Minnesota father, son with cerebral palsy find peace in heavy metal

Richard and Mason McDeid of Maple Grove became rock legends when they started their own metal fest for people with special needs.

Richard and Mason McDeid of Maple Grove became rock legends when they started their own metal fest for people with special needs. Best Seat in the House, Facebook

Richard McDeid of Maple Grove describes himself as a “normal guy.” If you want him to open up, you’ll have to ask him about his son.

Mason was born premature, at 31 weeks, a featherweight at two pounds and 14 ounces. He has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects movement, motor skills, and muscle tone. He’d never be able to walk or speak.

“They told me he would never make it to kindergarten,” Richard says.

He did, and has gone on to graduate from transitional school and do plenty more with his life, including help raise his younger sister. Mason's 24 now.

For the first couple years of his life, Mason was in constant discomfort. His muscular issues were giving him everything from heartburn to indigestion to constipation, and he cried almost nonstop.

One day, after a long, frustrating day with Mason, Richard sent Mason's mom shopping and took over. He put the little boy in his chair, put on a Metallica VHS, and went to work in the kitchen.

Before long, he realized Mason had stopped crying. By himself. For the first time since… pretty much ever. He’d fallen asleep to the soothing sounds of gut-busting, righteous metal.

“The metal gods showed us love,” Richard said during a video about him and his son made by 60-Second Docs. And they would continue to show it in overwhelming waves long after Mason’s mom left the family. For years to come, it would be Mason, his single dad, and the entire metal community on one team.

(You can see that video in its entirety here.)

That Metallica nap began a lifelong obsession for the father and son. Mason saw his first live show—Rage Against the Machine—in 2008. In 2016, the duo set off to see 500 bands in 365 days, and came pretty close at an impressive 450, including Korn, Slipknot, Iron Maiden, and, of course, Metallica. Richard says they’ve seen about 1,400 bands together over the years.

It’s often hard to know what Mason’s thinking, but when he’s at these concerts, he’s almost always smiling.

A couple years later, Mason and Richard put on the first Mason Metalfest—what Richard calls “the first special needs metal fest on the planet.” It takes place during the month of March, which happens to be Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. Ten bands played, but Richard says “everyone” showed up.

“They all just treated him like a brother,” he says. “It was beautiful.”

All this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the broader community. Mason McDeid and his dad have been written about and showcased in Australia and across Europe—he’s even been featured in Brazil’s Rolling Stone. That 60-Second Docs video has 10,000 views on YouTube alone, and he's blown up Reddit more than once. He body-surfed three times while seeing Slayer last summer. He's shaken James Hetfield's hand. 

This year, he and his dad had a massive event planned, with 57 shows in 39 states all set to happen on the same day in March…

And then coronavirus happened.

There was no question things couldn't go forward as planned. Richard knows better than to mess around with this stuff. 

“I take it very seriously,” Richard says. “I’ve lived the medical life for many years with Mason.”

But it was still “disappointing” to watch the festival get waylaid. Richard says it clears the way for them to do an even bigger festival later on, with more bands in more cities, all brought together for love of the same young metal lord.

It’s “funny,” Richard says, how a man who has “never spoken” has managed to connect to so many people.

“Mason’s making history,” he says.

To keep up on Mason and his dad's comings and goings, you can follow them on Facebook.