person over, and it begins anew.
When the daters are only on their second matches, one unsatisfied customer stormed out. I caught up with him at the bar to find out what happened. He didn’t want me to use his real name, giving me instead, “Um, what’s that pseudonym? Sam Snodgrass.”
As he told me, “I told a story that I think is a little bit weird, that when I was going to school in New York I’d get to school and everyone else would be getting free breakfast, and I was jealous, because I didn’t understand why they were getting it. Because they were subsidized. I was just trying to say that I’ve been dumb for my whole life, a fucking dumb idiot—I mean, I understand fucking privilege dynamics and what have you, I was just like, Yeah, I was fucking stupid, but she decided that it was about her. I got a drink thrown in my face, and then a lime thrown in my face, and told that I’m a fucking scumbag.”
Noisey: “That was only your second girl; there are 36 more in there. Are you going to give up, or are you going to get back in the game?”
Snodgrass: “I don’t want to be near that person! She’s SO MEAN.”
“You don’t have to talk to her again.”
“But I’m gonna see her. That was SO MEAN.”
A few other people chatted with me as the night wore on, some more optimistic than others.
Angie: “So far, ten people in, everyone is tired of answering the same questions. Some people are really fucked up, and some people are obviously gay and doing a social experiment. But it’s cool, because I’m with my girlfriend, and we’re doing a social experiment. But most people are really nice. I’m calling it the Gothic Cotillion.”
Teddy: “This is probably the most awkward thing I’ve done in my entire life. Online dating is bullshit, but this is probably worse.”
“Would you try it again?”
“You’re only a few dates in; it might get better.”
Favorite metal band:
“Discharge, post 1984, was pretty metal. I mean, they were pretty cock-rocky, and they fuckin’ sucked, but still! I’m like the token punk here.”
“And you’re wearing an Adidas tracksuit.”
“If you look at my overall aesthetic, the tracksuit says, Hey, I’m punk, but I’m also sporty. How many Metallica Ride the Lightning shirts can you see at one event?”
Mike: “I lost count of how many people I’ve met, and I can’t remember a single name. I’m not really sure if I’m supposed to take notes.”
“That kind of defeats the purpose. You’re probably supposed to exchange information.”
Mike: “Is that what we’re supposed to do?”
“If you ever want to see them again.”
Rachel: “I think this is unorganized speed-dating, so we should just deal with it ourselves.”
Mike: “I’m supposed to ask for someone’s number?”
Rachel: “If you want it!”
“Or give them your number!”
Mike: “Oh, I should have carried a notepad, with my number on it.”
“A lot of people have, like, phones … and stuff, that you could … I’ll let you sort that out.”
Mike: “Everyone seems nice. I’m having a good time. I’m laughing a lot. I’m laughing at the situation. [Looks at Rachel] It’s nice that there’s someone to laugh at the situation with.
Kanika: “So far no matches, but a lot of prospects, because I’m only at my sixth right now.” Favorite metal band: “Does Ministry count? No, no, no—Tool!”
About two hours into the event, with more and more people retreating to the front bar, Dave Hill calls it a night, even though they were only 20 or so dates in. As people get up to get drinks, or pair off and leave the main event, or just suffer dating fatigue, a bit of entropy sets in and people are instructed to continue to get to know each other, organically, at the bar—kind of like a night at Saint Vitus without speed dating.
I get some post-speed-dating debriefing.
Rutger: “It was fun. I’d say I actually met more people who were uncomfortable and didn’t really want to be there then I thought. I met this one woman, and she was really nice, and she went, ‘I came here alone, and this is too high-anxiety for me.’ So I was like, ‘OK, you know what we’re going to do? When he says ‘transition,’ I’m going to stand up with you, and you fuckin’ leave, and I’m gonna go to the bathroom.’ And then Barbara came and got me.”
Barbara: “Yeah, he totally rescued an awkward girl.”
“Your name’s Barbara? You took your nametag off.”
Barbara: “I didn’t take my tag off. It came off when a guy aggressively rubbed against me, and it stuck to his chest.”
“I’m going to guess that you two might be a successful speed-dating connection.”
Barbara: “It’s like an escape, yeah. He’s so tall, though. Although he did get down real low for the photos.”
Rutger: “I got down for you. And it’s Sunday. When I Sunday-get-down, are you fucking kidding me?”
Barbara: “He got down real low.”
Ryan shows me a text he sent a friend, when I ask him what his opinion of the night is. It says, “Do you have a wine list?” “We have a red wine.”
“OK, so that’s more about the bar.”
Ryan: “True, but it was about the people who came to the bar, really.”
“What did you expect then, coming to Saint Vitus for a speed-metal-dating event?”
Ryan: “I expected a lot of odd people. Pretty much what I expected is what I got. The odds are good, but the goods are odd—on both sides of the table. I didn’t exchange any numbers. I met a few people who seemed fun to hang out with, but, ehhh.”
“Would you ever do it again?”
Ryan: “Yeah, probably. The one problem is that it was really loud, so I lost my voice like four people in. They could have it be quieter, which is an oxymoron, I admit. Easy-listening metal!”
As people were on their way out, I was able to follow up with a couple people I’d spoken to at the beginning of the night.
Sandra: “I didn’t get any numbers, but I did meet a few interesting people who were not total creepazoids. I did meet one guy who went to the same metal bar I went to in high school. So that was neat, and I might check out his band. I gotta say, it’s really exhausting talking to this many people. I’m kind of an introvert. So I was like, I’m done talking to people. I could not have had any more conversations. I’m done socializing for the next month.”
Teddy: “You’re with Vice? One time I met a chick from Vice in a bar who said she sits right next to the CEO, and I told her to tell him, fuckin’, that your opinion on punk is way off base.”
“How did it go for you? I talked to you fairly early on, before.”
Teddy: “This was a lot more awkward than just going to a bar and actually approaching girls. It was very forced.”
We talked about his Adidas tracksuit again, and he emphasized that he does wear it because he’s athletic, and that he’d gone to the gym twice that day. He took off his jacket so he could make me squeeze his biceps, which then led us to talk about his tattoo of JFK getting shot, with blood spurting out of his head.
“What’s the deal? Do you hate JFK?”
Teddy: “No, but it’s like, for the shock of the image.”
My last few minutes at the event, I met Joe at the bar. He had stood out to me during the event, both for his bright red hair, and the fact that he was using crutches, which looked inconvenient while having to switch seats every five minutes. He seemed to have a pretty positive take on the night.
Joe: “I’m a musician, so I’m used to talking to people. It’s nice to meet people who think outside of the box a little bit.”
He shows me a slick-looking music video of his band, Night Spirit, on his phone, and points out that his guitarist used to play for Blue Öyster Cult. I checked out his website later, as I couldn’t hear the audio in the loud bar. I learned that Joe is the singer, writer, and executive producer of the band; he’s also known as “Animal”; and that his guitarist does indeed shred.
He didn’t bring up his crutches when we spoke, so I didn’t ask. But I learned from his bio that he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a kid, and “that even though he had some physical challenges—he found out exactly that—that they were only challenges that were meant to be triumphed over.”
Joe had traveled from Staten Island to try out speed dating, and says he’d return if they do it again.
Joe: “The key is to get to know people and to work on your social skills. And if there’s a connection; there’s a connection. And if not, you had a couple of beers and met some nice people.”
I agree with Joe. Although some people had issues with the event, it was clear that most of them were still having fun. Even if they were complaining that they didn’t meet anyone and it was awkward, they were all complaining together at the bar, commiserating and getting to know each other.
All in all, I’d consider Speed Metal Speed Dating a success. I can’t help but imagine what other artists or genres might work for next time. Rockabilly speed dating? Dubstep? Sea shanties? Juggalo? Get on it, Dave Hill!
Photographer Alex Colby was on hand to snap more photos of the heavy metal lovebirds and loveless alike:
Christine Colby is feeling the love on Twitter.